By now you know the dangerous end of your AR 15 upper puts out some serious flame and punch. Well, you should at least. The real question is how do you manage it and reduce it? We’re talking about your muzzle device - or lack thereof. Your black rifle’s muzzle device makes a considerable difference in how your weapon performs. It can even affect accuracy. There are a variety of different muzzle devices out there designed for different purposes. The purpose of your rifle will determine the muzzle device you choose to thread to the end of your AR 15.
The flash hider is pretty self-explanatory: It’s designed to reduce the flash created by the burnt gunpowder exiting the muzzle as the rifle is fired. This doesn’t completely eliminate flash but it helps to reduce the flash seen by the shooter. This allows you to maintain natural night vision when firing an AR 15 in low light, and they generally help reduce that natural flinch even experienced shooters are accustomed to fighting. Flash hiders are the best choice for tactical and home defense AR 15s. They’re perfect for any AR 15 Rifle Upper with a barrel shorter than 20 inches.
A flash can is a more extreme flash hider. The .223 Remington is designed for 20-inch barrels and as your barrel get shorter - like the common 16” barrel on an AR - you’re drastically increasing the flash the rifle creates. It gets worse: AR 15 pistol uppers and SBRs are notorious for their harsh, and sometimes it can actually be blinding. A flash can redirects that blast forward, away from the shooter and it’ll keep you from being blinded. If you’ve ever wondered why SBRs or AR Pistols, like the kit below, are often found sporting a muzzle device that looks like it shoots golf balls, well, that’s a flash can, and it’s not just for Cool Guy points.
A compensator is designed to take the blast created by a rifle and aim it upwards. This redirects the gasses at the end of the barrel and helps to force the barrel down. This reduces upward muzzle rise. The effect creates a rifle that’s easier to shoot and one that’s easier to fire rapidly. Compensators are best used for competition shooters looking to move fast and hard. The A2 Bird Cages most of us use on our AR 15 uppers are hybrid flash hiders and compensators that create an excellent compromise - you'll find the A2 on near every AR upper sell, lie our popular 16" Barrel & 12" M-Lok upper below:
A muzzle brake is a multi-chamber device that’s designed to reduce recoil. As the round leaves the barrel, the gasses that follow can create recoil. In a muzzle brake, the gasses follow the bullet but are redirected into the chambers and out the ports on the brake. The gasses hitting the brake create forward motion, which compensates and reduces rearward motion - recoil to you and us. This is another great option for competitors. The downside to a muzzle brake is the concussion it creates and sends off to the sides of the shooter. It’s certainly loud and not comfortable for folks next to you.
The last muzzle device is the suppressor, “silencer”, can, or muffler. Whatever you call it, a suppressor is the best muzzle device in most ways. A suppressor not only reduces noise, it reduces flash, muzzle rise, and recoil all at once. The only downside is that silencers are NFA items and require some paperwork, fingerprints, a $200 tax stamp, and a 3- to 6-month wait for approval - that’s before you can even buy it and use it. If you're ready to rock a subsonic .300 Blackout Upper and use it to its full potential, a suppressor is the way to go.
Put a Muzzle On It
Muzzle Devices are not complicated devices but they’re incredibly different and equally important. The proper selection of a muzzle device goes a long way in building and designing your AR 15. Make sure you choose one that makes sense with the rifle you’re building.DISCLAIMER: If you are new to the world of DIY AR-15 building, you likely have a lot of questions and rightfully so. It’s an area that has a lot of questions that, without the correct answers, could have some serious implications. We are by no means providing this content on our website to serve as legal advice or legal counsel. We encourage each and every builder to perform their own research around their respective State laws as well as educating themselves on the Federal laws. When performing your own research, please be sure that you are getting your information from a reliable source.