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What KeyMod is, and Why It’s Cool

Look up older articles discussing this “newfangled KeyMod stuff”, and you’ll find plenty of shooters who lamented that it’s just another fad. But fast-forward and you’ve probably guessed it: KeyMod caught on. It’s one of our most popular rail systems currently sold with our rifle and pistol kits, and for good reason. Most agree it’s sexy, and many like how much space it offers for attachments. It’s a flush design, making comfort and ergonomics immensely better than Picatinny. Let’s dive into how exactly it works, shall we?

How KeyMod Works

KeyMod is aptly named, incorporating small, keyhole-shaped female connectors into your handguard of choice. The accessory to be attached – light, grip, mount, front sight, or whatever – simply needs the corresponding key-shaped male connectors to be fixed to the handguard. Sounds simple, right? If you’re not following, imagine how scaffolding or removable shelving works. You simply line up the holes, and the shelf slides into a small, locking recess via a larger access hole.

Why KeyMod?

We hate to admit it, but Picatinny is a little dated if we’re looking for comfort, weight savings, and general ease of use when it comes to rail systems. Picatinny rails function the exact opposite of the KeyMod rail, by keeping the male connector points on the rail itself. This adds unnecessary weight and it means you’re grasping at plenty of sharp, slicing, pointy bits all over your handguard. Sure, Picatinny is rugged and you could use your rifle as a deadly baton, but it just isn’t the lightest or most comfortable rail system. It’s also not the easiest to use. KeyMod is!

5.56 (8.5" Barrel & 7" Keymod Handguard) AR Pistol Upper

If you want to build the most lightweight AR Pistol possible, check out our 8.5″ upper with KeyMod preinstalled!

How it Came to Be

KeyMod was developed by some serious, top-tier gun makers and industry developers. VLTOR Weapons Systems and its founder, Eric Kincel, partnered with Noveske Rifleworks to produce the KeyMod system. Their intention was not to specifically develop a system that would replace Picatinny, and in fact, most KeyMod rails have a Picatinny top rail for the sake of diversity. Some speculate KeyMod is so popular and well-received in the military community that it may very well kill Picatinny.

Why KeyMod is so Cool

Here’s the real rub of KeyMod, and why we love it: It’s open-source, so anyone can develop for it, and it allows for the attachment of Picatinny rails any length, on any side of your handguard, wherever you need one. Look, the gun industry moves slowly when it comes to adopting new technology – just look at how long it took to transition from Weaver to Picatinny – so this is a nice touch.

5.56 (16" Cold Hammer Forged Chrome Moly & Keymod Handguard) AR 15 Rifle Upper Assembly

Our CHF Upper balances strength, ruggedness, and weight savings thanks to a free-floating KeyMod handguard.

Because KeyMod’s open-source, manufacturers get to adopt all those thousands of current accessories to the new system, spurring along that snail pace of a transition period. This means all your current accessories can work with your new rail system!

Lastly, we know Picatinny provides a stronger hold on your rifle once torqued down. There are some accessories that might benefit from all that added surface area around the Picatinny locking mechanic, and so this allows you to own a lightweight rail when you want it, while ensuring your big, expensive, bulky attachments are held tight when you need it.


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