Leapers UTG Aircraft Aluminum Forend Review
The Leapers UTG model MNT-HGRM87A forend is a bit different than the others you see on the market today. Whereas many are moving towards lighter synthetic materials and rubber coating, they sided with aircraft aluminum, which is both heavier and slicker than materials used in conventional forends. After owning this particular piece of gear for over a year now it’s safe to say the pros and cons have been found.
Ruler above forend is in inches for size reference
Production Quality: (6.5/10)
The grip channeling has all been rounded out on both the edges and inside the grooves themselves. The deep channels are roughly 3/8’ths of an inch deep, and the smaller channels run somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/16’th. Between the depth of the channeling and the care taken to ensure they aren’t sharp, it provides a rather sure grip with both gloves and bare hands. Despite it’s large profile it is quite small and slim. Perfect for most hand sizes. The finish over the aluminum is hardly worthy of mention. It is quite thin and prone to scratching, so much so that it will easy come back with a blemish if you put it down on a hard surface. The main thing that brings it down in this category is what I refer to as “rattle-factor”. The hole where you slide it onto the forend tube is slightly larger to ensure a good fit, but with that comes playing room. Unless you hold it firmly every single step you take will be followed by the dull sound of aluminum touching steel. At one point or another you’ll need that hand to do something, and noise is sure to follow. Rattle-factor is large flaw when it comes to hunting, where being quiet is the name of the game.
Picture of forend after a year of service (excuse the dirt buildup in the vented rib, been hunting in the desert). Note the silver showing through, particularly towards the back end of the forend. It stands out far more in person and looks almost like white paint was splattered all over it. While it is largely just cosmetic due to the fact aluminum is highly resistant to the elements, the fact remains the finish is weak.
Weight and balance: (8/10)
Personally, I prefer a good, heavy shotgun. I’ll add weight to the stock and mag tube to keep the balancing point towards the rear, because I can’t stand the feeling that the large barrels I use are trying to nose down. This forend does just that. It doesn’t add a lot, but just a fine tuned amount of ballast in the mag tube region. If you can’t handle added weight, put simply this forend was not designed with you in mind. Having loaned it out to hunting partners to test, many of them can’t stand it at all. These are gentlemen used to polymer, so now moving past the weight of wood into it’s own territory is out of their comfort zone.
If you can handle a little weight, it’s wonderful. If you can’t, don’t even consider this purchase.
Outdoor Practicality: (6/10)
Being aluminum it has both good and bad points outdoors. The good is that it won’t chip or gouge if you hit it on something hard, such as a rock, albeit it will scratch the finish. It can easily get wet, be left out in the sun or out in the frigid cold without any damaging effects. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will always be user friendly. When wet it is slicker than anyone could be happy with, to the point that if not held tightly you could easily slip off of it when pumping. Out in the sun it heats up quickly, and out in the cold it turns frigid even faster. The only way it is tolerable while in the field is while wearing gloves.
Aesthetic Appeal: (7/10)
It definitely has some “cool factor” so to speak. In a market dominated by smooth and contoured polymer it’s boxy, rigid and solid looking. Yet at the same time it is quite slim and sleek. It’s not unusual to have someone ask what exactly it is or how it feels. If you’re into mounting things, there are even three rails available for it to add that “tactical” appeal. A very unique piece indeed.
The other forend is the Blackhawk Replacment Forend.
Price Point: (5./10)
This is the least appealing aspect of the forend these days. The product has been discontinued, and although it can still be found by sellers on Ebay and Amazon, the price has nearly doubled since I purchased mine due to the now limited numbers. A common price seems to in the vicinity of $40. There are many fine products in that price range which makes it quite difficult to say that it is worth that kind of money. If you’re willing to take a chance on something different, however, it may very well please you in the end.
Overall Rating: (7/10)
The forend does what it was designed to do and nothing more. It’s heavy, sturdy, unique and somewhat impractical. But after using it for a year I can’t imagine moving on to anything else. If you wear gloves year round while partaking in shooting sport most of the bad points disappear. You’re left with nothing but a solid and scratched up forend that rattles. The comfortable grip and size with the ballast weight more than make up for it in my book. Keep the flaws in mind, hold it tight and chances are it’ll give you no reason to complain when all is said and done.