Geissele Hand Guard For HK556/416 And Other AR Rifles

Geissele has long been known for their top notch triggers, but their entry into manufacture of hand guards was unknown to me until last January.  I first ran into the new Geissele hand guard at Shot Show where I had some trigger time with it and was instantly a fan.  The Geissele handguard completely transformed the feel of the rifle.  Already an amazingly accurate platform, it now felt more natural, comfortable and at least because of the feel and new hand position, *felt* lighter than with the stock HK hand guard.  The Geissele hand guard  is wonderfully flexible, has amazing levels of finish and craftsmanship, but above all allows for easier and more effective management of the AR rifle.

Geissele makes the hand guards for your standard AR rifles and also for the HK based AR rifles, the major difference being that the one for the HK rifle utilizes the already robust barrel nut on that rifle.  The Geissele hand guard for other AR rifles comes with an additional barrel nut that the hand guard will attach to.

I’ve been running an MR556A1 for personal use for some time now and while it is heavy, mostly due to the heavy profile barrel, I find it to be the finest AR type 5.56mm platform I’ve ever used.  The MR556A1 version of the HK rifle has the aforementioned heavier profile barrel that adds bulk and weight over the slimmer profile barrel in the 416, but has other advantages.  But both the MK556A1 and the HK 416 ship with the same hand guard, the 9in quad rail that I’ve never really been a fan of as they are simply too bulky and not comfortable at all.  Additionally, all the rail real estate is simply overkill for me and frankly, most shooters outside of a combat zone that might be operating at night.  On top of that, the shorter quad rail limits the forms/hand positions one can take and the Geissele hand guard fixes that while maintaining a level of comfort I’ve never seen equalled in other hand guards.

The standard hand guard that ships with the HK 416/MR556 is a quad rail that I’ve heard is manufactured for HK by Daniel Defense.  Its a good, solid quad rail, but the edges are sharp in addition to my complaints on the bulk.  In fact, the edges are so sharp that any real trigger time spent with it means that you have to either 1) wear gloves (not a bad idea anyway to be honest) or 2) purchase rail covers.  I opted for rail covers for convenience, but they made the standard handguard even more bulky and reduced the handiness of the MR556A1 rifle.

On top of this, for maximal control, I naturally prefer a palm up hand position forward on the barrel which forces my elbows down (a problem for me) and enhances control, allowing for rapid transitions between targets while eliminating muzzle rise.  A longer handguard makes this possible and allows for more extension and thus leverage.  So, I’ve been looking for better solutions than came standard with the HK rifle.


So, I was delighted when I came across the Geissele hand guard at the Shot Show Media Day.  After spending time at the Shot Show range as well as a substantial amount of  time with the new longer hand guard on my personal rifle, I have to wonder why HK does not go with this handguard at least as an option from the factory.  After trigger time with both the 10.5 in and the 14.5 in hand guards, the improvement in handling and performance is spectacular.  On top of that this Geissele hand guard is made with pre-eminent quality and as I’ve said, its the best hand guard I’ve ever used.  Absolutely a match in levels of quality for HK products, but better than that, its absolutely comfortable which is more than I can say for the stock hand guard.

So, how’d this hand guard come about?  Like most items that come out of Geissele it seems, the hand guard was a request from a specific Department of Defense Special Operations Community to alter their HK 416 rifles making them more comfortable, more flexible and more rugged.  These folks typically have more flexibility with their tools and are able to make specific requests of companies to build or craft tools that better meet their needs.  These needs were specifically a more natural sling quick attachment point that could hold the weight of a fully equipped soldier or Marine, a narrower, low snag profile while maintaining full flexibility with mounting points.  And it had to have rugged anodizing that will not wear prematurely and maintain its comfort and grip in the wet or the dry.  This is what Geissele came up with and it seems they have a winner with very enthusiastic reviews coming in from the SPECOPS communities.


On both the Geissele 10.5in hand guard and the 14.5in hand guard, the first thing that grabs your attention is the hand guard is narrower than the stock hand guard and fits more naturally to the hand.  The next thing that one notices is the tactile feel of the handguard is perfect.  Smooth, yet subtly textured that almost gives it the feel of a wooden stock or wood hand guard, not unlike the wood hand guards on the old CETME rifles.  Importantly, as specced by DoD, it retains this feel even when wet.  One of my range days was in an absolute downpour and the handguard maintained a grippy texture and feel in the wet or dry.  I’ll have to let my friends who have years of anodizing and aluminum machining experience take a look at this, but whatever Geissele has done, it is amazing work on the feel.


