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.