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Bullet Points: 5 Things to Solve the Muzzle Device Mystery

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It's interesting how often you'll run into people who have no clue what they have on the end of their barrel, little idea how best to leverage it to their advantage, or even know it's something they ought to even be aware of. Listen, that magical chunk of steel you put on there can do a lot for your shooting.

In order to help with that, we put together a quick down and dirty primer on what you could be using, and why, and we ask our readers for some intelligent, articulate, and academic input.

Here's your chance to help educate shooters who might not know as much as you (or have as much experience) on the subject of muzzle devices.

Bullet Points: 5 Things to Solve the Muzzle Device Mystery

1. Flash Hider


This is the BCM A2X extended hider in this great picture by Stickman.

This is a muzzle device many people misunderstand or flat get wrong. The goal of a flash hider is to mitigate the light (muzzle flash) that erupts from the end of the barrel when your booger hook pulls the trigger.

Most people are familiar with the A2 “Birdcage” flash hider seen on most military rifles in the developed world, but there are others. This old school technology remains one of the better ones out there. It doesn't do anything to help control the rifle, it just makes seeing your target easier and reduces your visible signature when you're shooting.

2. Muzzle Brake


Surefire makes the Socom Brake seen here to the left and the Warden that goes over it to get rid of the blast to the sides

The muzzle brake is perhaps the most popular device to have on a rifle, though those who favor something else are usually very vocal and ardent about it.

As you're probably aware, pulling the trigger on a round produces gas that pushes that bullet down the barrel. A muzzle brake deflects that gas, pushing it rearward or outward (brakes vary) at an angle. This helps reduce felt recoil. The trade-off is that it does little to win friends on the range, especially when shooting indoors — that gas is hot and will give someone beside you a beating. Some attachments like the SureFire Warden will mitigate this problem.

3. Suppressor/Silencer


You can even get suppressors for the bigger blasters. The picture above is the Salvo 12 from Silencerco

A favorite in movies involving assassins, hitmen and secret agents, the silencer or suppressor is often depicted as making a gun silent. This is not entirely correct, though they have the concept down.

Suppressors are designed to lower the report of your weapon, which will of course prevent your ears from ringing like you just left a Steel Panther concert. They also act much like a flash suppressor, making things happier for you (and potentially healthier for you, if you're deployed) in the dark. A suppressor usually has a stack of baffles in it; those are designed to slow the escaping gas. Typically you should use subsonic ammo when running a suppressor. This makes them more “ear safe.” Regular high velocity ammo can of course be used, but only at the expense of producing extra noise. Oh, and silencers also provide the benefit of reducing felt recoil.

As for the proper term — we use suppressor and silencer interchangeably. Some will argue, saying these devices don't actually silence a weapon, only suppress it, but we reckon that just an excuse to be pedantic or outraged (or both) without any real cause. After all, the guy who invented them called them silencers. If you're worried about it, just refer to all of them by their slang name, “cans.” No one will get pissy about that.

4. Compensator


This is the Alpha Wolf Compensator for Glocks. It jets the gasses upwards keeping the barrel down and nicely matches the slide contours

Compensators are a slightly different muzzle device than the others listed above. Usually you'll see or hear about compensators on race pistols. Comps jet the gases up, keeping the firearm from rising during recoil. This allows faster follow up shots. Another type of compensator is a linear comp, which pushes the gas forward. This makes things a little quieter for both the shooter and the others on the firing point, and it helps reduce muzzle climb by pushing the weapon back in a more rearward direction.

5. All the Other Things


Golf ball goes in and blank fires, followed by a huge smile with the NcSTAR golf ball launcher.

Sometimes you put stuff on your barrel for fun, like golfball launchers. In a manner reminiscent of the old M7-M1 Garand combo, these use a blank ammunition to propel a golfball in way that's far more entertaining than the other guy's favorite iron. You insert a golfball into the tube and when you pull the trigger, the burning powder launches the ball. You'll need to arc it a bit to get any real range out of it, but don't let that stop you from giving it a try.


Cover photo by Henry Z. De Kuyper.

Want to see more? We have covered a lot of muzzle devices:

Okay, RECOILweb readers — what are we missing? What did we get right or wrong?

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