Also there are no sharp edges to cut or catch and on all non-rail surfaces, the edges are radiused to eliminate snag points where the handguard could catch on other gear, clothing, upholstery or armor.  The modular attachment points have been beautifully recessed into the aluminum so they too are snag free.

The Geissele hand guard for the HK ships with the hand guard itself, two small rail attachments, a longer rail attachments and beautifully finished screws that counter sink into the attachment rail.  The hand guard for other AR platforms also comes with a dedicated barrel nut, designed after the HK model that is sturdier than the typical barrel nut that ships with most AR rifles to allow for a robust mounting platform to the receiver.  A barrel nut tool also ships with the AR model.



The Geissele hand guard was also designed to be *strong*.  The barrel nut on the HK is remarkably robust and provides an incredibly stable attachment point for the free floated handguard.  It was designed to be able to have sling points attached that would not deform the handguard and allow it to touch the barrel even with the most aggressive abuse.

If weight is a big deal to you, note that there is not a huge difference in weight between the stock hand guard and the Geissele hand guard, though the 14.5in hand guard does weigh a few grams more than the stock 9in hand guard and the Geissele 10.5in hand guard weighs slightly less than the stock hand guard.  Therefore while the Geissele hand guard will not shave much weight (perhaps even add to the weight), it makes the rifle *feel* more handy and easier to maneuver with.  If you really want to reduce the mass of your HK MR556, have your barrel re-profiled to match that of the lighter duty HK 416.  I have range time with the HK 416 which makes for more facile transitions, especially at the end of  a long day, but my personal HK MR556A1 with a 16in barrel is used for target shooting and I prefer the heavier duty and more accurate barrel.  Your milage may vary.

If you decide to pull the proverbial trigger and get this upgrade for your rifle, installation of the Geissele hand guard is trivially easy on the HK MR556 A1.  You simply remove the free float barrel screw with a hex wrench and slide the old hand guard off and replace it with the Geissele unit and replace the same screw, making the new hand guard tight and solid as can be.  This took me literally, all of a slow, relaxed 2 minutes.  On the HK 416, its slightly more complicated as you will either have to remove the barrel to install it or remove the sling loops that are on the gas block.  On other AR platforms, you will have to replace their barrel nut with the Geissele supplied one before installing the new hand guard.

Two final items of note:  1)  Geissele is making a Mk2 hand guard available soon that is less expensive at $275 or $295 in sand that has sliding backing nuts instead of threaded inserts to mount your modular rail sections.  The tradeoff is that there is one more step to slide the backing slide into place in order to attach a modular rail and the Mk2 rail is slightly heavier than the Mk1 hand guard.

Item 2)  I hear tell that Geissele is making a hand guard for the HK MR762A1 which makes so much more sense than the hand guard that HK shipped with the rifle.  I’ll absolutely look forward to that improvement.


  • darrel

    The finish looks a little funky compared to the 416 body, but a very nice handguard regardless. I know geissele makes some really great match triggers, and it’s cool to see them expanding their repertoire a bit.

  • Sean

    That is a very sexy handguard.

  • Reverend Clint

    I have to ask… in the top pics whats the point of having the front sight if you leave off the rear sight?

    • You sight with the Eotech as the rear sight.

      • Reverend Clint

        Dont you usually cowitness with a rear sight as well though?

    • You don’t *need* to have both iron sights and a holo sight. The only purpose of iron sights here is to have them as a backup if the holo sight fails. Were I two days hike out in the middle of a combat zone, I might have some concern about having both iron sights as backup, but in modern CONUS with easy availability of parts, the iron sights just add weight and bulk… If you notice for instance, the picture of me shooting with the HK and the 9in Geissele hand guard, there are *no* iron sights on that weapon as they are not needed with a holo sight.

    • W

      I wouldnt blame anybody for ditching that abortion of a rear sight apature.

