ATI (Advanced Technology International) is a company out of Milwaukee that has been making high quality aftermarket polymer rifle stocks for all sorts of firearms like the SKS, AR15, Mini-14, Remington 870, Mossberg 500, Hi-Point Carbine, 10/22, and the Marlin 60 just to name a few. Recently they have expanded their product line to include aluminum accessories. Primarily AR15 forends, stock assemblies, and rail systems for their polymer stocks.
For the past 4 months I have been using their 8-sided 15" aluminum forend on a couple of my personal builds and I have to say that I am most impressed.
When you get the item it comes in this packaging:
Inside you'll find the forend tube, a slotted barrel nut, an assortment of set screws, and detailed installation instructions (with pictures!). Installation is pretty straight forward and I had the item installed on both of my guns in less than 30 minutes. Here are the guns with forends installed:
Pictured you can see 2 accessories that do not come with the forend itself but are available for sale seperately, the FS8 Nose Cone, and the Low Profile Picatinny Rail. Also keep in mind that you MUST use a low profile gas block that will fit underneath this handguard in order to install it. There is not a manufacturer that I know of that makes a 15" gas tube or cuts a gas port at 15"! Luckily They have given ample room to fit almost any manufacturers low profile gas blocks. Alternatively if you are brave and handy with a Dremel you can turn your standard front sight block into a low-profile gas block relatively easily. More on how to do that here...
At first after installation I was worried about the forend "coming loose" under the stress of firing because besides the (very fine) internal threads, the only thing keeping it locked on the barrel nut is (3) small set screws. Needless to say because of this I made sure to add a little blue locktite before installation.
Well I have been shooting with this forend for over 1000 rounds on the carbine, and around 75 rounds on the rifle, and the forend is still locked securely on both of them. In fact after shooting the first couple hundred rounds I just stopped worrying about it. Its that secure. Well done ATI. The Low Profile Picatinny Rail is absolutely top notch as it fits seamlessly with the handguard and when installed the only thing that makes it appear that it is not a part of the handguard is the screws that hold it in place. The rail matches the height of a standard flat-top upper receiver giving it a monolithic rail look. On both rifles I have since installed Magpul's gen1 MBUS sights and they have been on there ever since.
The best thing I like about this handguard is that the extra length gives great purchase for an "over bore" offhand grip when rapid firing. Also, having the 8 sides as mounting platforms let me add an NcStar mini green dot sight at 45 degrees as a back-up sight to my primary optic. Here is a video produced by ATI, showcasing the 45 degree back-up sight mounting:
Overall I'm giving this product an 9 out of 10, with the only negative described below.
Let me explain. When it is installed flush to the receiver, as it is meant to be, it has a tendency to bind with the lower receiver pivot-pin ears. Now if you never plan on removing the handguard, this is a non- issue as it doesn't even mar the finish and you will only notice it happening the first time. But, if you are like me, and you are constantly swapping out old parts for something different, this makes removal almost impossible depending on how far you have tipped the upper forward during cleaning.
What happened to me is that the receiver end of the handguard was bent ever so slightly inward. Just enough in fact that when I was unscrewing the handguard off of the barrel nut, it proceeded to gouge the (very fine) threads of the barrel nut on its way out. Pretty much making it useless for re-installation.
Pics of the aftermath:
The slightest of bends wreaks havoc on aluminum threads.
The havoc that was wrought on the barrel nut:
Now ATI is an outstanding company to work with. They also have an exceptional warranty. When I told them what happened they immediately sent out a replacement for me. Which I have installed and don't plan on taking off...ever.
But that just goes to show how much I like everything else about it.
If it weren't for that little snag this product would easily get 10 out of 10. Reasons being that it does exactly what they advertise it to do, it is 100% US made, and its value far outweighs its price. As is, I think a 9 out of 10 will do.
Rob CDate 9/22/2012 11:08:56 PM
What are the inner and outer dimensions of this tube? I can't find any true specs on the tubes, or the 'slotted' barrel nut. I would like to see how this actually mounts and how the set screws work. Have you noticed any issues with torquing on the front end, like when using a bipod?
What brand wrench/armorers tool did you use to install this with, and did you use a full upper vise block or the kind that the receiver gets pinned into?