Gear Review: Strike Industries Mega Fins Key-Mod Handguard

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Free floated Key-Mod handguards seem to be all the rage. A bunch of companies make them. I’ve had the pleasure to try out a few, and over the last few months I’ve started to form an opinion of them as a whole. Mostly, I like them. As a guy with small hands, I can certainly appreciate the slimmer profile provided by not having Picatinny rail sprouting from every surface, and I generally enjoy a lighter gun whenever possible. Strike Industries has a Key-Mod handguard that features a cut out for an A2 sight that claims to be lightweight, durable, and endlessly modular thanks to Key-Mod as part of their Mega Fins line of handguards. I got the opportunity to try it out, and I’m mostly a fan . . .

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Fresh out of the box, the Mega Fins rail immediately impressed me with how lightweight it was. My fairly reliable food scale registered it at 7.25 oz by itself, and 9.30 oz with the barrel nut. Strike Industries shows 9.20 oz on their website so I give them props for including their barrel nut in the overall weight, as more dishonest manufacturers might neglect that. My scale showed it a tenth of an oz heavier, but that’s close enough for me, and not something I’d ever dock a company points on in a review. Long story short, this thing is pretty dang light, but seems very sturdy.

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The second thing I noticed was the “fin” texturing that covers every surface of the aptly named Mega Fins handguard. SI says this helps aid in heat dissipation from the barrel, a notion I’m not really qualified to argue with using any hard data. In my testing, I ran some pretty quick strings of fire, and I didn’t feel that it cooled my barrel any faster than any other free floated Key-Mod handguard. And while I flunked out of engineering before ever taking heat transfer classes, I have ripped apart a pretty decent amount of computers filled with heatsinks, and I’m pretty certain that for these fins to have an effect on the barrel, they’d need to actually touch the barrel. That said, they provide a nice texture for bare handed manipulation.

The last thing I noticed before I mounted the Mega Fins to my Palmetto State built upper/lower was that the Mega Fins is an octagonal shaped handguard which allows for a Picatinny top and seven (!!!) sides for mounting Key-Mod attachments. That’s a whole lot of rail estate, and does give you the option to run things like lights in a more ergonomically sensible place. I like options and the Mega Fins certainly delivers.

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Installation is about as snappy as any other FF handguard out there. Once you have a bare upper, do as the book says, use a bit of moly grease, spin the new barrel nut on, torque it down using the included wrench, and install the handguard. The reality deviates from the book every so slightly as you need to time the barrel nut just so. That process means torquing the barrel nut, removing the upper from your vice, sliding the handguard in place, checking the timing, removing the handguard, placing it back in the vice, unscrewing the barrel nut, adding an included shim, torquing the barrel nut, and you see where this is going right? It is a painstaking process, and one that rarely goes right the first time. This is not isolated to just Strike’s handguard, and I’ve had this problem with every free floated Key-Mod system out there. The best one I’ve used so far is Noveske’s NSR, though it is a bit heart wrenching to wail on your upper with a torque wrench until everything fits properly. The SI system works, and I’ve got not doubts that it is solid, but you should be prepared to set aside a few hours to do this job right.

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One hilarious outcome of this was that I found out that SI’s included barrel nut wrench is precisely calibrated to 40 ft. lbs. of torque. I know this because at anything over 40 ft. lbs., the wrench twists into an ugly paperweight. If you’re planning on installing one of these, get yourself a set of crowfoot wrenches that fit your torque wrench. Sears will take $50 and you’ll never worry about this again. Or you can put a big adjustable wrench on it, and Kentucky windage your way to a torqued upper.

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Once everything is timed correctly, it is time to take advantage of one of the big selling features of this handguard, the ability to use an A2 style gas black. Since the Mega Fins handguard is specifically designed for an A2 style gas block, I had to go get one, and cheap bastard that I am, I borrowed one from a coworker. I mention this specifically because the aforementioned A2 style gas block didn’t belong to me which presented an issue during installation.

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As you can see, the borrowed A2 sight is a.) positioned backwards in this photo, and b.) sporting a riveted sling mount. I wasn’t comfortable removing that rivet strictly for a photo opp, so I was unable to actually install the A2 style gas block. I measured a bunch of things, and I’m 100% confident that if your A2 gas block doesn’t have a sling mount on it, this whole thing fits perfectly. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to test that out. I also tried to make it come up from the bottom, and no dice there either.