      That is one of my criticisms of the HK 416 and MR556s. those damned rear sights that require a special tool. I removed both when i scoped my MR556. I didn’t even add irons to it, despite high speed angled irons and reflex sight mounts.

  • Tommy

    I’ve beat mine through a load of matches and the finish is still perfect. The texture is subtle but excellent to grip. I like to say it feels like wood grain. One of the most comfortable rail systems I’ve ever held. Bill and crew did awesome with this one.

  • Esh325

    I wish they would make a more cost effective MR556a1. Like an upper with non railed polymer handguards,no forward assist,no dust cover, lighter barrel profile,no magazine.

    • Other Steve

      Yea, Maybe you could look into HK’s econo line…. :/

  • Murph

    On an unrelated note, I cannot read ”Geiselle” without thinking of Gisele Bundchen. Not that that is a bad thing.

    I like the handguard. It would probably look better with a dark earth finish on the lower and upper.

    • Burst

      Indeed, I smell a marketing opportunity. Gisele sells Geiselles by the seashore.

  • milo

    not bad, not bad at all. now if only the MR556A1 came with a chrome lined barrel like the HK416. that in my opinion is the biggest flaw

    “But unlike the HK416, the MR556A1 does not use a chrome-lined barrel. Chrome-lining can sometimes mask bore imperfections and negatively affect accuracy. For the new series of Heckler & Koch semi-automatic MR rifles, HK designers and engineers believe best accuracy comes with an unlined bore.”
    8th paragraph down

    while what they say may be true, i’d rather have a longer service life on the barrel than have a tighter grouping at 300m. training, and quality ammunition can make up for that.

    • Esh325

      “barrel blanks were shipped from Germany and finished here by Daniel Defense. Many speculations have been made about why, but most don’t consider US import restrictions, the ’05 barrel ban, and German export restrictions almost certainly play a major roll in this matter.”

      I suppose it would make an expensive rifle even more expensive if they made chrome lined hammer forged barrels here. It seems import restrictions have some what sullied the MR556A1.

      • milo

        you make a good point, how i loathe the red tape

    • Marc

      If the barrel is nitrated like that of an MR223 you won’t see any reduction in barrel life.

      • Other Steve

        It’s not. It’s a bare steel barrel, many consider it the H416’s Match cousin.

    • W

      The MR556 is meant as a “match rifle” rather than just a civilianized HK416. The weapons of war BS.

      As far as unlined barrels go, I think people are stressing out too much over it. The MR556 was designed for accuracy and a unlined barrel is better for this configuration.

      Im not worried about the barrel life of a HK product. Look at the HK 91 and 93 rifles; those barrels were unlined too. I think it is simply a unneeded feature because we generally fire high quality ammunition and do not needlessly neglect our weapons.

      • Esh325

        Yeah, a lot of people won’t take advantage of a chrome lined barrel. However, I think for all that money they should at least nitrate the barrel. From what I read, nitrating is suppose to be better than chrome lining and it doesn’t add inconsistency to the barrel or bore that can affect accuracy as it actually adheres to them.

      • W

        Most people dont require a chrome lined barrel. they dont fire enough rounds to warrant it. I would recommend one simply because I believe it is smart to prepare for any eventuality (Noveske’s double chrome lined M249 spec barrels have my complete recommendation). For a target rifle, unlined barrels are superior hence this is the reason why many top target barrel manufacturers from Walter or Wilson build them.

        I am perplexed as to why they chose to not at least nitride the barrels. PWS does awesome work with nitride and some people have even had their MR556’s treated with nitride. I would have also liked to have seen the MR556 incorporate a polygonal rifled barrel like Larue and a chrome lined option.

      • Nmate

        QPQ is not superior to chrome lining. It is a lot better than an untreated/unlined barrel, but nothing yet beats chrome. While nitriding produces superior surface hardness, it is inferior to chrome in terms of dealing with heat.

        People get too caught up on rifling life. A barrel will die from throat and gas port erosion far sooner than it will from the rifling wearing out. Chrome lining to superior to nitriding in preventing this.

        It has been awhile since I’ve read anything about nitride v. chrome, I could be wrong.

