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Posted: 5/14/2005 1:44:15 PM EST
Would free-float handguards like those made by Daniel Defense, KAC, and Larue be rugged enough for issue to non-Special Forces infantry? For the moment let us discount the newer type of free-floater (like the Samson) that clamp temporarily around the barrel nut (or talk about them if they excite you...personally I think they look too weak).

We all know that FF tubes offer several advantages over standard rails that replace the plastic handguards: Stable optics, consistant accuracy, better heat management, and relieving the rifle of the weight of any accessories attached to the rails (thus moderating the factors that led to the catastrophic combat barrel failures of M-4s in Afghanistan).

And, if mounting the M203 were not a concern, would "ordinary" infantry types benefit from having such a free-float handguard, or would it be a waste? Would they be rugged enough to handle the abuse they would face in the field?

Now, the Spec Ops community use all these models on their accurized SPRs and RECCEs, and I'm sure that while these operators take good care of their rifles, the environment they operate in would destroy these handguards in short order if they did not have a high level of inherent robustness.

So again I ask the question: would the regular infantry (real trigger pullers, not support types) benefit from having such free-float handguards on thir rifles, or would the (unquantified, just my perception) lesser structural strength they have (due to not having a second point of contact at the forward handguard cap) make them unwise as a general issue item?

Link Posted: 5/14/2005 1:59:00 PM EST
I bought and used a Troy MRF-C on my M4 with and without a M203 for about 5 months over in Baghdad. I never had a problem with it. Seems no worse for the wear now on my personal M4gery. The only thing noticeable is all the nicks and dings on the finish from hard use. Oh, and of course the Iraqi sand in the tiny crevices that I am keeping as a reminder. So I say "Hell Yeah they'll work!"
Link Posted: 5/14/2005 2:04:16 PM EST
Link Posted: 5/14/2005 7:14:53 PM EST

Originally Posted By JohnM:
I could attest to the ruggedness of the M4 RAS. Used on almost all M4's I saw in theater. No clue on the ARMS but it looks damn strong and I would have had faith in it would it been in our BII. The rest would probably die pretty fast or worse render a weapon unserviceable for use. These monolithic rails that look kool would be 100% junk in a very short period on a combat weapon. They might be fine for a 6 month tour where you dont beat the F@#K out of everything and anything. Doing shit like TCP or guard duty. But a front line grunt unit that does the daily hard core crap would bend and break that shit.

It would be a real shame to inform a mother her son died because his weapon became a pile of bent metal after scaleing a wall and he dropped his weapon. There are no second chances.


JohnM at Home




Glad both of you guys are safet at home!!!

Just to clarify things, JohnM...

The handguard you used was the non-free-float RAS, correct? Then, your opinion is that ff tubes would not stand up to hard combat usage?
Link Posted: 5/14/2005 7:40:22 PM EST
Link Posted: 5/14/2005 7:54:06 PM EST
Nothing is strong enough for issue to the infantry. You could issue a platoon one large rock each, and within a month, a couple of guys would have broken their rock.

It's the nature of the beast (and the job).
Link Posted: 5/14/2005 8:23:03 PM EST
Link Posted: 5/15/2005 5:42:01 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/15/2005 5:57:08 AM EST by mongo001]
I have had conversations with numerous combat vets about this topic. One I spoke with had alot of praise for the YHM FF tube, of all the non-bling tubes to praise. He used it on his M4 in one tour in Iraq and was planning on taking it back. There have been many testimonials as to the ruggedness of these FF tubes, when they are properly installed.

Below is a KAC FF RAS that "appears" to have seen it's fair share of abuse. I could probably come up with a hundred other pics, if I had time, but they are just that - pics. I sure would like to talk to a few of these guys for their opinion:





A designated marksman from Alpha Co., Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines surveys the area around his task force's headquarters in Khas Oruzgan, Afghanistan during Operation PEGASUS. BLT 1/6 is the ground combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). Photo by: Lance Cpl. Charles G. Poag



Oh, and BTW, ARMS, KAC and DD just got a substantial contract to provide these FF tubes, so they must be meeting some minimum standard of use and abuse for this to happen, wouldn't you think?

Link


Just a gear queer throwing in my 2 cents and my info gathering to date.
Link Posted: 5/15/2005 6:53:56 AM EST
If a simple FF-tube can't stand up to regular field use, one wonders what will happen to the next generation of guns that will have $25,000 computers and thermal imagers on board.

