Apex Extended Carbine Rail System

NOTE: This product review was made possible by GunsForSale.com.  To get up-to-date information on where to find cheap rail systems for sale, please visit GunsForSale.com.

As everyone knows there are a huge number of add ons for the AR15 family of rifles. Some of these aftermarket parts are very good while others are best ignored. I recently found a new extended carbine rail system from Apex that’s well worth considering as a replacement for your current GI grip or traditional four rail.

At $175.00 the price is very reasonable for the advantages it affords. At a weight of only 8.1 ounces with three extra rail attachments the weight is considerably less than the usual free float rail system. Most standard configurations have four full length rails which are seldom used in full and just add weight. They can also be pretty rough on your hands unless you add rail covers, which increase the bulk and size of the rails.

As Steve noted when he covered another “slick rail” from SHOT they are becoming very popular. Many of the companies that manufacture rails are selling them in some form or are in the design phase. I know some shooters use them for competition and they certainly are excellent for three gun matches and other shooting events.

Earlier today I was reading the US Special Operations Command Fact Book for 2012. Well, lo and behold there were two pictures showing Operators with configured slick rail systems on their M4’s. I guess you don’t get a better endorsement than that!

The Apex extended carbine system allows the AR15 owner to add assorted short rails to a greater number of locations than a standard system. Extra short rails of one inch to four inches can be placed in eight locations around the entire tube utilizing the milled slots. Most of us only need a flashlight mount and possibly a vertical grip. If you want to add additional items just add an appropriate size short rail in the location best served for that add on. The Apex rail system has the capacity to add four QD sling attachments; two on each side. If you use a single point sling no problem just leave them open for later use if needed.

The top rail is 7.5 inches long and mates perfectly with the receiver rail. The external diameter of the tube is 1.970 inches, which is much less than standard rail systems.


This photo shows the textured “Gator Grip” on the Apex rail

Apex has also solved the rough surface problem most rails have by milling a grip surface they call a Gator Grip. This gives the shooter a firm grip without being abrasive to the shooters hands.

I bought mine about a month and half ago and really like it. I can almost touch thumb to forefinger around the circumference of the tube. You wouldn’t think the weight saved would make much difference in handling but it does. I’ve found it easier and faster to maneuver. This is partly weight as well as the increased grip area. I’ve yet to find any reason to add a vertical grip or any other device to make handling easier. The model I chose is the extended carbine version. This adds about an inch and a half to the length on either side of the front sight as compared to a standard carbine size.

Handguard Installation to Rifle:

MAKE SURE WEAPON IS UNLOADED BEFORE INSTALLING HANDGUARD ON RIFLE.

A factory barrel nut will be required to be installed and properly torqued according to rifle manufacturer’s specifications (generally between 30-80 foot pounds), if assembling a rifle from the ground up.

If retrofitting an existing upper assembly, remove existing handguard and delta ring leaving the factory style barrel nut in place.

If using a low profile gas block, whether covered by the tube or exposed, the gas block can be installed at this point.
If using a front sight gas block, it must be secured in place after the handguard is installed.

Place the two halves of the Apex Handguard System clamp around the barrel nut and thread the four included socket head cap screws partly in, leaving loose enough to allow some movement in the clamp.

Slide the end of the handguard tube with the four holes over the clamp and loosely install the four included button head screws. (If permanently installed muzzle device prevents the tube sliding on from the muzzle end of the barrel, it can be placed from the rear before the clamp is installed.) The holes will only align in one position, assuring proper positioning.

Once the tube is over the clamp, position the assembly so that the clamp screws are facing the bottom of the rifle and snug all screws evenly, maintaining an equal gap between clamp halves. Lastly, tighten all screws evenly to prevent movement of clamp.

If a front sight gas block is used, it can now be secured in place. Extended Apex Handguard System models require removal of the original sling swivel. Additionally, the ears of the swivel will require trimming. An access for pinning the front sight gas block to the barrel is provided by a hole in the side of the handguard tube.

After final safety and function checks, it is recommended that one screw at a time be removed and secured with Blue Loctite or equivalent, and torqued to approximately 50 inch pounds. As with any piece of equipment, the screws should be checked periodically for tightness.

The rail system is available in standard carbine, extended carbine, mid-length, extended mid-length and rifle length. Extra small, small and medium attachment rails are available on the Apex website.