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I went back to using the factory mounted low profile gas block for the duration of my test, and I’m happy to report that everything works well. One unadvertised usage with the Mega Fins is for those using switchblock or adjustable gas blocks. This handguard should give you the unfettered access you desire to make adjustments to your gas system while still having a long handguard for various accessories. The particular model I tested was their midlength gas system 13.5″ inch handguard, though they also offer a 12.5″ handguard with a cutout for a carbine gas system.

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Those who care about details look away now. As you can see from the picture above, depending on your particular upper, and how many shims are required to time this bad boy, you may find yourself with an unsightly gap between upper receiver, and handguard. Functionally, this presents a major problem if you’re using a Picatinny mount that requires a flawless joint between the upper and handguard as the spacing between sections is off. Normally, I use a Burris P.E.P.R. mount to time free floated handguards as it allows me to bridge the gap between upper and handguard by clamping one end on the receiver, and the other on the handguard. With SI’s handguard, I was unable to do that, so I had to go by feel and eyeballs to make sure everything was coplanar. From an aesthetic standpoint, it is a bit unsightly. There are plenty of people who won’t care, but some will consider this a deal breaker. We present, you decide.

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Lastly, a note on durability. I’m downright mean to the gear I test. Sure, my Garand is lovingly cared for, and some day, a finely crafted 1911 will sit in my safe free of debris, carbon, and lint with a perfect bit of backlighting. But for my “duty” guns which encompass every AR I own, and any pistol that contains polymer, I beat ’em up a bit. I expect that a lot of our readers do too. As you can in the photo above, I managed to fold over a couple of the fins during the installation process. I’m not exactly sure when that happened as I don’t remember any wrenches falling from the ceiling, but the fact is something unmemorable hit the Mega Fins handguard and dinged it up. Likely, more dings like this are going to show up along the way. All that said, I had zero reliability issues using this handguard whatsoever. But if you expect your gear to get beat up, dusted off, and look factory new, I have my doubts that the Mega Fins will meet your needs.

Specifications: Strike Industries AR Mega Fins / Key-Mod Handguard Rail G2 13.5″ FSP-M

  • Weight: 9.3 oz including barrel nut
  • Included Parts
    • 1 x Manual
    • 1 x Mega fins handguard rail
    • 1 x Barrel nut
    • 6 x Barrel nut washer
    • 1 x Barrel nut tool
    • 7 x Screws
    • 1 x Allen wrench
  • Available Lengths
    • 12”
    • 12.5” FSP-C (carbine)
    • 13”
    • 13.5” FSP-C (mid-length)
    • 15”
  • Picatinny Top Rail
  • Key Mod from receiver to end in seven positions around circumference
  • MSRP: $150 as tested

Ratings (out of five stars):

Overall Quality * * * *
Out of the box, the Mega Fins handguard appears to be made of high quality materials and is sufficiently coated to resist light scuffs and abrasions. After further (ab)use, it showed visible signs of wear especially around the fins which seem to be easily folded and damaged. This never resulted in any structural failures, but does present some cosmetic issues.

Key-Mod Fitment * * * * * 
I used Key-Mod sections from several manufacturers without issue. All of the Key-Mod holes seem to be identical and no matter where I put things, the Key-Mod sections fit

Installation * * * *
Timing things correctly on any free floated handguard takes time and patience. The Mega Fins handguard is no different. Use the correct tools, take your time, and all should be well in your world. The only system that works better in my mind is the Noveske NSR system which just requires you to forget what you read on the internet about torque specs and tighten it until it fits.

Fitment * * *
The unsightly gap between the receiver and handguard is a deal breaker for me. And to be very fair, you might not need to use any shims in your installation, and things will fit together perfectly. All I know is that mine didn’t. Your mileage might vary. Furthermore, it only presents functional issues if you’re using some long section of Picatinny mount that requires you to traverse the area from upper receiver to handguard. That’s a VERY small amount of users myself included, but it is worth consideration. Either way, it doesn’t look “finished” if there’s a gap. I hope that the Gen 3 version of this handguard will resolve that particular issue.

Accuracy Impact * * * * *
This gun was a ~2 MOA shooter before and it is still a 2 MOA shooter now. Changing over to the Mega Fins handguard didn’t seem to affect performance whatsoever. I didn’t imagine it would, but figured it was worth mentioning that I saw neither positive or negative effects.

