Learning Center

Common Muzzle Devices and Their Uses

Common Muzzle Devices and Their Uses

Share this article:
William Lawson

William Lawson

Muzzle devices have been around for over a century. But they are relative newcomers to the broad civilian shooting world. Previously relegated almost exclusively to the military and competition shooters, modern firearm designs now regularly offer threaded barrels which facilitate easy accessorizing, including the attachment of muzzle devices.

SilencerCo ASR muzzle devices: flash hider, single port muzzle brake, and 3-port muzzle brake
Flash hiders and muzzle brakes are among the most common muzzle devices.

But muzzle devices serve different purposes. What’s right for one firearm may be all wrong for another. The trick is knowing each gun’s purpose and why you want a specific muzzle device. Since muzzle devices are becoming more accessible and prevalent among civilian shooters, let’s look at a few common examples and talk about how they apply in that world.

Most civilian applications for muzzle devices fall within the hunting and competitive shooting realms. We’ll break competitive shooting down to precision and tactical categories. We should be clear that muzzle devices aren’t necessary for these activities. But the right muzzle device can enhance both performance and enjoyment.

Muzzle Devices for Hunting

SilencerCo Harvester Evo
The SilencerCo Harvester Evo provides hunters with impressive sound reduction and is compatible with ASR Muzzle Brakes and Flash Hiders.

Depending on your needs, flash suppressors and silencers can be very useful in hunting. Many deer hunters harvest their kills in low-light conditions, just before sunrise or dusk. Some hunters pursue their game at night. Hog, coyote, and coon hunters come to mind.

Flash Hiders

Flash hiders are perfect for low light and after-dark hunting. Some rifles, particularly those with shorter barrels, “flash” when they fire. That flash is caused when bullets exit the muzzle before all the propellant (powder) burns off. That burning powder exits the muzzle as it burns. The shorter the barrel, and the more powerful the cartridge, the more likely you’ll experience muzzle flash. This especially applies to pig and coyote hunters who often use AR-15s and AK pattern rifles.

Flash hiders deflect muzzle flash from the user, minimizing distractions and preserving night or low light vision. They’re also inexpensive. Flash hiders take different forms, but most are pronged, like the ASR Flash Hider, with some being closed on the end like the ASR Closed-Tine Flash Hider.

asr flash hider
Flash hiders are simple, affordable, and effective. (Author’s Photo)

A flash hider helps preserve your natural low light and night vision. After all, who wants to be blinded after one shot? And since many nocturnal hunters use night vision gear, good flash suppressors are must-have items. If your Mark I Eyeball finds the muzzle flash too bright, try it while wearing NVGs. 

Most deer hunters, admittedly, won’t need a flash hider because they use dedicated, full-length hunting rifles. But some do use the AR and AK platforms, so it can be useful for those folks.


Silencers, or suppressors if you prefer, are great for all types of hunting. Hunters have always compromised in the field. Muzzle blast is loud and can damage hearing. But successful hunting requires all the senses, including being able to hear the game, the forest sounds, or even the weather. So, wearing ear protection is less than ideal for most hunters.

A quality suppressor can mitigate, or even eliminate, that compromise. Hunters can use their ears without inflicting damage when they shoot. Suppressors are more popular than ever, prompting more and more gunmakers to offer hunting models with threaded barrels. There are even shotgun suppressors. Suppressors not only protect the hunter’s hearing, but they also just make the hunt more pleasant, especially if firing multiple shots, as bird or hog hunters often do.

Hog Hunting With Thermal SilencerCo AR pistol
Nighttime hog hunting is perfect for a flash hider, or even better, a suppressor.

Muzzle Brakes and Compensators for Hunting?

In short, probably not, unless you’re a long-range hunter. Brakes and “comps” reduce recoil and muzzle rise, but they also make your muzzle blast much louder, especially brakes. A louder hunting gun isn’t desirable since it either forces you to wear ear protection or damages your hearing more than usual. A long-range hunter may indeed wear ear protection and feel the need for recoil reduction. That’s an individual call. The ethics of long-range hunting is a topic for another day.

Muzzle Devices for Competitive Shooting

As we said, muzzle devices are very useful and widely used in the competitive shooting sports. Muzzle brakes, compensators, and suppressors all have their place, increasing performance and enjoyment. Let’s discuss the precision and tactical categories.

Muzzle brakes help 3-Gun shooters stay on target for faster follow-up shots.” (outdoorhub.com)
Muzzle brakes help 3-Gun shooters stay on target for faster follow-up shots. (outdoorhub.com)

Precision Rifle Shooting

Precision rifle shooters are a breed unto themselves. They painstakingly shave hundredths of an inch from their scores through proper technique, equipment, and never-ending practice. Proper muzzle devices can help with that.