So far in the few replies to this thread, the consensus seems to be that ff tubes would be okay to issue to SpecOps guys and designated marksman and such, but not for Private Snuffy.
Link Posted: 5/15/2005 9:30:25 AM EST

Originally Posted By StormSurge:
and relieving the rifle of the weight of any accessories attached to the rails (thus moderating the factors that led to the catastrophic combat barrel failures of M-4s in Afghanistan).



Sorry Storm Surge, my question is little off topic but that got me interested. Could you elaborate, what was that catastrophic failure?

thanks,
MN
Link Posted: 5/15/2005 10:11:48 AM EST
I used a FF M4 Rifle RAS on my M4 in Iraq and it held up fine.

I am not SF. (11B designated marksman.)

The less inteligent (GI type soldiers with the 3rd ID) here are issued DD FF RAS's on their M16-A5's HAHA< love the new nomenclature for the mutt M16A4. They are the new Squad designated marksman rifles M16A4 TA31 ACOG and DD rifle length FF RAS Yeah A2 stock too< frikking genius armorers.
Link Posted: 5/15/2005 12:01:39 PM EST

Originally Posted By M4A2_L073754:

Originally Posted By StormSurge:
and relieving the rifle of the weight of any accessories attached to the rails (thus moderating the factors that led to the catastrophic combat barrel failures of M-4s in Afghanistan).



Sorry Storm Surge, my question is little off topic but that got me interested. Could you elaborate, what was that catastrophic failure?

thanks,
MN



This is on pages 94-95 of Black Rifle II

In operations in Afghanistan, some SF and Rangers had barrel failures when delivering HEAVY volumes of automatic fire...the barrel would sag and the bullet would exit the barrel, usually just in forn of the gas block (on both plastic and RAS handguard equipped M-4s).

That is why the barrel on the M4A1 was thickened to .850 under the handguards. But better ventilation of the barrel would also help.
Link Posted: 5/15/2005 12:04:53 PM EST

Originally Posted By Green0:
I used a FF M4 Rifle RAS on my M4 in Iraq and it held up fine.

I am not SF. (11B designated marksman.)

The less inteligent (GI type soldiers with the 3rd ID) here are issued DD FF RAS's on their M16-A5's HAHA< love the new nomenclature for the mutt M16A4. They are the new Squad designated marksman rifles M16A4 TA31 ACOG and DD rifle length FF RAS Yeah A2 stock too< frikking genius armorers.



I have seen pics of DD and KAC ff handgurds with the forces in the field; does the military also sanction Larue tubes?
Link Posted: 5/15/2005 10:44:37 PM EST
Thanks Storm.

Note to self, buy BR II ASAP.

MN
Link Posted: 5/16/2005 3:08:02 AM EST
Link Posted: 5/17/2005 1:52:57 PM EST
[Last Edit: 5/18/2005 7:37:08 AM EST by wyv3rn]

Originally Posted By StormSurge:

Originally Posted By M4A2_L073754:

Originally Posted By StormSurge:
and relieving the rifle of the weight of any accessories attached to the rails (thus moderating the factors that led to the catastrophic combat barrel failures of M-4s in Afghanistan).



Sorry Storm Surge, my question is little off topic but that got me interested. Could you elaborate, what was that catastrophic failure?

thanks,
MN



This is on pages 94-95 of Black Rifle II

In operations in Afghanistan, some SF and Rangers had barrel failures when delivering HEAVY volumes of automatic fire...the barrel would sag and the bullet would exit the barrel, usually just in forn of the gas block (on both plastic and RAS handguard equipped M-4s).

That is why the barrel on the M4A1 was thickened to .850 under the handguards. But better ventilation of the barrel would also help.



That's not the bullet exiting the top of the barrel, that's just where the barrel ruptures (hottest+thinnest and therefore structurally weakest part of the barrel) and the hot gasses escape when the barrel burst. The bullet still exits the muzzle.

If you want to check out a Samson MRFS-MX first hand, we'll have to get together sometime. I'm still in FO. FWIW, I don't think it is any less solid than the other FF rail systems out there. Infact, I believe it may be more rugged than some.
Link Posted: 5/17/2005 4:29:37 PM EST
Link Posted: 5/17/2005 6:29:05 PM EST
Quick question for the more knowledgeable fellas on these boards.

