Is a free float rail worth the investment?
Do your needs justify the cost of a free float rail? Will your rifle benefit from FF? Certain rifles, namely precision rigs and precision shooters, would benefit from a free-float rail. Let’s get that out of the way. If you want to shoot tiny groups or set up a precision rifle… yes a free float rail will assist you in maximizing the accuracy potential of your rifle. What if you have a 14 inch chrome lined or 20 inch government style rifle? Lot’s of new rifle owners will pony up for a quality rail (and many more a cheap rail) without ever realizing the accuracy potential they introduce into the weapon. People will parrot off a number of reasons to invest in rails… more room for accessories, squeeze more accuracy out of the rifle, etc. So will a rail be of assistance to you? Will it be a wise return on your money / shooting ability?
Before you purchase any rails analyze your current shooting skills. What will make hitting your target easier? A quality optic or a rail? On my two 20 inch “government” rifles, the money spent on a FF rail would not significantly improve my shooting. I have a hard time seeing the 400+ yard target. I am the limiting factor in my rifles performance and I cannot take advantages of a FF rail with the current setups that I run.
Some people might have other requirements. A home defense rifle would justify a method in which to mount a flashlight for example… but you don’t need a $150, $200, or a $300 dollar rail to accomplish that task. There are plenty of options available for mounting lights, lasers, and grips without spending a ton of coin. Look at the Magpul MOE line of hand-guards. GG&G light mounts come in various flavors. There are many alternatives available.
2 MOA Rifle… Out of the Box.
Plenty of AR15’s out there can shoot 2 MOA out of the box with good ammunition. Think about this for a second: at 500 yards 2 MOA is a 10 inch group. What will make it easier to shoot a 10 inch group at 500 yards? Free floating or an optic?
Will a gun with a fancy free float rail perform better in your hands over the same rifle with a MOE hand-guard and light? Which setup costs you more money? The $35 dollar MOE guards seem much more logical to me than the latest $300 dollar Daniel-Defense free float rail if you simply want to mount a light and a fore-grip.
If you are OK with the fact that your rifle is ONLY capable of shooting a 12 inch grouping at 600 yards with good ammo… then skip the free float and go straight for an optic or other gear that will make it easier to hit see your target. There is nothing that will improve your shooting more than a nice optic. The main problem new shooters encounter is the initial sticker shock of a good optic.
Wheel and Deal:
If you want to buy something that is out of your price range, go to the equipment exchange on AR15.com and trade and/or flip your way to a quality used optic. I initially purchased a Vortex variable but found it too heavy for my build and shooting style. It was great glass though! Someone else saw its value and we swapped a CompM4 for the Vortex. Don’t be afraid to trade and deal online to get what you want. If you ponied up for a pie in the sky optic you don’t like, don’t be afraid to sell it or trade it online. I am not made of money… and sometimes I wonder how people online can afford an ACOG and night vision for all their rifles. I buy used so I can get good gear.
I can’t direct more of my budget to rifles right now (as many readers might attest… they are in the same boat) but I want to continue to shoot and learn so I must carefully choose my components based on value. Right now the value to practicality ratio of a free-float rail does not add up for me and my rifle. Does it add up for yours?