Thoughts on Muzzle Brakes and Flash Hiders
Dr. John Woods 11.23.15
When the French military were the first to adapt smokeless powder use in their Army rifles, they gained a huge advantage on the battlefield. Know what that was? Of course you do. By using smokeless powder, the enemy was unable to tell exactly where shots were coming from because there was no longer the visible plume of smoke coming from the black powder cartridges.
In a similar fashion, modern battle rifles came on the scene and continued to be improved over the decades of conflict, there came the development of the appendages found attached to the muzzle ends of rifle barrels. These add-on devices were created for several purposes to enhance the shoot ability of the rifles and also as a combat feature to reduce the visibility of the rifle being fired.
Some battle rifles like the American M-14 and the Belgian FN-FAL were fixed with fluted muzzle brakes that not only helped bleed off barrel gases to reduce felt recoil, but also to hide the flash of the round going off. Many rifles before and after these models bore these devices as pretty standard rifle parts. Even the old British SMLE Carbines had a fixture like this as did some of the special mission M-1 Carbine models.
Fast forward to today’s current military and civilian models for semi-auto rifles, and the muzzle brakes and flash hiders are considered a standard factory feature. For all intents and purposes today, are these barrel extensions really necessary or functional?
In term of practicality I seriously doubt a muzzle break on a 5.56 M-4 AR-15 is necessary. We know this because there are many hunting rifle versions of the AR-15, albeit the MSR or Modern Sporting Rifle, with plain muzzle end barrels. The same could be said for the utility of a flash hider feature on the same rifle. I think they are just part of the ingrained appearance of the AR platform.
Now step up to a .308 military type firearm, and you may well want a muzzle break just to help tame the barrel jump and recoil somewhat. Law enforcement, SWAT teams, and special security units may also favor a device to help curb the powder burning muzzle flash. While both components have their uses, most of us have just grown up expecting to see one on the barrel.