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AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freefloat
Discussions related to Guns and Firearms

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slimjim
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 4:43 pm    Post subject: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freefloat Reply with quote

I took my S&W M&P to the range this morning and shot different ammo through it with and without the handguard to see how much of a difference in accuracy there would be. I was looking for some evidence of improvement before I chucked out the coins for a freefloat handguard. My S&W has a 16-inch barrel with 1:9 twist. When I took the handguard off to freefloat the barrel, I would feed one round at a time and rest the magizine well (without a mag inserted) on the sandbag. It made for a stable rest. I used a Leupold VXII 3-9X and fired 3-shot groups at 100 yards.

Here is the rifle.




This table shows the overall results.




Though I saw a slight improvement in accuracy with the with the barrel freefloating, it was not significant and the best groups in each configuration were comparable. Here are the best groups.





There was a slight shift in the point-of-impact with and without the handguard.




So far, I've found the results inconclusive and not supporting the expense for a freefloat handguard. However, this was my first really shooting session with the AR after an initial break-in. I think I need to go back and repeat this test with 5-shot groups and see if point-of-impact remains consistent. Give me a couple of weeks report back.

If others can share their experience with freefloat handguards that would be appreciated.
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Donut Slayer
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 7:23 pm    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freefloat Reply with quote

Thanks for the post. I've always wondered the same thing.

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Pumpkinslinger
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 9:06 pm    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freefloat Reply with quote

Good report Slimjim! Thanks.

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Dawgdad
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 9:31 pm    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freeflo Reply with quote

Not sure you will be able to compare without shelling out the bucks for the Freefloat tube. The main advantage of a free float tube is so that the sling pressure is not relayed to the barrel. If you set a factory hand guard vs a free float handguard using the magazine as the support point like you did I expect you will get the same results - inconclusive. A T-test or F-test would say they are from the same population.

If you use the handguard as the support point or even attached a bipod and then shot free float versus stock handguard you MAY see the difference in point of impact shift between the two but I would think if you were consistent form shot to shot with support position on the stock the group size would be similar. If you move around on your bag with a stock handuard the poi will shift too opening up group size.

As I said already - they main advantage comes if you are using a sling as changes in sling pressure will causes changes in POI.

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slimjim
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2009 5:56 am    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freeflo Reply with quote

Dawgdad wrote:
If you set a factory hand guard vs a free float handguard using the magazine as the support point"

I should have mentioned that I supported the rifle with the handguard on the sandbag when I shot those groups. I figured that this would be similar to my hand holding the handguard. Maybe for consistency I should have shot using the magazine well as the rest point even with the handguard on.

Your point about using a sling is an important one. However, I have read where others claimed significant improvements in accuracy when using a freefloating handguard. I figure I have to shoot quite a few more rounds before I can quantify the accuracy advantage and any improvement in point-of-impact consistency. I think the advantage of a freefloated barrel is there. It will be fun doing all this shooting to find out how much! At least for now I know if I'm not using a sling, I really don't need to rush out and buy a freefloat handguard.
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Dawgdad
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2009 6:30 am    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freeflo Reply with quote

My experince has been that a good trigger shrinks groups better than a float tube if you are not using a sling.

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shrpshtrjoe
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2009 10:38 am    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freeflo Reply with quote

Dawgdad wrote:
My experince has been that a good trigger shrinks groups

Thats my next up grade on my Colt Very Happy

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slimjim
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2009 7:54 pm    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freeflo Reply with quote

Dawgdad wrote:
good trigger shrinks groups better than a float tube

The trigger on my S&W was only 6 pounds out of the box plus smoother than most mil-spec. I did the 15 minute AR Trigger mod and reduced my trigger pull to around 4 lbs (estimate) but have not measured it. It was simple. I don't feel liking I'm having to apply excess pressure to get the round off. It even comes as a surprise which is good. This mod worked for me and I will keep this rifle like this. I'm getting ready to build an AR that is more geared for accuracy and will get a good match trigger for it, most likely a single stage JP.
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roklok
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:20 pm    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freefloat Reply with quote

Just installed a JP trigger in my Colt. Very happy with it, trigger pull went from a gritty, creepy 8 pounds to a crisp 4.5 pounds. This is with the stock hammer and hammer spring for reliability with all ammunition.
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Dawgdad
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:51 pm    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freeflo Reply with quote

slimjim wrote:
Dawgdad wrote:
good trigger shrinks groups better than a float tube

The trigger on my S&W was only 6 pounds out of the box plus smoother than most mil-spec. I did the 15 minute AR Trigger mod and reduced my trigger pull to around 4 lbs (estimate) but have not measured it. It was simple. I don't feel liking I'm having to apply excess pressure to get the round off. It even comes as a surprise which is good. This mod worked for me and I will keep this rifle like this. I'm getting ready to build an AR that is more geared for accuracy and will get a good match trigger for it, most likely a single stage JP.


When you say build - do you mean from parts or a new upper and a match lower?

If you want the best Match grade AR service rifle upper Check out White Oak Precision /White Oak Armament or Compass Lake. Most shooters at Camp Perry do.

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slimjim
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:30 am    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freeflo Reply with quote

Dawgdad wrote:
When you say build - do you mean from parts or a new upper and a match lower?

Well I picked up my Barlett Enterprises lower receiver yesterday. So everything is possible from here. I'm not sure yet if I will build the upper from parts or buy a complete upper. I'm still investigating. Thanks for your suggested companies.
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Dawgdad
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:43 am    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freeflo Reply with quote

I have mulled over the idea of building an AR from parts. I may be way off base here but I always felt that the lower was more of a tab A in Slot B assembly while an upper required a littel more skill and art to get everything lined out well. Any one done a build from parts?

BTW - Slimjim -What did the Lower run you? Did it have a match trigger or a stock single stage?

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slimjim
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2009 9:15 am    Post subject: Re: AR-15 accuracy comparison: mil-spec handguard vs freeflo Reply with quote

I purchased a stripped lower from MidwayUSA that was CNC machined by Bartlett Enterprises. They are on clearance for $99. That's basically half price. I don't expect that price to last more than a couple days.

Bartlett Enterprises Lower Receiver
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