handguard

Odin Works Ragna Forend

  Our friends over at Odin Works have another forend on the market. It is called the Ragna. When I was looking for a 15” handguard, I remembered that they had come out with the Ragna at SHOT 2018. When I contacted Odin, they sent it right out for a review. I received the M-Lok version, but a Key-mod version is also available.

  As with the Odin Works O2 lite handguard I reviewed earlier, the Ragna is also really light. When one first picks up the package that the Ragna comes in, you really can’t believe there is a 15.5” handguard in it. It weighs 10.35 ounces complete with the barrel nut and hardware. One reason it is so lightweight comes from a large quantity of organic shaped cut outs. These cutouts give it a unique look also. 

   Mounting up the Ragna is pretty easy also. If you have installed a barrel on an AR, then you can do this. Take your old handguard and barrel nut off first, if it isn’t a new build. Put some of the supplied Vibra-tite on the upper receiver threads. Take the supplied barrel nut and tighten it to 50 ft-lbs. Install the gas block and tube. Then slide the forend on. Line up the top rail with your receiver and tighten the two set screws. Then tighten the three clamp screws. You now have a new Ragna forend installed. I really liked how easy this handguard installed. The top rail lined up perfectly with the upper receiver’s rail.

  As with most handguards, the Ragna is made from aluminum. They use 6061-T6 aluminum and then hard coat anodize it black. This gives it the same durability and finish as the upper receiver it is installed on. It also has 2 full length M-lok slots at 3 & 9 O’clock. These M-lok slots are out at the front of the handguard. M-lok slots also run the full span of the 6 O’clock position (or as I call it, the bottom). It has no top M-lok slots because the Ragna uses a full length picatinny rail. I personally have a love/hate relationship with full top rails. I like the looks of them, but feel like I only need a little rail section at the front and back. 

  The Ragna is also loaded with other features. The first one that comes to mind is the quick connects at the front and rear. Three of them are in the front at 3, 6, &9 O’clock, and two in the rear on either side. Being a long handguard, it has a lot of flex out at the muzzle end. This flex really only causes a problem if you sling up and are using some sort of sight on the front of the rail. I say “some sort’ because it could be an iron front sight, a laser, or something else. The rearward sloped angle, at the front of the handguard, is also very well thought out. It doesn’t have any sharp edges or angles for things to get caught up on. Most low profile gas blocks will fit inside the rail. It has an inside diameter of 1.35 inches, so other accessories might fit underneath also, especially if you are one to like longer than barrel length handguards. 

  I had expected a good performing handguard from Odin Works, and the Ragna did not let me down. The diameter isn’t too large or too small for me. I was able to get a good grasp on the rifle. The odd cut out shapes also dig into your hand to allow for a good non-slip grip, but not so much as to be uncomfortable. Most people don’t need attachment slots down the full length of the forend, and I am one of those. So I like only having the 2 M-lok slots at 3 & 6 O’clock, should I choose to mount up a light or other accessories.

  Odin Works has done a nice job with the Ragna. I really like the looks and functionality. Having to not index a barrel nut is a huge plus also. If you’re in the market for a new forend, check out the Ragna. It is available in 12.5”, 15.5”, and 17.5” versions.

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

15.5” lightweight handguard

Target Market:

Those wanting a lightweight freefloat handguard

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Free floating

  • Type 2 Hard Anodized

  • One piece barrel nut that is Black Nitride coated

  • All mounting hardware included

  • Continuous top rail

  • Made from 6061-T6 aluminum

  • Inside Diameter: 1.35"

  • Outside Diameter: 2.02" Tall by 1.52"

  • Key-MOD or M-LOK available at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock

  • All .750 ODIN Works gas blocks fit inside 

  • Weighs just 10.35oz installed (including barrel nut)

  • Made in USA

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

12.5” and 17.5”

What others are saying?:

Ryan H. @ Odinworks.com 5/5 stars

Clean fit

Fits clean and looks amazing. Couldn’t be happier

Link to other reviews:

Nothing found

Price point:

MSRP = $179.00

I need it now! Availability:

Odin Works or Black Bag Resources

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Really lightweight

  • Good feel in the hands

  • M-lok slots

  • Top rail

  • Front/Rear quick connects for sling swivels

  • Made in USA

Cons:

  • Flexes

Score: 8.50 Great

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Favorite Link:   Axelson Tactical



Guntec 15" Compression Handguard

 Guntec Usa sent me their new compression M-Lok handguard for review. They were also kind enough to send an extra one that we gave away on the podcast. This particular handguard is a 15” free float and anodized black. Guntec has been making AR accessories in the US for decades.

