At a Glance: Best AR-15 rails
- OUR TOP PICK: MAGPUL AR-15 PICATINNY M-LOK RAIL
- OUR TOP PICK: Leupold Mark 2 Integral Mounting Systems Riser Mount
- BEST BUDGET OPTION: Vortex Razor Red Dot AR15 Riser Mount
Comparison of the Best AR-15 rails
Our Top Pick
|Leupold Mark 2 Integral Mounting Systems Riser Mount||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|MAGPUL AR-15 PICATINNY M-LOK RAIL||View Latest Price|
|Vortex Razor Red Dot AR15 Riser Mount||View Latest Price|
Best AR-15 rails on the market today
With so many AR 15 rails on the market, it might be challenging to pick the right one for your rifle. I created this guide to help you understand rails and help you choose the right one.
Here’s our list of the top AR-15 rails on the market today. There is a variety of styles to choose from depending on our needs. Read on, and we’re sure you’ll find a bomb-proof option that will do what you need it to.
Leupold Mark 2 Integral Mounting Systems Riser Mount
This is a very robust, lightweight rail in the form of a riser mount. The Leupold Mark 2 IMS is constructed of aluminum, making it very light. This means it helps you shoot accurately while keeping your black rifle easy to handle. This is an easy to mount rail. It uses easy-to-grasp half-inch hex nuts to facilitate easy installation and removal. You do not need a gunsmith or any special tools to install this puppy. The craftsmanship exhibited in the manufacturing process is outstanding. Like other Leupold products, the Mark 2 has passed rigorous testing in the field. It is covered by a lifetime guarantee, which means you will never need another rail. Besides, as you might expect with Leupold, the finish is beautiful. The Matte black finish on this rail matches most AR-15s well. Even though this is a Leupold, it accommodates all standard scopes.
- Easy-to-grasp half-inch hex nuts
- Very reliable construction
- Accommodates all scopes, not just Leupold
- Some users may want more eye relief
Magpul Ar-15 Picatinny M-Lok Rail
This rail is compatible with M-LOK mounting slots. M-LOK is the most common mounting system today, since the U.S. military has endorsed it. This offers you a length of Picatinny rail wherever you need it most, allowing you to save weight rather than having a quad rail. You can choose between aluminum and polymer options for this rail. If in doubt, go with aluminum. Howevr, even the polymer option is incredibly reliable. It is manufactured using an injection molding process for a stronger and more durable rail. The ends of this rail are nicely beveled. There are no sharp corners anywhere on this rail. This reduces snagging. All hardware you’ll need is included so you can start using the unit right away.
- Installs using the dominant M-LOK system
- Available in aluminum or polymer
- Beveled ends
- All necessary hardware included
- Will not work with most drop-in handguards
Midwest Industries Ar-15 Picatinny M-Lok Rail Aluminum
Midwest Industries is a huge name in AR-15s and related components and accessories. It is definitely a name that you can trust. This rail is available in different lengths. You can choose to buy a 3 slot, 5 slot, 7 slot, or a 9 slot rail. This way, the rail will match whatever application you ask of it. This rail is made of anodized aluminum right here in the USA. That means that it is light and durable. It is incredibly easy to install. It ships with all the installation hardware you’ll need. The screws that it comes from are made of high-grade steel.
- Available in various lengths
- Easy to install
- Reputable brand
- Not the cheapest option on the market
Vortex Razor Red Dot AR15 Riser Mount
This is a lightweight rail in the form of a riser mount that offers a decent amount of rise. The Vortex Razor weighs only 3 ounces, which is almost negligible when installed on your AR-15 rifle. It offers up to 0.6 inches of rise to get your scope to a comfortable height. It is designed for use with a red dot, or reflex sight. A riser may not be necessary for use with a reflex sight, but most shooters prefer to use one. This rail has an auto lock lever system. You can install your scope mount and lock lever, which will assure that everything is perfectly aligned.
It is a great qucik detatch option, too. You do not need any tools to adjust the rail. If you have a flat head screwdriver, that’s all you need. Even if you don’t have a screwdriver, you can use something like a coin. This is a very durable rail. It is cut from a solid block of aluminum and anodized to give it a rock solid matte finish. You probably won’t need any other rail throughout the life of your rifle. It is precision CNC machined right here in the USA. This is an adjustable rail that is fully able to accommodate accessories whether or not they meet standard spec.
- Lightweight and robust
- Lever locking QD system
- Precision machinedin the USA
- Works better with red dots than with scopes
Monstrum High Profile Picatinny Riser Mount
This riser mount rail gives you the optimal positioning for your optic. It works perfectly with accessories using either Weaver or Picatinny bases. It gives enough rise to accommodate scopes from various manufacturers as well as reflex sights. This rail has a heat-treated locking nut. Even under heavy recoil, the rail maintains its position, thanks to the heat-treated nut that fastens securely with no need for proprietary tools. This rail has a lightweight, hollow design. The hollow body of this riser mount makes the unit light, contributing to the handling of your rifle. The see-through design is also great for using back-up iron sights. The construction of this unit is very durable. The Monstrum High Profile Picatinny Riser Mount weighs 6 ounces. It is a product of aircraft-grade aluminum, which means it will last forever. It sports a black matte finish that matches your rifle. It is pretty long. With 13 slots, you have a lot of flexibility with attaching accessories on this rail. Whether you have a massive scope, a red dot with a magnifier, or other accessories, you will have no problem mounting them.
