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Key Differences Between a Drop-In and Float Handguard

If you are trying to upgrade or build your AR-platform, you will probably encounter these two: drop-in and free-float handguards. So, what exactly are these handguards, and what makes them different from each other?  

What are the Drop-In and Free-Float Handguards?

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Handguards and other accessories allow rifle owners to max out the potential of their guns and shooting experience. Before you dive into the distinction between the two handguards, know the functions of each type.

The first type of handguard, the drop-in handguards, are parts of the rifle created mainly for the AR rifle. They fit around the rifle’s barrel as two distinct pieces that secure each side of the barrel. An aero precision handguard provides several selections for the AR15.

On the other hand, the free-float handguard is an enhanced component created for the AR gun type. They do not attach to any other parts of the firearms except for the front of the rifle’s receiver.

Four Differences Between the Drop-in and Free-Float Handguard

Here are the four main distinctions between these two categories of rifles’ handguards.

Price Range

When looking for the ideal handguard for your rifle, you may notice that the drop-in costs lower than the free-float handguard. The difference in pricing is due to the drop-in handguard’s simple and straightforward design, which allows manufacturers to produce them quickly.

Weight and Installation Efficiency of the Handguards

Free-floating handguards are more substantial than the drop-ins. The former weigh more because they span down to the rifle’s barrel. The drop-ins are lighter because they are simpler and only have contact with the gun’s barrel at each end.

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Mounting of Lasers and Optics

Drop-in handguards do not hold accessories as steadily as the free-floating handguard. That is why, it is not recommended to install lasers and optics on them. In contrast, free-floating handguards are not affected by pressure or minimal bending of the handguards when holding a rifle, as they do not touch the barrel.

Installation of Other Accessories

Both handguards are mounted with accessories such as bipods, flashlights, and forward grips without any issue. When compared to the drop-ins, free-floating would provide more accessory mounting options.

Things to Consider When Buying a Handguard

Now that you know and understand the differences between the two types of handguards, you can decide on which one to choose for your AR. There are several styles of aero precision handguard that you can choose from. To further guide you on selecting which handguard suits you best, consider the following:

Purpose of the Rifle


The functionality of the gun will help select the right handguard and its accessories.

  • Budget Plan
    Knowing the price range as per your budget can help narrow down your options.
  • Total Weight
    Typically, a lighter gun is better and more comfortable. When choosing a handguard, consider the weight of the rifle and give a rough estimation of its weight after upgrading.

Handguards add to the statements of your rifle, whether it is military, tactical, or classic. Still, decent knowledge is needed to choose the appropriate accessories that will deliver the desired function of the gun.

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