Overall Rating * * * *
I struggled over knocking a whole star off a four star rating for what are realistically cosmetic issues, and decided against it. My two major gripes, the gap between handguard and receiver and the easy damage done to the fins, never messed with the functional use of my AR. This is still a solid handguard that works very well and possess a great deal of modularity by presenting seven Key Mod sections around the circumference. It also allows you to use the A2 style gas block, or have access to an adjustable gas block which I find to be a great feature advantage. I think if Strike Industries fixes the “gap” problem, they’ve got a very solid, unique product on their hands.

comments

  1. avatar Tex300BLK says:

    Tyler, if you like the concept of this rail but not the execution I suggest you take a look at the BCM KMR rail. Similar profile, a few ounces lighter (7.5oz w the barrel nut) and a way better mounting system. I put one on a build I just finished and it is lights out the best rail keymod or otherwise I have used on an AR build.
    I strongly suggest you get your hands on one.

    1. avatar scm says:

      It should be noted that the BCM KMR is gonna run you at least a whole bill more than the Strike Industries rail. I have one of their first gen models without the cutout. It’s certainly well built but installation isn’t as easy as one would like. For the savings though, I would definitely say these are worth a look unless you like swapping things like rails and barrels a whole lot.

      1. avatar Steve says:

        The BCM KMR is definitely worth the extra cash, IMHO. It’s the lightest, most comfortable handguard I’ve used, and it’s got one of the easiest and best mounting systems ever invented. I tried really hard to find something more affordable that I liked just as much, but such a thing just doesn’t exist. However, that’s just one man’s opinion. Such things are very subjective, so try before you buy, if you can (I live close to Rainier Arms, so I was able to try out literally every handguard they had in stock)

      2. avatar Tex300BLK says:

        From the pictures and writeup in this review, looks like that extra 100 is worth every penny. I think Tyler took it fairly easy on this rail in terms of the final ratings.

        You want a light 150 dollar rail that is strong enough to survive a nuclear holocaust get a Troy alpha, unfortunstely lot of the cheap lightweight keymod rails try to do too much and end up looking and feeling cheap no way around it, this one doesn’t seem to be an exception. You get what you pay for.

  2. avatar John S says:

    I believe the Mega Fins are to keep the handguard cooler, not the barrel.

  3. avatar Gene says:

    How’s that angled foregrip?

      1. avatar Gene says:

        How in the world did I miss that? D’oh! Thanks, Tyler!

  4. avatar Eric says:

    If you have to go to the trouble of removing the front sight block, why not just re-install a low profile block and be done with it?

    I too adore my KMR rail.

    1. avatar CA.Ben says:

      Some people (myself included) love the look of the A2 FSB. It can also improve your accuracy a bit, because it is directly attached to the barrel, and not at the end of a long free-floated tube. The accuracy advantage is probably less than the standard error of the average shooter though.

  5. avatar larry says:

    M-LOK > Keymod.

    Keymod will turn into the betamax of rails in 2 years. Magpul just has too much marketing weight and the ability to churn out M-LOK accessories at a much faster rate than Keymod has so far. Not to mention M-LOK is technically better. (marginally)

    There is just not enough market room for both Keymod and M-LOK both of wich will remain minor players while the military still uses 1913 rails.

    Also watch the Strike Industries rail FAIL in this video!

    I get that these rails are light weight, BCM even better. However a quality quad rail is just way more durable.

    1. avatar Tex300BLK says:

      I dont get M-Lok, seems like they wanted to get in to quick detach accessory market but couldnt swallow their pride to pay royalty to Vltor/BCM. The design is neat, sort of, but looks like it is way too easy for stuff to fall off if not kept tight. On a keymod or 1913 rail stuff is going to be loose and rattling long before it falls off the rail. The locking mechanism on the M-Lok just has to be loosened enough for the locking bars to rotate 90 degrees and then there goes your hundred dollar tac light into the dirt.

      If it wins it will only be because Magpul whores it out to anyone and everyone who sits still long enough to listen to them. Which unfortunately is very probable. It will not succeed because it is better than 1913 pic rails or keymod though. Not even close.

      1. avatar larry says:

        I won’t argue that M-LOK is better as I have no idea. I have read its easier to make since the cutout’s are simpler. Of course Magpul says its stronger, even has some videos out saying they prove the point.

        M-LOK is free from Magpul and in the very short time it has been out there are 3 companies making rails that I know of. Also Magpul is turning out M-LOK accessories pretty quick.

        One thing is for sure, with competing standards, 1913 has a bright future. I am a fan for life of Magpul because of what they did in Colorado and I do use their stocks and grips on a couple of my rifles.