- Huge, 13 slot rail
- Hollow see-through design great for back-up iron sights
- Light and strong
- Tough, heat-treated locking nut
- Edges are sharp
Leapers UTG Super Slim 3-Slots Picatinny Riser Mount
This riser mount accommodates all kinds of optics. Leapres UTG offers this rail in four of the most sought-after height profiles: 0.5 inches, 0.75 inches, 0.83 inches, and 1 inch. It also comes in two mounting length options. The most popular option is the three-slot rail, which works perfectly in a pair when all you need is to attach a couple of scope rings. However, if you have other accessories, you can go for the 13 slot option for versatility. This unit has a weight-reducing design. To keep your rifle light even after you have mounted many accessories. The rail is slim longitudinally. The slim design is not only light, but also attractive. This rail is also recoil proof. The cross bolt of this unit sits securely on the rail slot where it reduces recoil and helps you with accuracy. This rail is maed of aircraft grade aluminum. UTG Riser Mounts are meant to last many decades, thanks to the quality put into their manufacture. The precision construction is finished in matte black anodization to further enhance the durability. The included screws are incredibly solid. The two star-shaped screws hold the riser mount securely to your rifle to ensure there is no movement when you are in the field.
- Comes in various heights and lengths
- Made of aircraft grade aluminum
- Cross bolt protects from recoil
- Too many height and length options to choose from
TRUGLO Offset Picatinny Riser Mount
This is a 45-Degree off-set angled mount. This unit mounts to all standard Picatinny 1913 and weaver base rails. It offers fast optic mounting. If you need to change optics quickly when in the field, you can do so with this mount, thanks to its unique design. This is a great feature for those who have backup optics. It is also ideal for other accessories. You can install lasers and lights without blocking the view from your scope, thanks to the angled design.
This unit is precision CNC machined. TRUGLO uses durable, high-grade aluminum to build this riser mount. It has a slim design to reduce weight and add to the beauty of your rifle. It is easy to install. You can mount this unit in various configurations and it will still give you the same great functionality. Whether left or right, top or bottom rail, this riser mount installs perfectly. This versatility makes it an ideal choice for many AR-15 shooters.
- Angled design lets you mount a laser or light along with a scope
- CNC machined aluminum design
- Various mounting options
- Slim, attractive design
- Not the cheapest option on the market
Why Do You Need An AR-15 Rail?
A rail also gives you space to attach rifle accessories such as optics, lasers, flashlights, bipods, forward grips, and sling mounts. Far from the functional reasons for using a rifle rail, a well-designed or customized rifle rail can enhance the aesthetics of your rifle, making it look bad as hell.
Before you go shopping for a rifle rail, consider where you want to mount it. Some handguards offer mounting systems allowing you to attach lengths of rail just about anywhere on the handguard. This is great for things like lights or laser sights. If you need to raise your sighting system to comfortably meet your eye, you may want a riser mount. This will give you a length of rail raised a certain amount above your upper receiver. Whatever kind of rail you need, there are a range of factors to consider.
Read next: The 8 Best AR15 Scope Mounts on the Market
Factors To Consider When Shopping For The Best AR-15 Rail
The modular design of the AR-15 makes it incredibly customizable. While this is a good thing, it means that you are presented with hundreds of rails to choose from. You can choose a rail system based on:
The look: You do not want to be stuck with a dumb-looking AR15. You can choose between rails that offer a classic, tacti-cool, or standard military look.
The weight: An additional rail adds to the weight of your AR-15. Ounces add up to pounds that you will notice when lugging your weapon through the bush. Most rails are made of aluminum, which is pretty lightweight. However, there are also steel, polymer and composite options.
Accessories: What kinds of accessories would you like to mount on your rifle? Rails consist of rows of slots for accessory installation. Longer rails, with more slots, can give you more flexibility in accessory mounting.
Your budget: While rails are for the most part, affordable, there are high-end, precision models available. The mounting length also determines the price. The longer the unit, often the higher the price.
Installation difficulty: The variety of rail styles is vast, as is the installation method they require. Some bolt in while others slip into a handguard mounting system like M-Lok. Some models, especially riser mounts, offer super-easy quick detach options.
Length: As noted above, a longer rail gives you more mounting options along that surface. However, multiple short lengths of rail can do the job and save a lot of weight, depending on exactly what you need.
AR 15 Rails: Picatinny, Weaver, and Stang – What’s the difference?
Today, AR-15 rails are standardized, and the type usually isn’t something you have to worry much about. Still, you may come across the designations below, so here is a run-down so that you know what you’re dealing with.
