A roundup of popular flash hiders and muzzle brakes to get you started on your next build:
The original flash hider on the M16 was open-pronged and didn't hold up. Broken tines led to the A2 "birdcage." It's fairly effective at dissipating gases, but most of the gas and unburned fuel end up coming straight out with some flowing through the slotted ports. There's enough turbulence to slow things down, but not enough to eliminate flash in faster-moving gases, particularly on shorter barrels. Popular because it's small, inexpensive and works well on 16-inch-plus barrels.
$10, available everywhere.
With night-vision technology coming of age over the past decade, some corners of the Defense Department began looking for a way to minimize muzzle flash's effect on night-vision goggles.
In 2002, Brad Meyers' company noticed the image "blooming" when firing weapons using night vision. Meyers created and patented two features to reduce muzzle flash: offset, asymmetrical and nonparallel tine design; and the use of expansion grooves on the inside of the tines. Both of these advancements can be seen when looking down the muzzle of BE Meyers' 5.56mm and 7.62mm devices. While the military and law enforcement can buy BE Meyers flash hiders, the only way a civilian can get BE Meyers performance is by buying a SureFire flash hider, since SureFire licenses the design.
Exclusively for 10.5-inch rifles and shorter, the patented design is based on the Bulgarian AK47 SU Krinkov four-piece flash hider. The main benefit is how the device eliminates flash and directs all concussive force downrange, cutting the startle reflex and contributing to the situational awareness of teammates when operating in close quarters. It uses a cone-shaped baffle that directs expanding gases into an enclosed expansion chamber where they cool before mixing with the outside air.
The AAC Blackout is nearly as effective as the BE Meyers and is 40 percent shorter. Three thick tines with scalloped bases start the gases forming a vortex as they enter the hider's expansion chamber. The Army picked this design and the BE Meyers for signature reduction efforts in Afghanistan, and in 2010, Joint Special Operations Command found that both AAC Blackout and BE Meyers flash hiders were 96 percent more effective in reducing muzzle flash than an A2 birdcage hider.
DS Arms FAL-Style Flash Hider
Tough and angry, DS Arms is turning out a toothy FAL flash hider for use on a standard ½-inch/28 threaded AR barrel. Made of 8620 steel, it's even compatible with FAL bayonets. It's an option for guys who want something different from the stock AR look.
SureFire refines a common brake design that controls muzzle rise and recoil with small ports and large open baffles. Open baffle design has a side effect: lateral concussion. These brakes direct forces evenly to the sides and rear along with sound and pressure, making the brake wonderful to shoot but unpleasant to stand next to. SureFire's refinement offers better muzzle control performance than its competitors, but its effectiveness brings pronounced lateral concussion. New this year are brakes that apply downward pressure from 12 o'clock, perfect for bipod use. SureFire calls this "neutral porting." The new neutral brakes are available for 6.8, 7.62 and .300 Win Mag.
The BattleComp went from idea to product in seven weeks and became one of the most popular muzzle devices on the AR market in less than a year. Computer modeling resulted in 85 percent efficiency. BattleComp uses a matrix of ports and gets the nod for compact size and ability to keep recoil and muzzle flip down while not punishing adjacent shooters with sound and force. Devices come in four flavors: 1.0 for .223 caliber, the original; 2.0, a refinement intended to be compatible with a few sound suppressors; 1.5, a longer 1.0 designed to be pinned and welded into place to bring a 14-inch barrel up to 16 inches; and the BABC (Big Ass BattleComp), which is the 1.0 for .308s.
By dropping one baffle and replacing it with the three open tines found on the Blackout, the Brakeout gives up about 10 percent of its braking performance but adds a capable flash hider. It's a worthy compromise for shooters looking for more flash reduction than an A2 flash hider's but wanting some recoil control.
Ares Armor Effin-A
The Effin-A brakes feature DIY porting. Available for AR15 (5.56), AR10 (.308) and AK-47s, the devices come with all ports open so you can shoot a group while feeling how your muzzle moves. Then, plug the ports with the included threaded inserts until you've tuned out all the muzzle rise and shift. Ares says this can be done on the range in as little as three strings of shots.