After adding various attachments such as grips, lights, lasers and sights, an AR-style rifle's handguard could arguably be the heaviest part of the firearm. If you’re in the market for lightweight components, the handguard certainly is one place to start shedding ounces, if only to offset the weight of accessories. Trim the fat by adding on one of Brigand Arms’ carbon-fiber handguards.
Available for both the AR-15 and the AR-10, Brigand Arms offers two different designs for each AR type. One is a woven carbon-fiber “open-structure” model, and the other option, “Carbon Black,” comes in the form of a black-gloss, carbon-fiber, “tube” style design more typical of how you’d expect a handguard to look. Both “open-structure” and “tube” style models come in sub-models, including the “Edge” (a flush-end) and a “Blade” style, which has the end cut at an angle.
Aside from the weight-saving aspects of carbon fiber, the material also adds strength and rigidity to the components. The handguards are rated to withstand 90 pounds of pressure from all directions, and 600 pounds of pressure along their lengths specifically. Every yarn comprising the units are coated with a protective coating to prevent weather damage and defend against rough, abrasive use. The coating also inhibits cracking and splintering, a common problem with carbon-fiber material.
Both models use anodized aluminum end-caps bonded to the handguards via an aerospace-grade epoxy. These end-caps, in turn, thread onto the company’s proprietary barrel nut, which uses a threaded insert to hold the barrel nut against the receiver. An external threaded jam nut ensures proper alignment of the handguard with the receiver. The AR-15 and AR-10 barrel nuts fit all standard upper receivers, and should be torqued to the standard weight of any aluminum barrel nut. The barrel nut and the jam nut are made of 7075 Aluminum and chrome-moly steel.
Even the heaviest model of the open-structure handguard, at 15 inches for the AR-10, only weighs 8.3 ounces (the lightest model, for comparison’s sake, is 3.68-ounces for the 7-inch “Blade” style handguard for the AR-15).
One of the other benefits to getting the open-structure option is heat from the barrel won’t be trapped, and cooling will occur up to 50 percent faster, which prolongs barrel life and reduces heat-signatures. The open-structure model has an option, dubbed the “Atlas,” which also offers a quad-rail style end with five slots per rail, as well as a standard sling-swivel stud at the front of the bottom rail. Other rail attachment units are available as an accessory if users need more rail space or prefer rails in a different position besides at the end of the handguard.
The carbon-fiber “tube” style handguard allows for the use of M-Lok slots, as there is enough material to cut away to allow for rail attachment points. Because it’s enclosed, it also prevents debris from impacting the barrel, but roughly only adds about an ounce of weight to equal-length handguards in the open-structure variant.
Replacement barrel nuts, custom rail segments and M-Lok backing plates are available as well, and can be purchased direction from Brigand Arms, but also can be bought from Brownells. The handguards range in price from $199 to $414, with M-Lok backing plates at $15 a piece or the custom rail segments can be had for $39.