A BETTER KIND OF RAIL

Manicore Arms hits the ball out of the park once again with their release of a new AK handguard called the “Transformer.” Manticore Arms has been on the leading edge when it comes to innovative firearms accessories. They’re a small company, started in 2010 out of Elburn, Ill. by Sven Jonsson. After seeing this new rail system down in Florida at Big 3 East, it peaked my curiosity. I am not an AK purist, so ditching the standard furniture for more “practical” replacements is first on my list when it comes to the AK. I’m tired of throwing good money after bad when it comes to many firearms accessories. But my loss is your gain as you get to read about the newest, latest, greatest gadgets, without opening up your wallet.

A Versatile Handguard

The Transformer Handguard comes as a standalone lower for a retail price of $99.00. One can opt for the top cover for an additional $79.00, which includes 1913 pic rails for an optic, or whatever you prefer to mount up there. It’s made from solid billets of 6061 T6 aluminum, anodized black, and weigh in at a whopping 3.5oz. That’s almost a full ounce lighter than the traditional plastic forend! There are cutout slots at the 3, 6, & 9 o’clock positions for your choice of rail inserts, pic rail, Keymod, and M-Lok. They are shipped standard with what Manticore Arms calls their Snakeskin polymer panels. The Snakeskin panels allow for a very comfortable, non-slip grip. According to Manticore Arms, the Transformer lower handguard will work with standard polymer or wood upper handguards. “We try to focus on comfort, ergonomics, and flexibility for the end user.” 

Installing a “Cool” Running Handguard

The install of the Transformer handguard was fairly straightforward. I did have to take a file to it where it seats near the front trunnion. However, that is pretty common as no two AK’s are alike. It’s also worth mentioning that many others will see this handguard just slip into place with no modifications at all. That was the intention from the beginning as Sven stated “We don’t want anyone to have to permanently modify their gun’s to use our products.” What caught my attention was when Sven told me that his handguard will not retain the heat like so many others on the market. He said that “We don’t use a heatshield like other companies. The Transformer is designed to vent and not soak up heat, to allow greater comfort for the shooter by using the existing handguard retainer and not attaching directly to the barrel.”

An infrared laser thermometer was used to check the temperatures at five different areas. I was amazed at my findings and instantly knew that Sven was on to something here. Even after ripping off three mags as fast as I could fire them, the lower handguard only reached 115 degrees. That’s comfortable enough for bare skin, considering the barrel was at 409 degrees (behind the break) on that test. My previous Zenit rails were not touchable without gloves halfway through the second mag.

If you want to swap out grips, hand stops, flashlights, or whatever accessories you want to add, it’s very simple. Two beefy screws hold a small panel that fits perfectly into the recessed portion of the rail where these panels are designed to lock into place. Literally the hardest part of this whole experience is deciding if you want M-Lok, KeyMod, Picitiny Rails, or the plain Snakeskin polymer grip inserts. It really is that easy. I preferred the Snakeskin textured polymer inserts for the 9 and 3 o’clock positions for comfort and a stubby VFG on the front.

Conclusions

Without a doubt, I would recommend these rails for anyone wanting a good, solid handguard that won’t break the bank or give you third degree burns after a mag or two of shooting. I actually liked the quality and versatility so much that I plan on ordering the Transformer Rail for my AR as well. Good news is, the rail sections are interchangeable between ALL Transformer weapons platforms. So, you can swap them out between your AR and your AK.

Thankfully, this newest offering from Manticore Arms is a homerun and has found a permanent place on my rifle. Out of all the shooting I did for this test, my gloves never left my pocket.  I’d call that a good day.

Stay Frosty!

Hard Test Data

Manticore Arms Transformer Railed Handguard test conducted with Golden Tiger 124 grain FMJBT 7.62×39 ammunition. Outside temperature was reported at 51 degrees and overcast. Temperatures were taken at five different locations: behind the break (on the barrel), the gas tube directly behind the gas block, the middle of the pic rails on the upper, and the underside of the lower handguard, where one would commonly grip it at, and right side Snakeskin polymer rail insert.

Test 1 consists of slow fire, 3 round shots for purposes of attaining a target zero:
Barrel:                                                99°
Gas Block/Tube:                  82°
Upper handguard:                71°
Lower handguard:               68°

Weapon allowed to cool off to normal outside temperatures for second test consisting of 10 rounds downrange as fast as I could pull the trigger:
Barrel:                                    150°
Gas Block/Tube:                  165°
Upper Handguard:              73°
Lower Handguard:                          75°
Snakeskin Insert:                 71°

Weapon allowed to cool off to normal outside temperatures for third test consisting of three mag dumps, just as fast as I could pull the trigger. Documentation was taken after each mag dump:

Magazine Dump # 1:
Barrel:                                    260°
Gas Block/Tube:                  269°
Upper Handguard:              82°
Lower Handguard:              80°
Snakeskin Insert:                 75°

Magazine Dump #2:
Barrel:                                    335°
Gas Block/Tube:                  374°
Upper Handguard:              102°
Lower Handguard:             101°
Snakeskin Insert:                 92°

Magazine Dump #3:
Barrel:                                    409°
Gas Block/Tube:                  392°
Upper Handguard:              134°
Lower Handguard:                115°
Snakeskin Insert:                 105°

Full view of Manticore Arms Transformer Handguard with optional upper handguard and Snakeskin polymer insert. Installed on a Definitive Arms DAKM 4150 with Magpul Vertical Grip.

Full view of Manticore Arms Transformer Handguard with optional upper handguard and Snakeskin polymer insert.  Installed on a Definitive Arms DAKM 4150 with Magpul Vertical Grip.

Manticore Arms Transformer Rail without panels

Manticore Arms Transformer Rail without panels

Manticore Arms Transformer Rail with upper handguard and grip panels.

Manticore Arms Transformer Rail with upper handguard and grip panels.

Manticre Arms upper handguard mates to the lower handguard with three screws on either side for a tight lockup to aid in keeping an accurate zero with mounted optics.

Manticre Arms upper handguard mates to the lower handguard with three screws on either side for a tight lockup to aid in keeping an accurate zero with mounted optics.

Transformer Handguard with all available inserts shown in Snakeskin, Pic Rail, Keymods, and MLOK (Magpul)

Transformer Handguard with all available inserts shown in Snakeskin, Pic Rail, Keymods, and MLOK (Magpul)

Upper and Lower Handguards installed with polymer Snakeskin inserts for durability and comfort.

Upper and Lower Handguards installed with polymer Snakeskin inserts for durability and comfort.

Manticore Arms Upper & Lower Handguards sporting a forward mounted Vortex Sparc AR

Manticore Arms Upper & Lower Handguards sporting a forward mounted Vortex Sparc AR

Top rail section of Manticore Arms upper handguard with 1913 rails for added mounting options for your favorite accessories.

Top rail section of Manticore Arms upper handguard with 1913 rails for added mounting options for your favorite accessories.