Normally, when we writers are sent something for review we just mount it on the first available gun, do our shooting, and often enough, the part gets relegated to an ever-increasing parts bin until we are able to build the next franken-gun. Never before have I been inspired to build a gun around a part until sent the JL Billet MLOK Handguard.
I am not sure why it inspired me so, but after putting the brake through its paces and now with the handguard in-hand, I was firmly set on building up a rifle that could honor the craftsmanship and machining of a billet upper. It, in turn, led me to build up a 100% billet rifle, not using a single stock or MIL-SPEC AR part.
Enough of me waxing on about the build that it inspired, the handguard itself is low-key upon first inspection, but detailed upon through analysis. Manufactured from billet (which as a machinist, is a challenge for time, as most handguards use an extrusion), the handguard uses a uninterrupted picatinny rail on the top and three sides of Magpul’s M-LOK for accessory attachment. At the 45-degree sides, there is a alternating pattern of trapezoids and triangles. Only across the vertical facet at the top does this vary, instead using matching circles and elliptical shapes.
Attachment to the receiver is via low-profile barrel nut to the receiver. Rather that using a proprietary tool, it uses flat faces compatible with common wrenches in any household toolbox. Those looking to use a torque wrench can use 1 & 1/8″ crows foot. Attachment of the rail to the barrel nut is via pressure clamp from two hex-screws at the bottom rear of the handguard.
My only complain is the handguard does not have a positive index to receivers to maintain alignment in case of a high-torque event. While unlikely, I do like the feature, but during installation, one can take any picatinny accessory, bridge the two rails, and clamp the handguard into place for perfect alignment.
Installed, it compliments any octagonal receiver well. Rather than leave space blank that would otherwise be interfacing with the barrel nut, JL Billet makes use of space to add in push-button Q/D interfaces that stand proud of the otherwise low-profile handguard. The front of the receiver slants forward slightly, which is nice for any “Costa” style shooters who run their thumb across the top of a rail, giving it slightly more purchase.
- Easy installation.
- Solid fit and finish. Minor tool marks, but to a machinist, they are beauty marks.
- Styling is aggressive and may not be for everyone, but for the rifleman looking to set himself apart, its a nice compliment – especially with the matching brake.
- MLOK was ready-to-go. No issues with any accessories.
- Includes Q/D push-button mounts are the rear near the receiver. Excellent use of space.
- At $199, they are priced in reasonably.
- Accomodates almost all gas low-profile gas blocks in the market. Even fit the ODIN Works adjustable, which can be an issue with low-profile rails.
- I’d like to see some method of ensuring the handguard cannot twist off in the field. Having “wings” or something would give me piece of mind.
Its hard to say one rail is distinctly better than another, so rather than say that, I can safely say that the JL Billet is at least as good as other high-end offerings.
100% made in the USA by a small shop, it embodies the innovation and craftsmanship of someone who takes pride and joy in their work. While most will be content with an extruded model that focuses on performance and price, the JL Billet (and all his products) showcase what can be done when you throw low-cost out the window and focus on what can be created when form takes priority over function.