The modern sporting rifle has transformed the way consumers purchase firearms. The marketing departments at Big Gun would prefer I say something like, “The modularity of the Modern Sporting Rifle allows the end user to customize their firearm to suit the ever changing needs facing them across a variety of threat vectors.” Or something. The easier way to say it is, “Lego for grownups.”
As you can swap out barrels, stocks, triggers, and everything else with a basic set of tools, an AR consumer can buy a rifle safe in the knowledge that if they don’t like something, they can change it down the road. That’s powerful stuff and likely one of the many reasons that Big Gun continues to sell MSRs year after year.
One of the first things that gets the ole swaparoo: the hand guard. And if you’re looking to shave a few ounces — and who isn’t — Seekins offers the NOXs Rail System.
Pronounced “no excess” (get it?), the rail system comes as a complete unit. You can use it to replace your hand guard or add it for your FrankenRifle. The NOXs comes in three lengths – 9″, 12″, and 15″. That covers the the majority of commonly available barrel lengths. Designed as a lightweight free float option for your rifle, the NOX seems to be a pretty direct competitor for the BCM KMR rail I tested two years ago.
On the same scale in the photo above, the 13″ KMR weighed in at 7.6 oz with all the trimmings. The shorter NOXs is a bit burlier at 9 oz fully loaded, but it MSRPs of $159-$179 (depending on length) where the KMR runs $300. The KMR will set you back about another Franklin and saves you a couple ounces max. Your money. Your call.
Installation of the NOXs is similar to the KMR and the much burlier Gisele MK8; it uses a barrel nut that sports two grooves to lock the hand guard in place with cross bolts. Simply remove your old hand guard, degrease and clean your barrel extension and receiver threads, apply some moly grease, and reassemble. No silly shims, no timing and only a touch of fuss. Torque it down to spec, slide the hand guard over and bolt it in place. At least that’s what the manual would have you believe.
The reality and the source of the fuss: you need a 1-1/4″ crowfoot wrench to deliver the torque from your wrench to the barrel nut, and Seekins doesn’t include one with the hand guard. Fortunately, Amazon or your local Northern Tool will sell you the necessary implement. But wait! You’ll notice that the wrench flats have raised ridges on either side. Your shiny new crowfoot wrench will be too wide. Youl have to put it on a grinder to shave enough material so it will fit. Note: the home shop is supposed to be a holy Zen sanctuary, not a place for profanity.
Once torqued in place, the rail slides right over the barrel nut and locks securely with the cross bolt system. This is by far my favorite way to attach a hand guard to a barrel nut; it provides maximum lockup on the barrel nut ensuring that the rail will stay no matter what happens. The last step in the process: tighten the much smaller anti-rotation screws on the bottom side that ensure constant pressure agains the barrel nut.
Out at the range, the NOXs is quite secure and feels rock solid against the receiver. I tested the shortest version Seekins sells (by the seashore). There’s virtually no flex at all. A couple rough tumbles here and there did nothing except scuff the finish a bit and hurt my pride.
As is customary these days, the NOXs is covered in Picatinny along the top and Key Mod at the 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 o’clock positions. At the furthest and closest points, Seekins has kindly cut QD swivels that worked just fine as a sling attachment point. The rest of the receiver sports lots of relief cuts that help shave precious ounces without sacrificing strength and rigidity.
Up top, the mating between receiver and hand guard is without gaps or defects. That said, if I can pick a nit, the way Seekins cut the Picatinny rail means that it isn’t one continuous rail section. This will matter for about .01% people, but it’s worth noting.
I’ve found the shape of the NOX rail to be fairly comfortable to use. I’ve used Seekins’ other rail, the MCSR, on the UT BaconMaker. I didn’t much like it then — it was a bit too big for my dainty little paws. At 1.5″ for the outer diameter, the NOX hand guard is about the same dimension as the KMR and other small form factor rails. It feels right in the hand and the lack of any protrusions or sharp edges is welcome.
Specifications: Seekins NOXs Hand Guard
Inside diameter: 1.350”
Weight: (including barrel nut/hardware): 9 oz
Mounting Compatibility: M-Lok & Key Mod
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * * *
This is a very stoutly built rail that practically begs to get beat on. The machining is precise, the coating looks good, and all of the threaded pieces were clean. It certainly holds its own against various other pricey rails out there.
You have to buy a tool and if that tool isn’t thin enough, you’ll have to butcher your tool to make it work. Geissele and BCM send you the tool, but they also cost more so plan on buying a special tool.
Customize This * * * *
It’s Key Mod AR 15 rail. Your imagination is the limit as to what you can stick on it, but know that everything I tried fit great. I’m knocking one star off strictly because the rail doesn’t make a seamless transition along the Picatinny top section. Minor, but it probably matters to someone.
Overall Rating * * * *
This isn’t the lightest rail out there, but it is still very light compared to some of the beefier rails out there. You can have it in Key Mod or M-Lok and any color you want as long as it’s black. The only gripes I had were the lack of tooling required to actually get it installed and the Picatinny rail transition. Once installed though, it’s all good and a very functional and stout rail at a fairly affordable price