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Understanding the Two Most Common AR-15 Rail Systems

A rail system is one of the critical parts of an AR-15 rifle, allowing the operator to attach tactical add-ons. Using as many accessories boosts your overall shooting performance. It also improves the appearance of the gun.

What Is the AR-15 Rail System?

Currently, several companies manufacture rails, and many online stores sell these accessories like aero precision rails. The rails systems of an AR-15 typically contain metal-polymer brackets placed either on the rifle’s receiver, fore-end, or handguard.

The rails are like metal strips with an under-cut side. This is not standardized as that of the design for the current dovetail rails. The only means to slide the hardware on and secure them is via compression.

What Are the Different Types of AR-15 Rail Systems Design?

There are several types of rail systems for AR-15 available in the market. And this includes the aero precision rails that offer every possible variety within the realm. The most common types are the KeyMod, M-LOK, and Picatinny rails.

  • The Keymod Rail System. VLTOR Weapon Systems first thought KeyMod's concept from Tucson, Arizona. The name of this system is derived from its design, which is made to look like keyholes.

To use this rail system, an operator needs to compress the rail into the rifle by putting the lug inside the “keyhole.” He then has to slide it to the smaller end for a secure attachment. This system is easy to use and not as bulky as the other rail systems.

Also, the caveat of this rail system may not be compatible with a lot of accessories. Another downside to this rail is it does not fit well with handguards made of polymer.

  • M-LOK Rail System. M-LOK refers to “Modular Lock” and is a system created by the Magpulcompany. Unlike the Keymod rail, M-LOK is not open-source and adopts an innovative method of mounting the accessories.

Instead of the keyholes’ design of the KeyMod system, the M-LOK rail system utilizes small slits and nuts with a T-shape design. When turned, the slits and nuts lock into place.

One of the benefits of this rail system is that it can mount accessories on both the slot’s front and rear ends. Furthermore, the company produces several products that are only compatible with the system.

These accessories can mount on the rail without the use of any rail adaptor. Another advantage of this rail system is that it works well with polymer handguards. The caveat of this system can be quite challenging when aligning attachments.

Every manufacturer who wishes to produce this rail system needs to obtain a license from the Magpulcompany. Although permission to reproduce is free of charge. However, licensed manufacturers need to create similar designs and the quality of the system.

Rail systems give rifle operators a customized and personalized look for their AR-15 rifles. With a compatible rail system, the gun can mount several supported accessories, including tactical lights, lasers, and many more.

Choosing the right rail system for your rifle depends on many factors. This includes what purpose your weapon will serve and the amount you are willing to spend on such protective gear and accessories.

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