How to Time a Muzzle Device: A Step-by-Step Guide for Installing a Muzzle Device

Understanding how to time a muzzle brake is crucial for optimizing its performance on your firearm. Proper alignment ensures effective recoil reduction and improved accuracy, whether you're using a self-timing muzzle brake or a traditional muzzle device. This comprehensive guide will walk you through effectively timing a muzzle brake and making adjustments to achieve the desired results.

Table of Contents

What is Muzzle Device Timing?

Timing your muzzle device is crucial for maximizing its effectiveness and enhancing your shooting experience. Timing a muzzle device means correctly aligning the muzzle brake or compensator, and this is done by stacking shims between the shoulder of the barrel and the muzzle device so that once tight, the device is in the desired orientation to achieve optimal performance. For example, a muzzle brake will be timed so that the ports are perfectly horizontal; this allows the gasses to disperse laterally, which mitigates muzzle rise on your rifle.

Customers often ask us, "Does a flash hider need to be timed?" Usually, flash hiders do not require timing, as the orientation of the prongs does not affect the performance of the device. There are some exceptions to this, such as the Surefire Warcomp, which has a built-in compensator that needs to be vertically oriented to drive the muzzle down and keep the rifle shooting "flat" or alleviate muzzle rise.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Time and Adjust a Muzzle Brake 

Before we get into the install, there are a handful of tools and supplies you’ll want to have on hand to make the process an easy install. Of course, you will need your new muzzle device and the barrel that it will be installed on; you will also need shims, a torque wrench, an adjustable wrench or armorers wrench (to remove the old muzzle device), and a thread locker (optional). Having cleaning supplies like a rag and some rubbing alcohol will make cleaning the threads simple and is ideal for maximum adhesion if you choose to use a thread locker. A bench vice or a way to secure the firearm will make this installation a much easier task. Any time you work on a firearm, you should follow the basic rules of safety and ensure the firearm is unloaded.  

  • Remove the old muzzle device: Using your adjustable wrench or armorer’s wrench remove the current muzzle device, most barrels are threaded lefty-loosey.
  • Clean and inspect the threads: Check the threads on the barrel and the muzzle device for any dirt, debris, or damage. Wiping the threads down with alcohol will ensure any adhesive bonds properly.

Test fit the new muzzle device: Begin by threading the muzzle device onto the barrel by hand. Rotate it clockwise until it is hand-tight

Timing the Muzzle Device: You want your muzzle brake to be horizontal, remove the device and stack the appropriate number of shims until the device is about a ¼ turn from perfect alignment when hand-tight.

  • Optional: Remove the muzzle device and apply a few drops of Rocksett or your preferred thread locker on the barrel threads, this ceramic adhesive will ensure the device does not come loose once torqued on. Note: Common Red/Blue Locktite is not rated for high temps that a muzzle device can be subjected to.
  • Apply Torque: Using a torque wrench, apply the specified torque as described by your muzzle devices manufacturer, normally ~25 ft/lbs.
  • Check alignment: After tightening the muzzle device, visually inspect the alignment to ensure it is still properly positioned. This is also a great time to use an alignment rod to check concentr

How Does a Self-Timing Muzzle Brake Work?

A self-timing muzzle brake is a specialized device that uses a built-in mechanism to allow you to time the device quickly and easily without the need to use shims or washers. What sets these brakes apart are their innovative designs, which eliminate the need for additional accessories or timing procedures during installation. These devices use a collar that threads onto your barrel threads; this collar allows the brake to be adjusted into any position the shooter desires, then can be tightened to lock the brake in the perfect orientation. Self-timing muzzle brakes are a user-friendly way to get all the benefits of a muzzle brake without spending the time making the small adjustments necessary to orient a traditional muzzle brake.

Is There a Difference Between Shims and Crush Washers?

We are often asked what is better, crush washers or shims for timing a muzzle brake? You should use shims when installing a Crush washers, when “crushed” usually don’t crush evenly. This means that the muzzle brake might not be entirely concentric to the bore. With just a muzzle brake, a little misalignment might not be a big issue, but a slight variance in alignment could cause damage when using a suppressor and could lead to a baffle or endcap strike. It’s better to be safe than sorry and just always stick with shims.


Timing a muzzle brake is a crucial step for maximizing its performance and enhancing your shooting experience. Whether you're dealing with a self-timing muzzle brake or need to time the device yourself, taking the time to properly install your muzzle device is worth the effort. Correct timing ensures optimal recoil reduction, reduced muzzle rise, and improved accuracy. If you are not comfortable installing a muzzle device on your own, find a qualified gunsmith to attach your muzzle device for you.