 I noticed a few new things about this compression handguard. Guntec put some QD mounts at the rear of the handguard. In my opinion, this is a great asset. It also came with 1 QD swivel. This handguard also has M-Lok slots all the way down both sides as well as the bottom. That was one of my complaints with their Air-Lite that I reviewed some time ago. This one also has a full length top picatinny rail. As well as diamond cuts throughout to reduce weight. The black anodizing is also a little dull looking, more of a matte finish as compared to a gloss one. It doesn’t scratch off or anything, so there is no need to worry about it.

You can see the slight misalignment of the rail to the receiver

 Installation on the compression handguard is super easy. All you really need to do is install the barrel nut and tighten to manufacturers specifications (standard AR15 barrel nut torque). There is no need to index the barrel nut. Slide the tube on. Line up the top rail with the receiver rail. Then tighten down the 4 clamp screws. I put some medium threadlocker on these 4 screws, but it probably isn’t needed. That is really all there was to it. One slight problem with this particular handguard, is that the rail on the handguard sits a little bit lower than the receiver’s rail. Not enough that flip up iron sights won’t zero, but enough to notice.

 At first I was a little hesitant about the compression style of handguard. But after crashing it up against some 2x4 barricades, I’m not worried about it twisting or not lining up. The clamping force around the barrel nut seems more than enough to hold everything lined up. I really liked the feel of the handguard. It is small enough for me to get my hand around. This makes it very easy to drive the muzzle from target to target. It is just under 2” from the top of the rail to the bottom of the handguard and 1.5” outside diameter everywhere else. The inside diameter measures 1.34”, so don’t expect to put a suppressor under it. And you will definitely need a low profile gas block. The whole combination of screws, barrel nut, and handguard came in weighing 10 ounces on my scale. So pretty lightweight.

 As mentioned earlier, I like how this handguard feels. It does however get warm after 3 or 4 mag dumps. That’s pretty normal given the diameter and how close it is to the gas block. As with a lot of long handguards, there is some flex out at the end by the barrel. Not as much as I have seen on others, but a little. This leads into the location of the QD mount. Because they are located by the barrel nut, any force put on them doesn’t appear to flex the handguard any. Guntec also sent some rubber M-lok plugs with the handguard. These plugs just kind of push into any unused slots and give a rubbery grip to the handguard.

 If you’re interested in some quality, value priced AR parts, go check out Guntec USA. This particular handguard is pretty decent. It feels good in the hand, looks decent, and won’t break the bank. Plus, if it’s not your style, they probably have something that is.

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

15" Compression handguard for modern sporting rifles

Target Market:

Users wanting to upgrade to a 15" handguard

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • T6 Aluminum Body
  • Proprietary Lightweight Aluminum Barrel Nut Included
  • Total Weight Including Barrel Nut Is 10 oz.
  • Triangle / Diamond Cuts Throughout Handguard to Reduce Weight
  • Rail System Slides Over Barrel Nut , And Is clamped on with 4 clamp screws
  • Monolithic Top Rail
  • 15" Length
  • Internal Diameter: 1.34"
  • Outside Diameter: 1.50"
  • Made in USA

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

10" and 12"

What others are saying?:

Nothing found

Link to other reviews:

Rusty Reviews on Facebook

Price point:

MSRP = $150 approximately (Not on website at writing)

I need it now! Availability:

Guntec USA

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Lightweight

  • M-Lok

  • QD points

  • QD swivel included

  • Easy Installation

  • Made in USA

  • Rubber M-Lok covers included

  • Small Diameter

Cons:

  • Rail doesn't line up with receiver

  • Dull anodizing

  • Lack of instructions

Score: 6.5 Okay

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Favorite Link:   AR15 Podcast

Brigand Arms Forearm Review

Written by: Michael C.

