Rails for an M4

This is a discussion on Rails for an M4 within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I have a spikes M4-LE and am thinking about putting rails on it. I know nothing about rails and am looking for some guidance. I ...

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Thread: Rails for an M4

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array rmilchman's Avatar
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    Rails for an M4

    I have a spikes M4-LE and am thinking about putting rails on it. I know nothing about rails and am looking for some guidance. I see there are drop in and free float. What is the difference? Is on preferred to the other? Prices also seem to range from under $50 to above $200. Something has to be different, but what?

    Thanks

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  3. #2
    Member Array mandalitten's Avatar
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    Free floating ones have theoretically a little better accuracy since it's not touching the barrel. However, I doubt it makes a difference on an M4 with a 16" barrel that use use mostly for shorter distances. A drop in is usually easier to install as you just replace the original one by pressing down on the ring that keeps tension on the forearm. If you use a free floating forearm you might have to replace some parts, including the gas block so it's a little more work.
    I think this is what I have, and mine came with rubber blocks that you can put on to make it a little more comfortable. It's just the extended part that's free floating.
    http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ARR157-7.html
    Here is another shorted version
    http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ARR138-7.html

    These are both made by UTG and are pretty affordable, and they are excellent quality. You can spend hundreds of dollars on these if you want to, but if you want bang for your buck, these will probably do it for you.

  4. #3
    Senior Member Array Frogbones's Avatar
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    I got the UTG carbine rails. Good buy. Strong metal...doesn't mar up when I put on my Harris Bi-pod. 11ounces for the rails.

    http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ItemD...px?sku=ARR-238

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    As with most things, you get what you pay for.

    "Free float" rails essentially attach to the upper receiver and not the barrel. The advantage to this is that if you use a sling to support the rifle, or if you mount a vertical foregrip, the forces exerted on either won't cause any barrel deflection. Rails of either free-float or non-free-float type may also allow a bit more cooling of the barrel compared to the standard forends. If you're shooting competitively the free-float feature is what you'll want, but for defensive purposes it's really not necessary.

    Rails are not in the least bit useful unless you intend to mount accessories such as lights, lasers, bipods or VFGs. High-end carbines come with rails because the pros who need serious gear mount stuff to them, but the "tacticool" look is important to some, regardless of functionality. Good ones (such as Daniel Defense, LaRue) are pricey, in the $150-200 range. Beware of poorly-made knockoffs; just about any yahoo with a milling machine and a can of flat black paint seems to be making rails these days.
    Smitty
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  6. #5
    Distinguished Member Array airslot's Avatar
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    Ck out the Omega rails from Daniel Defense.
    Easy install, rock solid and effectively free floating.
    The situation will NEVER BE THE WAY YOU WANT, it WILL BE THE WAY IT IS. You must be FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO ADAPT and just "DEAL WITH IT".

  7. #6
    Member Array 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    As with most things, you get what you pay for.

    "Free float" rails essentially attach to the upper receiver and not the barrel. The advantage to this is that if you use a sling to support the rifle, or if you mount a vertical foregrip, the forces exerted on either won't cause any barrel deflection. Rails of either free-float or non-free-float type may also allow a bit more cooling of the barrel compared to the standard forends. If you're shooting competitively the free-float feature is what you'll want, but for defensive purposes it's really not necessary.

    Rails are not in the least bit useful unless you intend to mount accessories such as lights, lasers, bipods or VFGs. High-end carbines come with rails because the pros who need serious gear mount stuff to them, but the "tacticool" look is important to some, regardless of functionality. Good ones (such as Daniel Defense, LaRue) are pricey, in the $150-200 range. Beware of poorly-made knockoffs; just about any yahoo with a milling machine and a can of flat black paint seems to be making rails these days.
    This is good poop. For rail-like functionality without the rails or the rail price, check out Magpul's MOE forearms.

    I've never actually used the rails on an M4 and am unwilling to part with the cash to get one. Until you figure out that you really need one, there are cheaper ways to mount what you think you need.

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    Member Array sammage's Avatar
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    The MOEs are great for the price. If you do want rails, a used DD Omega is hard to beat. As light as most plastic hand guards, and drop in free float.

  9. #8
    Senior Member Array rmilchman's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the suggestions. I'l have to do some more research. I want to install a bi-pod and possibly a light.

  10. #9
    Senior Member Array rmilchman's Avatar
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    Looks like a free float is not doable. My spike M4's supressor is pinned and welded as requires by NJ law. From what I can tell that would prevent a free float from being installed (by me).

  11. #10
    Senior Member Array Snowman23's Avatar
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    I've got the Spike's 12" Bar free float on mine. I think they may now have a lighter weight SAR free float available now. If you are having trouble intalling it....maybe send the upper back to Spike's and have them install one of their available rails. I'm guessing they could turn it around pretty quickly....especially on one of their own rifles.

  12. #11
    VIP Member Array Cuda66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rmilchman View Post
    Looks like a free float is not doable. My spike M4's supressor is pinned and welded as requires by NJ law. From what I can tell that would prevent a free float from being installed (by me).
    Not necessarily.

    You could quite easily chop off the front sight so it would fit inside a float tube.
    There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.--RAH

    ...man fights with his mind; the weapons are incidental.--Jeff Cooper


    There is a reason they try and make small bullets act like big bullets--Glockmann10mm

  13. #12
    Senior Member Array rmilchman's Avatar
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    Chopping off the from site doesn't sound like a good idea for a beginner.

  14. #13
    VIP Member Array Cuda66's Avatar
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    http://www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=3&f=4&t=226782

    If you know which end of a dremel or a hacksaw to hold on to, and which end cuts...you can handle it.

    ETA--the guide on cutting down your FSB is about 2/3 down the page.
    There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.--RAH

    ...man fights with his mind; the weapons are incidental.--Jeff Cooper


    There is a reason they try and make small bullets act like big bullets--Glockmann10mm

  15. #14
    Ex Member Array Ram Rod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mandalitten View Post
    Free floating ones have theoretically a little better accuracy since it's not touching the barrel. However, I doubt it makes a difference on an M4 with a 16" barrel that use use mostly for shorter distances. A drop in is usually easier to install as you just replace the original one by pressing down on the ring that keeps tension on the forearm. If you use a free floating forearm you might have to replace some parts, including the gas block so it's a little more work.
    I think this is what I have, and mine came with rubber blocks that you can put on to make it a little more comfortable. It's just the extended part that's free floating.
    http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ARR157-7.html
    Here is another shorted version
    http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ARR138-7.html

    These are both made by UTG and are pretty affordable, and they are excellent quality. You can spend hundreds of dollars on these if you want to, but if you want bang for your buck, these will probably do it for you.
    I'll agree with all that. The UTG are excellent quality for the price. I have them and I couldn't be happier. Very versatile, easy install, and a great product. No sense in my accessories exceeding the cost of the rifle itself IMO. Just like I'll tell folks about scopes. If it's more expensive than your rifle, you're doing things backwards IMO.


    I got the UTG carbine rails. Good buy. Strong metal...doesn't mar up when I put on my Harris Bi-pod. 11ounces for the rails.
    One light, one laser, bipod adapter in my pic. Once in a while, I'll attach a vertical forward grip as well. Modular is good, and I never break the bank going modular.

  16. #15
    Senior Member Array rmilchman's Avatar
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    Ram Rod, which bi-pod is that?

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