KeyMod versus M-LOK has largely been hashed out from the end user opinion and engineering perspective yet both systems still have their proponents. Both systems seem to have their share of high profile manufacturing backers which equates to staying power. End user opinions, engineering, and support are one thing but none of those take into count the actual numbers that will likely decide this debate – sales.
I reached out to a number of manufacturers and retailers who make/sell accessories for both KeyMod and M-LOK and asked them two simple questions: Can you give me a ratio of many KeyMod and M-LOK accessories you sell directly to consumers and does that ratio change on dealer orders?
The only manufacturer that reported that they sell more KeyMod than M-LOK items was Arisaka. They reported that they sell KeyMod over M-LOK at a rate of about 2.5-3 to 1. That ratio holds true for their dealer sales as well.
Arson Machine reported that their end users order M-LOK over KeyMod at a rate of about 3 or 4 to 1. However, dealer orders are typically more like 1 to 1 in the interest of offering a wide selection to their customers.
Midwest Industries makes several hand guards for both attachment systems. They are a big player in this ongoing battle between the two attachment systems. They reported that they are selling M-LOK over KeyMod at a rate of 3 to 1. Interestingly, they added that both KeyMod and M-LOK have “crushed” their sales of traditional quad rails.
Parallax Tactical also makes hand guard for both systems and they report they sell M-LOK over KeyMod at a rate of 2.5 to 1. They also added that they prefer M-LOK from a manufacturing standpoint.
I heard from several others manufacturers who had more anecdotal information (all pointed to M-LOK as the better seller) or that didn’t really want to share their numbers. It was interesting that two small retailers that I spoke to shared the sentiment that they tended to order heavy (or exclusively) M-LOK because they have limited cash for inventory and that is what sold better for them.
This certainly won’t end the debate and it shouldn’t because sales numbers don’t mean that one is truly better than the other. There are other factors that can drive sales like ease of manufacturing (and cost), marketing, and more. Sales numbers alone can’t tell the whole story but they can obviously play a huge role in manufacturers and retailers deciding which system to continue supporting. While M-LOK is clearly outselling KeyMod among those who were willing to share, none of the manufacturers indicated that they intended to discontinue sales of one system or the other any time soon.
What about you? Do you have a preference? Hit the comments below.
I really like what I’ve seen with MLOK, but I’m a Keymod guy through and through. I am running 5 builds with KeyMod and love the options on the market for this system. I have 3 more builds in various stages of completion. I may try MLOK on one of them but it is for a rifle that won’t do much other than sit around and collect dust. The other 2 builds will definitely be KeyMod for sure. In case it matters I’m running attachments from IWC/Haley Strategic, Noveske, Arson Machine & BCM.
Exciting times for sure. I really think there’s market share for both systems. We really need to phase out the quad rails though, too wide, heavy, and attachments for them are bulky as well.
Keymod is superior, but it also more difficult, more timely, and (ultimately) more costly to manufactur properly. MLOK can be made more quickly and is easier to get right from a CAD/CNC standpoint. MLOK was developed because Magpul tried and failed to implement KeyMod in Polymer designs (Eric Kincel predicted this failure). So, we’ll see MLOK on the lower-end stuff and KeyMod where repeatable precision and utmost quality are desired.
MLOK will become the Bushmaster of mounting systems; Never good enough for optics/lasers/NV. For folks who don’t need that level of quality or precision, MLOK is the cool-new-thing over 1913 Pic Rail. It allows foregrip/handstop/white light mounting and is difficult to screw up from a manufacturing standpoint (where we saw many lower-tier manufacturers fall flat on their faces after making OUT OF SPEC KeyMod rails. Ooopsie.). I suggest that, aside from Magpul, if a manufacturer lacks the ability to manufacture an in-spec KeyMod handguard, then they have NO BUSINESS being in the AR or AR accessories market (excuses about cost to keep in stock be d*mned; KeyMod demand is still STRONG). if they can’t do that, WHAT ELSE are they screwing up?????
Actually, yes, KeyMod is more difficult to make, but, as evidenced by more and more military users going M-LOK after testing or using both, it’s also inferior in pretty much every metric.
Magpul developed M-LOK not just because KeyMod doesn’t work in polymer…it also doesn’t work well in aluminum, with some extremely low tear out strength and accessory loosening due to seat and/or nut mating surfaces crushing.
