Is the quad rail obsolete? The answer to that question is a resounding YES. In the not so recent past the rise of quad rail systems was stunning to see. It seemed like every week a new manufacturer was coming out with a new length rail system or a new fastening system to make their quad rail unique and different. Larue, Daniel Defense, Yankee Hill and Machine, Knights Armament and Midwest Industries all fought for rail supremacy and military contracts.
While no one will deny the positive features that the quad rail offered over the standard round two piece AR15 hand guards they replaced, many will argue it was a waypoint in a progression towards a better overall design that was waiting to replace it. The quad rail was not perfect but it was the best available option at a time of great transition and change in the world of firearms.
The modern quad rail that we are use to seeing started it’s life in 1995 when the design was sent to the Picatinny Arsenal for a lengthy test and evaluation period and would later come to be known as Mil-STD 1913. Some of our readers my not remember a time in history before red dot optics and AR-15’s downloaded with accessories and laser designators on them, but I assure you there was a time. The Late 1990’s was an amazing time for gun owners, it was the first time that red dot style optics could be purchased on a working mans wage and people began to use their AR-15’s as the Barbie doll of the gun world, all via the Picatinny style quad rail.
Quad Rail Problems
While quad rails were revolutionary in 1995 things were not to remain so as the rails hit the shooting market and military units across the globe. The first problem with quad rails is the end user, and that may sound harsh but follow my logic. The problem with a lot of rails is that some people will try to attach every gadget known to man to them and fill all the space with “needed” gear. This percentage of the shooting world just can’t say no to the latest gizmo to let dangle from their gun, and quickly a 7lb AR15 turned into a 11 lb AR15 full of add ons. we all know that guy, we just don’t want to admit it
My personal issue with my Larue quad rail doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the material, the fit or finish, its the basic design works on my hands about as well as a cheese grater. Even with gloves trying to manipulate and do drills with my quad rail that requires my hands to slide just rips them to pieces. I’ve tried using gloves and they provide temporary relief then are also torn and ripped.
After a few years of frustration I took a hard look at my quad rail and realized that I only needed a rail section on the bottom towards the front for the installation of a bipod and that was only for one of my rifles. I performed an assessment of my AR15 collection and needs and decided right then that things would be changing in my AR15 collection in relation to hand guards.
Quad Rail Solutions
In 2007 the first M-Lok by Magpul was unleashed on the world and a few years later grew into the current M-Lok that we see today. In 2012 the Key Mod rail system was unveiled by VLTOR and later refined by a team lead by John Noveske of Noveske Firearms. I will say that before anyone calls out the mob and breaks out the frankenstein style witch hunt, EITHER design is better than the quad rail systems of old. I also own both systems on my AR-15’s , but I prefer the M-Lok.
The Key Mod and the M-Lok are similar but different in some ways but still share some common traits with their predecessor the quad rail. They are both available in free float and non free float configurations and that is about where the similarity ends between quad rails and the new generation of rails. Both of the replacement systems offer the user a great deal of choice wether or not to install rail sections on selected areas of the tube. This lets users like myself have the flexibility of being able to install a tripod on their rifle and still have large areas of smooth material to slide their hands on.
The Future is Here
One thing is clearly evident, the Picatinny style quad rail is obsolete, people are abandoning the quad rail in favor of the Key Mod and the M-Lok systems. If you don’t believe me just check the prices of quad rails in the last year. Larue Tactical in the last year has slashed their prices, I would be willing to bet it’s because of lagging sales. Another further proof of the fall of the once mighty quad rail is the price of used rails on the market. I tried to sell my Larue 7.0 carbine length rail for $75 after I once paid $200 for it and I got zero offers, not even low ball offers.
So readers, where are you at in the great debate? Quad rail ?, Team Key Mod ?, Team M-Lok ? or is there another dark horse in the race that we don’t know about? Drop us a line and let us know where you stand in the debate, maybe you are still using old M16A2 style hand guards and iron sights.