At a Glance: Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes
- OUR TOP PICK: VG6 Precision AR-15 Gamma 556 Muzzle Brake 5.56
- VG6 Precision – Gamma 65 Muzzle Brake 6.5 Creedmoor
- BEST BUDGET OPTION: Area 419 – Hellfire Muzzle Brake
Comparison of the Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes
Our Top Pick
|VG6 Precision AR-15 Gamma 556 Muzzle Brake 5.56||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Area 419 – Hellfire Muzzle Brake||View Latest Price|
Best Budget Option
|VG6 Precision – Gamma 65 Muzzle Brake 6.5 Creedmoor||View Latest Price|
Most AR-15s come with some type of muzzle device. Although it could be a flash hider or a compensator, muzzle brakes are the most common. There are also combinations of two of the three. In this article, we will focus both on muzzle brakes as well as compensator/muzzle brake hybrids. The primary function of a muzzle brake is to lower and limit recoil and muzzle rise by redirecting gasses that escape from the muzzle of your gun.
Here’s our list of the top AR15 muzzle brakes on the market today. Whatever you need, we’re sure you’ll it below.
VG6 Precision AR-15 Gamma 556 Muzzle Brake 5.56
California-based company VG6 Precision has been in the business for only 7 years, but they have still managed to impress consumers with their high-quality products. Their AR-15 Gamma 556 Muzzle brake is no exception.
The first thing you will notice after installing and firing is a significant reduction in muzzle climb and recoil, although the main feature here is managing recoil. You have two large baffles on each side of the device to mitigate recoil and several parallel openings at the top of the device to combat muzzle rise.
Even though the manufacturer suggests that this hybrid device is best suited for SBR’s and AR-15 pistols, it can be installed on barrels ranging from 10,5 to 18.5 inches using your standard AR tool. A crush washer is provided in the package.
This item is made in the USA, in VG6’s Tacoma, Washington plant. It’s made from 17-4ph heat-treated stainless steel and finished with Black Nitride, giving it a satin finish, which, besides being really aesthetically pleasing, also offers high durability and corrosion protection.
- Same size as your typical A-2 flash hider
- Muzzle brake – Compensator Hybrid
- Easy to install
- Optimized for short barreled rifles and AR pistols
- Improved accuracy
- Relatively loud
- Optimized only for 5.56/.223 and .224 calibers
Area 419 – Hellfire Muzzle Brake
Area 419 has been in the market since 2011, as a gunsmithing company that focuses on high precision rifles. The owner is a professional competitive marksman that realized what the market needs. That is, exactly what he lacked during competitive shooting: a muzzle brake that can be easily installed and uninstalled while reducing recoil and muzzle climb without affecting accuracy. That’s how the Hellfire muzzle brake came to be.
This muzzle device consists of two parts, on the base you have a universal adapter, made to perfectly align with the bore of the barrel. Once it’s installed, you attach the Hellfire brake over it and align it. After that, all it takes is to thread onh an additional collar and cinch that collar down. The entire procedure requires no tools whatsoever, not even a wrench. The universal adapter that comes with the brake also works for installingf a suppressor, just as easily as installing the brake.
The brake itself has three baffles on each side, which reduces recoil by as much as 52%. There are no vents or ports on the bottom of the brake, so it is possible to shoot from a prone or kneeling position without worrying the muzzle blast will raise a cloud of dust when shooting. The high-quality stainless steel and nitride black matte finish will ensure long and solid protection from corrosion and wear. Besides recreational and competitive shooters, this muzzle brake is perfect for law enforcement and military personnel.
- Easy installation
- Ability to mount a suppressor
- Recoil reduction by 52%
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Made for 4 different calibers
- Expensive compared to the competition
- A bit on the heavy side
VG6 Precision – Gamma 65 Muzzle Brake 6.5 Creedmoor
This muzzle device, as with most products from the company VG6, is an exceptionally well-made brake, crafted from high-quality materials for a really affordable price. Produced for calibers 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel, and 6.8 Remington SPC, it will make the recoil of any gun firing those rounds feel like that of a .223. Like most products made by VG6, this brake is made from stainless steel in two finishes, black nitride or bead-blasted stainless steel.
One big advantage of this model is that it is a hybrid of muzzle brake and a compensator. There are three baffles on each side that redirect gasses in a slight angle, thereby effectively reducing recoil, while ports on the top combat muzzle climb equally efficiently. Performance-wise, this muzzle device has a really good ratio of price to quality.
Installation can be slightly finicky, particularly getting the alignment just right, but if you have good threading on your barrel, with the crush washer that comes with this brake, you won’t have much trouble.