After having used this Apex rail for some time now It’s staying on my rifle. I donated my original rail to a friend. I actually have been looking for a new rail system for my AR for a couple of months now until I found this one. This one is sturdy and fits my needs very well.



Phil White

Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I’m the Associate Editor and moderator at TFB. I really enjoy answering readers questions and comments. We can all learn from each other about our favorite hobby!


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  • I like these new skinny rails. The apex looks especially nice.

    • Other Steve

      Not skinny, shaved.

      Brazilian Rails.

  • John

    Looks interesting. I just built a 9mm AR using the new Daniel Defense modular smooth rail. It is extremely small and light, and I like it a lot. This Apex rail is a lot cheaper. I think I’ll give it a shot.

    • Phil White

      John,

      I really think you’ll like it:-)

  • pretty cool… just wonder how hot they get with almost no gap to the barrel radiating tons of heat, AND a black finish to allow to absorb solar energy…
    READ;”SMOKING HOT”

    • Sian

      Good question, I sure don’t see a heat shield between the barrel/gastube and rail, and it sure doesn’t have a lot of mass, so things might get a little toasty. I guess if you’re going to shoot a course with it, better get yourself some gloves. (not a bad idea anyway)

      • Phil White

        Sian,

        I agree gloves are not a bad idea when shooting a course of fire or during tactical police training. See my response below—it just doesn’t get hot which honestly surprised me.

    • Phil White

      nature223,

      Surprisingly it doesn’t get very warm at all. I went through three mags as quickly as I could get on target without gloves and sure it was warm but not even close to hot.
      The company says the Gator Grip helps to dispel heat and apparently it does!

      • cc19

        I have an Apex Machine ext. middy on my new setup and second this. After running a 60 round Surefire through it as fast as I could it was still fairly cool to the touch. I tried it a second outing with the Beta though and apparently the 40 extra did make it quite hot. Great rail overall though; very light, functional and minimalist.

        • Phil White

          cc19,

          Good to hear your feedback CC. Thanks!

      • Chase

        I suppose the increased surface area helps the heat get drawn away by convection.

        • Phil White

          Chase,

          I would think so along with the Gator Grip pattern they say also helps dissipate heat.

    • Matt G.

      Nature, these types of fore-ends can get pretty hot from laying out in the sun, after you shoot a few rifle matches without any shade to place the gun under you just learn to use gloves.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about barrel heat, There really isn’t anything to be done about it. My Magpul moe handgaurds and pretty much all the other ones get hot from the barrel. The heat shields really don’t help much as the convection from the barrel cause heat to come out of the gaps and vents in the handguard anyway. Rails like these are actually a little better since they allow more air circulation to reach the barrel.

    • charles222

      It’s of course not the same, but I’ve had more than a few M4s without the heat shield in them; takes quite a while for heat to be noticeable, especially if you have gloves on.

  • Lorenzo

    “Alan Zittish”

    😀

  • Charles222

    Nice-looking rail.

    • Phil White

      Charles222,

      It does look good on the rifle:-)

  • Jon Mac

    What page of the factbook are you seeing these slick rails on?

    • Phil White

      Jon,

      It wasn’t on Facebook it’s a mail out or download military publication put out yearly for the special operations community.

      • 18D

        Phil, I’m not sure which slick rail you saw the SOF guys running (they’re using a few right now) but I can tell you that the SOF community is trending towards these slick rails. The Geiselle is already being used by a certain JSOC unit. As a matter of fact the Geiselle was spec’d and built specifically for that unit.

        • Phil White

          18D,

          That is interesting. From the pictures it was really hard to tell which brands they were.The operators were all geared up. They could very well have been Geiselle’s.
          You think about it though and it makes perfect sense to use them. Attach what you need for that mission and save the weight. They carry so much these days anyway!
          I’ll check with a friend who’s in that community and see if I can find out.

    • JonMac

      Er, no, FACTBOOK, not Facebook. I have the PDF you’re talking about, I just couldn’t see the slick rails you were talking about.

      • Phil White

        JonMac,

        Was it the 2012 version that just came out? If so I can probably get the pics from the file and send them to you. I can try anyway:-)

      • Phil White

        JonMac,

        My fault:-) I had a mind F— on the whole factbook facebook thing—sorry! Anyway I believe the rifle was a MK12.

  • Michael

    Wow, actually looks pretty great. Very minimalist and functional.

