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Handguard Help: Aero Precision vs Midwest Industries


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I am building my first 3 gun rifle and need some help choosing between two 15" handguards, the upper and lower receiver are from Aero Precision. First, the "Midwest Industries MI Ultra Lightweight w/ Titanium Barrel Nut" and second, "Aero Precision Atlas S-One". The Midwest is 8.9oz while the Aero is 12.7oz The Aero looks like it's more comfortable to grip with its rounded over top, but the Midwest is almost 4oz lighter, that's pretty significant.

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If trying to shave weight from a rifle, 4 oz in weight savings from one single part is quite significant in my book. Especially from the front end, where the weight feels the most.

 

However, most of the weight in the Aero S-one is from the steel barrel nut. If you really like the profile you can have a machinist make an aluminum barrel nut for it. I really like my S-one, but there are some quirks with it. You need a REALLY slim gas block for it. And loctite the clap screw.

 

The balance and weight of the rifle will be mostly determined by what barrel profile you choose.

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Yeah, I agree, shaving 4oz from one part is a decent amount, it all adds up. But if the Aero handguard has a significant comfort factor I’m willing to compromise. So mrd, do you have experience with the second hand machined barrel nut, can you vouch for its quality? I’m honestly surprised Aero decided to go with such a heavy barrel nut. 
 

The barrel is an Odin Works 16” medium profile, intermediate gas. I think it's right around 2lbs. 
 

mrd, other than the quarks you listed, how do you like the handguard? Do you wish you would have gone with something different? 

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Nice little business selling Ti nuts to replace the Aero ones then. I really like the Aero Atlas though but I went back to the full length rail R-series for a little extra strength. Once on a bipod I twisted it hard enough to bend the Aluminum, I bet anything lighter would be even weaker. 

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I do have an aluminium nut for it that, but I've only been using it for about half a year. From what I can tell it works as well as the steel one, just 2.5 oz lighter. I have a 16.5" barrel, also medium profile. My rifle is still a bit front heavy, balance point just front of magwell.

 

I'm running rifle length gas with the 15" S-one. If you're running intermediate gas you should probably consider getting the 12" S-one. it's actually more like 12.65" if memory serves. The S-one has sort of a space for the gas block in the front and the 15" seems to match the position of the gas block for a rifle length gas system. As I said, even with a really slim gas block there is not much wiggle room. You can pretty much forget any m-lok add-ons around the gas block.

 

I like the ergonomics of the S-one better than any other handguard I've tried, and with the aluminum nut the weight is really good too. If it holds up and doesn't get bent like Franklys, I'm a happy camper. If it breaks I'll look for something similar but stronger.

Edited by mrd
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I used to have a number of MI handguards on rifle and recently swapped them all out for Atlas S-Ones (including a JP pcc and a 3-gun rifle).  The Atlas is the most comfortable handguard on the market right now. 

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On 12/11/2020 at 5:31 PM, Silver_Surfer said:

maxresdefault.jpg

Now that's a tasty burger!

 

 

I get what you guys are saying about weight adding up. Sometimes its easy to get wrapped up in the belief that lighter at all cost is better. If you feel that way, carry on.

 

4 oz at the barrel nut is a big nothing. Its the location that means the least to the affect weight has on balance and handling (which is also why the AR doesn't handle any differently with 1 round or 30 in the mag). I would never use a less strong barrel nut, or less desirable Handguard,  here just for the sake of weight savings. Too many other more productive areas to shave weight than compromising on the barrel nut.

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3 hours ago, mpeltier said:

Now that's a tasty burger!

 

 

I get what you guys are saying about weight adding up. Sometimes its easy to get wrapped up in the belief that lighter at all cost is better. If you feel that way, carry on.

 

4 oz at the barrel nut is a big nothing. Its the location that means the least to the affect weight has on balance and handling (which is also why the AR doesn't handle any differently with 1 round or 30 in the mag). I would never use a less strong barrel nut, or less desirable Handguard,  here just for the sake of weight savings. Too many other more productive areas to shave weight than compromising on the barrel nut.

I also get what you're saying and agree. 

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5 hours ago, mpeltier said:

I would never use a less strong barrel nut, or less desirable Handguard,  here just for the sake of weight savings. Too many other more productive areas to shave weight than compromising on the barrel nut.

 

I might be wrong about this, but I think there is a point to not having a too strong barrel nut - as long as it does the job. The barrel nut connects to the upper receiver. The aluminum upper receiver. If stressed one of them will break before the other and I'd prefer the barrel nut to break before the upper.

 

I also prefer a lighter rifle to a heavier rifle, all else being equal. I get the point of going for the lowest hanging fruit, but I was at the point in the process where the barrel nut was next in line. I was improving on a rifle I already had, with a medium profile 16.5" barrel, so quite front heavy. If I would build a new rifle from scratch, I would probably just have used a lighter barrel and called it a day.

Edited by mrd
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3 hours ago, mrd said:

 

I might be wrong about this, but I think there is a point to not having a too strong barrel nut - as long as it does the job. The barrel nut connects to the upper receiver. The aluminum upper receiver. If stressed one of them will break before the other and I'd prefer the barrel nut to break before the upper.

 

I also prefer a lighter rifle to a heavier rifle, all else being equal. I get the point of going for the lowest hanging fruit, but I was at the point in the process where the barrel nut was next in line. I was improving on a rifle I already had, with a medium profile 16.5" barrel, so quite front heavy. If I would build a new rifle from scratch, I would probably just have used a lighter barrel and called it a day.

