As the wife of a gunsmith, I’m embarrassed to admit that, before being a part of a gun shop I could have summed up everything I knew about muzzle devices into 8 words: “they go on the end of an AR”. (I couldn’t even tell you the difference between a muzzle brake and a flash suppressor!
Since we’ve opened the shop, and having spent some time assembling, cleaning, and helping build my own and other ARs, I can safely speak with confidence on the subject.
And let me tell you – there’s a LOT to speak about! I had NO IDEA that so much went into that little bitty part on the end of the barrel!
For starters – what IS the difference between a flash suppressor and a muzzle brake?
Muzzle Brakes vs. Flash Suppressors:
Muzzle devices are intended to disperse the gas coming out of the end of your AR whenever you fire it. The force and propulsion of the bullet
coming out of the end of your barrel has to go SOMEWHERE. Muzzle devices give the gas an outlet and can either reduce recoil or the flash as a result of a discharged rifle.
There are 2 main kinds of muzzle devices: Muzzle Brakes and Flash Suppressors.
Muzzle brakes are designed primarily to curtail the recoil coming from the firearm when discharged. However, they make the gun LOUD AS HELL and tend to put off a really good flash when fired (so if you’re looking for home defense, skip down to the Flash Suppressor section!)
A good use for a muzzle brake would be hunting, or even in 3-Gun shooting events. The steadier, reduced recoil means that you can find your target that much faster after each pull of the trigger.
However, if you’re hunting, you’re going to scare off every other animal anywhere close to your hiding spot. Like I said, muzzle brakes tend to be LOUD.
Do you HAVE to have a flash suppressor? No. Unless you’re trying to get that last white tail buck before the sun completely sets and don’t want to get BLINDED by the foot-long flash that comes out the end of your barrel when you pull the trigger. Good luck seeing which direction he runs off in!
Of course, there are some that can do a little bit of both. These can give slight flash suppression while also reducing SOME of the recoil. But it’s kind of like handwriting with either hand – you can do one better than the other…but sometimes writing with either one comes out looking horrible.
So what determines the recoil, flash suppression, and effectiveness of a muzzle device?
It’s All In The Holes:
Believe it or not, the ports cut into muzzle devices aren’t just for looking “cool” (as I thought they were ‘way back when’). These all serve very important purposes!
For example, if the holes in the muzzle brake are drilled at a 90 degree angle, the force of the gas exiting the barrel is completely different than if the holes are drilled at an angle – whether towards or away from the barrel!
Holes drilled in equal spaces around the muzzle brake will only reduce recoil and NOT alter the direction or movement of the muzzle when the gun is fired.
Now, to reduce the actual movement of the muzzle, holes must be drilled in the top and sides of the device…but NOT the bottom! If you REALLY want control, the holes must favor one side or the other to counteract rifling spin.
The best part? Once you have the right muzzle device for what you’re wanting to do, a simple crescent wrench is all you need to fine-tune your brake or flash suppressor to do what it is that you purchased it for.
The not-so-best part? Trial and error seem to be the only way you can find the muzzle device that works best for you. There are a LOT of factors that come into play when choosing one:
- Body type
- Ammunition Type
You get the idea.
The best way to get as close as possible to a perfect muzzle device? Talk to a gunsmith (like John Young at Fighting Sheep Dog). Let him know what you’re going to shoot, what type of ammo, how you typically stand and hold the rifle, etc. He’ll be able to tell you the best device he can recommend.