Gun Guides: How Long Should My AR15 Handguard Be?

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Do you want to improve your rifle shooting accuracy?

Over the course of a year, the NRA alone sponsors over 11,000 shooting competitions across the country. This includes 50 national championships which can put the winner on the radar, increasing their chances of joining the Olympics. With such a reward up for grabs, you’ll want to improve your accuracy as much as you can to win.

A way for you to do this is by getting the right attachments for your gun. With the AR-15 being the most popular gun around, consider getting an AR15 handguard. This benefits you, as you can familiarize yourself with how it feels in your hands.

It’s ideal you choose the best one to help improve your shooting accuracy, though. This means choosing one of appropriate length. Below, we’ll discuss why this is important and we’ll tell you how you can choose the best handguard.

What to Consider Before Getting a Handguard

If you’re new to using the AR-15, then you’ll need to know a few things before thinking about getting a handguard. First, look for a rail system to attach to your gun’s barrel. This is what the handguard will attach to.

The rail often goes around the AR’s barrel. It allows you to have a comfortable grip on the handguard. Rails also protect you and your handguard from the heat the gun generates as you fire it.

Consider what you’ll use the gun for, too. If you’re looking to use it more for home defense, you’ll want a shorter handguard. This will allow you a better grip and more freedom of movement in the tighter hallways of a home.

If you’re going to enter long-range shooting competitions, pick a longer handguard. This allows you to add larger attachments, like bipods, for better stability. Shorter handguards can also work if you’re looking at a competition where mobility is a big factor.

Why Handguard Length Is Important

Accuracy and safety are the main reasons you want to choose a handguard of appropriate length. Longer guards will weigh more, making it harder for you to land a shot. Shorter AR15 handguards are often better since they’re the lightest, stabilizing your aim.

This also helps your accuracy since you can grip your gun comfortably with a handguard. Proper grips also prevent further injuries while in proper rifle shooting positions

An AR-15 handguard will also protect your hands from nasty accidents. If your handguard is too short, you risk burning your hands on the barrel as you adjust your grip. If they’re too long, you’ll likely damage the handguard and degrade its condition faster.

Longer handguards also make it likely that the gun to blast residue back to you. Since it can’t completely escape out the front, muzzle blasts will reach your hands or your face. The lead dust that comes from these blasts will be detrimental to your health. 

The handguard will also protect your AR-15. The heat that it generates from firing can make the barrel fragile and malleable. The handguard will protect it from bending or cracking if you drop it.

Common Handguard Lengths

Now that you know why length is important, it’s time to know the different lengths you can choose from. Below are some of the most common handguard lengths that you’ll see in the market. 

15-Inch Handguard

The AR15 15 inch handguard fits the original 20-inch barrel and the 16-inch civilian standard. It’s the ideal one for the original since it gives you a lot of room for hand placement. Any longer handguard will only cause you to have issues along the line.

They also provide the most space for attachments. It makes the 16-inch civilian standard more stable.

The shorter barrel always made the civilian standard harder to handle. Attachments will make it easier for you to handle the recoil as you shoot. 

Being the longest means it will also be the heaviest, though. You should get this only when your body can support it. Otherwise, you’ll make it harder for yourself to stabilize your aim with the added weight on the gun. 

13.5-Inch Handguard

This is a suitable alternative when you’re using the civilian standard. There’s a significant weight reduction that will allow you to be steadier with your aim. Despite this, it’s still long enough that you need not worry about exposing your gas chambers.

It’s also a viable option for the military carbine version of the AR-15. Users often suffer from the recoil that this model has. The 13.5-inch handguard makes the gun more manageable, allowing for quick, successive shots.

12-Inch Handguard

This is another option if you think the 13.5-inch handguard is too heavy for the military carbine. There’s a noticeable weight reduction with this handguard length. Most of the handguard’s weight focused on the gun’s center, too.

It means your aim will be better when switching between targets or when you’re mobile. Short barrel rifles also enjoy a handguard this long. With the appropriate rail length, you can ensure a secure fit along the barrel of your gun.

The AR15 12 inch handguard also leaves little of the muzzle exposed. You can guarantee complete barrel protection when using this handguard. It also leaves a lot of space for hand territory and attachments.

10-Inch Handguard

Go for this handguard if you’re having trouble carrying your short barrel rifle. It’s light enough that you can fit it onto an AR-15 pistol and still handle it well. You’ll end up sacrificing a lot of features by choosing this for a short barrel rifle, though.

This handguard often clogs up a short barrel rifle’s iron sights. Aiming without scope attachments will be near impossible with the congested barrel.

For the shortest barrels, though, this handguard is perfect. You’ll have a good enough sight radius that you won’t need scopes with this guard. You can focus it on other attachments like grips.

You can also add muzzle breaks to the muzzle blast doesn’t go underneath the rail. This is to protect you and your gun from injuries and damage.

9-Inch and 7-Inch Handguards

These grips are diverse in the sense that you can move them around in any AR-15 gun. You can move them forward or backward to suit your grip and comfort. 

As you can expect, these handguards are among the lightest ones in the market. This makes them the best raw AR15 handguards since accessories will quickly crowd the gun.

Choosing a Handguard

There are some factors to consider when choosing a handguard besides its length and weight. Here’s a quick guide to what you should look at when choosing handguards to install.

Ease of Installation

You need not be a trained gunsmith to install a handguard on your own. However, some handguards in the market need a bit more than elbow grease to install. You may even end up buying extra parts to install your preferred handguard in the first place.

This is why it’s best to look for a floating handguard instead. The typical AR15 free float handguard will only attach to the firearm at one point. The rest of the handguard won’t touch the barrel.

This quality makes it amazing at negating the heat generated by the barrel. You’ll often only need one extra part to attach a floating handguard, which is the barrel nut. It’s easy to find these and other AR15 handguard accessories in a reputable store. 


Have you noticed that some handguards have holes down their length? These holes are what’s known as cuts and they do two functions. For one, they significantly reduce the handguard’s weight. 

The other function they serve is ventilation. The cuts allow the heat generated by the barrel to escape easier after firing a couple of rounds in a row. They also let the cool air pass through it, helping it cool down even quicker.

Doing this helps with the barrel’s condition. So, look for a handguard that has multiple cuts, but will stay durable. Aluminum handguards are ideal since they’re lightweight, durable, and have high heat resistance.


As amazing as a floating handguard is, it still has some flaws to address. Mounting is the main issue, and it’s when the handguard moves up or down the barrel. To prevent this from becoming a big problem, find one that sits securely in place as you use your firearm.

Mounting can also refer to what you can mount on the handguard. Some handguards make adding attachments impossible because they lack locking systems. Look for handguards with modular locking systems and you’ll be able to mount any accessory you can fit on it.

Be Comfortable With Your AR15 Handguard Today

Knowing what to look for in a handguard will significantly improve your shooting accuracy. Improve your aim by getting yourself the right AR15 handguard. Learn how important handguard length is and get the right attachment today!

Looking for tips on how you can improve your shooting accuracy? Adding attachments only scratches the surface of what you can do to be a better shooter. Check out more of our guides to learn all you can today!

Arnold Bloom

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