I’ve always been a function over style type person.  When I first saw the Brigand Arms handguard I thought it was stylish, but not very functional.  It looked like under heavy firing it would get hot because it was so wide open the heat from the barrel would radiate to the shooters hand.  

When I took the Tactical Performance Center Multi-gun class we were told to bring a wrap or glove because the rifle forearm would probably get very hot due to the large amount of fast shooting we would we be conducting.  During the three-day course, the forearm on my Armalite 3-gun rifle did get warm but not so much that it bothered me.  After this experience I thought the Brigand Arms would really get too hot to handle.

The lack of a rails didn’t bother me as those are only needed on a “tactical” rifle to mount lights, lasers, grips and bottle openers.  This is not a rail that one would choose for that application.  It just looked cool.

After hearing a positive review of the Brigand Arms handguard on the We Like Shooting podcast and the AR-15 podcast on the Firearms Radio Network  I thought I would give it a try. But first I had to see if Brownell’s carried the Brigand Arms handguard.  I’ve been a Brownell’s customer long before I started reviewing gear.  The customer service has always been excellent, and they have the best website in the business.  Has a bonus Brownell’s has the Forever Guarantee - no questions asked return policy.  So, if I don’t like it or decide I don’t want it, I can return it. And has an Edge member I don’t pay for shipping!  Including returns!

When the package arrived, I thought the box was empty because it was so light.  I opened the box and there was my new woven carbon fiber handguard!  I ordered the fifteen inch “Blade” version.  I think the Blade version really adds to the unique design of the handguard design.  The Blade is angled at the front and because of the mounting system you can run the angle however you like: long on the bottom, short on the top; long on the top, short on the bottom; or anywhere along the 360 degree radius.   

Unpackaging the forearm I was reminded of an issue with woven carbon fiber – loose fibers.  I caught a loose fiber in my hand, like a wood splinter.  I took a break to remove the foreign body from my finger and then put on my welding gloves.  I ran the gloves over the handguard to remove any loose fibers I imagine you could do the same thing with a shop rag, just make sure to throw the shop rag away when you are done.  This is not a negative against the Brigand Arms handguard, it’s common to all woven carbon fiber products, just part of the required pre-installation: wipe down the handguard.  Please note I have taken the rifle out five times since I mounted the hand guard with no more splinter issues.  There are three parts in the package: handguard, barrel nut and cinch nut.  The barrel nut is aluminum and appears to be similar to the YHM barrel nut, and the cinch nut appears to be similar to the YHM jam nut.  This is smart outsourcing by Brigand Arms, use off the shelf items to cut cost.  This is a smart move by Brigand Arms to lower the price of the handguard.  And since this is one of the pricier handguards on the market anything that can be used to lower costs while maintaining quality is a smart move.  Like Scrooge McDuck said, “Don’t work harder, work smarter.”

To start the installation I put a dap of release agent on the barrel extension on my custom order 18 inch, light profile, rifle gas system, 1-7 barrel I from Columbia River Arms and inserted it into a Vltor MUR upper receiver.  I really like the Vltor because I have yet to find one out of spec.  They look like billet, but they are forged and a little thicker than a mil-spec upper.  Next, I put a dap of LocTite 242 (blue) onto the threads of the receiver and tightened the barrel nut to the recommended torque of 34 – 40 foot pounds.  Next I installed the Brownell’s black nitride gas tube mounted to a JP Enterprise  AR-15 2 piece detent adjustable low profile gas block. The gas tube runs through the barrel nut so it’s important to make sure the barrel nut is aligned properly.  If the tube doesn’t fit through the nut keep tightening it a little bit at a time until it freely aligns with the gas key on the bolt carrier group.

