Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the long handguard on a rifle, but there is a thing as TOO long of a handguard. In recent years the trend has been to push handguards out as far as possible with the non-firing hand pushing forward on the gun for better stabilization, especially when moving laterally from target to target.
However, its now gone too far, and I don’t just mean figuratively in terms of absurdity. Hand-guards are now being pushed past the end of the handguard to dangerous consequences.
Muzzle brakes work by diverting the combustion gasses, harnessing that energy to reduce felt recoil. They work phenomenally well, with the most aggressive brakes diverting/capturing the most gas. This diversion, even on longer barrels with 5.56 is still at over 5,000 PSI of pressure contained behind the bullet at 20″. Unfortunately, shooters are not realizing that the this pressure acts on handguards (which are typically viewed as safe places to put one’s hand) and in some cases, has completely broken the handguard. Aluminum was not meant to contain pressures that high.
The corollary of this is that if one has a hand at the location, the hand will fare far worse. Soft tissue will stand up to multi-thousand PSI like butter to a hot knife meaning catastrophic consequences. In fact, TFB has posted up a POTD showing the issue on a AR handgun. This can be solved easily by ensuring all ports of a brake are past the handguard.
To me, the problem is these hybrid handguards that are coming to the market like the LVOA-C and the Salient Arms Tier One AR-15. While these handguards eliminate the aluminum from the blast area (and therefore the fracturing), they still have handguard going past a “safe zone” for human manipulation. In fact, I would assert that the design and its offering is gross negligence, as the manufacturer HAS to know this is an issue as they purposefully cut out the handguard.
Say one goes full Chris Costa on a rifle grabbing to the end and a round is let loose? The results would be life-changing.
Therefore, it is a certifiably DUMB idea to have a handguard deployed in such a way it will not actually guard the hand from muzzle blast.
Build your rifle and shoot safe!