Gear Review: Troy VTAC Alpha 13″ BattleRail

Recently, I decided that my AR needed an upgrade to its forend. My Magpul MOE handguards had served valiantly for a year or two, but I wanted more. Changes in my shooting technique left me wanting a longer, lighter handguard. Because my rifle had carbine-length gas, and an A2 front sight block, my options were somewhat limited. I chose to chop the A2 block into a low profile block. This let me choose rails without cutouts for the block and let me extend the sight radius as well. Lacking the tools to remove and reinstall the barrel, I chose to stick with a rail that attaches directly to the standard barrel nut. With those choices made, I completed the installation with the tools I had on hand: a dremel, a crescent wrench, some punches, and a claw hammer.

The author's rifle before installing the rail.

The author’s rifle before installing the rail.

Because of my restrictions on tools, I purchased a Troy VTAC 13” Alpha BattleRail.The VTAC Alpha is a tube-style forend, with a single 12-’o-clock rail running the length of the forend. It is available in a standard black anodized finish, as well as flat dark earth (tactical tan). Additional rail segments are included, and can be attached to any of the slots running down the tube. The 13” length provides a grip surface about an inch longer than rifle-length handguards, and with folding irons, a sight radius about an inch shorter than a rifle-length gun. On a 16” barreled gun, about 2.5” of barrel protrude from the handguard before the muzzle device.

Installing the tube was a breeze. To do this, you slide the rail over the barrel and gas block, and onto the bare barrel nut. The cuts on the inside of the rail line up with the ridges and valleys of the nut. The rail slides over the nut at a slight left-leaning angle, and when the rail bottoms out on the receiver, it can be rotated into place, in line with the receiver rail. A small tab of metal on the back end of the rail prevents the rail from rotating too far to the right. At this point all that is left is to tighten down the 3 allen screws with the included wrench. This closes the clamps that secure the rail tightly in place.

The author's rifle after installation.

The author’s rifle after installation.

Like any product, this product has advantages and disadvantages, and of course, I’ve got opinions. The fit and finish of this tube is just superb. It is anodized aluminium, just like the receivers of an AR. It locks up tight on the barrel nut, and simply feels well-made. The rail is very lightweight, weighing in only slightly heftier than the plastic MOE carbine handguards I replaced, while being nearly twice as long, and having a full length top rail.

As I stated above, the rail is incredibly simple to install, once certain parts are out of the way. If I were to install again, I would purchase a low-profile gas block instead of cutting down an A2 FSB, simply because I’m a lazy SOB and a commercial low-pro looks nicer.

Another key feature I like is the modularity. I’m not a huge fan of quad-rails simply because all the extra unused rail estate is simply dead weight, adds girth to the forend, and snags on things constantly without rail covers, which add even more weight and bulk. I can add side and bottom rails as I need them, and I can also add them at 45 degree angles instead of just the common 90 degree placements. Right now I don’t use any of the additional provided rails on my rifle, opting for a clean forend, with just a folding front sight and a small patch of rail cover as an index for my grip.

 

Finally, in addition to all the above, it’s also a free-floating handguard, which lets the shooter put a great deal of weight on the forend without changing the rifle’s point of impact, putting the force on the upper instead of directly on the barrel.

 

Of course, this product has some drawbacks too. Primarily, like most Troy products, you pay for the quality you receive, in this case, $199 MSRP. For the two benjamins though, I received a lighter rifle with a longer sight radius, and much nicer handling. I’d say it was plenty worth it.

Lastly, the plain black model has some heat issues. If you leave it sitting in open sunlight on a hot day, or rip off some longer rapid-fire strings, the rail can get rather painful to hold, especially near the gas block. Some shooters wear a glove when shooting, or take and wrap paracord around the rail where they place their hands. Others have purchased heavy nylon wraps to attach to the rail to protect themselves from the heat. I have heard reports that the FDE model doesn’t suffer these issues, and that a simple application of a lighter colored spray paint acts as a heat reflector, and mitigates this problem.

Bottom line, I feel that this was one of the best purchases I made to improve my AR, and don’t hesitate to recommend this product to others looking to upgrade an existing rifle, or to complete a new build.





Nathan B

Nathan B is a software engineer living in Maryland. He graduated from Penn State University in 2012 with a BS in Information Sciences and Technology. He has been shooting for most of his life, is a sucker for a good .22 rifle, and shoots competitively in IDPA and local 3-gun matches.


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  • Cymond

    Cool, I’ve been looking at the Troy rail for a while now.
    One advantage of cutting the stock FSB is that you retain a pinned gas block, instead of clamp-on or set-screw mounting.

    • el_pato

      I’ve got the same version, but with the circles instead of the slots (Alpha BattleRail 11″).

      It was fun cutting down the FSB, felt manly with my angle grinder, dremel & all that sparks flying about the garage.

      In the end I felt it was the better choice since like Cymond noted, I retained the pinned gas block and didn’t have to mess with creating an unnecessary dimple for a new low pro block.

  • OOOHHH I was just looking at this one…. How much does it weight? I’ve heard some complaints about the cheese grader texture of the grip, what do you think?

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Only about 2 years behind current rails. The DDv7’s rail, the Gieselle, centurion’s new slick rail, and obviously the far superior Noveske NSR all trump all over the stale Troy.

    I had a Troy/Vtac, it flexed a ton compared to my current NSR which I wouldn’t give up for any other option.

    • 14.5 Middy

      You’re NSR is 100 bucks more and doesn’t use an A2 barrel nut. This rail is ideal for people with pinned muzzle devices and A2 FSP’s. The FSP can be grinded down and this can slip over and attach to the barrel nut under the delta ring. Leave your Noveske bragging back home man. We all know they rock your little socks off. Plus the NSR gets incredibly hot. I have one on my 11.5 BCM build and I hate wearing gloves to shoot more than 2 mags. Kinda silly.