    • W

      “now if only the MR556A1 came with a chrome lined barrel like the HK416. that in my opinion is the biggest flaw”

      Do you fire corrosive, foul 5.56 ammunition through it and slog your rifle through mud, snow, and dirty? soviet-esque conditions?

      then dont worry about it.

      You do know the history behind chrome lined barrels right?

      They became popular because in a World War II era battlefield environment, poor ammunition coupled with equally poor maintenance and prolonged fire in the case of machine guns resulted in quickly shot out barrels. They were added to ease maintenance (they are easier to clean) and prolong the life of machine gun barrels. They also allow you to use inferior quality steel for a barrel while producing a decently reliable and robust product easily and with comparatively low cost.

      With modern advancements in high quality, non-corrosive ammunition, superior lubricants, and advancements in metallurgy, unlined barrels arent at a particular disadvantage. Indeed, many of the top names in accurate barrels are also non-chrome lined and unlined. The MR556 is a MATCH rifle, optimized for superior accuracy, not a “sporting carbine”.

      Dont worry about the barrel being unlined. Enough Said.

      • milo

        thanks for the info, some of the people on the ar15 forums really pent it up as a catastrophic flaw where it couldn’t handle even wolf; however, after reading some of your other comments where you just explains wolf just neuters its capabilities.

      • W

        thats because people on AR15 forums are generally “carbine” people, meaning they fire large quantities of rounds and their rifles run at hotter temperatures than target rifles. There’s nothing wrong with that either. Different materials for different purposes.

        Wolf will not destroy rifles regardless of what people think. Their ammunition, alongside prvi partizan and other bargain ammunition, is non corrosive. In fact, I have yet to run into corrosive 5.56 ammunition.

    • John Doe

      Given the advances in metallurgy since the advent of chrome lined barrels, I don’t think a non-lined barrel would suffer from any issues.

  • Johnny D.

    Excellent review. Just wanted to add that the accessory rails are 3D machined to fit the curvature of the hand guard perfectly. This is important in terms of repeatability when dismounting and remounting the accessory rails b/c there is no room for play with the hand guard.

    The Geissele SMR MK2, hand guard designed for the AR-15, is already available for order. One key difference between the MK1 and the MK2 is that the MK2 hand guards are not contoured like the MK1. They still feel great in the hand but they’re more “squarish”. The MK2 is just as sturdy as the MK1 as they both utilize the same barrel nut.

    Lastly, the MK1 and MK2 feature an anti-rotational system via two screws that contact the upper receiver. The HK416 rail does not utilize this as it has a different design for anti-rotation.

  • Other Steve

    One… Looks great, but they are still heavy. Gieselle can talk about how strong try are, but no one is breaking Noveske NSR rails and they have a far superior mounting system, are lighter, and cheaper.

    Two… They JUST released their mk1, now within a couple months replaced it with their mk2, I’d wait on buying even if the weight was lowered.

    Three… Oh I hope you didn’t want to get to the piston on your 416 anymore. Hope you didn’t want to adjust the gas settings. Replace a spring or prison. I know the hand guard comes off without special tools, but it was not really designed to be a low profile gas block gun. That would be just super to pull th hand guard and reinstall to put it into its suppressed mode.

    • Johnny D.

      I don’t recall that Geissele made any claim that their product is superior to any brand currently available. The hand guard was developed at the request of DoD, the company delivered a product that met SOCOM’s demands and expectations, and have now made it available to consumers. Simply, it is another option for consumers – it is up to the consumer to decide if it meets their requirements.

      The Geissele SMR MK2 does not replace the SMR MK1; rather, it was developed to give customers a lower-cost option to the SMR MK1 while still retaining the rugged platform. Again, they are providing another option for consumers.

      The hand guards for both the HK and the AR-15 platforms come off with a simple, non-proprietary, tool. If you have a socket wrench, you can take off the mounting screw(s). Allen wrenches are even supplied for mounting picatinny rails and anti-rotation screws.

    • John

      How is the noveske mounting system superior? The Geissele rails(m4) are precision bored for not only a tight fit, but also a fit that makes it more “square” than any other rail. The noveske rail leaves you with limited mounting options as far as barrel nut indexing (yes, there are only so many holes in the barrel nut) whereas the Geissele has literally unlimited amounts of mounting positions so that you can tighten the barrel nut to the perfect torque rather than either over or under torquing because you need to line something up. No one is breaking noveske rails but have you ever tried hanging 225 pounds from a qd sling on one? Doubt it.

