The Vertical Foregrip (VFG) has been around for some time. In the earliest days, it could be seen on larger automatic rifles used in the military. In the 1930’s it became a standard attachment to the iconic Thompson submachine gun, better known to most as the “Tommy gun” or “Chicago Typewriter” used by the mob throughout the US. At the time, the VFG was used to maintain better control of an automatic rifle, often fired from the waist or shoulder position.
While it was common on certain rifles back in the day, the VFG rage in the gun world didn’t really happen until the SOPMOD kit was adopted. If you are not familiar with SOPMOD (Special Operations Peculiar Modification) program, it was an accessories system used for the M4A1 system in the mid-90s.
The military was using the M4 in the mid-80s, but the SOPMOD kit wasn’t adopted until 1995, which included a VFG to accommodate all the attachments that were being added to the M4. The SOPMOD kit was used by the USSOCOM (United States Special Operations Command) and that is what started the craze for gun owners to add a vertical foregrip to their rifles.
Why was the vertical foregrip vital to the M4?
The M4 was a shorter version of the M16A2 rifle and allowed special forces to carry shorter rifles during tactical operations. Because the M4 had such a short handguard, however, gripping the M4 became a growing problem as more accessories were added to the short rail system. As they added IR illuminators, IR lasers, white light, and optics to the M4, the need for a VFG was essential so you could keep a good grip on the rifle during combat.
The VFG is not the best choice for accuracy over longer-range shots but worked well for a short rifle with a lot of equipment attached to a short rail. As technology advanced, these attachments were combined into single units allowing the weapon to be lighter and not need as much rail space. We also started seeing longer free-floating rails become standard on most AR-style rifles, giving us much more room to add accessories and still leave room for a good grip.
Are there other reasons for a VFG?
Over the years, the vertical foregrip has become a common attachment to see on rifles, but many people who use them may not know why they should or should not have one on their rifle. The most common answer I get when asking people why they use a vertical foregrip is they think it helps with control and accuracy. While on some types of weapons, a VFG can help with control, a standard vertical foregrip is not going to help make your rifle more accurate. There are some reasons why someone may still want to use one on their rifle, but it all depends on what you’re using it for and what works for you.
A few reasons why you may need a VFG on your rifle:
1. C-Clamp Grip
When using the c-clamp style of gripping with your support hand, the shooter places their thumb over the top of their rail and their remaining four fingers grip the front of the VFG, pulling the weapon into their shoulder as they shoot. This is a modified c-clamp grip as
the traditional c-clamp grip used an outward-facing hand when shooting with the support of a structure at your support hand, but we won’t get into the details of that right now. When using a VFG in this style, I like to call it a modified c-clamp grip. This style of grip does allow for quick target acquisition in CQB and helps to control recoil. For this style of shooting, the VFG must be close to the end of the rail on your rifle for the best muzzle control.
2. Carrying in Low-Ready
The need to carry your rifle in low ready for long periods of time without the use of a sling probably wouldn’t apply to many people. But some militaries around the world, run drills that require their soldiers to carry their rifles for long periods of time at low ready. A vertical foregrip placed a little closer to the mag well can help make the rifle much more comfortable to carry.
3. Protection from Heat
With ammo costing an arm and a leg lately, there are not many of us that just go out and burn up ammo as we did years ago. However, if for whatever reason you need to be able to fire fast enough and long enough that heat becomes an issue, a vertical foregrip is almost essential when your rail is hot enough to burn right through your gloves.
4. Barrier Stop
For those that like to shoot from a supported position, a VFG can be effective when resting your barrel over a support (like the top of a wall) and pushing the rifle forward using your VFG as a barrier stop. This method can make rapid shots a longer distance for long periods of time possible. I know of several hunters that use VFG for this reason, as they can wait long periods of time and then fire without moving their rifle.
5. Short Barrel Rifles
Another reason to use a vertical foregrip is when carrying a sub-machinegun or short-barreled rifle (SBR). When you have a very short barrel, having a VFG may be the only way to get good control of the weapon unless you use a mag-well grip, which I am not a fan of, but that is for another time. It is important to understand however that an AR pistol cannot have a VFG. Adding one to it would classify it as an SBR which must be registered with the ATF.
Can you use the vertical foregrip in combination with other grips?
Like many things in the firearms world, tactics have changed over the years and the vertical foregrip has not been left out. There has always been the traditional rifle grip, and then we started using the VFG. We also had the mag-well grip that swept across the rifle world and now we have merged into a little bit of everything. When training in different law enforcement circles, almost everyone uses a VFG as support for an inward-facing c-clamp grip or as a hand stop for a wrist-over grip. This is where we are starting to see the other style of rail grips, like the angled handgrip and hand stop, become popular.
So, are vertical foregrips necessary?
The answer depends on you. What are you putting it on, and what is your reasoning for needing it?
Maybe something works for you that doesn’t for others. Here is the advice I would give: don’t put anything on your gun just because “that’s what everyone else does.” As you train more and hear from others, you may change your thoughts from time to time and that is a good habit to be in. Just make sure you know why you are using any accessory on your rifle and whatever you decide, make sure you train, train, and then train again.
IMHO ya missed a key factor – body conformation. Some of us old beat up folks find it much easier to maintain control using a VFG. Various broken bits and pieces or just loss of flexibility due to excessive wear and tear can contribute to making a ‘standard’ grip less effective. You sort of hinted around it but never really said it out loud.