Most, if not all, precision rifle shooters use a muzzle brake, a suppressor, or both. A recent survey of top precision rifle participants revealed that muzzle brake-only shooters outnumber suppressor-only shooters by 4 to 1. Many say they will sometimes run both. So, what do muzzle brakes and suppressors do, and how do they help precision rifle shooters?

Muzzle Brakes

Muzzle brakes reduce recoil by redirecting the gas generated when a gun is fired. Gas is generally expelled directly out the muzzle, pushing the rifle back into the shooter. This same gas creates muzzle rise, which we’ll address shortly.

Muzzle brakes feature side ports that redirect the gas sideways. This redirection reduces the rifle’s felt recoil by mitigating its rearward push. More ports equal better performance. Muzzle brakes come in many forms and some work better than others. They are particularly desirable on larger caliber rifles, like .338 Lapua or .50 BMG, though they help with less powerful weapons too.

three silencerco muzzle brakes
Muzzle brakes are the most common precision rifle muzzle device.

Some muzzle brakes are actually hybrid devices which also incorporate compensators. Comps are designed to reduce muzzle rise instead of recoil. They are ported like brakes, but the ports only channel the gas up, thus creating downward pressure on the muzzle. Comped firearms are easier to keep on target between shots and are popular with competition shooters.  Hybrid brakes will be ported on the sides and the top.

Brakes benefit precision shooters by reducing recoil. Hybrids reduce recoil and muzzle rise. The advantages are obvious, especially considering the razor-thin margin for error. Brakes have several distinct advantages over suppressors in this case.

  • Brakes reduce recoil by an average of 30 percent better than suppressors. 
  • Brakes don’t cause the barrel to heat like suppressors do.
  • Brakes are far less expensive than suppressors.
  • Brakes can be bought off the shelf, whereas suppressors require an ATF background check procedure that can last up to a year.

That’s not to say that suppressors aren’t valuable. After all, many suppressors can be run in conjunction with muzzle brakes. But let’s back up and briefly state what suppressors are and what they do.

Suppressors muffle not only sound, but also muzzle flash, muzzle rise, and recoil. Modern suppressors do all that through their baffle system, which redirects and cools the gas before releasing it. Suppressors benefit every type of shooter, including hunters, competitors, target shooters, and even police and military. Suppressors are made for every caliber I can think of. They protect your hearing, your hands and shoulder, and reduce concussive forces.

An Omega 300 suppressor mounted with an ASR Mount and Flash Hider.
An Omega 300 suppressor mounted with an ASR Mount and Flash Hider.

Tactical Shooting

Tactical shooting is another sport where muzzle devices aren’t optional. Whether you shoot 3-Gun or whatever, brakes, comps, and suppressors save micro-seconds that mean victory or defeat. Braked rifles and comped pistols reduce recoil and muzzle rise, aiding with quick follow-up shots.

Suppressors can be an option for reducing noise and recoil, depending on the shooter’s setup and approach. Heat may be an issue but that’s up to the individual. Many top shooters use suppressors. Many don’t.

competition AR suppressed
Suppressors are also a solid choice for tactical competition shooters. (Photo by ActionBooth via gunmagwarehouse.com)

We should note that some competition pistol categories do not allow muzzle devices. We acknowledge that to avoid angry comments.

Muzzle Devices in the Military

The muzzle devices mentioned here all have military applications. Flash hiders are standard issue for infantry rifles. Brakes will be on more powerful guns like sniper or designated marksman rifles. Special ops guys will often roll with suppressors, some of which will be mounted over brakes or comps.

The advantages are the same as with civilian shooters. Muzzle devices help the shooter put rounds on target quicker and more accurately. The benefit of suppressors to special ops units is obvious. No suppressed weapon is ever “Hollywood quiet,” especially a semi-auto or automatic firearm, but the decibel decrease is significant. As technology progresses, many nations are moving toward widespread suppressor use.

.50 caliber sniper rifle with muzzle brake
The muzzle brake helps tame this big .50 caliber sniper rifle.(wallup.net)

Enhance Your Shooting Experience

The right muzzle device on the right firearm will almost certainly improve your shooting experience. Whether you’re a hunter, competitor, or even just a target shooter, reducing noise and/or recoil and shooting more accurately are always good things. Just understand that all brakes, comps, and suppressors are not created the same. Most are designed for specific classes of firearms or calibers, and even tasks. Unless you’re just looking for a basic flash hider, you’ll need to do your homework.

The key is understanding the pros and cons of each device and weighing those against your firearm and what you’re trying to accomplish. That kind of understanding maximizes what you get from the muzzle device of your choice.

Share this article:
Other Related Articles:
You're $175.00 away from free shipping.
Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop
Calculate Shipping
Apply Coupon