Let’s take a look at how to upgrade your stock AR plastic handguards to a more accurate (and sharper-looking) free-floated handguard model. Freeing the barrel from handguard stress allows it to operate independently of hand, sling, bipod or accessory pressure, thereby making it more consistently accurate shot to shot.
The first step is to remove the standard plastic hand guard. Simply pull the delta ring towards the receiver, and ease out each half of the handguard. The delta ring is under some serious spring pressure, so if you plan on doing this a lot, invest a few bucks in a handguard removal tool – you won’t regret that purchase.
Next, you’ll want to remove the flash hider or muzzle brake. If it’s a standard A2-style like this one, you’ll want to use a brand new crush washer when reinstalling later, so be sure to have a supply of those on hand. Crush washers allow you to tighten the flash hider and time it correctly, so the non-slotted section is on the bottom.
At this point, I think it’s simpler to separate the upper and lower receivers. If there is an optic installed, go ahead and take it off as we’ll need to put the upper receiver in a vise in a couple of steps.
For purposes of this article, we’ll assume that the rifle has a standard A2 gas block and front sight installed. This will need to come off, at least temporarily. The easiest way to do this is to invest in a front sight block. This tool allows you to rest the front sight in a stable position so you can drive out the three pins that hold the sight to the barrel and gas tube to the front sight and gas block. Just a heads up here. These pins can be notoriously difficult to remove, so use a cupped punch that won’t deform the pins. Punch the pins out from the left side of the A2 sight toward the right. The two larger pins under the sight hold the assembly to the barrel. There’s a smaller pin on the upper side that is used to fasten the gas tube to the front sight. Once the two lower pins are removed, you should be able to slide the front sight off the barrel. They can be sticky so you might need to gently encourage it with a piece of wood or nylon hammer.