What makes a monolithic rail system more fragile than any other?
Link Posted: 5/17/2005 6:56:58 PM EST

Originally Posted By Magsz18:
Quick question for the more knowledgeable fellas on these boards.

What makes a monolithic rail system more fragile than any other?



I would think it would be the fact that due to being free-floated, the front of the barrel, which on a non-ff rifle is held in place by the front end cap, places all the strain on the rear attach point (barrel nut/ff handguard interface). Thus, a blow to the handguard might result in the handguard being pushed away from the blow, until the guard contacted the barrel, at which the handguard would probably be screwed. It would take a strong blow, but as far as I know it would vary from systen to system and has not been quantified. Not a problem in a non-ff system because the barrel and handguard are securely fastened into one unit.
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 4:19:35 AM EST

Originally Posted By StormSurge:

Originally Posted By Magsz18:
Quick question for the more knowledgeable fellas on these boards.

What makes a monolithic rail system more fragile than any other?



I would think it would be the fact that due to being free-floated, the front of the barrel, which on a non-ff rifle is held in place by the front end cap, places all the strain on the rear attach point (barrel nut/ff handguard interface). Thus, a blow to the handguard might result in the handguard being pushed away from the blow, until the guard contacted the barrel, at which the handguard would probably be screwed. It would take a strong blow, but as far as I know it would vary from systen to system and has not been quantified. Not a problem in a non-ff system because the barrel and handguard are securely fastened into one unit.



With all due respect to you and this topic (which I think is a good one), I really can't see the legitimacy of your concern posted above.

Any blow hard enough to severely dent a FF rail would destroy a standard GI handguard. And the "deflecting the handguard" argument doesn't make any sense to me.

I have seen some extremely rough treatment of M16's in the military and believe that the biggest concern for FF rail would be (1) the barrel nut unscrewing (not a concern with the LaRue) and (2) the rail notches themselves getting so dinged up that the rail will not accept any accessories.

If anything, the FF rail would protect and isolate the barrel from blows to handguards/rail system.

YMMV.

Corey
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 5:21:39 AM EST
If a solid aluminum tube won't hold up to something, you expect a silly plastic handguard to? Maybe I don't understand the quesiton. I'd think the intent of the question is, "Are the FF railed tubes at least as tough as the issue handguards." But in fact, you seem to be asking, "Are the FF railed tube indestructable?" Am I missing the point?
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 5:44:35 AM EST
KAC's URX, FF RAS are definetly strong enough for MIL use, as are Larue's, DD's (with steel bbl nut) and a few others.

Anyone thinking the front handguard cap gives and support is on crack - its a thin piece of tin - I've used a URX to support a troops entering a window, one on the magpul on on the front of the rail and the guy step ont he receiver. (cringe) - the biggest problem with the railed guns if the extra's mounted - the PEQ-2 and Light are a lot more brittle than the rail and they take a dump if treated with the same disdain.

Granted jumping, roping and bashing aroudn ahouse is not great for the rails themselve s- use rail covers and you should be gtg for most indiscriminate 'bumps'

Link Posted: 5/18/2005 3:11:42 PM EST

Originally Posted By C4iGrant:
It is my understanding that chicken wire is normally used to keep the other FF rail systems from coming loose.
C4




Do tell!

Please explain how the wire is attached as I can not see how wrapping "chicken wire" around or though the handguard would/could stop any possible rotation
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 3:53:19 PM EST
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 5:22:27 PM EST
This is what I had in mind.


Originally Posted By JohnM:
I could attest to the ruggedness of the M4 RAS. Used on almost all M4's I saw in theater. No clue on the ARMS but it looks damn strong and I would have had faith in it would it been in our BII. The rest would probably die pretty fast or worse render a weapon unserviceable for use. These monolithic rails that look kool would be 100% junk in a very short period on a combat weapon. They might be fine for a 6 month tour where you dont beat the F@#K out of everything and anything. Doing shit like TCP or guard duty. But a front line grunt unit that does the daily hard core crap would bend and break that shit.

It would be a real shame to inform a mother her son died because his weapon became a pile of bent metal after scaleing a wall and he dropped his weapon. There are no second chances.


JohnM at Home




I can see their issue to selected, trained personnel, who can be trusted to maintain their gear. What I was wondering about was their suitability as general-issue pieces of equipment (at least for Combat Arms troops).
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 5:27:51 PM EST

Originally Posted By techbrute:
If a solid aluminum tube won't hold up to something, you expect a silly plastic handguard to? Maybe I don't understand the quesiton. I'd think the intent of the question is, "Are the FF railed tubes at least as tough as the issue handguards." But in fact, you seem to be asking, "Are the FF railed tube indestructable?" Am I missing the point?



