Saturday, April 08, 2017

Trying out a new handguard

Once upon a time had a post about becoming an EBR owner.  It's worked well, but I wanted a different, specifically longer, handguard.  Which idea got kicked around for far too long.  Few days back decided to do it, and after some looking around settled on this Matrix model.*  It requires a low-profile gas block, and since they carry one in the right size decided to go with it.

Shipping was pretty quick, and the unit looks well-finished.  Very slim and light.  Like everyone else nowadays it comes with their own proprietary barrel nut, and I needed a 1 3/16" crowfoot wrench for it; I lucked out, there's a tool & equipment shop in town that had one(Delco, nice people).

The process started with using a upper receiver vise block and a strap wrench to unscrew the original handguard.  Which wound up requiring soaking a little penetrating oil into the threads, and damn near took looking for a bigger wrench to break loose.

That was followed by getting the barrel nut off.  Which had me cursing the bastard who put it on, because - using the proper wrench and all- it damaged two(actually, four) of the holes in the damn thing.

Wound up using some heat on the nut, followed by penetrating oil to the threads and some time to soak in.  I'm not exactly svelte, and after all that it still took putting almost all my weight on the wrench to break it loose. I think they way over-torqued it.

Putting the new barrel nut(with proper grease) on and torquing it down was easy.  The new gas block, on the other hand, by my caliper measured a few thousandths below the size it was supposed to be, and I had to polish it out a bit to get it to fit.  Which brings up another story:

Getting the gas tube out of the original block was a great big PITA.  That roll pin would not come out, and I finally decided to try drilling.  Didn't expect it to work, but the bit cleaned out the pin with no problem.  So didn't have to order and wait for a new gas tube.

The Matrix handguard uses a system similar to the Diamondhead, the handguard slips over the barrel nut and uses a set of pinch bolts to lock it in place.  I'd done some research, and nobody who'd used one had any problems with slippage, and once clamped on this seems very solidly locked in place.  I don't foresee problems there.

Here's the finished installation.

Good, bad, and general observations:
Very slim and light.
The rail doesn't exactly match up to the rail on the upper(it's a fraction lower).  I'd be surprised if it had, considering the number of uppers from the number of makers out there.  The difference might be a problem if you had an optic mount that had the front on the handguard and the back on the upper; otherwise, don't think it's a problem, other than if the difference is more than some iron sights can adjust for.
The fit of the barrel nut is good, and the fit and finish on the handguard also.
That slim design means check the gas block to make sure it clears the inside all the way 'round.  The bottom of this block just about contacted on the bottom where the set screws are, so- since I'd already had to polish the inside a bit- I ground a touch off to be sure of clearance when things get hot.

Something that fits in the 'customer service' category: before buying I'd contacted them(they suggest Facebook) with a couple of questions, got pretty quick answers.  When I ordered, did not receive any confirmation e-mail(which they say they'll send), and never received one saying that it'd shipped.  Annoying, but not horrible.  However, when I e-mailed and told them about those oversights, no response at all.  That's troubling.

Now I need time to hit the range and see how this holds up.

*I'd seriously thought about this Diamondhead.  I've got a AR-10 model on the .338 project rifle, and love it.  Two problems: one is cost, and two is weight.  With the heavy barrel on this, I wanted something light.  And the Diamondhead is pretty spendy, so.

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