- Compensator/muzzle brake hybrid
- Easy on the budget
- Easy installation
- Ideal for hunting and long-distance shooting
- Relatively loud
Surefire – AR-15/M16/AR 308 Warden
Surefire Warden is not a standard muzzle brake, because it redirects gases not toward the side but toward the front of the barrel, away from the shooter. This is a good thing because, besides gases, the sound also gets pushed forward meaning you will be able to shoot with this device indoors or at a range without disturbing your neighbor in the next booth. As you’d expect, this high-quality brake kicks up no dust when shooting while kneeling or in prone.
It uses a similar principle of attachment to that of a Socom suppressor. That is, it installs using the SureFire Fast-Attach system, a simple system that requires no tools. Just screw the device onto the barrel, close the lever at the bottom of the device and it’s ready to use. Although the installation process seems too simple to be effective, it actually holds really well. The device itself is made from good quality stainless steel, with a Cerakote coating which gives it great durability.
The only downside with this device is, because of the way it is redirects gases forward from the rifle, it can heat up quicker and to a higher degree than others. Some users have complained that after several dozens of rounds fired, if not left to cool it can cause burns to your hand when you try to grab it.
- Good for indoor shooting
- Simple installation
- Works with several calibers
- Not the cheapest option
Precision Armament – AR-15 M4-72 Severe-duty Compensator DLC 22 Caliber
Precision armaments muzzle brake features 3 baffles on the side, which are specially designed to offer a recoil reduction of up to 75 %. The baffles are slightly angled towards the shooter and kind of look like gills on a fish. Besides reducing recoil they also do a good job of reducing the muzzle limb. As standard for most modern muzzle brakes, they do not have ports on the bottom of the device, so you won’t have to worry about kicking up a dust signature.
As for the design of the device and its effectiveness, I recommend this brake for use by anyone who is into competitive and tactical shooting, but I would not recommend it to be used indoors, especially not for home defense, unless your goal is to deafen the perp and everybody else in the house. Also, in conditions of low light, like at night, this thing is known for producing a blinding muzzle flash, but if you want a muzzle device that would stand up against heavy, rapid fire, even automatic fire, that’s a trade-off you’ll have to deal with.
Fit and finish are near perfect. This muzzle brake is made from 416 Stainless steel and it comes in matte black Ionbond CrCN or a matte stainless-Steel finish. If you go for this brake, make sure to buy a good set of ear and eye protection.
- Significant recoil reduction
- Works with variable calibers
- Significantly louder than some other brakes on the market
- Accu washers sold separately
Wilson Combat – AR-15 Muzzle Brake Q-Comp
Wilson combat started way back in 1977 as a company focused primarily on the customization and manufacturing of M1911 pistols, but overtime has branched out to making other firearms as well as their accessories.
This device is a result of lengthy research by their experts on how to negate recoil or at least limit it, while at the same time lowering muzzle climb and flash. The Q-comp does a fairly decent job in accomplishing that, even though the device itself kind of reminds me of a typical A2 flash hider, the design manages to do a great job of reducing not just the flash and blast but also the vertical movement of the muzzle.
This device can be used indoors, or when shooting on the range. Other users won’t experience any discomfort from your muzzle blast, because the noise level it produces is smaller than your usual muzzle brake.
It is made from durable 4140 alloy steel, it’s resistant to wear and tear, while the finish is Melonite QPQ. It comes in three thread variants for three different calibers, one for 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem, one for 6.8 Rem. SPC/.300 BLK/.308 Win./7.62 NATO/.338 Lapua Mag, and another for .458 SOCOM.
- Brake/flash hider combo
- Minimizes side blast and concussion
- Available for a variety of calibers
- Corrosion and wear resistant
- Quite affordable
- Some users had an issue with installing
Dead Air Armament – Sandman Keymount Muzzle Brakes
Dead Air has always had a reputation of making good muzzle devices and the Keymount is no exception to that rule. What separates it from the competition is the fact that you can mount a Sandman-L or Sandman-S suppressor on it. If you don’t want to use a suppressor, you can use it just as a classical muzzle brake, but one without significant muzzle blast or concussion.
The Keymount has three baffles which direct muzzle blast to the sides as well as three additional holes on the top of the device which stabilize the barrel during shooting. This brake noticeably reduces recoil and concussion and actually improves accuracy. The installation process is easy, but the muzzle brake itself is mounted using shims which can be a bit problematic for some users, but if you decide to do it on your own, all you’ll need is a vice and a standard AR tool. As is the case with most muzzle brakes, this one is made from solid materials and will withhold any abuse you put it through.
