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What Length Handguard Do I Need?

With any rifle build, you need to have a suitable handguard that you can use to hold the rifle with your support hand, and mount accessories on. These days, most people are opting for modern Modular handguards and rails on their rifles, however, if you’re unsure how long your handguard should be, you have come to the right post. Here is the complete guide to choosing the right length handguard for your rifle.

Things to consider when choosing handguard length:

First off, When anyone talks about handguard length, they are usually considering free-floated handguards and rails, since they allow you to choose the length you want. Drop-in handguards, like the ones on A2 style M4 rifles, rely on the position of the front sight block. Most Mil Spec Quad rails also attach to the receiver and the front sight/ gas block combo. Free float handguards only attach to the receiver, on rifles that have a low profile gas block.

Moving on, here are some things to think about when choosing handguard length

Barrel Length:

The length of your barrel will determine the maximum possible length of your handguard in most cases. Typically, you don’t want the handguard to be longer than your barrel, as it can be quite dangerous and the muzzle blast can damage your handguard as well.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you have a long muzzle device, like a best shield or suppressor mounted on your rifle, it may have a handguard that is slightly longer than the barrel. However, keep in mind that your rifle will not be very safe once the muzzle device is removed.

Gas System Length:

As opposed to the barrel length, the length of the gas system determines the minimum length of your handguard. Though your handguard can obviously be shorter, you don’t want your gas block and gas tube to be exposed. An open gas tube may get damaged more easily.


The length of your handguard can also have a significant impact on the weight and balance of your rifle. The longer your handguard is, the heavier it will be. Therefore, if you’re looking to build a super light rifle, you should go with as small of a handguard as possible.

How do you intend to use your rifle?

You should also consider the intended use of your rifle when you are choosing your handguard length. If you plan on mounting a light and several other accessories on your home defense rifle, you’ll need a handguard that has enough real estate. On the other hand, if you want a super light competition gun, you should go for a short barrel and shorter handguard. Longer handguards also allow you to mount your optics further down the rifle, increasing its eye relief.

Final Thoughts:

So, to sum it all up, your handguard should be at least as long as your gas tube, but not longer than your barrel. The most common Handguard lengths in the market are 10 inches, 12 inches, and 15 inches. 10-inch handguards are better for pistol-length gas systems and can be used with Carbine length systems as well. However, the 12-inch handguard is better suited for carbine and mid-length gas systems. The 15-inch handguard works perfectly with rifle-length gas systems.


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