An AR owner could spend an eternity modifying, adapting and changing their rifle to suit their tastes. There is no other rifle in the world that has this level of versatility or this supply of aftermarket accessories. With so many options out there, it sometimes gets hard to choose what upgrades to pick, sort of like the proverbial kid in the candy store.
When it comes to ARs, as well as other firearms, one of the best candy stores out there is Guntec USA, based in Scottsdale, Arizona. For almost three decades, this company has been manufacturing and distributing all sorts of tactical accessories and parts combining high quality and reasonable pricing. Currently, Guntec USA offers over 600 different parts for shooters, but three new parts for the AR stand out.
Free-floating handguards, especially longer units, have become especially popular upgrades on AR-style carbines. Guntec USA’s 16.5-inch Ultra-Lightweight Thin KeyMod Free-Floating Handguard With Monolithic Top Rail ideally fits the bill for what modern tactical and competition users want in their ARs. The handguard’s longer length allows for more modern shooting positions like placing your support arm closer to the muzzle for better recoil control and faster transitioning from target to target. The handguard’s thin profile and smooth sides are extremely comfortable in hand and help reduce fatigue.
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This handguard also uses the KeyMod rail system, which has grown in popularity because it allows the operator to have a simple, thin, lightweight handguard with zero bulk that still lets you add accessories at multiple positions. The name comes from the fact that the accessory and rail attachment holes are shaped like keyholes. A large ring section on the back of an accessory rail goes into the large opening and then slides back under the narrow portion before being locked down with an Allen wrench. Some accessory manufacturers are making lights, lasers, bipods, sling swivels, etc., with the KeyMod system built in so there is no need for rails at all. I have used KeyMod rails quite a bit and found them to be extremely sturdy. Designed for a metal-on-metal fit, these rails will not move or come loose under recoil or harsh conditions.
A free-floating handguard also adds certain benefits. Standard handguards indirectly make contact with the barrel at the front and rear. When firing, a person can apply uneven pressure against the handguard and thus against the barrel. This can be more pronounced if the handguard is braced against a rest. The can affect the barrel’s harmonics, affecting accuracy. With a free-floating handguard, there is no contact with the barrel, enhancing the rifle’s accuracy potential.
A monolithic top rail is also a significant benefit as it allows more versatility when it comes to mounting sights and optics; you can run multiple optics, offset red-dot or iron sights, a forward night-vision device or a top-mounted laser unit. Guntec USA’s free-floating handguards are made in the U.S. from 6061-T6 aluminum and come in a range of lengths and colors, including black, OD green and Flat Dark Earth.
Installing these handguards is fairly straightforward, but if your rifle has an A2-style front sight/gas block, you’ll need to replace it with a low-profile gas block that will fit underneath the new handguard. You will also need to remove the barrel nut and delta ring. The handguards include a proprietary aluminum barrel nut that secures it to the receiver with six screws and provides a very tight handguard-to-receiver fit.
Claw Flash Suppressor
Another easy and extremely popular upgrade for any AR-platform rifle owner is a muzzle device for the end of the barrel. Assuming your rifle has a threaded barrel, the options are nearly limitless. For many, a popular alternative to the mil-spec A2-style flash suppressor is a muzzle brake that redirects escaping gases in order to reduce recoil and muzzle climb. A brake can help keep the rifle on target and allow for faster follow-up shots, but this benefit comes at the price of significantly increased muzzle blast and noise.
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Given the already low recoil of ARs in 5.56mm NATO, a better option, at least for me, is a flash suppressor. In daylight, the benefits of the flash suppressor can be a bit limited, but in low-light conditions the difference is dramatic. In low-light training situations, I have seen the fireball of a plain-barreled AR versus the barely perceptible glint of an AR with a flash suppressor. This can help preserve night vision as well as the more tactical application of keeping the enemy from easily identifying your location.
Guntec USA offers a rather unique muzzle device that serves multiple purposes. The Claw multi-prong flash suppressor will fit any standard threaded 5.56mm AR and has a very distinctive and aggressive profile. It is made from 6061-T6 aluminum and is nearly 1.5 inches wide with eight 1-inch-long prongs. The Claw is styled as a door-breaching device, although this is generally not recommended with .223/5.56mm rounds. A far better use for this flash suppressor is as a standoff or impact device in close-quarters engagements. For a more finished look, the Claw works best with a handguard that extends to the end of the barrel. The Claw screws easily onto any 1/2×28 thread pitch, but make sure to also use a crush washer (which should already be on the rifle).
You almost never see ARs with carry handles anymore, and most modern ARs are sold with a flattop design, often with a flattop handguard as well. This is ideal for mounting optics, either magnified scopes for longer- range shooting or red-dot sights for fast target acquisitions. However, no matter how good your optics are or how much you train with them, there is no substitute for iron sights. If you are serious about your training, some use of your iron sights should always be included as well as a thorough understanding of sight adjustment.
Given the importance of iron sights and the value in having a secondary backup sighting system, many manufacturers are producing folding sights that stay out of the way until needed. Guntec USA’s spring-assisted low-profile flip-up sight set is well priced even when compared to polymer backup sights from other manufacturers and offers the advantage and strength of all 6061-T6 aluminum construction.
The sights’ low-profile design helps keep them out of the way, but they can easily be deployed quickly when needed with a spring-assisted push-button mechanism. They also stay deployed until they are folded back down with a push-button release. The rear sight features two apertures and is windage adjustable, and the protected front sight post is elevation adjustable. These Guntec sights are easy to use and well constructed.
For more information, visit guntecusa.com or call 480-478-4517.
This article was originally published in ‘Tactical Weapons’ February/March 2017. For information on how to subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com