M-LOK and KeyMod and Pic Rail –Oh My!

difference between keymod and m lok
March 10, 2015  
Categories: Musings

Raven Concealment Systems 2

The only thing our minions agree on is that they don’t agree. Mad Duo


We’ve recently run a few reviews on M-LOK accessories, and this has given some the impression we’re “M-LOK people”. This is not entirely true; the reality is, our minions rarely agree on anything. A few like M-LOK, others KeyMod, and at least one is trying to be cool by saying he’s ‘bi’ (not that there’s anything wrong with that…). Our main editor (Reeder) still uses all Picatinny rail systems, and Hernandez is so old he thinks that A2 handguards are “the latest thing”.

There are discussions on the internet that have run to hundreds of pages, debating the pros and cons of each system. It’s the current gun nerd version of Ford versus Chevy (or Star Trek versus Star Wars, for the virgins reading this).

Several years ago, lightweight rail-less handguards for ARs (such as the Troy TRX rail) became incredibly popular for a myriad of reasons. Soon enough, about every major manufacturer of AR furniture had their own version, built to a variety of specifications and usually accepting only their own proprietary attachments.


Some other companies made their way into the market by offering different sling, light, and grip attachments for the ever-growing number of forends. KeyMod, and later M-LOK, was born out of this turmoil. As of right now those two reign supreme, hence the Ford/Chevy comparison.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest of what they have in common:



Open/Free license (for the purposes of this discussion the difference between the two doesn’t matter)

Easy to attach accessories externally (those that use the Troy TRX rails can tell you the joys of putting a backing nut halfway down a small diameter tube, only to find that they placed their VFG one slot too far back).

Both have companies worth a shit behind them.

Let’s get real for a minute. People are passionately arguing about what system is best for attaching lights and grips. Lights and grips. Sure, KeyMod has worked its way into some special DoD units and M-LOK will work with new MOE forends–but neither excels at mounting optics or sights. As such neither will ever completely replace the Picatinny rail. Regardless of relative weight and bulk, Picatinny is our only current universal standard.

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We’re talking about two systems with major players behind them–and a slew of furniture and accessory manufacturers that are more than happy to sell you both It’s not like this is a fight between NC Star and US Optics, or Knights Armament and UTG. A firearms market where you can go to any well-stocked shop with a couple grand in your pocket and walk out with any one of a dozen carbines, can easily support and sustain more than one attachment method.


Which one should you buy? We don’t know—do you like tits or do you like ass? So long as you’re not into bestiality it’s hard to go wrong. The pragmatic way to go about it is to find a forend you like from a quality manufacturer (of either system) and just go shoot the shit out of your rifle.

Or just be a gun hipster and only use PCAP.

Mad Duo, Breach-Bang CLEAR!


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Mad Duo

Mad Duo

About the Author

The Mad Duo are the most renowned, scholarly, door-kickingest action figures since...well, ever. They, their wretched minions and other abject flunkies are an improbable (and awesome) tale unto themselves. Read more about them here.


  1. thebronze

    For the Record, I’m a Boob man.

  2. Magpul

    Just to clarify, we at Magpul have nothing against Keymod. It’s use of a conical nut makes it unsuitable for non metal mount surfaces such as MOE handguard applications.

    To put things into perspective the MOE handguard and accessory market in 2014 was approximately 10 times the size of the entire Keymod market and it has remained the second most utilized handguard mounting system (second to the Pictinnany rail) for the last 5 years. M-LOK is effectively MOE 2.0 with direct attach capability allowing it to be used on freefloat rail systems with no access to the back side. With M-LOK replacing every existing Magpul MOE slot handguard in 2014 and with the introduction of 4-6 new hand guards this year, M-LOK adoption in 2015 will be several times the size of the entire Keymod marketplace (if used only by Magpul).

    Rather than keep the system propriety (like MOE), M-LOK was released with full manufacturing TDP as a free license and already has about 200 licensees signed up for it along with over 100 already released products, and it is not even a year since the system was publicly announced.

    In short M-LOK does not depend on Keymod’s demise for it’s survival.

    • Mad Duo Merrill

      To be fair, I think it’s more the purchasers making it a, ‘X or Z! X or Z!’ type of conversation. I don’t think a person choosing either one (or neither one) is going to make or break anything. As mentioned in the piece, we’re talking about a system to attach lights and grips. And of course, it’s easy for most accessory manufacturers to make several versions, track sales, and divine newer production accordingly.

    • Mad Duo

      We appreciate the clarification Rich – as you’re no doubt aware, we have many ardent M-LOK lovers in the ranks of our minions. This was by no means meant to come across as pro- or against anything (well, except for the obvious stupid ones). We just figured we’d clarify, as several people had asked our KeyMod lovers on the side. Oh, and Reeder really does still use pic rails on all his shit, but then he probably also still has a c. 1988 bag phone under the seat in his car too. *snicker*

      See also the response from Merrill.

  3. JNZ

    XKCD is awesome and you’re pretty ok for using that particular comic. Although crediting the site would be a classy move.

    The purposely-broken-links are excellent!

    On topic, Keymod has a hell of a head start. Both come out initially today, MLOK has it hands down. The best rail on the market is currently and likely to be remain Keymod only (BCM KMR). Magpul is clearly not going anywhere so 10 years down the road if you still see one or the other, I think you’ll see MLOK. But I’m not buying a $200 rail for 10 years from now, I’m buying to use today, if in a few years I sell for MLOK, great, whatever.

    Anyone “investing” in rails is fooling themselves beyond measure.

    • Mad Duo Merrill

      If you click on the XKCD picture it brings you right to their page


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