How to Choose an M-LOK® Handguard Rail For Your Lever Gun

How to Choose an M-LOK® Handguard Rail For Your Lever Gun

Posted by Ranger Point Team on Oct 28th 2021

For Marlin, Henry, Rossi, or Winchester lever-action owners, their trusted rifle helps them protect and provide for their family whether hunting for food or defending their property. Traditionally, these rifles have come with beautiful walnut stocks; color case hardened, blued, or stainless steel metal; barrel-mounted sights; and a simple sling stud. That all changed a few years ago when Marlin Firearms, Henry Repeating Arms, and Rossi USA, introduced the “Dark”, “X”, and “Triple Black” options: all black rifles with shorter carbine-length barrels that come threaded for a brake or suppressor. Additionally, gunsmiths, Cerakote paint shops, and rifle owners have also enjoyed fully customizing their rifles with paint schemes and aftermarket performance parts/accessories to make them unique, eye-popping, and one-of-a-kind.

One of the newer trends that have come from the AR-15 market is to add more flexible and tactical elements to lever-actions. In particular, a very popular option is to replace the wooden forearm with an aluminum M-LOK Handguard rail along with a myriad of add-on options from lights to bipods, cartridge quivers, and more. Depending on the make of your lever gun, you may have several handguard options to choose from.

Factors To Choose The Best M-LOK Handguard

Determine the Rifle

Not all M-LOK rails are built the same. So there might be compatibility issues if you try to connect the wrong rifle handguard. Instead of brute-forcing the screw holes, it is better to shop for the best M-LOK handguards for the right rifle whether Henry, Marlin, or a Rossi 92 rifle.

Why free-floating matters

There are two different types of M-LOK rail types available on the market for AR-15 rifles for instance - Free-Floating and Drop-In Handguards. For the lever-action rifle, they require a free-floating rail. Free-floating, as the name suggests, is an M-LOK rail that remains free-floating around the barrel. It is attached to the rifle via a receiver-side fitted end cap and a barrel band that clamps over the barrel or a tenon that sits in a dovetail between the barrel and the magazine tube. This setup offers superior stability and accuracy and it keeps your handguard cool with no heat build-up.

Which accessories to mount

There are different accessories such as foregrips, scopes, flashlight, fiber optic sights, magazine quiver available for the lever-action rails that make the rifle usage simpler and more enjoyable. However, each accessory occupies weight and size that may clash with the other accessories depending on the mounting holes. So, make a list of accessories you wish to add and then choose an M-LOK rail that can accommodate all of them.

Natural ergonomics

While this is a subjective category, an M-LOK handguard purpose-built for the size, shape, and balance of a lever-action rifle will deliver the best fit. A flat bottom provides stability when shooting from a rest, a slender width accommodates most hand sizes, and deep finger grooves can offer excellent control for offhand shooting. Radiused, chamfered, and tumbled edges will make the 9.5 inch m lok handguard comfortable on bare hands.

Ease of Installation

Generally speaking, the Marlin Firearms and Rossi lever-action rifles are the easiest for M-LOK rail installation. Specifically, they use one tenon between the barrel and magazine tube or for some of the Marlin 30-30 and 35 Rem models a barrel band. Removing the factory forearm is a breeze and it’s just as easy to install a new Marlin 1895 handguard or onto any other model. The Henry Repeating Arms rifles on the other hand use a two-tenon system to hold the barrel and magazine tube together. As such, getting the forearms off without harming the magazine tube can be tricky. If you are unable to install the M-LOK handguard on your own, it is recommended that you get assistance from a qualified gunsmith.

Wrapping Up

A handguard with a better grip, less recoil, and the highest accuracy is an excellent investment. A worthy handguard is the one that fulfills your rifle's specifications. When looking at M-LOK handguards, you will come across a variety of options that will appeal to you. It is preferable to get guidance from an experienced gunsmith before making a decision. You may also acquire contact with the experts at Ranger Point Precision, Louthan Gunworks, or your favorite gunsmith and choose the proper M-LOK rail based on the suggestions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which M-LOK handguard fits my rifle?

Across the lever action rifles out there, every manufacturer has varying specifications for how their forearms attach to their rifles which includes: receiver falange opening, how far away from the receiver the barrel to dovetail tenon has been cut, and the even older barrel band models. To find the best pick, look at the specifications on each part variance to see if it will work on your rifle.

What is the purpose of a M-LOK forearm handguard?

The purpose of a rifle forearm in general is to give your dominant hand a place to hold the rifle while also protecting it from the heat generated by the barrel of the gun. The M-LOK aluminum forearms accomplish that plus provide more utility and flexibility to add cartridge quivers, flashlights, red dots, bipods and other accessories.

How do I install the M-LOK handguard on my Marlin 336 rifle?

First, remove the front sight. Remove the magazine cap screw while preventing the cap from launching under spring pressure. Remove the front and rear barrel band screws and slide both bands forward off the barrel.

Tip: Put a few drops of oil around both bands to ease disassembly and help prevent finish scratches. Pull factory forend and mag tube off rifle. Install the new M-LOK forearm and barrel band. Put a drop of blue thread lock on the band screw threads, install the screw through the existing crosspin slot in the barrel, then gradually snug the screw while keeping the band indexed on the receiver. Reinstall mag follower and spring, then front barrel band and magazine cap.