Review – the Rail Scales S3 Handstop

Grey Ghost Gear

We talk about grips a lot. It’s an important topic, whether you’re talking about weapon manipulation or choking the chicken. Today COWAN! is going to review a handstop from Rail Scales, though first you’re going to get the mandatory COWAN! history lesson. Grab a snickers and prepare to learn something. Mad Duo

Review – Serrated Scale Stop (S3)


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Forward grips in the rifle world have taken a curious route; when the AR/M16 family of rifles was born, the handguard was just that – a somewhat ergonomic guard to protect the hand from barrel heat and a platform to aid in balance for accurate fire. As years went by, the handguard went through very few changes and the changes that did happen didn’t greatly change the method of support hand control of the rifle. From the days when the primary requirement of the rifle was engaging enemies out to 500+ meters; arguably the battle space evolved and the AR was slow to catch up. When the carbine went mainstream and technology advanced beyond iron sights, the shorter handguard on the carbine (and the longer on the full size rifle) was replaced with the venerable Picatinny rail (MIL-STD-1913)to provide the ability to attach accessories.   The more accessories, the less room there was for the support hand. This was one of the largest motivating factors behind support hand grips; most notably the vertical grip.

While not such an issue on the rifle, a drop-in Picatinny rail on a carbine leaves very little real estate once lights, optics, lasers and control switches are added. A vertical grip, while not the most ergonomic grip, did provide a solid control surface. The vertical grip craze birthed all manner of options, most reasonable, some silly, others completely useless. From integrated controls to grips with internal storage, everyone got on board. Training evolved around the grip and the change in common use of the rifle. The need for the average infantryman to engage entrenches soldiers out to 500 meters gave way to the reality of closer engagements and more need for rifle muzzle control. Lessons learned in CQB had support hand training go from providing a stable shooting rest to actually controlling the direction of the rifle muzzle faster than it could be manipulated by the shooting hand. Different techniques were used to work around the sometimes cumbersome vertical grip; the thumbreak grip helped me personally avoid unsymmetrical pressure created by use of the vertical grip, but it was at best a work-around caused by the military’s slow (ongoing) change away from the short, thick rail space.

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Outside of the military (and in some specialized units within) the rail space evolved, got longer and thinner. Picatinny fell away in favor of modular rails, keymod and then M-LOK. The longer the rail, the more grip options and the less critical hand space became.   The AFG from Magpul, as much as it is derided by some, changed the way many looked at muzzle control and ergonomics.   It provided a comfortable surface for rifle control and its popularity reflected that, though it (ergonomically speaking) was quite useless on rails that don’t allow full arm extension. It wasn’t long before the hand stop became popular because it allowed a positive indexing point for a default grip and the thinner keymod/modular (and now M LOK) rails allow for a pipe/rope hold on the total rail space (thumb-over-bore too, if you like). All manner of handstops exist, from a wide array of manufacturers; Larue, GripStop, Magpul, Novekse, Ergo, Impact Weapon Components, B5 Systems, etc. Handstop choice becomes a personal preference. I like the most rail space possible; the longer the rail the more grip options I have but for my default support hand grip, I have long used a handstop of some sort for a positive indexing point and for a surface to balance out reward seating pressure on the rifle.

Now, the vertical grip has been around nearly as long as firearms. The forward (and rather ergonomic) grip on the Thompson SMG is probably the most recognizable, but patents for grips for the Garand, M14, M1 Carbine and all manner of submachine guns can be found. The hand stop is technically newer, at least in the way we know it but it’s been around for quite some time as well. From Mathew Schadeck’s 1957 patent for an “Adjustable Hand Positioner” the Handstop design and intent as we know it today existed. Winchester also patented a similar device in 1936, though theirs was to provide a comfortable point for forward (not rearward) pressure and a sling attachment point. From then the idea came and went, though now it is most certainly here to stay.

My first “hand stop” was a cut down Dieter CQD Forward Grip. It was intended to be a full hand vertical; I modified it to two inches in length (similar to the stubby vertical grips from Tango Down and others) on the market today. It gave me an indexing point and a reward hand pressure option without the excess length. My first actual hand stop as we know them now was the Ergo Surestop; it has an aggressive curve that has found its way into a few designs and while it served its purpose, the hook design tends to trap the hand more than I liked and as soon as the Larue handstop hit the market in 2010, I was all over it. Since then, I’ve tried (and use) many other hand stops and own all of those on the market that I’m aware of.   This may not make me a hand stop expert, but I’ve preferred the idea for a long time and am in constant search of the best option for my grip and shooting style.

Last year I made contact with the minds at Railscales and ended up doing a review of their Keymod G10 rail panels. They also let me in on a hand stop they have had in development for a while; I bit and was sent out an early demo model made of G10, called the Serrated Scale Stop or S3. The first production G10 model followed a while after and then an aluminum model.

The early production demo, an imperfect version of the production model is the model I spent the most time with; I was warned by Railscales that it might not be as durable or functional as the production models that would follow. Well after many months I would have to say that they lied. I installed the demo model on one of my keymod rails and put it to work.

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