- Available for 5.56 and 7.62 chambered barrels
- Easy to clean
- Ability to mount a suppressor
- Lower muzzle blast
- Good quality
- A bit difficult to install
What are AR-15 muzzle brakes for?
Muzzle brakes use chambers and baffles (holes on the side and/or top of the device) to disperse the gasses that come out of the barrel when the bullet is fired in such a way as to lower the recoil felt by the shooter. After the cartridge is fired, as the gasses leave the barrel, they exit through the baffles on the side of the muzzle brake and are directed backward, pushing the gun forward, significantly lowering the recoil, but not fully eliminating it.
As stated above, there are multiple devices you can attach to your barrel in order to increase your accuracy and shooting comfort. Besides muzzle brakes there are flash hiders and compensators. Flash hiders, as its name suggests, limits your flash signature and are best suited to be used in low light conditions or during the night. Compensators limit muzzle climb after the bullet is ejected from the muzzle.
Most current muzzle device producers also make hybrids, which are combinations of two device types. The default A2 flash hider used by the military which comes as default muzzle device on most AR-15s also works as a compensator because the ports at the top of the device push the barrel downwards.
Why you should upgrade your AR-15 muzzle brake
You’ve probably asked yourself what is one of the most significant improvements you could do in order to increase your accuracy and lower recoil. Why install a muzzle brake, when AR-15 firing a light 556 or 223 round is already using a system of buffers and recoil springs that do the job really well already?
A lot of AR15 shooters choose to upgrade their muzzle devices in order to reduce recoil even further, lessen muzzle climb or limit your flash signature when firing in low visibility conditions. The army and police are the first groups to come to mind when considering who would greatly benefit because, during shootouts and other high-stress situations, the ability to quickly reacquire their target after each shot usually decides who will return home that day.
Hunters are also naturally interested in upgrading their muzzle devices, because most of them use calibers larger than 556, so reduced recoil and flash means more confidence that their shots will end up on their target.
For tactical and competitive shooters, often involved in speed shooting competitions, the advantage of being able to acquire their targets faster, even for a split of a second means they could see a great advantage in improving their muzzle brakes.
Differences between a muzzle brake, a compensator and flash suppressor
Novice shooters often have difficulty telling the difference between the myriad of muzzle devices out there on the market, which is completely understandable because the differences are subtle and hard to identify.
Flash hiders, in short, manipulate explosive gases that leave the barrel of the rifle after the bullet is ejected in order to reduce or eliminate the flash signature. Flash hiders are especially useful for people who are shooting in low visibility conditions or at night, or for military personnel on assignment, where a large flash can expose their position to their adversaries. Night blindness is also avoided, improving ability to focus on the target. The downside of flash hiders is that they don’t offer reduced recoil or muzzle climb, and during normal activities or during the day, the flash hider becomes an unnecessary dead weight.
A compensator is a muzzle device that has gas ports along its top side, so when gas exits the device it pushes the muzzle downward, thereby counteracting natural muzzle rise and keeping the rifle in the same position. After each consecutive shot you make you won’t have such difficulty reacquiring your target, because the compensator keeps the barrel on the target, giving you tighter groups. The downside of compensators is that they can be loud, much louder than normal, and they don’t offer flash suppression.
Finally muzzle brakes, as noted above, use baffles, or large ports located on their sides, to push gases backward from the muzzle, thereby pushing the entire rifle forward, mitigating the effect of recoil, but not completely eliminating it. Most modern muzzle brakes lower the recoil by 50% or more. Shooters who have high caliber rifles find this extremely useful, but it is also extremely useful for novice shooters as well as people of a slighter build who can’t control their rifle so easily. The advantages are obviously reduced recoil. As such, muzzle brakes let users shoot heavier caliber weapons. Most muzzle brakes offer some reduction in muzzle climb, too. On the negative side, the noise coming from a rifle that uses a brake is substantial, on the range and indoors, so it is not recommended to use one in situations of home defense unless you have also invested in a good set of earplugs.
Muzzle brake installation
Depending on the manufacturer, there are multiple ways to mount a muzzle brake, but the basics of all of them are the same.
A crush washer is not a washer per se, it’s more like a cone-shaped spring, and as the name suggests they are designed to be crushed when pressure is applied to them, creating a lock between the device and the barrel shoulder. If you want a muzzle device that doesn’t need to be fiddled with to align it during mounting, then using a crush washer is the way to go. One thing to notice, if and when you decide to replace your muzzle brake, you’ll need to buy a new crush washer to replace the old one.
