If you haven’t checked out the Midwest Industries Gen2 One Piece SS-Series Free Float Handguard (that is a mouth full), you are really missing out. I currently have two them and I like them quite a bit. They are lightweight, extremely slim (1.5″ outside diameter!), lack sharp edges, affordable, and accept of a variety of different accessories (the IWC 1.75″ MOUNT-N-SLOTs work fine in spite of the slight difference in diameter). But this isn’t a review of the handguard. It is a review of the new Panel Kits that Midwest Industries (MI) is offering for the handguard.
There are 2 different panel kits available that each come with 3 panels. One kit contains 3 “flat” panels while the other contains 2 flat panels and 1 panel with a built in handstop. I purchased the kit with the handstop.
The panels bolt directly to the handguard via 2 short steel screws per panel (provided). The screws mount to the threaded holes in the Gen2 One Piece SS-Series Free Float Handguard, rather than the slots so no backing plate is necessary. That makes installation a breeze. Just be sure to add a dab of thread locker to the screws.
Observations from Use
I haven’t had these that long, so this is really more of a first look than a full review. However, these are a pretty simple product and I am not sure that I have much more to learn about them from continued use.
The texture that MI molds into the panels is fairly effective. It isn’t quite as grippy as DIY stippling but it is more aggressive than most textures that you will find on molded plastic items. It provides enough grip that I am not in a hurry to stipple them myself and it works well with gloves.
The panels are fairly slim (only about 1/8″ thick). The Midwest Industries Gen2 One Piece SS-Series Free Float Handguard is slim enough that the little bit of extra diameter may actually improve the grip for some users.
The steel screws can transmit heat to the shooter’s hand. They never got even close to being uncomfortable, but they did feel warm. This probably isn’t going to be a big deal for you unless you are doing multiple mag dumps, but steel is a good conductor of heat. If your barrel and gas block start to really heat up, you will likely notice that the screws get a bit warm. This is probably more of an issue in theory than in practice. In fact, this is probably nit picking because the panels do make the handguard more comfortable overall when temperatures rise.
Since these panels mount to the various threaded holes on the handguard, you may find that you are pretty limited as to where you can place them. This is less of an issue with the flat panels but more of an issue with the handstop. It works great as a true handstop – mounted well forward to keep your hand from slipping off the front of the handguard. However, if you want to use it to pull against with a thumbs forward or thumb over style grip, you may feel a bit more limited. Thankfully, I was able to attach the panels in a location that worked well for me and I suspect that they will work fine for most users.
I really appreciate how easy these panels are to mount. You don’t need to remove the handguard and installation literally takes seconds.
I also really appreciate how economical these are in terms of cost and weight. Where else are you going to be able to get rail covers and a handstop for less than $15. The flat panels weigh just 11 grams including the screws and the handstop panels weigh only 14 grams including the screws (total of 36 grams for the entire handstop kit or 33 grams for the flat panel kit).
Several manufacturers make these narrow, top rail only style handguards these days but very few of them have some kind of rail cover solution for them. It is nice to see MI addressing the issue for their own handguards. These panels represent a good value and they work very well. If you own a Gen2 SS-Series Free Float Handguard, these panel kits are money well spent.
You can purchase your own at MidwestindustriesInc.com.