We will continue our series of gunsmithing lessons today with a step by step guide on how to install free float tubes. For all beginner gunsmiths among our readers, and for the more experienced gunsmiths as well, if they’d like to double check their technique or compare methods, here is our preferred way to install a free float tube. As long as you follow these steps carefully and prepare all the tools you need in advance, the process of installing these tubes is safe and pretty much user friendly.
How the Process of Installing a Free Float Tube Works
Free float tubes are an essential part of any hand guard of rifles belonging to the AR series. While the rifles don’t usually come with a tube already installed, the wide majority of users (especially if they have a little gunsmithing skills themselves) like to install a free float handguard in order to make the rifle safer and shooting it smoother.
The process is also just as much about precision, beyond the improved safety: any fluctuations and inconsistencies in the external pressure placed on the rifle’s barrel results in imprecise shootings and a decreased accuracy. In an effort to stabilize that external pressure on the barrel, gunsmiths start any planned AR 15 modifications with installing an AR 15 free float handguard as the first priority.
In order to install free float tubes to AR rifles, you don’t need to be an expert and not even a certified beginner gunsmith. Any amateur gun enthusiast or simple gun owner is qualified enough to complete this easy installation process, as long as they take their time and follow the instructions carefully. Our following steps are made with the example of a AR 15 free float installation in mind, but most other types of AR rifles can be modified in exactly the same manner as well.
Gunsmithing Tips and Lessons: A Step by Step Guide to Install an AR 15 Free Float Tube:
- First of all, gather everything you need on your work table (bench). Besides the rifle you intend to modify and the AR 15 free float tube you’ll install, you will also need the following: an AR upper receiver block, a bench block, and a barrel nut wrench (for screwing and unscrewing the barrel nut).
- To start the AR 15 free float installation, use the upper receiver block to keep all rifle components in place while you work (and while still in the vice). Carefully remove the handguards, and then the flash hider. Carefully drive out the tapered pins which hold the rifle’s Gas Block in place, and then remove the gas block itself (you may need to grease it and slide it off).
- Use the barrel nut wrench to remove the delta ring, in order to allow the barrel to now slide in and out of the upper easily.
- Take the tube and put the barrel nut over the barrel. Then, screw it onto the rifle’s upper and then index the gas tube hole on it in order to be a good match for the gas tube hole on the receiver.
- Time to actually screw your free float tube Don’t forget to also torque it down. Then put the gas block back in place and make sure you don’t tighten it too much (you don’t want it to bind). It’s best if you test this ideal tightness of the screw beforehand.
- Drive the tapered pins (which you removed in the beginning) back in, from the correct position in order to assembly your AR 15 rifle back. That’s it, it’s done, enjoy your improved free float handguard!
What to Watch Out For:
- Don’t be tempted to replace the installation of the tube with attaching a sling or bipod to the barrel of your AR rifle (or to the handguard), as that will only affect the accuracy even further.
- If it is your first time installing free float tubes, make sure you read the instructions carefully and also gather all the necessary equipment and tools on your work table before you actually start.
As a final note, rest assured that the process is easier than it may seem at a first glance if you haven’t done it before. If you need to familiarize yourself with the components of the rifle, feel free to read the manual here before you begin the actual work on the AR 15 modifications you have in mind (including the work to install free float tubes).