Peel washers are used with muzzle devices that need to be carefully aligned during installation. They get their name from the fact that they come in layers and you have to heat them up and peel the un-needed layers off, so you can correctly align the muzzle device. This can be difficult because you have to consider what amount of torque you will need when adjusting the device.
Locking nuts use two opposing nuts to lock the device onto the barrel. First, you will need to insert the nut, screw it down, then slowly thread the device on until it reaches the nut, align it and lock the nut in the opposite direction towards the device until it’s solid and tight.
Considering that most of the devices we covered in this article requires a crush washer, the following instructions will focus on them, but as mentioned previously, the basics of installation are the same for all types of muzzle barkes. Things you will need are an upper receiver vise block, a wrench or an AR-15 tool, a vise, and a crush washer. The upper receiver of your AR-15 has to be placed in a vise block, which you will put in a vise, once in, make sure it’s properly tightened. If you happen to have a spirit level, place it on the upper receiver to make sure it is level in the vise. Take your washer and thread it onto the barrel but make sure that the cup or the cone is facing forward. When that is done, it’s time to screw in your muzzle device, all the way to the washer by hand, but before you use your wrench to tighten it down, check if the muzzle device is properly aligned to the barrel. Position it correctly, make sure that all of the exit ports are placed correctly according to the manual, then take your wrench and make anywhere between a ¼ to a ¾ twist and all of the ports are facing up and the baffles are facing sideways.
What features to look for in an AR15 muzzle brake
Depending on your needs, the type of muzzle device you will want to use will vary. If you’re into hunting the best choice would probably be a muzzle device that, besides flash hiding, also mitigates recoil and vertical climb, in case you’re a tactical shooter, a standard muzzle brake will do the job just fine. Most law enforcement officers and members of the military rely on a muzzle device that serves both as a flash hider and a compensator. In street to street, house to house and close-quarter fighting scenarios, the increased noise that is common for most brakes can be a disadvantage.
When choosing a muzzle brake you have a few priorities to keep in mind. It should be made from good quality materials that provide durability and corrosion protection. All the ports and baffles should be located on the sides and the top of the brake, in order to deflect the gases away from the shooter and reduce recoil, keeping the weapon stable during firing. Most muzzle brakes today can be divided into two categories, the good ones and the great ones. All of them perform the job effectively. The bottom line is whether they reduce recoil by 50% or 60%.
Muzzle brake materials (carbon steel, stainless steel, titanium)
Just as there are multiple designs for an AR 15 muzzle brake, there are different materials used for making them, the most common being carbon steel, stainless steel, and titanium. Which one to choose? Let’s take a look.
Most of the devices we reviewed in this article are made from stainless steel. The ratio of price to quality you get with it is unsurpassed. The main advantage of stainless steel, besides the price and ease of manufacture, is that it’s easy to maintain, and the weight of the device does not affect the balance of the rifle much.
Considering that the bullet doesn’t come in contact with the brake itself, excessive wear won’t be an issue as is the case with the barrel. Nevertheless, it is always recommended that you clean the brake properly and often, in order to avoid carbon build up in the ports and baffles.
Titanium muzzle devices are popular because, besides all of the characteristics of stainless steel, they also have the added benefit of significantly reduced weight and increased resistance to wear. Being harder unfortunately also makes them much more difficult to produce, therefore they are usually much more expensive.
Carbon steel is also really good. Muzzle devices made from this material are usually slightly harder than the regular steel ones because, during the manufacture of this type of steel, a certain amount of carbon is also used, hence the name. On the downside, it is slightly more susceptible to corrosion, it oxidizes easily compared to the previous two, so regular maintenance and cleaning is mandatory.
Muzzle brake finishes (phosphate, nitride)
Phosphate, also known as manganese phosphate or parkerizing, is a mil-spec finish used in military rifles like the M4 and its predecessor, the M16. Phosphating involves submerging the metal parts into a phosphoric acid solution at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Phosphate provides longer-term resistance to corrosion, and it is widely used because it is cheap, durable and easily applied. The only downside of this type of protection is that the surface of the device becomes grainy and coarse, full of small microscopic holes which can retain dirt and filth, making the cleaning process longer and more laborious.
A nitride finish, on the other hand, involves a heat-treating process that hardens the surface of the metal by infusing nitrogen into it. The final product is an extremely smooth and hard surface that is long-lasting, tough, and corrosion-resistant. A noticeable difference is the ease of cleaning, but the price can be higher than a brake with a phosphate coating.