Keymod may hold up to light use, lightweight accessory mounting, etc., but anything subjected to heavy loads, drops, and aggressive firing schedules fares far better with M-LOK, and that’s playing out as more firearms manufacturers and military activities test it.
If KeyMod fits your needs, great, but suggesting its thin edges, conical seats, and obvious non-engineered design is in any way better to M-LOK isn’t supported by the facts and real testing.
I see a lot more MLOK than Keymod accessories out there. I think that has to due with Magpul. It is easy to carry Magpul because of all they make. Go into a Cabelas, the majority of AR accessories they have are Magpul. I bought my DD v11 from them in Tornado Grey and not one keymod accessory to be found. Missed gap from a sales standpoint because I was ready to buy some accessories to go with it.
Keymod is declining as fast as Jeb Bush, in another few years Keymod will barely be sold
When Bill Geissele himself stated a preference for M-Lok, it was clear who would win in the end. I’ve spent more money with BCM than any other company in the last decade than any other, but I have no intention of buying anything Keymod. M-Lok combined with KDG Kinect system does everything I need from my rails.
I went with KeyMod primarily because of the lightweight BCM KMR offering, and M-LOK wasn’t nearly as available then as it is now. I still love the weight savings, but I’ve read enough anecdotal evidence of KeyMod attachments coming loose, being ripped out with moderate force, or damaging the rail due to over-tightening, that the next time I’m in the market for a rail, I’ll be going with an M-LOK product. As it is, I’ve moved my accessories to the top rail where possible, so the important stuff is still secured via Pic rail. The last thing I want is to be using my light to brace of a barricade and have it rip off the rail.
Keymod is great for the shelves in my garage. I will continue to keep that junk off my guns, however.
I have several rifles with slick rails, and they’re effectively all Keymod: One’s an NSR (a pre-M-LOK purchase), and the others all wear various lengths of the BCM KMR (The weight, feel, profile, and attachment system were what attracted me). So far I’ve been fairly satisfied with them.
That being said, the Keymod/M-LOK format war has been over since the day it began: Format wars ALWAYS boil down to the relative size of each format’s install base. Due to Magpul’s involvement, M-LOK has effectively been dominant since it came to market.
Frankly, I’m hoping that BCM eventually makes an M-LOK rail, and that someone comes up with a good way to make accessories that are fully compatible with both systems.
Keymod was a huge step in the right direction, but M-LOK has superseded it.
I think KeyMod is going to lump along for a while for a few reasons.
First, many early adopters are heavily invested in the system. Second, some manufacturers only produce KeyMod rails & accessories. Third, other manufacturers like Midwest can continue to offer them for sale and just produce them in limited run batches as needed, much like their quad rails and proprietary slick rails. Finally, ironically, some ultra-cheap no-name companies currently offer KeyMod but not M-LOK. I’ll admit it, I bought a $45 KeyMod rail on amazon for my pistol build. It’s an experiment to discover if i like a 10″ barrel, and I didn’t want to spend much on something that I might hate.
This is my first time hearing about keymod accessories being ripped off of the rail. Anyone have some links?
Both of my rifles are BCM KMRs with BCM KeyMod vertical grips, and I can’t get them to budge. Like I said, I’ve only heard anecdotal evidence, albeit from professional users who I trust. I also have some concerns with KeyMod being open-source, which means some manufacturers may take liberties with tolerances, whereas I understand MLOK products must be licensed, so Magpul controls the dimensions even on products they don’t produce in-house. Considering that Eric Kincel works for BCM, I think that the BCM KeyMod products are solid, but I don’t know if one can say the same about other manufacturers.
I have m-lok. Bonus points for not having male genitalia shapes on my gun
I do wonder how much of a boost M-LOK has received from the sheer amount of Magpul fanboys out there. I was an early adopter of KeyMod so I’m pretty much set with it unless a miracle happens with M-LOK.
I would like to hear more about KeyMod mounted gear somehow loosening, tearing off, etc. I just don’t buy it if the equipment was in spec. My NSR rails lock up rock solid for everything I’ve mounted on them. Using loc-tite and witness marks (and torque when specified) I’ve never seen anything even think about loosening until I want it to come off.