A Weaver base gets its name from William Ralph Weaver, who created the first broadly accepted small arm rail. While there were other mounting base manufacturers, Weaver’s unit was the most successful. Before Weaver’s mounting base, the only option was to attach scope rings to a receiver directly with bolts. The design of the Weaver, which was the foundation for the Picatinny system, features a low, wide dovetail.
The Weaver base became the standard foundation for modern rail systems and a popular option on modern firearms. The Picatinny rail is a creation of the US Military, and was standardized in 1995. The Picatinny rail has rail slots cut at right angles cut into it. This allows you to mount heavier optics and accessories.
STANAG: the NATO Accessory Rail
The NATO Accessory rail is a revision to the Picatinny rail standard, also known as STANAG 2324 or MIL-STD 1913. The NATO Accessory rail (STANAG 4694) builds on the original Picatinny rail system with only a few modifications.
The revision differs from the Picatinny rail in:
- New measurements and tolerances
- A metric reference drawing
- Reduced tolerances
The main difference, however, is in the clamping surface engagement. While the Picatinny rail system uses V-angles for alignment, the NATO utilizes the rail’s top. The NATO accessory rail is more accurate than the Picatinny rail system.
Compatibility Between Different Rail Systems
The NATO and the Picatinny rail systems are almost identical. All accessories you can use with NATO are compatible with Picatinny and vice versa.
Weaver base accessories will fit perfectly on NATO and Picatinny rails. However, most NATO and Picatinny accessories might not fit on the Weaver base rail. Unlike NATO/Picatinny bases, the slots on the Weaver base are narrower. As such, accessories with recoil lugs might not fit in them.
|Weaver Accessory||Picatinny Accessory||NATO Accessory|
Rail and Accessory compatibility table
Picatinny Rails for M-LOK or KeyMod
One way to shed weight from your AR-15 is to dump long rails and just attach short lengths where you need them most. Often, this is on the handguard. Many shooters prefer to use low handguards with M-LOK or KeyMod slots that give you an easy way to mount short lengths of the rail where it is really needed.
M-LOK and KeyMod have been in direct competition, but M-LOK has been selected by the US military and now offers a much broader range of accessories than KeyMod. It looks good and makes accessories easy to install.
The mounting slots on the KeyMod assume the profile of a keyhole, hence the name KeyMod. This being an open-source design, any manufacturer can use it to produce accessories. Attachment of accessories is easy as all you need to do is align the lugs with the rounded part of the keyhole, slide them along the elongated part, and then tighten the screws.
Given that M-LOK now offers so many more options, we recommend it over KeyMod.
Where To Mount Your Optics On Your AR-15
There are a variety of mounts out there to fix your scope or another optic to your rail. The most common options are one-piece mounts or scope rings.
One-piece mounts are solid, easy to use options that are ideal for sporting rifles, especially the AR-15. The advantage of using a one-piece mount is reliability. The rings are sure to line up perfectly and bolting them down is hassle-free.
If you want to go with a one-piece mount, check out our guide on the best ones on the market. The one-piece mount you pick should match the diameter of the scope, either one inch or 30mm. You also have the option of the cantilever and non-cantilevered configurations. Cantilever mounts are great when you need to position your scope closer to get the eye relief right. Non-cantilevered mounts are good on precision rifles with long top rails.
If you need a scope mount that is easy to attach and detach without any tools, consider quick-detach (QD) scope mounts. These mounts attach to your rifle rail using a crossbar or an adjustable throw lever. Either system lets attach or detach your scope with a flick of the wrist.
Mounting the Scope
Place your mount on the top of the rail. Usually, the cantilever mount’s base should fall just above the magwell. A non-cantilever mount should usually sit further forward.
After installing the mount, remove the top of the rings and place the scope in the rings. Test the scope to ensure you get the right eye relief for your shooting position. Move things back and forth if needed to ensure you get a clear image when you look through the optic. Once you lock onto a position with an immediately acquired clear image, screw the base of the mount to the rail.
Test the scope again to ensure you have the right eye relief. Start to tighten the rings. You might need to make minor adjustments to get the scope in the right position. Once you lock in the perfect scope position, firmly tighten the screws.
Reflex Sights Versus Scopes
A reflex sight, also known as a red dot, helps shooters lock on their targets quickly. Unlike traditional scopes, red dots do not offer any magnification. Red dot sights have unlimited eye relief, so, you can mount them anywhere on the rifle rail and still get a clear view of your target. However, you should place the reflex sight more towards the back (towards your face) than towards the center, to balance your rifle and achieve stability.
If, however, you use a reflex sight with a magnifier, the sight needs to move more towards the muzzle so there will be space for the magnifier.
The Leupold Mark 2 Integral Mounting System is the best AR-15 riser mount. Upon installation, the unit provides just enough rise to accommodate the needs of most users. Because you might need to attach other accessories besides the scope, the Leupold Mark 2 Integral Mounting Systems Riser Mount gives you enough space to attach other accessories.
The best AR 15 rail is one that meets your needs. Choose one that is versatile enough to accommodate the attachments you need, meet your budget and keep the weight down. Most of the units above do not need any special tools for installation other than a screwdriver.