There are tons of muzzle device options out there, ranging in all shapes and sizes. Not only that, but depending on the muzzle device you choose, you may need to be concerned with timing, and you’ll definitely need to consider thread pitch. Although they don’t always get the recognition they deserve, this article is dedicated to all things muzzle devices. We’ll be discussing a muzzle brake vs compensators vs flash hider, as well as timing, and thread pitch to boot! Read below for an intro course to some terminology used and the main reasons why you might use one muzzle device over the others.
The first device up for discussion is the muzzle brake. Its purpose is to port exiting muzzle gasses to the sides in order to reduce recoil. When the muzzle brake is installed on the firearm, the ports will be horizontal so that when you shoot the gun, the air is vented out to the left and right, instead of equally in all directions. In order to obtain the correct positioning of the muzzle brake on the firearm, it needs to be timed.
Timing is to ensure that the ports are properly positioned on the firearm. Almost all muzzle brakes should be timed, although, with a silencer on the firearm, it isn’t AS important. A great example of this is the Rugged muzzle brake.
Sometimes, when you’re screwing the muzzle brake onto the host firearm, it won’t automatically be timed correctly. There is a tool called a shim (similar to the shape of a washer, except they are the exact same thickness all the way around) that usually come with muzzle brakes in varying thicknesses so that you can time the muzzle brake correctly.
It is worth noting that muzzle brakes are highly effective at reducing the recoil of their host firearm, but the downside is that all that directional gas will create an obnoxious amount of pressure and noise for anyone standing to the side of the firearm. While this is really only relevant for unsuppressed fire, it’s worth noting that your range buddies won’t be super excited to go shoot with you if you're running an unsuppressed muzzle brake on your AR-15!
Flash hiders are another option to mount onto your firearm. Aesthetically, they look like evenly spaced prongs. As the name of this device indicates, the purpose is to reduce the muzzle flash when shooting. Especially important in no or low light shooting environments to protect the shooters night vision, flash hiders break up the escaping gas and unspent powder to reduce the combustion that happens after the projectile leaves the barrel. A very popular and great example would be the Dead Air flash hider.
Flash Hiders come in multiple shapes and sizes and are generally categorized by the number of prongs and whether they are “open” or “closed.” Three prong flash hiders are the most common silencer hosts but you will see some four prong and “closed tine” designs as well. The classic A2 Birdcage is a great example of a closed tine system that reduces the possibility of snagging it on bags, clothing, vegetation, etc.
Many manufacturers make a three-prong flash hider with prongs of different length. Since we get asked about this quite a bit, the reasoning is simple enough to cover here. Open prongs of the same length have a tendency to create a “tuning fork effect” as the projectile leaves the barrel. By using prongs of differing lengths, they reduce the resonating effect and remove that pesky PING that can be bothersome to some shooters.
Compensators haven't been as prolific as muzzle brakes or flash hiders in the past, but they have become more popular throughout the years. The main purpose of this type of device is to hinder the vertical climb of a muzzle by porting gas in a contradictory direction or omnidirectionally.
Most often, compensators have holes or ports along the top of the device so escaping muzzle gas has a downward force on the end of the firearm – counteracting the natural “muzzle flip” of the gun. Many compensators also include some manner of horizontal ports that reduce recoil, as a muzzle break would, in addition to their muzzle rise compensation. A great example of this is the F1 Tombstone Compensator.
There are two more terms that we feel are necessary to mention and define: thread count and thread pitch. These days, thread count and thread pitch are used interchangeably. But there's a distinct difference between the two, so let's cover them!
Thread count is the standard American way of referencing threading and measures by diameter in inches and how many threads there are per inch.
Thread pitch is the metric terminology used and measures by diameter in millimeters and the distance of space between each thread.
Said differently, a 1/2x28 thread count is a ½” diameter with 28 threads per inch. Additionally, a m13.5x1 thread pitch is 13.5mm in diameter with a thread every 1mm.
Muzzle Brakes vs Compensators vs Flash Hiders
A muzzle brake vs compensator vs flash hider, oh my! Which is the best muzzle device to use? Just like most purchases you probably make, it will usually depend on what you want and what your goals are.
Generally speaking, if you’re shooting suppressed, we usually see people use flash hiders for a variety of reasons. The biggest reasons people use flash hiders is for (1) not typically having to time it, and (2) suppressed shooting already helps reduce recoil.
Muzzle brakes inside of suppressors act as a sacrificial baffle - it is thought that the ports will absorb some of the initial blast. However, the amount of absorption is still up for debate, and there’s an argument to be made that it’s negligible. In the grand scheme of things, if you purchase a quality suppressor, having a muzzle brake potentially absorbing some of the initial blast errs more on the trivial side than beneficial.
So there you have it. A quick crash course on all things muzzle devices and some terminology that usually gets coupled with it. We understand that this topic can be dense, so reach out to us if you have any questions. We've got customer service representatives standing by on our live chat to assist you!