Next Level Polymer Handguards Keeps AR Cool to the Touch – SHOT Show 2018

The gentleman at the Ascendance International bay holding the nTherm Handguards.

The handguard on an AR-15 can get hot during long strings of continuous fire. Within 100 rounds, a conventional aluminum handguard can top 140 degrees Fahrenheit. At 200 rounds the handguard will experience temperatures near 195 degrees Fahrenheit, and after 300 rounds the handguard will be around 220 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be detrimental to the end user in regard to weapon retention and accuracy.

During the 2018 SHOT Show Range Day, I had the pleasure of getting to shoot a rifle that was equipped with Ascendance International’s nTHERM Handguard.

The nTHERM Handguard is composed of a high-tech composite polymer that has the tensile strength of aircraft grade aluminum but lacks the thermal transfer properties and is 20 percent lighter. From the literature provided by Ascendance, an operator can fire 300 rounds through a nTHERM equipped AR-15 rifle and the temperature of the handguard will only rise to around 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  Hot.  But not melt-my-hands-off hot.

During Range Day, I shot a fully automatic AR that had a nTHERM handguard. After my 30 round burst, the barrel was hot! When I hovered my hand over the barrel, I carelessly let my pinky get to close and received a minor burn. The barrel was hot enough to fry bacon, but the nTHERM handguard was cool to the touch.

Seconds before I go fully automatic.

I slightly burned my pinky on the barrel, which seemed hotter than the surface of the sun. After the magazine dump, the Handguard was cool to the touch.

Typically products that protect and end-user from heat also tend to trap heat in the barrel and gas tube, which can have devastating consequences. The nTHERM handguards are well vented and provide plenty of air for the barrel to naturally cool.

The nTHERM handguards attach to an AR-15/M4 patterned rifle and do not require special tools for installation. They are compatible with all standard direct gas impingement rifles and also have a model for the Heckler and Koch HK416 rifle. Ascendence is currently offering four models of the nTHERM handguard.

These are 20 percent lighter than traditional handguards.

M4A1 Standard Carbine.

This is a two-piece model that replaces the M4 Handguard. It does not require tools for installation and weighs a paltry 5.6 ounces. The M4A1 Standard Carbine has Picatinny/MIL-STD-1913 rails at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock positions.

M4A1 Carbine Free Floating.

This handguard is 13 inches and comes in two configurations. The first configuration is a continuous handguard that will accommodate a low profile gas block. The second features a cut for an A2 fixed front sight. The M4A1 Carbine Free Floating has Picatinny/MIL-STD-1913 rails at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock positions.

M4A1 Configurable.

The M4A1 configurable is available is 7, 9, 11 and 13 inches. This two piece, free float handguard has a Picatinny/MIL-STD-1913 rail at the 12 o’clock position and allows an end user to add Picatinny rails wherever they want on the handguard.

HK416 – Configurable.

Like the M4A1 configurable, the HK416 Configurable features a Picatinny/MIL-STD-1913 rail at the 12 o’clock position, and allows an end user the option to add rails where they see fit. The handguard is 9 inches, and like its namesake was designed for the HK416 series of rifles.

The nTHERM handguard is a neat product. If you shoot a lot of full-auto, I would look at these handguards.  Visit the Ascendance International website to learn more.  Hopefully they have the prices listed by the time you read this because they weren’t up when we checked.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Trey Gregory February 19, 2018, 5:13 am

    For anyone curious about pricing on their website: click on contact, and then customer service. When the page loads, scroll past all the customer service stuff and then product categories will be listed at the bottom. Click on the handguards, not the drop down menu, but the handguards. Three handguards are currently available for purchase. None have pictures on the site where you order, but you can get the idea from the pics elsewhere on the site.

    The 13 inch free float quad rail is $320.
    7 inch configurable is $285
    7 inch drop in quad is $158

    I can’t believe how bad their website is. But, you can purchase these items if you really want to. But there’s zero information about their weight, height, ID, or anything else. I personally might be interested in a 10-13 inch free float configurable option. But they’re not available as of now. The drop in is pretty reasonable though. That is, if your AR still has a delta ring and FSP.

    • Trey Gregory February 19, 2018, 5:15 am

      Forgot to mention: on the 13 inch there is an option for a continuous top rail, or a cut out for a FSP. I know that was mentioned in the article. But since all of the models mentioned, and the models in the pics, aren’t available yet I figured that may be useful info.

  • Ben February 3, 2018, 8:27 pm

    wow! I read their materials and watched their 2013 stress test. Mark me as highly interested! Let’s see the prices!

  • Wesley January 23, 2018, 11:34 am

    Interesting products they can’t design a web site. My grandson could do better.

  • Revolverdude January 23, 2018, 9:15 am

    Don’t expect big things from their website. Wasn’t opening up 3 minutes ago.

  • Jeffrey L. Frischkorn January 23, 2018, 8:58 am

    I\’m wondering if something like ceramic could be applied to a handguard or other such places where the shooter clutches… Ceramic has some of the best heat-dispensing properties.. I\’d also think that graphite would work better than a polymer..

    • Trey Gregory February 19, 2018, 5:20 am

      Could be. But these guys made a proprietary material. Aka, nobody else can make it. So if they get it to catch on, they cash in big time. Anyone could copy a handguard made of carbon fiber, ceramic, graphite, or other non-property materials. So, I doubt anyone wants to endure the expenses of testing that. Which is a shame.

      I would also wonder about the durability of ceramic. But, I’m not an engineer. I’m sure they could work something out. There are some very strong ceramics out there; which I’m sure is what you were referring to.

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