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AR-15 Series: Brownells – Installing A Free Float Handguard

AR-15 Series: Brownells

In today’s guide, the focus lies on the expertise needed to install a Free Float Handguard on an AR-15 firearm, sponsored by Brownells, Inc. In this detailed walkthrough, not only will you learn how to safely remove the factory forearm front sight, but you’ll also grasp the technique to install a free float forearm, a neat project that can be completed effortlessly with the right tools. Ensuring safety remains paramount throughout the process, so the guide begins with the crucial step of making sure the firearm is unloaded.

Continuing with methodical instructions, the guide covers the use of specific tools, including the forearm removal tool and the front sight block, among others to deconstruct and replace parts effectively. From highlighting how to maneuver and delicately handle pieces such as the factory fiberglass guards and barrel retaining nut, to reinstalling the gas tube and successfully installing the new Free Float Handguard, you’ll find disciplined steps that assure precision. Confidence in the process and proper use of tools facilitate a seamless installation experience in the firearm modification sphere.

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Understanding the Importance of a Free Float Handguard

When it comes to fine-tuning your rifle for maximum performance and accuracy, one of the most significant modifications you can make is installing a free floating handguard. This noteworthy component plays a pivotal role in enhancing your shooting experience. But what makes it so essential?

Reasons for installing a free float handguard

The key drivers for installing a free float handguard have as much to do with functionality and performance, as with aesthetics and personal comfort. Fundamentally, a free float handguard offers a superior, steadier platform for mounting accessories such as sights, grips, and lights, greatly enhancing your firearm’s versatility. Furthermore, it aids in heat dissipation, promoting prolonged shooting sessions.

How a free float handguard improves accuracy

A free float handguard plays a vital role in improving the accuracy of a firearm. Unlike traditional handguards, it doesn’t touch the barrel. This design element essentially eliminates any inadvertent pressure applied to the barrel, which can interfere with the harmonics of the barrel and consequently affect the bullet’s trajectory. By reducing this pressure, a free float handguard ensures optimal barrel vibration and hence, superior accuracy.

Various types of free float handguards available

Free float handguards come in an array of shapes, sizes, and materials designed to cater to different shooting conditions and preferences. Some are lightweight, designed for speed, manoeuvrability, or casual target shooting. While others, built from sturdier materials, are designed to withstand harsh shooting environments and intense recoil from larger caliber firearms. When choosing a free float handguard, it’s essential to consider your shooting needs and preferences.

Safety Precautions Before Installation

Before embarking on the installation process of a free float handguard, it’s paramount to take some safety precautions.

Ensuring the firearm is unloaded

First and foremost, ensure the firearm is completely unloaded. Remove the magazine, clear the chamber, and double-check to make sure it’s unloaded. Firearms should always be treated as if they are loaded, even when you think they’re not.

Use of protective gear

The use of safety glasses is advised during the installation process. Flying springs and pins may cause injury. Also, consider using gloves for a more secure grip on tools and components.

Setting up a safe workspace

Set up a safe and well-lit workspace. Organising your work-space will help minimise any risk of misplacement or loss of firearm components.

Removal of the Factory Forearm Front Sight

Next on the list is the removal of the factory forehand front sight.

Importance of the forearm removal tool

The forearm removal tool aids in the secure and safe removal of the forearm without causing any damage to the firearm. This tool is specifically designed to make the process smoother and more manageable.

Process of removing the fiberglass guards

The fiberglass guards or the existing handguards can be removed by depressing the delta ring with the forearm removal tool and sliding off the handguards in two halves – upper and lower.

Handling and storage of removed parts

One must handle the removed parts with care as losing or damaging them may affect the firearm performance. These parts should be stored in a safe place as some may be reused.

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Dismantling the Upper Receiver

The next stage in the process involves dismantling the upper receiver of the firearm.

Detaching the birdcage flash hider

The birdcage flash hider can be removed by loosening and unscrewing it from the barrel. It’s recommended to keep a firm, steady grip to avoid any slippage which could potentially result in damage or injury.

