Accessorizing Appropriately: Do I Need a Handguard Rail?

You’ve probably heard a debate or two about which handguard rail system is best. Do you go with the traditional, and choose a Picatinny handguard? Or do you try one of the modern front-runners like a BCM KeyMod rail or a M-LOK rail? Then, of course, there are other manufacturers who continue to evolve those designs and make proprietary handguard rail options, like we do here at Bootleg, Inc., and the cycle carries forward. Ultimately, we as AR15 owners come out the victors, because it means constant improvements and better components so we can more easily customize our firearms. But that begs a question that most of us don’t stop to answer: do we really need it? It’s easy to set aside the question of necessity in light of ease, but if you’ve been thinking about changing your AR 15’s setup, it might help to question how much change is even necessary.


Starting With Basics

In order to get to the root of necessity, it’s important to question what exactly the purpose is. Of course, with some of the upper components, your AR15 won’t fire without them. In terms of accessories, however, they aren’t necessary to the function of your firearm, but they can certainly make things easier. The handguard rail, as a category of AR 15 accessory, is one of the most useful and versatile because it serves multiple purposes at the same time.


Getting a Grip

First, most AR15 handguard rails are there to help you get a better grip. With your proper shooting stance, even your weak hand—the hand that goes on the forend of the AR—is arguably the more important hand. It helps guide your aim, sure, but it also helps stabilize your AR when firing. The more steady and stable you can keep your AR-15 while firing, the better your accuracy is likely to be. And the handguard rail’s purpose is in its name. It’s there to guard your hand from the heat that can build up along the barrel from repeated firing. But, in addition to that, most handguard rail systems are textured enough that, even without any additional assistance, they can help you get a better grip with your weaker hand, ultimately helping you improve your accuracy.


Attaching Accessories

In addition to the grip assistance most handguard rails offer, they also let you deck out your AR 15 just the way you want. They allow the flexibility to attach accessories as you choose. Depending on the rail you choose, you can enjoy the ability to attach optics, grip assistants, and other tools to help make your AR as customized as you want. Of course, since there are handguard rail options that span the length of the barrel and some that are shorter, some that have one or two rails versus some that have a rail on four sides, you can even customize your rail decision.

Necessity, or Too Much?

The question, here, is whether or not you even need a handguard rail system. If your AR looks a bit like a Swiss Army Knife, it will probably be difficult to downsize straight to nothing. But, thanks to all the different options, you don’t necessarily need to. And, honestly, you don’t really need a handguard rail system for your AR. It’s perfectly possible to attach an iron sight or some sort of optic, and to get a handguard without a rail system. After all, the AR 15 is called the “LEGO gun” for a reason. You can mix and match parts and accessories pretty much to your heart’s content. That being said, just because you don’t need a handguard rail system, that doesn’t mean it won’t help. If a handguard on its own isn’t sufficient to help you get a strong grip, a handguard rail system can give you a bit more of a grip and improve your grasp. Of course, a handguard rail will also give you the freedom to pick and choose not only how many different accessories you attach, but where on your AR they go.


The right handguard rail can make all the difference. If you’re looking for an option that is lightweight, durable, and versatile, shop the Bootleg, Inc. PicMod handguard rail. Our proprietary rail system is a combination of Picatinny and KeyMod handguard rail styles, so you get the benefits of both in one system. Shop online today to experience the difference for yourself!

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