      2. avatar RMF says:

        The reason not to use KeyMod was explained when M-LOK was released…

        “KeyMod’s conical head bolts were designed for metal and are not a viable solution for mounting accessories on polymer handguards such as the MOE series. On plastic materials, the conical mating surfaces of KeyMod will either promote cracking or loosening due to creep and deformation of the polymer material. So using KeyMod on MOE series handguards was not an option.”

      3. avatar RMF says:

        Vltor released Keymod as open source so no royalties are required. M-LOK is also free for any manufacture to use. Some of the posted M-LOK advantages over Keymod are listed below.

        “The M-LOK is essentially MOE 2.0 (in use since 2007) with a complete TDP (Technical Data Package) that is open for all manufactures to use. It is backwards compatible with the millions of MOE accessories, with over 100 manufactures signed up to build products(more in 3 months than Keymod managed in three years).

        -M-LOK works over a wider material thickness range than Keymod.
        -M-LOK uses a flat nut that is suitable for polymer, metal and carbon fiber mounting surfaces.
        -M-LOK is a true direct attach system so a line of accessories mounted next to each other do not need to be slid off to remove just one piece.
        -M-LOK has better recoil/impact support than Keymod.
        -M-LOK uses a larger bolt and has greater direct surface contact than Keymod resulting is greater pull out strength (a single -MLOK mount exceeds 300 lbs in all materials)
        -M-LOK accessories are multi directional (can be mounted forward or backwards).
        -M-LOK has a uniform internal edge that can be generously chamfered allowing a better feel on the hand than Keymods 45 degree under cuts.
        -M-LOK can use any of the millions of MOE accessories already fielded via an adapter plate.
        -M-LOK slots are much lower cost to manufacture than Keymod resulting in lower cost to consumers.
        -M-LOK nuts are much lower cost to manufacture than Keymod resulting in lower cost to consumers.
        -M-LOK bolts are commonly available (user replaceable) and allow more torque to be applied than Keymod.
        -M-LOK slots requires no special CNC cutters or complex injection molds to manufacture an undercut like Keymod resulting in lower cost to consumers.
        -M-LOK has better technical documentation for manufactures than Keymod resulting in greater compatibility between products from different manufactures.”

    2. avatar Tex300BLK says:

      Also not at all shocked that the Strike Ind rail failed hard in that test. Those extruded fins create perfect fracture lines like perforation on an envelope, each groove is a perfect place for the metal to split. So it looks cool but structurally sucks, especially as light as that rail is. Also given that it only cost $150 its probably made out of standard 6061 aluminum and you just cant make something that light out of cheap materials and expect it to be durable. Like I said earlier, you get what you pay for with any cheap rail because they often try and do too much (too light, too many attachment points, etc etc). I seriously doubt a BCM KMR or Noveske NSR would have split/splintered like that, but they cost 1.5 – 2x as much so you wouldnt expect them to either.

  6. avatar Garrett says:

    -The “gap” between the receiver and the rail. The reason that is, is because our first gen Mega Fins and others on the market that are similar like the Noveske, BCM, PWS, etc which have the set screw holes oblong or oval-shaped allow the handguard to shift. In order to solve that issue we made the set screw holes fixed and the screws flush mount giving it a more solid and durable position while also giving it a better look on the rail itself (although it may cause that gap when having to use the spacer shims). The only other way to really resolve the shift issue while having elongated set screw holes would be to bridge mount optics giving the rail more stability.

    -Secondly the reason for the A2 Gas Block or FSP being unable to be used with the sling mount is because the design of the rails is to be as slim as possible and QD Sling mounts can be placed anywhere on the 7 sides for ultimate placement options. So it really reserves that classic M16/M4 FSP style without the unnecessary sling mount attached especially when shooters want to use their QD Sling Mount.

    1. avatar SuicideDoc says:

      Even with all that explained, how does that account for the structural failure? Was this addressed between gen I and gen II? I’ve seen rails take a beating in hostile environments and I really wouldn’t consider that “stomp” in the video close to real world abuse, which is disturbing. I was excited to finally see a keymod rail with FSP cut out but it looks like I will be waiting patiently for something I can throw my money at.

  7. avatar NorincoJay says:

    These old comments were funny to read in 2016 just two years later. We still have Keymod! Lol. I have both and prefer Keymod over MLok. Two BCM KMR Alphas and one of the KMRs with the magnesium alloy. My new favorite is Everything Fortis. I also like some of Strike Industries stuff. They have a great price point and decent quality stuff. I’ve used their mag release, enhanced bolt catch, forward assist and take down, pivot pins all with great luck. I just ordered the gen2 mega fins in 7″ for a pistol AR and I’m sure I’ll be happy with it for a medium priced build.

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