Installing the handguard was very straight forward.  Like installing a YHM handguard.  In fact, Brigand Arms recommends on their FAQ web page to use the YHM handguard wrench to install the handguard.  Alternative ways are to tighten the cinch nut is with a spanner wrench, strap wrench or give the cinch nut a tap with a flat head screw driver.   I had a spanner wrench on hand and I wrapped the areas that might mare the finish with duct tape.  I was unable to get adequate torque on the cinch nut to keep the handguard form turning.  I made a quick trip to my local gun store Cobra Tactical (one of my sponsors) and asked Eric if he had the YHM handguard wrench.  He was kind enough to loan me the tool, so I could finish the build.

With the upper assembled I headed out to the range.  One of the first thing I noticed was how easy it was to access the adjustable gas block.  All too often the handguard must be removed to access the adjustments to the gas block, then reinstalled and you hope you have it adjusted properly.  

The test and evaluation for this upper was actually for five new parts: Brigand Arms handguard, Columbia Arms Barrel, UM Tactical RAGE muzzle brake, JP Enterprise low mass bolt carrier group and JP Enterprise silent captured spring recoil system, and Geisslle charging handle.  After getting everything tuned up (I will cover these items in a later review) I laid the handguard on a sand bag to check the accuracy of the build.  Awesome is all I can say regarding the accuracy of this build.  I was pleasantly surprised at how solid the handguard was on the rest.  No flexing or torquing while shooting off the sand bag. The sand bags at the range are the heavy plastic and I was surprised to see no melting or deformation from heat of the barrel to the bag.  Inspecting the handguard, I could not see and deformation or wear marks on it.

Next test came the test for what I thought would be the problem, heat radiating from the barrel through the hand guard.  I did a series of speed and transition drills without pause.  I finished with two 30 round magazine dumps.  Surprisingly the handguard never became too hot to handle or uncomfortable to hold.  Another surprise was how quickly the barrel cooled.  Just has the Brigand Arms stated in their interviews on the Firearms Radio Network because of the lack of surface area on the handguard the barrel cools quickly.

I’ve been able to take the rifle to the range five more times and even practiced dumping the rifle into a USPSA box and 3 Gun Nation barrel.  No damage to the handguard.  The handguard is a little larger in diameter than some other handguards but still fits well in the hand. The woven pattern of the hand guard makes for a good gripping surface. I practiced holding the handguard in different positions, all were secure, and it was easy to control the weapon.  

Brigand Arms makes three models of the woven carbon fiber handguard: Blade, Edge and Atlas.  The Edge is like the Blade but with a flat front.  The Atlas is like the Edge but adds a four short picatinny rails at 3, 6, 9 and 12 positions at the front of the handguard.   If you want to add rails Brigand Arms handguards, they are prepared for you.  You can purchase rail sections and add them wherever you want on the handguard.  Brigand Arms also sells M-Loc panels you can add anywhere to the handguard.

Overall, I am very pleased with the Brigand Arms handguard. It is performing better than I imagined it would.  The handguards are expensive, $259.00 to $414.00, but they are worth it.  Brigand Arms has added AR-10 DPMS-Hi style handguards to their shop.  I will be buying one of these for a light weight AR-.308 build.  I’m expecting the same outstanding performance from the .308 models.

Brigand Arms are innovators and I look forward to seeing other products they bring to market.

FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEW – 8 KEY POINTS


CLAIM TO FAME:

Lightest handguard available

TARGET MARKET:

Modern Sporting Rifle users who want a light weight unique handguard.

FNBS (FEATURES & BENEFITS OF THIS PRODUCT):

  • Lightweight

  • Easy installation

  • Unique look

  • Adds in barrel cooling

  • Off the shelf mounting hardware

  • Ease of access to adjustable gas blocks

WHAT OTHER AESTHETIC OPTIONS OR FINISHES ARE AVAILABLE?

