We at Reptilia have a range of mounted Picatinny & MLOK accessories, so we wanted to give you a little history about weapon accessories and how they have evolved over time. So without further delay, let’s get into it!
Small arms didn’t always look like something out of the Call of Duty video game. Until 9/11 and the Global War on Terror (GWOT), any accessory or weapon attachment was generally reserved for special operations. If you look at photos of US Navy SEALs and US Army Special Forces from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, you’ll notice a high degree of improvisation with regard to their equipment and weapon accessories. Big D-Cell Maglite flashlights attached to carbines with hose clamps, slings made from rope, pistol grip drilled into hand guards with wood screws, spare magazines attached to the buttstock with duct tape, etc.
Replica of the CAR-15 carried by Delta Force Operator Gary Gordon during Operation Gothic Serpent, Somalia, 1993. Photo credit: Recoil Magazine
The Picatinny Rail
Seeing the writing on the wall, in February 1995, the U.S. military published MIL-STD-1913, establishing the “milspec” Picatinny rail accessory interface. NATO adopted a nearly identical version of this drawing as the “STANAG 4694 NATO Accessory Rail”. These standards were a significant step forward in small arms technology, allowing the standardization of accessory attachments for weapon lights, optics, lasers, bipods, and other equipment commonly found on carbines today.
Partial drawing of MIL-STD 19134 Picatinny Rail cross-section. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
As the U.S. military upgraded and replaced their aging fleet of M16 rifles and M4 carbines, they equipped over 1 million weapons with Knight’s Armament Company (KAC) Rail Adapter System (RAS) and Rail Interface System (RIS) Picatinny rail hand guards. Combine the Picatinny rail, GWOT, and the boom of the U.S. commercial firearms market, and suddenly your average enlisted soldier now looks like a special forces operator. Infrared laser, night vision, magnified optic, vertical grip, and weapon mounted light; standard issue equipment that was all science fiction only a few years ago.
Knight’s Armament Company (KAC) M4 RAS (Rail Adapter System) Picatinny rail hand guard. Photo Credit: Knight’s Armament Company
Since the early 2000s, the founder of Magpul, Richard Fitzpatrick, had the idea of replacing the Picatinny “cheese grater” rail with something lighter and more streamlined. The first expression of this idea was seen in January 2006 when Magpul debuted the Masada modular carbine. Part of this system was a pill-shaped slot interface for attaching accessories. This interface was deemed the “MOE Slot” as part of the Magpul Original Equipment (MOE) line of value-based accessories.
Original Magpul Masada 3D printed prototype at SHOT Show 2006. Photo Credit: Defense Review/David Crane
The MOE Slot saw further adoption on the Magpul MOE hand guards, and a limited line of MOE Slot accessories were introduced, including Picatinny Rail sections, sling attachments, and dedicated flashlight mounts. Magpul never pushed to license or open source the MOE Slot, likely because it had some design shortcomings that could be improved upon.
In 2011, John Noveske worked with Eric Kincel at VLTOR Weapon Systems to develop an open-source accessory interface called KeyMod. The goal of KeyMod was to reduce weight and manufacturing costs and provide a smooth, clean interface for the shooter. KeyMod saw limited use with companies like Noveske, BCM, VLTOR, Geissele, KAC, Daniel Defense, and others. Still, without a single company to drive its adoption and produce high-quality accessories, it never reached critical mass.
KeyMod logo. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
During this same time, both Remington and Geissele attempted to use TIME-SERT threaded inserts on hand guards made for the Heckler & Koch 416. While very effective, the cost of the threaded inserts and the time to assemble each hand guard were not commercially viable. Q, LLC continues to pursue the threaded insert design with far greater success than Remington or Geissele had with the 416.
Handguard on The Fix rifle by Q, LLC featuring “Q-Cert” threaded accessory attachment points. Photo Credit: Kit Badger
MLOK For the Masses
In 2014, Magpul introduced the latest iteration of the MOE Slot, now dubbed “M-LOK” for “Modular Lock.” This new system was engineered by Magpul from the ground up to be the strongest and simplest accessory attachment system on the market today. Its simple bolt and T-slot nut design is simple to use, cost-effective to manufacture, and outperforms KeyMod in repeatability, drop testing, and failure load testing conducted by NSWC-Crane for USSOCOM.
Knight’s Armament Company (KAC) URX 4 AR15 hand guard featuring Magpul MLOK slots. Photo Credit: Knight’s Armament Company
In addition to creating the interface, Magpul introduced an entire line of MLOK accessories to support the new standard. Rail sections, sling mounts, light mounts, vertical grips, etc., all contributed to a complete weapon ecosystem launched by Magpul over the last eight years.
Furthermore, Magpul actively promotes the MLOK standard via its free license. This allows access to anyone who wishes to use the MLOK technical data package (TDP) but gives Magpul some measure of control and recourse if a licensee violates the TDP in a way that is unsafe or otherwise harmful.
Magpul aluminum Picatinny rail section for MLOK hand guards. Photo Credit: Magpul Industries
As the U.S. and our allies upgrade and replace weapon systems, MLOK will be the new standard for accessory mounting. The Special Operations community is leading the way for MLOK adoption, but it is now being fielded with the big Army on the M110A1 and soon on the new M7 service rifle and new standard-issue machine guns.
Sig Sauer MCX-SPEAR rifle chambered in 7.62×51. Photo Credit: Sig Sauer
Reptilia MLOK Accessories
Like most Reptilia products, the TORCH Light Body and SOCKET QD Sling Mount were designed at the specific request of a military customer who was in the process of replacing their service rifle with a state of the art combat carbine. The new weapon has an MLOK handguard, which means all their existing Picatinny rail accessories are obsolete.
Specific design requests included: First, the strongest, lowest profile M-LOK mount for single-cell CR123 SureFire Scout Lights. To achieve this, we machine the entire light body and mount it out of a single piece of aircraft-grade billet aluminum. The customer wanted to position the weapon light as high and tight as possible next to a 12 o’clock aiming lasers such as the ATPIAL, NGAL, DBAL, or others, which is what we did: as close as possible, not closer!
Reptilia TORCH CR123 weapon light body, Tobacco color, with SureFire bezel and tail cap. Photo Credit: Reptilia, LLC
The TORCH line has since expanded to include two-cell CR123, 18350, and 18650 body options to cover all standard SureFire, SureFire Dual Fuel, and Modlite bezel variants. Reptilia uses all authentic Magpul MLOK mounting hardware, and all Reptilia products are designed and manufactured in the USA.
Reptilia TORCH 18650 weapon light body, black, with Modlite bezel and tail cap. Photo Credit: Reptilia, LLC
The second accessory request was the strongest, lowest profile MLOK QD sling mount. In order to be as low profile as possible, we canted the sling cup rearward, therefore lowering the position of the swivel itself. This also causes the sling swivel to contact the rail, serving as an inherent anti-rotation feature to help prevent sling binding.
Reptilia SOCKET QD sling mount, flat dark earth color. Photo Credit: Reptilia, LLC
The Future of Weapon Modularity
MLOK is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Many companies are making heavy investments in product development, tooling, and inventory of MLOK compatible accessories. The U.S. and international military communities have embraced it and begun transitioning from Picatinny to MLOK across the board for non-optical accessory mounting.
The next real question is who will be the first to integrate power to the system. Track lighting for your hand guard, anyone?!
Thank you for everyone who took time to read this post. If you have any questions, comments, or want additional information, shoot an email to [email protected] or leave a comment below!