The point is, plastic handguards are cheap as dirt...whereas railed handguards are not (in terms of cost, time, and materials). Breaking a $20 pair of plastic handguards creates a much different supply problem than a $200 railed handguard.
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 6:02:14 PM EST
How often do KAC RAS's go down? (And they're attached to the rifle in a much less sturdy manner than a FF rail -- delta in the back and handguard cap in the front).

If they aren't getting all bent up, I can't see a problem with a LaRue rail or LMT MRP.

Corey
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 6:27:31 PM EST

Originally Posted By Corey:
How often do KAC RAS's go down? (And they're attached to the rifle in a much less sturdy manner than a FF rail -- delta in the back and handguard cap in the front).

If they aren't getting all bent up, I can't see a problem with a LaRue rail or LMT MRP.

Corey



An ff tube is less secure than a RAS. One point of contact vs. two.
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 6:35:19 PM EST
[Last Edit: 5/18/2005 6:37:30 PM EST by Corey]

Originally Posted By StormSurge:

An ff tube is less secure than a RAS. One point of contact vs. two.



Delta and handguard cap versus barrel nut.

Corey

EDITED to add sarcastic comment. BTW, the barrel nut is that weak link that gets pounded during bayonet training and is no worse for the wear. Though I wouldn't count on the BZO....
Link Posted: 5/18/2005 7:43:42 PM EST

Originally Posted By StormSurge:
An ff tube is less secure than a RAS. One point of contact vs. two.



I BEG to differ.

Look how a RAS mounts - versus a quality freefloat system.


Link Posted: 5/19/2005 12:54:10 AM EST
The MRP is expensive as hell but that's the most rediculous thing I've ever heard (they'ld be trashed in 6 months by combat troops. The MRP is probably the strongest system in existance (no moveing parts). Can you break a KAC M4 RAS? Well you'ld need twice the abuse to break an MRP.


That said, the MRP needs a gas-piston retrofit or other system-- the direct gas is OK but in my experience with M4's and A2's they all start to malfunction occaisionally around 300-400rds fired in a half hour to an hour. I think a combat weapon should ideally be able to take at least 1000rds before it starts to give the user crap-- even if it is just an occaisional FTF. It should go bang every time to 1000 rds between cleanings minimum.

I heard the gas-trap operating system on the COMPAK-16 was tested with 20,000rds in a weekend (NO CLEANING) and no malfs to 19,000-- this is what the owner of Arms Tech told me-- I wasn't there but if that is true it would be an optimal upgrade to the MRP.
Link Posted: 5/19/2005 1:05:51 AM EST
But that said, being over here has taught me a lot about how people go to combat-- these crazy awesome weapon upgrades are great-- but the really great thing would be if the soldiers on the ground were actually issued them or allowed to use them-- the Army is so screwed a turret gunner can't buy a 10.5inch upper, sniper gets bitched at for bringing a custom upper, troops can't bring handguns or get them in country even when they could really gain some security with them.

It really begs the question-- Why bother to make this stuff to begin with-- does a US police officer need a compak-16 to run 19,000rds between cleanings? A lot of this stuff sounds like groundbreaking military technology but never really makes it anywhere, even into the majority of SF units.

For example working around Iraqi police which is known to contain terrorist officers, we have stacks of brand new third generation G19's with holsters and magazines and if we would pick one up to use it a CSM would bitch and take scalps. We might have turned in (from previous IP's) M92FS pistols in serviceable condition but we can't use them-- we can't bring our own handguns and the US government also won't issue a handgun on demand-- they are instead issued via a cold war style mandate by job title (driver gets a pistol, gunner does not- PSG and TOC personnel get pistols, other working troops do not.

Arguments can be made but there is only one weapon at arms reach every waking hour for a one year deployment-- a sidearm.
Link Posted: 5/19/2005 1:19:38 AM EST
You'ed be cool with a FF.
Link Posted: 5/19/2005 3:14:40 AM EST
I would like the military powers that be issue a list of acceptable accessories and uppers that could be used in a combat zone. This is not that hard. Start with the specifications of the equipment in the system, just allow PVT Joe Blow to use his personnally purchased version of the military issue gear.

