Friday, September 6, 2013

Clark Customs Carbon Fiber AR15 Forend Review

Clark Customs Carbon Fiber AR15 Forend Review

I love my Black Rain Ordnance Fallout-15 not only because it makes heads turn every single time I pull it from the bag, but also because it performs extremely well. It remains one of my most accurate, dependable, and smoothest running AR15’s I own and because of these things, it inspires confidence. Currently I have a very fast sighting Burris AR332 3x Prismatic optic which makes hitting pretty much anything out to 500 yards fast and fun. All the good things about the gun aside, I wanted to drop some significant weight and the most apparent weight reduction was to either invent a lighter optic or swap out one of the best quadrails on the market to something lighter.

The challenge was that the competing smooth handguard could only deliver an ounce reduction at best. Oddly enough after searching for even more 10/22 rifle accessories, I ended up on Clark Customs Guns site and stumbling into their carbon fiber forend product line.  At 6oz, the Clark Customs Carbon Fiber AR15 Forend is without a doubt the lightest and coolest looking AR15 forend in existence… I had to have one.

You may know the name Clark, as that Louisiana based company that literally started the custom 10/22 revolution offering conversions of some of the first extreme match grade accuracy 10/22 rifles ever. It was a groundbreaking epiphany about what could be done with 10/22 rifles, however Clark did not stop there and now offers drop in upgrade parts and accessories for a huge variety of firearms including the AR platform and still offers some of the most sought after gunsmith services in the country.

The Clark Carbon Fiber Forend could not be simpler; a custom-made carbon fiber tube with a Clark Custom AR15 barrel nut.  We all know that sometime simple is incredibly cool and this forend screams cool and not just from a looks perspective. Although Clark likes to offer good looking products, they are certainly first and foremost about the performance. Many people will say that Carbon Fiber shields the heat better. In reality, carbon fiber’s properties transmit heat twice as fast as aluminum which means it gets the heat off the handguard twice as fast.

The handguard feels cooler than an equivalent aluminum model and will also be half as hot after an unusually long and spirited shooting string. A shooting glove may become optional.

The other benefit to the shooter is a huge weight reduction. In this case I saved 0.7lbs which is HUGE considering the entire gun in around 7lbs; now of course I have a 6.3lb gun after the upgrade. For Clark Custom, the looks were secondary, however a really nice benefit.

Install was similar to most any other handguard with a barrel nut, however you may want to do some planning ahead of time otherwise it will be a one way trip.  As with any installation, the barrel nut is tightened to the closest gas tube indexing point, the gas block and tube are installed, and the handguard is attached. The challenge with the Clark version is that the handguard is exopy’ed to the barrel nut with two-part Devcon 2-Ton epoxy, so if you cannot get to your gas block to remove it, you will have to cut off the beautiful handguard to ever do anything with the barrel or gas block in the future. 

The Devcon 2-Ton epoxy is actually stronger than either the handguard or the barrel nut and in this case I used one of the side picatinny rail from my Burris AR332 to epoxy on the front of the handguard to provide a front sight mount point. It just so happens that this goofy rail on the AR332 is the perfect height for my set of Midwest Industries Flip Up Sights to line up.

For my installation, I carefully marked access holes for the gas block adjustment screw and the two retention screws then drilled the access holes in the handguard and hit the rough areas with the Dremel to make it look a little more aesthetic.  Note that when you are Dremeling Carbon Fiber you need to be outside and wearing a respirator mask as the dust is not good for you at all.  Once the handguard was Devcon’ed in place, I can adjust the gas pressure and remove the gas block which allows me to unscrew the entire handguard and barrel nut unit if I do need to swap a barrel for any reason. Works beautifully.

To test the forend I want to warm things up and decided a spirited 50 round tactical V-drill would do that. I loaded up two mags with 25-rounds each which finished off a 50 count box of Hornady 55gr brass Match ammo. Youtube Jerry Michelic on V-drills, but t u e general idea is shooting a set of shillioettes set up in a V very quickly. In this case I would complete the drill twice to finish double tapping the alternating targets. Usually the handguard starts getting too toasty by the second mag to hold without a glove however with the Clark Custom carbon fiber forend heat was not an issue.

As I think about how to close this review, the only thought that keeps coming to mind is “I love this insane handguard." What is not to love? Its insanely light, mitigates heat incredibly well, is stronger than steel, and looks that are stunningly cool and does it all for a measly $100.  Its even paint-able if you don't enjoy the carbon fiber. All these features make it a must have in my book.

Although my Black Rain Ordnance quad forend is a beautiful product, the below weights should speak for themselves.
- Original Black Rain Ordnance Rifle Length Quadrail 1.1lbs
- Clark Custom Carbon Fiber 12.758" Rifle Length forend 0.4lbs
= Total weight savings 0.7lbs

Clark Customer Carbon Fiber AR15 Forend
$100 MSRP
12 5/8” length

See the original Black Rain Fallout15 review here

Clark Custom Guns -
Black Rain Ordnance -

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