    • Phil White

      Michael,

      Which is what appeals to me. I looked at several slick rails and this one looked the best with a very good price. Pleasantly it’s also rock solid with no movement at all. Not all free float rails are. The installation is also very simple.
      Of course the lack of heat transfer to the shooters hand is a big plus.

  • Darkness

    Sexy

  • Darkness

    I like this handguard, sexy…

    • Phil White

      Darkness,

      Yep–:-)

  • vek

    Looks very similar aesthetically to the handguards on early LR-300s.

    • Phil White

      vek,

      The overall shape is similar.

  • Clint

    Now competing for that market is also Geissele and Noveske. For the average Joe, however, it’s still hard to beat the DD Omega, since it uses the existing delta, and the FSB doesn’t need to be removed…while still being free floating. I hope to see SOMEBODY stepping up to compete with the Omega on those terms.

    • Phil White

      Clint,

      They make a good rail for those rifles with a Delta ring. More and more AR’s use some other rail system without them. My rifle for instance came without a Delta ring. I just wanted a minimalist rail with the smaller diameter. It’s comfortable, light and easy to grip.
      Honestly it didn’t take long to install this one. I found it pretty easy to remove the front sight. For those with a low profile gas attachment it would just slide right on after removing the old rail. With that setup maybe a 30 minute install at most.
      As far as competing with the DD Omega Midwest Industries has a similar two piece rail.

    • Other Steve

      Add Wilson to that mix. The TRIM rail is really great looking and has a great barrel nut.

      I would put it up there with Noveske’s NSR and Geissele’s rail… Both of which might I add are not out yet.

      If I HAD to buy today, it would Apex or Wilson depending on my barrel length and sight requirements.

  • Lance

    Nice review Phil. But never like metal quad rails. They are too heavy and bulky, and sharp w/o rail covers. I like Polymer rail guards lighter and more comfortable to grab.

    • Other Steve

      How is this bulky? Sharp? Did you even glance at the photo? Yea, actually the Apex and a lot of aluminum rails are lighter than the factory and magpul MOE. Way to talk out your ass though!

      You’ve really stepped up your trolling.

      • Matt G.

        Steve, he was talking about aluminum quad rails. Which shows neither of you are paying attention.

      • charles222

        Other Steve,

        what the hell are you even talking about? Lance said METAL QUAD RAILS. He’s not criticizing slick rails at all. It’s funny how you accuse Lance of being a troll when you’re a way bigger one than he has ever been.

    • Phil White

      Lance,

      On top of that the rail covers make them even larger—–

  • John Doe

    I love these thinner, easier to grip rails. I’d like to see how this compares to the Noveske NSR.

    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2012/02/09/noveskes-new-nsr-11-slick-rail/

    • Phil White

      John,

      I’d like to compare them as well. The cost of the Apex is certainly less if cost is a factor. Apex sure sells a great product at a very reasonable price of $175.00.

    • W

      i like seeing the increasing popularity of free float tubes. to me, they are a world’s difference in comfort, speed, and ease of cleaning compared to quad rails.

      • Phil White

        W,

        Those are exactly my thoughts these days. At first I was a bit skeptical but after shooting one I was hooked! Cleaning is one thing I neglected to mention but you’re right they are much easier to clean.Just use a pistol cleaning rod a couple of patches with a small amount of Frog Lube and you’re good.

      • W

        phil, you dipped your feet in the froglube pond too? 😉 i havent used it yet, but i hear good things.

        • Phil White

          W,

          Yep, I sure did. My wife doesn’t mind the smell at all. Heck that’s a plus right there. No seriously the liquid does a very nice job of lubing my guns. You don’t need much at all and it last a good while. I tried the paste for a one time film on the outside surface of the gun.I coated it using my fingers to spread it around then took a micro fiber cloth to wipe it down after heating the metal up. I thought the exterior of the rifle was clean until I used this paste. I used a hair drier to get it into the pores of the steel/aluminum etc.
          So far so good:-)

      • charles222

        I’d say cleaning is the main issue with quad rails, myself. As for a weight difference-I wouldn’t say the quad rails (at least, the issue ones) are particularly noticeable. It’s when you start hanging the larger accessories-IE the 9V or higher Surefire lights-on the side rails that things start getting in the way of accurate shooting. I run an X300, PEQ15 and an AFG on my issue rifle nowadays and it’s plenty lightweight.