Eample - personnaly owned;
1/7 barrels
FF fore ends from the same manufacturer the military gets theirs
ML2 vs M2
Acog
EOTECH
KAC RAS rails
vertical pistol grips
collapsible butt stocks
M4 uppers
scopes for designated marksmen

The problem is the MTOE is written for a unit fighting the Cold War and not an artilleryman doing an infantry mission kicking down doors and doing cordon and searches. Or admin specialists doing convoy security and PSD teams for high ranking officers.

Once again, we are fighting the last war not the next war.
Link Posted: 5/19/2005 3:29:10 AM EST
If anyone has issues on free float tube strength, take a look at this



This tube is made by SWS (Superior Weapons Systems)

I have one on my AR-10 T Ultra and it is very durable and light
Link Posted: 5/19/2005 5:03:25 AM EST
Link Posted: 5/19/2005 7:46:16 AM EST
I think JohnM has a point on the ease of exchnage/replacment.

However the other thing to understand is with a PAC/PEQ and SF light is that THOSE are much more delicate than the rail - everyone issued them has to take "that much more" attention to what he is doing with his rifle/carbine now. The rails are much tougher than those and I dont see anyone crying out we should stop using them...
Link Posted: 5/19/2005 10:18:15 AM EST

Originally Posted By FightingHellfish:
Nothing is strong enough for issue to the infantry. You could issue a platoon one large rock each, and within a month, a couple of guys would have broken their rock.

It's the nature of the beast (and the job).




If you want it busted, just issue it to a grunt.
"Sarge I promise, while I was guarding the rock... I just turned around and it was broken"

"I didn't do nuthin to it... promise"
Link Posted: 5/19/2005 10:04:42 PM EST
[Last Edit: 5/19/2005 10:23:04 PM EST by Green0]
"I would like the military powers that be issue a list of acceptable accessories and uppers that could be used in a combat zone. This is not that hard. Start with the specifications of the equipment in the system, just allow PVT Joe Blow to use his personnally purchased version of the military issue gear."

That would be a great idea- the Army doesn't realize how much more safe and happy a soldier can be with his weapon the way he wants it to be. Those are the issues killing the Army-- they don't understand that at some point they have to keep a soldier happy if they want to keep numbers. Right now most soldiers are counting months to ETS-- and as we all know there is no draft... yet.

We are an infantry unit and the sidearm MTOE is the same screwed up system-- the problem is that the missions are so flexible-- or at least with us are; that some soldiers have patrolled with and trained Iraqi forces (If you know anything about this you know that these guys are in constant danger of being shot intentionally or un-intentionally by the iraqi forces they are training and running missions with-- these guys on several occaisions have gotten pissed and shot each other), pulled PSD, turret gunned, driven or rode dismount with line squads, conducted foot patrols, etc all in one deployment. One job may not require a handgun and then two to six weeks later a job does, so some soldiers have them and don't need or use them and some don't and do. I think it would be much better if the US Army could do like the Iraqi police and issue every man a sidearm-- that seems to be the only way to solve the issue. (Or of course they could let the soldier bring a sidearm on a list of approved sidearms like the above system).

By the way, as far as GI proof weapons: I have yet to see a broken M4, M4RAS, EO-Tech, or carry handle.

The parts that break:
Surefire pressure switches
Aimpoints and aimpoint lenses scratch beyond serviceability
Picatinny arsenal BUIS
M203 trigger groups on occaision
M203 QD mounts seldomly
Gas tubes bend (this however is just improper use and care)< double feed or triple feed from screwed up mag; tap forward assist= bent gas tube if you aren't lucky.< good mags don't double and triple feed though so a good soldier has inspected and range tested mags and this isn't an issue.
Night vision elbows and sing arms
PVS 14 power knobs

Other than that one soldier had his flash hider shot off by the AIF, (shattered in two pieces forward of the threads with a bullet hole in the side) but that is understandable wear and tear.

The issued m4 is deffinitely not the best system around, but it is pretty close to combat proof.



I wouldn't be surprised to see a company level 18B (SF Weapons SGT) replace FF Rails but the team level 18B wouldn't have the tools- even though he is probably trained to do it.

Some regular infantry company level armorers have the tools and training to do re-barreling (at least in the national guard anyway)< I mean it isn't rocket science- I can do itand a host of people here, few if any of whom are certified armorers.
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