  • Three different styles

  • Four different lengths

  • Available for AR15 and AR10 (DPMS)

  • Bare carbon fiber

  • Handguard can be Cerakoted

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING?:

Coolest and most interesting product at SHOT Show

LINK TO OTHER REVIEWS:

Brigand Arms website - Reviews

PRICE POINT:

MSRP:  $269.00 - $414.00

I NEED IT NOW! AVAILABILTY:

Brownells or Brigand Arms

OUR RATING:

Pros:

  • Easy to install

  • Lightweight

  • Feels good in the grasp

  • Looks wicked cool

Cons:

  • Expensive

  • No continuous rail on top

 

SCORE:  9.0 EXCELLENT

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2A Armament Aethon Rail

  Since everyone has an AR15, or at least should, aftermarket accessories for them have become the norm. That brings us to 2A Armament. They produce a variety of products, including complete rifles, for the AR15. 2A sent me one of their 7" Aethon rail handguards with M-Lok slots.

  The Aethon rail has some interesting design features. The first one I noticed was the scalloped picatinny rail sections. Of course this helps to reduce weight, but also looks very nice. The Aethon features a full top rail, that lines up with the receiver nicely. Under the top picatinny rail there are lightening holes, which also help vent heat away from the barrel. At 90°, 180°, and 270° are the flats with the M-Lok slots. Since this is a 7" handguard, there are only 2 slots per side. In front and behind the M-Lok slots are holes for QD mounts! Between the flats on the handguard, 2A has reduced more weight by milling out an angled half circle style design. Also the top picatinny rail has "T" markings on it.

  Installation of the Aethon rail is pretty straight forward. I'll run you through the simple method. After taking off the old parts. Just install the 2A Armament titanium barrel nut per specified torque, line up one of the cut-outs for the gas tube and the barrel is tightened back on. I used my armorers wrench and it worked just fine. Now here is one of the niceties of the Aethon. To install the handguard, you just slide it over the barrel nut and align the top rail with your receiver. Then you just tighten down the four angled set screws, 2 per side, and your done. The way the barrel nut is designed, along with the angled set screws, is what makes this so easy. A warning, do not over tighten the set screws as they are going into aluminum and could possibly strip out fairly easy. I just put blue threadlocker on them and called it a day.

  The Aethon rail saw plenty of use. Partly because the rifle I installed it on, wasn't working properly. This had zero to do with the Aethon. I will say that because of the small internal diameter of the Aethon, it does get very warm when shooting quickly, so much that I wouldn't recommend it for a registered full auto, unless you always wear gloves. Other than that, the Aethon performed great. I liked the smaller diameter of the Aethon, it allowed me to get a good grip around it to help reduce muzzle jump. If you have really large hands, you could probably wrap them all the way around this handguard. Because this is a 7" handguard, it is very sturdy with no flex whatsoever. There are also no sharp edges anywhere, even where the set screws lock the handguard on. My only complaint is that it only measures 6.7" long instead of 7", leaving a little gap between the end of the handguard and the fixed front sight post. 

  2A Armament has done an excellent job with the Aethon handguard. It is a deep black anodizing, so much that it is much darker and shinier than my receiver. It is fairly lightweight and installs easily. If your in the market for some nice AR parts, go take a look at 2A Armament.

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

Lightweight AR15 handguard

Target Market:

Users wanting a lighter weight, or M-Lok handguard

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Made in U.S.A
  • U.S.A. sourced 6AL-4V Titanium barrel nut
  • M-LOK mounting solution
  • Free floating design
  • QD mounts on both ends
  • 1.3” Internal Diameter
  • 6.7" length
  • "T" markings
  • Weighs 6.2 oz's complete

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

10", 12", and 15" lengths

What others are saying?:

None Found

Link to other reviews:

None Found

Price point:

MSRP = $179.00

Retail = $170.00 at Optics Planet

I need it now! Availability:

2A Armament or Optics Planet

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • M-Lok

  • Easy Installation

  • Dark Anodizing

  • Small overall diameter

  • Full top rail

  • QD mounts

Cons:

  • Not a full 7" in length

  • Gets hot

Score: 8.0 Great

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Favorite Link:   Poly Gun Mods