Importance of using the Brownells front sight block

The front sight block is a vital tool in maintaining the alignment of the front sight during disassembly and reassembly. Using the front sight block results in a smoother re-installation process and helps prevent any avoidable damages to the front sight.

Removing the bolt and operating handle

Next, remove the bolt and operating handle by pulling them from the rear of the upper receiver. Care should be taken to ensure these parts are stored safely to prevent damage and misplacement.

Removing the Existing Handguard

After dismantling the upper receiver, the next step is removing the existing handguard.

Using vise blocks to secure upper receiver

Vise blocks offer an effective means of securing the upper receiver in place while you work on it. By stabilising the upper receiver, vise blocks prevent any unwanted movement and potential damage.

Use of armorers tool for detaching the Delta ring assembly

Use the armorers tool to detach the Delta ring assembly. This versatile tool is designed to handle a number of tasks involved in firearm disassembly and is pivotal in the safe and efficient removal of the Delta ring.

Installing the New Barrel Nut

Following the removal of the existing handguard, it’s time to install the new barrel nut.

Explanation of the barrel nut

The barrel nut serves as the anchor point for your handguard. It plays a crucial part in securing the handguard in place and ensuring the accuracy of the firearm.

Proper techniques for installing the barrel nut

To install a new barrel nut, start by applying a good quality anti-seize compound to the threads of the upper receiver. Next, slide the barrel nut over the barrel and screw it onto the upper receiver. Using a torque wrench, tighten it to the manufacturer’s specifications. Note that over tightening or under tightening could result in a less than optimal installation.

Re-installing Gas Tube and Front Sight Tower

Following the installation of the new barrel nut, it’s time to reinstall the gas tube and front sight tower.

Techniques for feeding the gas tube

Feeding the gas tube through the barrel nut and into the upper receiver can be a delicate process. It’s important to gently insert and align the tube to avoid any damages.

Assuring proper alignment for reassembly

Proper alignment of the front sight tower and the gas tube is critical to ensure the smooth operation of the firearm. Misalignment can cause cycling issues, affecting the performance of your firearm.

Securing the New Free Float Handguard

The next stage of the process is securing the new free float handguard in place.

Guidelines for threading the handguard

Thread the handguard onto the barrel nut, ensuring a snug fit. Be careful not to cross-thread the handguard during installation.

Advice for ensuring the handguard is secure

Upon threading the handguard, make sure it’s properly aligned with the upper receiver. A misaligned handguard can affect your firearm’s accuracy as well as the mounting of accessories.

Finalizing Installation

You’re just a few steps away from finalizing the installation of your free float handguard.

Reinstalling the gas tube pin

Reinstall the gas tube pin carefully. This tiny piece is vital for the proper functioning of your firearm – it ensures the gas tube stays in place, directing the necessary gas towards the bolt carrier for successful recoil.

Ensuring flush alignment of pins

Once the gas tube pin is reinstalled, double-check that all pins are flush and properly aligned. Any protruding pins can potentially interfere with the functioning of the firearm.

Reinstalling the flash hider

Lastly, screw the birdcage flash hider back onto the barrel threads. Make sure it is tightly secure, but be careful not to over-tighten and potentially strip the threads.


Installing a free float handguard may seem like a complex task, but breaking it down into smaller, manageable steps can make the process much simpler, enhancing the overall functionality and accuracy of your firearm.

Summary of the installation process

From ensuring safety before installation, removing the existing handguard, installing the new barrel nut, to securing the new free float handguard and finalizing installation, each step plays an essential role in modifying your firearm for the better. Each part must be handled, removed, and replaced with utmost care.

Understanding the advantages of a free float handguard

A free float handguard provides substantial improvements in terms of not only the aesthetics of your firearm, but also its performance and versatility, increasing accuracy, providing better heat dissipation, and a platform for accessories.

Tips for future maintenance and adjustments

Regular maintenance and cleaning of the free-float handguard and the firearm as a whole are essential for optimal operating efficiency. Also, remember to regularly inspect the handguard and the components for any signs of wear and tear.

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