The Advanced Armament Corp. is launching a new standard for their in-house handguards called SquareDrop. Based on the open-source KeyMod standard, SquareDrop will work with KeyMod accessories in addition to AAC’s SquareDrop hardware.
The result is a lightweight, minimalist set of handguards with a fresh, sleek look that has a large, established amount of accessory support. They’re free-floating handguards that use an easy-to-remove turnbuckle locking system. The handguards are aluminum with a hard-anodized finish and AAC engravings.
SquareDrop addresses one criticism a lot of people have regarding KeyMod: the looks. In the war between rail standards, a lot of people prefer Magpul’s M-Lok (or even the old Picatinny rail) based on looks alone. It also appears to remove more material than other negative mounting space standards which makes these handguards especially light.
AAC is kicking off their SquareDrop handguards in three lengths: 8 inches, 10.2 inches and 13.5 inches. AAC lists their weights at 6.4, 9 and 10.5 ounces, respectively. The design is octagonal and offers seven rows of SquareDrop sections with a standard Picatinny rail at 12 o’clock.
These handguards have an inner diameter of 1.3 inches, which is wide enough to fit around many rifle suppressors. It would be surprising if these handguards couldn’t accommodate a can since AAC is best-known for their suppressor products.
The turnbuckle locks to the barrel nut and the handguards extend around the front of the receiver eliminating any chance that the handguard will twist off or loosen the barrel nut. This system allows users to completely remove their handguards by loosening a single screw.
This is handy for shooters who want to use an adjustable gas block or gas piston-operating system because the handguard can be taken off and put back on without hassle. It also opens up the possibility of having multiple lengths of handguards or differently configured handguards for the same rifle.
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With prices starting at $179 it’s not crazy to imagine users getting multiple rails for the same rifle, either. For example, a long handguard can be used with a suppressed SBR and extend beyond the muzzle over the suppressor. When shooting unsuppressed a short handguard can be installed to prevent muzzle blast from damaging the handguard.
These SquareDrop handguards might look a little familiar — and not because they’re based on KeyMod. A while back Remington and AAC teased a commercial variant of their famous Honey Badger PDW or personal defense weapon. That Honey Badger was equipped with an early SquareDrop handguard.
Production SquareDrop handguards have a little less machining towards the rear which should strengthen the anti-rotation tabs and lower production costs. Otherwise, the next-gen Honey Badger rail looks almost identical to the 8-inch SquareDrop rail with a desert tan finish.
Now, even if AAC and Remington continue to drag their heels on an official commercial Honey Badger builders will be able to build their own PDW-inspired SBRs and carbines — and for a lot less than anyone probably expected.
This is also good news for KeyMod fans. For AAC to adopt a modified KeyMod standard will ensure that it stays relevant for a long time to come.