In this buyer's guide, let's take a look at the best lightweight AR15 handguards for carbine & CQB length rifles that are rock solid, features anti-rotation tab, clearance for suppressor, and can accept different mounts.

Let's take a look...

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Best Lightweight AR15 Handguards

Also check out: 11 Must Have AR15 Accessory Upgrades

BCM KMR Handguard - Best Overall

BCM KMR rail

Why KMR is still the best overall - The BCM KMR KeyMod free float rail handguard is simple, streamlined, robust, and lightweight. The most impressive is its proprietary cross-bolt locking mounting system, which is the best in the industry that eliminates rail movement and rotation due to heat and repeated recoil.

Made with aerospace CNC aluminum, and its hard coat anodize for combating corrosion and making it anti-reflective.

The rail can accept KeyMod mounting accessories only, providing an enormous amount of rail real estate for any tactical accessories including 45-degree mounting spots.

Out of all the rail options, the BCM KMR is the lightest and most user-friendly rail to get.

Faxon Streamline Carbon Fiber Handguard - Lightest

carbon fiber rail handguard 1

Carbon fiber handguards are about 10X dtronger than aluminum, and about 40% lighter.

Its main purpose is to reduce a significant amount of weight. The Faxon carbon fiber rail weighs just about 6.24 oz for a 10.2" rail. Its the lightest you can get compared to an aluminum rail.

The rail features MLOK slots for mounting tactical accessories, and its built tough without sacrificing ridgity or strength.

For competition shooters, this thing took so much weight off the front end of an AR rifle to dramatically increase speed and maneuverability.

For the ultra-lightweight option, the Faxon Streamline Carbon rail is the choice.

Midwest Industries Night Fighter - Best Value

Midwest Industries Night Fighter M-LOK Handguard, Black, 13.5in, MI-NF13.5

The Midwest industries Night Fighter rail is a professional-grade one-piece free float AR rail without breaking the bank.

Just like other rails out there, you can get various length rail either with KeyMod or MLOK, and it has QD swivel sockets for attaching a sling.

The best part about this rail is the anti rotation tab that locks on to the receiver, and the bottom anti rotation key locks into the barrel nut. It's a completely new design from their previous product, and it's a handguard definitely worth checking out.

This rail is highly recommended for new AR builders.

 Geissele MK16 Rail - Ultimate Durability

geissele mk16 rail handguard 1

The MK16 rail is the balance between the lightest & the strongest line up of Geissele Super Modular Rails built for the USASOC (US Army Special Operations Command)

The new handguard still uses the proven barrel nut locking design for the ultimate rigidity even under the most extreme conditions of use.

The MK16 MLOK rail now offers dual anti-rotation locking mechanisms on steroid, to meet the requirement of the US SOPMOD program.

One holds onto the upper receiver and the other two set screws hold onto the lower portion of the receiver, to ensure the rail doesn't shift forward or rotate under any combat circumstances.

*It may not fit some billet upper receiver. 

Cloud Defensive COR Rail - Best Ergonomics

cloud defensive COR v1 rail handguard

The CD COR rail is a purpose build rail system that provides a unique low profile pressure switch mounting solution to AR rifles with tactical flashlights.

What we like the most is that the pressure switch sits low on the handguard without a significant portion sticking out. Products like the Cloud Defensive OWL and LCS mount directly into the cutout as well as Surefire and Streamlight pressure switches.

The second thing we like the most is the BCM KMR alike cross-bolt mounting system that prevents the rail from shifting due to recoil and heat. (No barrel nut timing required)

The rail is available in two versions, CORv1 and CORv2. The only difference is the cutout locations, one is further forward and the other is further back.

For anyone who wants a much lower profile and much tighter handguard setup with IR and lights on their SBRs, the COR rail provides a lot of tactical benefits that you don't wanna miss.

If you're interested in buying an complete AR15 please check out our Best AR15 Guide on our site or directly visit Palmetto State Armory for tons of great deals

What To Look For When Buying An Handguard

When buying a modern AR15 handguard, you should be looking for the following:

  • Free float - For better accuracy
  • Anti rotational design - Prevents handguard shifting & rotating
  • Configurable (MLOK, KeyMod) - Pick one you like
  • Appropriate rail length - More rail space for accessories (For suppressor buyers or existing owners, be sure to if there is room clearance to mount it)
  • Barrel nut length - Longer length provides stiffer leverage
  • Integrated QD points (optional) - For sling attachment

Common Rail Accessories To Get

Modular handguard rail provides the shooter the ability to mount tactical accessories such as:

Depend on which accessories you already have, or plan on acquiring.

Some have different mounting mechanism of the following 3 popular options:

  • MLOK
  • M1913 Pictainny
  • KeyMod

We highly recommend sticking with one type of mounting system, so you don't have to spend extra money buying mounts.

AR15 Handguard FAQ

What Is Anti Rotation Tab?

Ever had a handguard that gets loose and started to rotate?

This can be fixed when using a handguard with a secured anti-rotation tab or anti-rotational set screws.

The tab grabs onto the upper receiver from both sides to prevent the rail from shifting or rotating due to recoil or drop.

What Rail Length Is The Best?

The most common handguard rail length are:

  • 7"
  • 9"
  • 12"
  • 15"

The best handguard rail length is relative what works for you. These things include:

  • Aesthetics
  • Rail real estate
  • Room clearance for mounting a suppressor (You might already own or want to get)

There are so many different builds out there, and it's very difficult to say one is better than the others.

For the most part, a longer rail is always better for the following reasons:

  • More room to mount accessories
  • Shooters can extend grip spot more forward
  • Extra handguard length protects the front of the barrel
  • Keeps hot barrel from touching the user while resting on the sling