Sometimes I wonder if MLok and Keymod are a step backwards


Today I was messing with some of my Surefire weapon lights and started to write a review of a VFG. That got me back to a line of thought where I wonder if these newer attachments systems are a step backwards from the 1913 picatinny rail.

Now don’t get me wrong, the new modular handguards have many merits. But lets back track for a moment.

Back in the day we either didn’t mount stuff to our weapons, had to use proprietary mounts, or clamped stuff on. You can find pictures of hose clamps holding Maglites on M16s and MP5s. Special equipment like the AN/PEQ-2A IR Laser and the M203 sights had their own unique mounting systems.

When the 1913 Picatinny Rail showed up, we installed these heavy quad rails and started attaching everything to our firearms.

Now your standard screw on rail mount could hold its zero fairly well. Often with in a minute of angle, if the person installing it was consistent.

Then things got really nifty, we got all sorts of quick detach mounts that held their zero.
Now, you could have a red dot and a magnifed scope ready and zeroed for your long arm. You could mount stuff like lights, lasers, bipods, as you needed them.

But quad rails are large, heavy, and when poorly made can be sharp as a cheese grater. Keymod and MLok, along with their predecessors allowed for lighter, thiner, slicker firearms.

All good, right?

Now, we can remove and reattach something from MLOK and Keymod handguards, and still they will tend to hold their zero.

In military testing, they reported that KeyMod had an average shift of 4.9 MOA shift and M-LOK 1.3 MOA.

That is probably why we still see rail on the tops of uppers and we don’t see KeyMod or M-LOK scope mounts.

So, what point am I really trying to say? I’m saying that M-LOK and KeyMod are not really QD. That is a step backwards.

I keep a Harris BRMS bipod on an ADM mount. That way I can slap it on a rifle when I need it, and take it off when I don’t.

Some years back I bought a brand new Surefire Scout light, and I remember planning to put a QD mount on it so I could just move it from rifle to rifle with out having to buy another one.

So now I have guns with KeyMod and M-LOK. I have to buy little rail section so that I can put my Bipod on them. If I want to quickly be able to move a light, laser, or grip, I have to mount another rail section.

The step backwards with these new systems is the loss of quick disconnect. We can certainly live with out that, but it was very nice to have.

I’d love to see a replacement or upgrade to MLOK allowing us to quickly remove and reattach items with out loss of zero. Then I think we will have the best of both worlds.


  1. Never thought about the return to zero or the QD abilities. Good points. I do like the slim-ness and smoothness of M-Lok vs picatinny fore ends but the the universal-ness of picatinny always felt like a winner. I saw a meme the other day were it said the only thing the world has ever agreed on it the picatinny rail and had pictures of different countries rifles funny but it is kind of true.

  2. I agree. The slick handguards are fine of course but I still lean towards a fully railed version.
    Aluminum weighing what it does just doesn’t make me cringe at shouldering a railed rifle vs. say an Mlok rifle. My uncalibrated arms can’t really tell the difference. Most of the time I’m attaching a piece of rail to attach something else so what’s the point really?
    One gripe I always had about the railed handguards was the size. KAC and LaRue had nice, slim(mer) rails but it seemed everyone else couldn’t crack the code and had monstrous pipes out there with rails added on as an afterthought.
    Mlok does what I need it to do as a professional hobbyist but for me and my money I still prefer a railed version. Maybe my opinion is muddied from my days in the age of Picatinny rails where everything had to be pic compatible?

      • I’d posit the KAC URX 3/3.1 style handguards are about the best compromise between the two worlds, as it were. Full top rail and short permanent rails at the end where most accessories will be mounted; lights, lasers, bipods and such. It leaves the core of the gripping area slim but still with the ability to add a rail if needed. Many manufacturers offer such an animal now. I’d put money on PRI being the first to flesh it out in concept.

        I still argue over extreme claims of weight savings as the listed weights between the KAC offerings across the railed URX, URX 3.1 and URX Mlok differ by just a few ounces. Yes having professionally carried rifles from here to there and back again I can attest to shaving weight but then I’d counter with how much weight you in turn lose with all the assorted, added claptrap to mount something.

  3. I’m all about the top rail for an optic and then some method of mounting a light and a IR designator. Other than that, unless you’re a grenadier, I don’t think you need to hang anything else off your rifle.

  4. I have worshipped at the alter of the 1913 rail since its adoption by Uncle Sam. I have not been able to get excited about Keymod or M-LOK and consequently have not invested any money in either platform. Maybe someday I will branch out but everything that I currently have is 1913 compatible with out additional purchases required.


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