I never seen or heard of a barrel nut fail once installed.  The only non-moving barrel related part I seen fail was the gas tube where it meets the gas block. 

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9 hours ago, Silver_Surfer said:

I never seen or heard of a barrel nut fail once installed.  The only non-moving barrel related part I seen fail was the gas tube where it meets the gas block. 

Me neither. One other reason I don't see any cons of making the nut aluminum. 

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I have 3 atlas s ones on different rigs and really do like them, and the attachment method.  I don't beat them up so can't comment on overall durability, but they sure are nice to time and install.  Profile is great - assuming your gas block fits.  I did have one gas block I had to return because it was a bit fat.  That being said, my theory is "weight is a bit subjective".  For example, I have a 3 gun rig that is pretty light - stretch 16 barrel with JP comp, Light Handguard, JP lightweight bcg, taccom buffer setup etc.  Then another that is actually a full pound heavier with a pretty burly handguard, same fluted barrel length and profile, no muzzle device.  Everyone who shoots them comments on how light the "heavy" on is - It's always surprising because I spent so much making one light and it's not that gets the comments - but I think it is weight out front. In 3 gun I don't know you need light overall as much as super fast handling, which is at the end of the day balance.  I won't, but I assume if I took the JP off the stretch 16 it would noticeably change the ergos and make that rig feel light.

 

All that to say, I echo the barrel nut weight being fine to play with if it makes you feel better or you are really looking for a certain threshold, but if you're looking to invest you could hunt down a titanium comp and even gas block and save just a couple ounces at the point where it matters the absolute most for quick transitions. Just my $.02

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I'd be glad to trim 4oz off any of my rifles, that said, it doesn't matter much.  If I'm going to carry an extra 4oz, the barrel nut is right at the center of mass of the rifle which is optimal.

FWIW, I run a BCM KMR with a custom aluminum barrel nut on one rifle and its the tits.   No problems with it to date.   I wouldn't bother with that if the gun wasn't trying to be a featherweight build (5.1 lbs).  If you can get the weight that low with a grip/stock/optic and  handguard you actually like, its a pretty cool thing.   

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Wow, so much helpful feedback on this forum. I was honestly thinking about just purchasing both handguards and testing them out side by side to see which I liked better. But, after some of y'alls first hand experiences I decided to just go with the Aero.

 

There's been some good points made about rifle balance that I wasn't really considering when I posted this thread. I'm not as concerned with the extra bit of weight as I once was. This rifle will probably end up around 6.5 lbs empty when all is said and done.

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3 minutes ago, Silver_Surfer said:

I never thought much about weight until I started hunting and had to carry my rifle, pack ect. ALL DAY. That was decades ago but I try to shed weight whenever I can.

Absolutely! That’s exactly why I’m concerned about weight. For backpacking I’ve worked for years to get my base pack weight below 10lbs for a long summer weekend. I understand what that extra weight feels like after several days of mountain hiking. But realistically, I probably won’t be hoofing this rifle in the mountains. 

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On 12/14/2020 at 2:45 PM, mrd said:

 

I might be wrong about this, but I think there is a point to not having a too strong barrel nut - as long as it does the job. The barrel nut connects to the upper receiver. The aluminum upper receiver. If stressed one of them will break before the other and I'd prefer the barrel nut to break before the upper.

 

I also prefer a lighter rifle to a heavier rifle, all else being equal. I get the point of going for the lowest hanging fruit, but I was at the point in the process where the barrel nut was next in line. I was improving on a rifle I already had, with a medium profile 16.5" barrel, so quite front heavy. If I would build a new rifle from scratch, I would probably just have used a lighter barrel and called it a day.

I think you miss understand my point of the barrel nut being of lesser quality. I was more referring to the design. Not all barrel nuts/handguards are created equally and the barrel nut does many things. The most common failure I have seen was the barrel nuts ability to keep the Handguard in place. This was in every case with an aluminum barrel nut. Never actually broken, or failed to secure the barrel. My game gun has a PRI carbon fiber Handguard with an aluminum barrel nut. Not the lightest on the planet but its pretty stout. Ive actually seen a few broken receivers, but every one was from ammo related issues. The barrel nut was of no significance.

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On 12/17/2020 at 4:45 PM, Ham said:

Absolutely! That’s exactly why I’m concerned about weight. For backpacking I’ve worked for years to get my base pack weight below 10lbs for a long summer weekend. I understand what that extra weight feels like after several days of mountain hiking. But realistically, I probably won’t be hoofing this rifle in the mountains. 

 

I used to think about weight until I heard someone (who shoots much faster than me) say his rifle is 10 pounds ... but it doesn't matter because you only use it for a few seconds at a time.

 

For a 3gun rifle - balance is more critical than overall weight.

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46 minutes ago, emjbe said:

 

I used to think about weight until I heard someone (who shoots much faster than me) say his rifle is 10 pounds ...

I once hoisted Froelich's rifle out of a dump barrel. It almost pulled me in. I think he said it was around 13lbs and he wouldn't have it any other way. His PCC is similar.

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22 hours ago, TonytheTiger said:

I once hoisted Froelich's rifle out of a dump barrel. It almost pulled me in. I think he said it was around 13lbs and he wouldn't have it any other way. His PCC is similar.

 

Here's Daniel Horner explaining the logic behind rifle balance:

 

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