Why Opt For the Free Float Handguard?

If you’re fairly new to the world of DIY gunsmithing, there are likely many terms you’ve never heard before. Especially when building very customizable firearms, such as the AR-15, there are so many options out there, it can quickly become overwhelming. Take handguards for example. This rifle part serves the purpose of allowing the shooter the ability to grip the front of the rifle while protecting the hand from the heat of the barrel (among other uses, such as attaching accessories) and comes in a wide variety of types, including classic drop-in handguards, railed drop-ins, free float tubes, and railed free floats. Have we lost you yet? Don’t worry. This blog post is dedicated to free float handguards and the advantages of opting for this rifle part.

What is a Free Float Handguard?

The free float handguard is a bit of a misnomer because the handguard itself is not actually floating. It is attached to the upper receiver and surrounds the barrel of the rifle. What makes this handguard a “free float” is that is does not touch the barrel of the rifle. Instead, the barrel “floats” inside the handguard.

There are two types of float handguards, the free float tube and the railed free float. A tube handguard is a simple, round, often vented handguard with limited design. A railed free float has one to four rails that run the length of the handguard. These rails are most often designed to military standard dimensions to allow the attachment of accessories, such as bipods, grips, lasers, or optics.

Why Opt For a Free Float Handguard?


If you’ve ever shot a high volume of ammo through a rifle, you may have noticed the handguard growing warm. Every time you fire a round, the explosive power and heat behind the fired bullet travels the length of the barrel, and each proceeding shot causes the metal to become hotter and hotter to the touch. Without handguards, shooters wouldn’t be able to keep hold of their firearms after just a few minutes of shooting. The free float handguard does not actually touch the barrel, so heat transfer to the part that the shooter’s hand is touching is much slower and much less intense. Standard aluminum handguards, for example, often become problematic because of excessive heat transfer, but free float aluminum handguards (vented) don’t have this same problem.


How much of a difference a free float handguard will provide regarding improved accuracy is a point of contention in the gun community, with many experienced shooters claiming that the difference in minimal at best with any barrel shorter than 20 inches. That being said, a free float handguard is certainly not going to hurt your accuracy, and most people notice an improvement of .5 – .75 MOA. The accuracy advantage of the free float handguard stems from the fact that it does not make contact with the barrel. Because the barrel has no external pressure, it is allowed to vibrate and flex independently of the handguard.


If the style and look of your firearm is just as important to you as high quality parts and optimal functionality, you may opt for a free float handguard simply for the sleek appearance. The free floating handguard creates a visually striking effect, especially if the rifle’s upper is anodized a fun color, such as purple, green, or bronze. Here at Thunder Tactical, our rifle parts for sale include a wide variety of free float handguards and rifle kits including free floats.

You can find free float handguards online among our wide selection of rifle parts at Thunder Tactical. Shop our selection today to begin building your ideal rifle.

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