      As stated the MK2 is not a replacement for the Mk1, just a cheaper option for the consumer.

      Obviously you have some personal vendetta against Geissele if you are resorting to false information trying to shoot down their products.

      How hard is it to remove a bolt to get to the piston anyway? If that’s beyond your abilities guns aren’t for you.

  • gunslinger

    not sure if this is a standard thing, but i like not having a full rail of…well rails.

    i like the modular aspect, where ithe top is a full rail, for setting of optics/rds/iron, and the sides/bottom are customizable where it looks you have small rails where you can put say a bipod, front grip or lights/lasers. but you don’t need a full set of rails, then either gloves or rail covers.

    but as for the weight, i’m not sure how that factors in.

  • Lew

    Sean has already said it but I’ll chip in. The bloody thing is just sexy, I want it (and a MR223, nota bene).

  • Lance

    I agree too many rails on a AR today too bulky. I like this idea but The authors hopes of military buys is over hoped since HK has the USMC use nothing but HK products on there M-27s. Same for mags unfortunately. I do like the HK416 and its civilian counterpart.

    I dont know why he shoots wolf ammo in the pic in that’s crap ammo for a expensive weapon.

    • Anonymoose

      I think he used the Wolf BECAUSE it’s crap ammo- it will still function great in a piston AR, whereas it will clog up a regular DI AR.

      • Lance

        Ive soon wolf clog up every type of AR piston and DI.

    • W

      Lance, as a MR556 owner, i can say they are a fine rifle.

      very, very accurate. I treat mine as a designated marksman rifle and put a NXS Nightforce on it (w/ mildot reticle). I need to put this rail system on it because it looks like it will accomodate my bipod a lot better.

      Wolf is not horrible ammunition out of a carbine, though out of this rifle, it is definitely neutering the MR556’s capabilities. It is a match rifle, so it would behoove you to shoot match ammunition out of it.

      Many people believe the MR556 is a carbine like most other AR out there. it isn’t.

      “A direct descendent of the HK416, the MR556A1 is a semi-automatic rifle developed by Heckler & Koch as a premium level commercial/civilian firearm with match rifle capability” – HK USA Website

      It also makes mention of this in the manual, which proves to me that motherf–kers dont read their manuals like theyre supposed to.

      • dan

        Wolf is 100% im my bcm middy w/ carbine buffer. Im guessing most peoples issues arise with different combinations in gas system(length), gas port diameter,bcg weight, and buffer weight. As for the mr556a1 im definitely not liking the m203 cut on the barrel, still not sure why so many rifles have the cut.

    • Esh325

      The worst thing that will happen by shooting wolf in an AR15 is it might jam. You won’t damage the rifle. Some AR15’s like wolf, and some don’t from my personal experience.

      • Aries144

        As I just found out, Wolf/Brown Bear/Tula/etc WILL damage the rifle, specifically you’ll prematurely wear out the barrel. I’ve got about 6000 rounds of wolf and Brown Bear through an SLR-106 and the barrel is almost completely shot out. It went from 2.5 MOA to 6 MOA. That’s a chrome lined, cold hammer forged barrel that has been known to last for 30,000+ rounds before breaking outside 4 MOA accuracy in one documented case.

        Don’t shoot bi-metal jacketed ammo in rifles that can’t have the barrel easily/cheaply replaced. Just try replacing the barrel on a 5.56 AK. I’m still pissed.

    • Who is using Wolf ammo?…. Where’d you get that?

    • Nmate

      The only reason Wolf will clog an AR is because the shooter doesn’t know what he/she is doing. The polymer coating heats up and sticks to the chamber area. It needs to be cleaned out intermittently or you’ll be seeing failures to extract. It is even more important when going from steel cased to brass cased ammunition.

      • W

        the issue isnt the polymer coating (which is high temperature and is designed for firearms, meaning it will not burn or melt off), but rather the steel casing itself. Steel doesnt expand like brass, meaning there is less obturation. When a steel cased cartridge is fired, more fouling is introduced into the chamber, which explains why going from steel to brass results in problems.