    • Other Steve

      Yea, I’m actually waiting for the NSR.

      I’m a big fan of the Apex, but the one big advantage I see the Noveske has is it’s a LOT smaller diameter. The apex seems like it’s at least or slightly larger than the Troy/VTAC. On my next build I want a small diameter.

      The apex is great though, light, cheap, looks good, grippy. I like them quite a bit, I’m still probably going to roll a Noveske though, depends on price.

      Actually, if Apex had an 11″ rail, I’d probably be all over it.

      • Matt G.

        I like the NSR as well. Unfortunately Noveske has decided to charge Noveske prices for it(245$) even though it offers little over the other options(175$).

        The apex does have a larger diameter than the troys. I consider them two different options for different purposes. For instance if you are going with a short barrel/suppressor combo and want to extend the tube over the suppressor then you need a wider tube like the apex to fit over it. If not then skinnier tube may be a better option.

        • Phil White

          Matt,

          Amazing what a big name in the industry does to prices!

  • Chase

    I’ve wanted one of these ever since I saw them about six months ago. They seem like the best ones on the market. Particularly, they beat the JP handguards in both mass and price.

  • Matt G.

    Nice review Phil. I have liked the Apex tubes since I say them. I appreciate the close up pics and info. It seems most manufacturers fail to do close up pics that really help you see the design.

    • Phil White

      Matt,

      Thanks Matt! I really wanted to add those closeups so people could see how everything comes together as well as see the fit between the parts and the finish of course. That and a better view of the Gator Grip as they call it.

  • Timothy Yan

    I have this handguard on my lightweight carbine for over a year. I really like it. FYI:

    IWC (Impact Weapons Components) makes direct mounts for the Apex handguard for scout light, flashlight mount and hand stop. Direct mount means it utilizes the handguard’s mount holes and slot, so that there’s no need to add a rail section then mount your accessories on top of it.

    • Phil White

      Timothy,

      Great information! I’ll have a look at what they have:-)

      For everyone’s reference here is a link to light mounts for the Apex from Impact Weapons!
      http://www.impactweaponscomponents.com/product/radial-1-light-mount-n-slot/

      Products specifically for the Apex rail
      http://www.impactweaponscomponents.com/iwc/product/view/by_handguard_type/apex-machining-gator-grip/

    • Cymond

      Thanks, Timothy!

      It should be noted that Impact Weapons offers the same items for a variety of slick rails, including the Troy TRX & VTAC. That’s a useful link regardless of which rail I buy.

      I’m slowly buying things for my first AR (a lightweight build) and evaluating the options. I’m surprised by how many companies make ‘light weight’ free float rails but don’t publish how much they weigh. According to my search, the Troy TRX & VTAC were the lightest modular slick rails available a few months ago. I haven’t investigated the new crop of modular rails yet (Apex, Wilson, Geissle, Noveske). The Noveske looks pretty interesting because of its thin diameter. I look forward to more info on these.

      Phil, if you review any more components, weights would be appreciated for all variants (esp if the manufacturer doesn’t list the weight).

      Fortunately, Apex does list weights. Assuming Troy and Apex are both completely accurate, then the Apex is astoundingly lightweight. Mid-length and Rifle length are both about 1/2 oz heavier than the Troy. The Gator Grip might change my shopping list over to Apex.

      • Phil White

        Cymond,

        I try to add specs on whatever I review but I can add the ones also offered in accessories like this. Apex is very proud of the light weight so you bet they list it as a selling point. I checked a good many rails like this before deciding on the Apex. I’m completely satisfied with this one and the Gator Grip does provide a good grip without being abrasive at all.

        I had a flashlight mount from my previous setup but since Timothy posted about Impact Weapons I ordered one of those mounts last night. A big thanks to Timothy for letting us know about this company!

      • Phil White

        Cymond,

        Some information for yourself/Timothy and other readers. I spoke with one of the owners of Impact Weapons earlier and they are coming out with a new version of the Radial low mount. It will not only work with the standard flashlights most of us use but can be reversed and used with a pistol configuration light made for rifle use. Other improvements are also included but I’ll save that for the review:-)
        The improved model will be sent to me in about 19 days or so. The review won’t be very far behind. This one will fit my Surefire L2 Lumamax which will be the test light. I’ll also have the pistol type rifle light for everyone to see.

        Again, thanks for letting me know about this company!