        POF USA did a high round stress test using wolf 5.56 in 100 round drum magazines.

    • FormerSFMedic

      Lance, the author doesn’t have to “hope” for military purchases. The Geissele forend has already been purchased on the books. The HK416 comes straight from the factory with the Geissele forend installed to the units purchasing them.

      • Johnny D.

        +1. Most if not all HK rails being made right now at Geissele are allocated for DoD orders.

        Interesting number of people who are leaving comments based on assumptions and passing them off as facts. Good thing there are people that read the blogs and are “in the know” and can correct the mis-information.

      • John

        Actually, while closer, that is still incorrect. They are not shipping to HK, but rather to the SOCOM guys.

      • FormerSFMedic

        SOCOM units are taking delivery of new 416’s with the Geissele forend already installed. That’s from the factory.

      • John

        The factory in Germany? Sorry but you are mistaken.

      • FormerSFMedic

        I wasn’t asking. I was letting readers know.

        Second, I never said from Germany. I said from the factory.

      • john

        And im not asking either. You are mistaken. They get into the hands of the troops installed im sure, but not from the factory. They have their own armorers. HK is not installing anything.

      • FormerSFMedic

        No, I’m not mistaken. I’m not sure why you think I would be?

      • John

        I know for a fact that they are not being shipped to HK. They are being shipped to the armorers for the military, not the “factory” you keep referring to.

      • FormerSFMedic

        I’m simply putting information out there. I don’t speculate or assume. You say you know for a fact but you give no details on how you came to your conclusion. I don’t know why you continue to tell me I’m mistaken?

      • JD

        If you haven’t figured it out by now, John is probably a person “in the know”. Especially if his last name begins with “B” 🙂

  • Anonymoose

    What’s with the non-standard barrel on that MR556? Why would anyone get a step-cut barrel unless they were going to put an old-style undermounted weapon on their carbine?

    • That rifle had an HK416/M4 profile barrel to make for a lighter weapon with the short handguard.

  • Paul

    Can someone tell me the exact length and weight of these new handguards?

    Will the longer handguard work with a 14.5″ AR barrel with a QD suppressor?

    I too have heard that they are heavy. Exactly how heavy are they?

    • Paul

      Hey guys….right after posting my question I realized that Geissele has now posted the rail information on their website.

      Pardon my cluttering the bandwidth.

      • Paul

        But I don’t see any weights listed…just the lengths.


    • Paul

      Answering my own questions here guys….I found this on Sniper’s Hide that did a good review. This is for the AR (not 416) rails:

      Rail Specs:


      13″ = 18.4oz

      15″ = 20.2oz

      Above totals include the weight of the handguard, Geissele bbl nut and cross bolts, but are subtracting the weight of the stock bbl nut. Accy rails are.82 and .46 oz

      Naked rail measurements….

      W: 1.7565″
      H: 2.2640″

  • Mike Knox

    From what I know, H&K has a proprietary wrench for their 416 barrel nut. Providing a utility without it’s tool would be a problem there..

    • If you have an HK MR556A1, there is no barrel nut changeout required. If you have an HK 416 (very few in civilian hands), then you might need to change out the barrel nut.

      Geissele ships a new barrel nut with the non HK solution *with* a wrench to help.

      • Mike Knox

        Well, that’s what I’m saying. Needing to replace the barrel nut needs the H&K wrench, which makes it hard for non H&K certified gunsmiths..

    • John

      Guys, I think there is some confusion and crossing up here among the m4 variants and the HK/mr variants. The MR and the 416 both use the same barrel nut, WHICH DOES NOT NEED REPLACING, HANDGUARD IS A DIRECT SWAP. There is no reason to remove the barrel nut, so you are not getting anything without its tool. To summarize….

      HK/MR – no reason to change barrel nut or remove it, thus no tool needed

      M4 – new barrel nut required. Barrel nut supplied, wrench for new nut supplied (just need a 1/2 drive ratchet/breaker bar) which also can be used for removal of stock barrel nut.

  • northor

    Wouldn’t be much use on military variants as you can’t mount the AG416 (M320 variant designed for the 416) underneath it. It doesn’t seem to have the pinhole for it. Otherwise looks nice though.