Here is a review of the Faxon ARAK-21 by Nathaniel Fitch.
I’m glad he did a write up, because someone needed to.
Here is a review of the Faxon ARAK-21 by Nathaniel Fitch.
I’m glad he did a write up, because someone needed to.
I have continued to work on the muzzle device test, and am looking to include some highly scientific analysis of a certain factor relating to muzzle flash which will make this second round of testing significantly better than the first. This necessitates a delay in publication, but I think it will be worth the wait.
Also, several months ago, I wrote an article analyzing fatal accident rates of the Cessna 170 over the past several decades. It was recently published in the The 170 News, the quarterly newsletter of The International Cessna 170 Association.
I’ve been working on a second round of muzzle device testing, and light is beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel. Like the first test, this would not be possible without help from multiple industry sources. In addition to the muzzle devices from the first test, I have been provided with the following devices:
– Knight’s Armament Co. Triple Tap
– Smith Vortex/Good Iron
– White Sound Defense FOSSA-556
– Surefire MB556K
– AAC BrakeOut 2.0
– Fortis RED
– Noveske KX3
If you have a device which you would like included in the test, please contact me immediately at email@example.com.
A few years ago Arizona did away with the concealed weapons permit requirement for carry. I liked this because it allowed those in dire need of an effective method of self defense to carry a firearm as quickly as possible, but I also disliked it because it made a lot of people think that they didn’t need to have any skill or knowledge in order to carry a firearm safely and effectively. I actually found my initial concealed carry class to be an excellent primer on the legal aspects of carrying a deadly weapon. It was a little light on proficiency, although safety was covered in detail. Overall, though, it was a worthwhile investment of time for an individual serious about defending themselves.
From a civil liberties vs. public safety standpoint, there can be an interesting philosophical discussion here.
From a business standpoint, some people have smelled profit.
I have received several emails from a man named Victor Fabre representing “The Carry Academy.” Mr. Fabre said we could “help each other’s missions” if I shared his business on my blog. I was also offered $6 per referral and/or a free T-shirt (I am not sure whether i was being offered both or just one). Initially I ignored the email, as I ignore the vast majority of people wanting me to pimp their business for them or allow them to write about Top One Best Gun Safes America on my blog, but he emailed again, so I looked at his business.
Their business model is to provide “training” through a brief demonstration video on the internet, after which you may take a certificate to the local authorities and apply to a permit. You can even take the course on Facebook! If you have ever thought it would be okay to carry a gun when the entirety of your firearms training consisted of you having a Facebook tab open behind seven Buzzfeed and Cracked.com tabs, please turn in your firearms to Dianne Feinstein for destruction.
The Carry Academy promises to make your life better – fast! Here’s what their website had to say about their course:
You don’t need range time or to spend an entire day in a classroom learning the basics of firearm safety, in addition to this course. Our course is specifically designed for your convenience. Everything required to apply for your concealed carry permit is provided in our 30 minute firearms safety class! All you need is a computer with internet access and a printer.
A concealed carry permit may be all it takes for you to feel safer, both for yourself and for those you care about.
That’s right! You don’t need range time or a day in the classroom to learn firearms safety! Those people who never talk to their kids about gun safety and end up having their five-year-old shoot their two-year-old, they don’t actually exist.
And hey! It doesn’t matter if you ARE safer, it only matters if you FEEL safer. This reminds me of a Prius commercial I once heard in California. The woman was talking about why she liked her Prius and it came down to “My Prius makes me feel like I’m doing something for the environment.” Not “My Prius is actually good for the environment.”
There was an important distinction in that ad, and there is an important distinction here. The people who run The Carry Academy are not making anyone safer. They are selling a paper-thin security blanket – and encouraging dangerous incompetence with firearms.
Where’s my free T shirt?
Several weeks ago I wrote an article discussing the outright fabrication of military service, the benefits such actions may have, and why the people behind them should not be given a pass. I would be remiss in turning a blind eye to those who have served in the military but felt the need to tell untruths in order to enhance their standing within the community.
Specifically, I want to write about Chris Kyle, and I want to write about the movie American Sniper.
It is apparent to the objective individual, which I consider myself to be, that Chris Kyle fabricated numerous stories involving his martial prowess. The two I find most interesting – and disturbing – are that he was sent to eliminate looters or other miscreants from the top of the Superdome in New Orleans and that he killed two men who tried to steal his truck while he was at a gas station.
I find the Superdome story disturbing because it is essentially his mental conveyance of the Iraq war to the United States. While it is unlikely that any ROE (rules of engagement) would allow a hypothetically placed military sniper – let’s not forget the Posse Comitatus Act – to shoot people just for the act of looting, the laws and conventions of war would most likely permit lethal force against armed individuals not identifying themselves as part of an allied police or military force. What Kyle described is, essentially, a description of what a sniper would do at the height of a struggle between forces for an urban area. In Iraq, American snipers were like a protective umbrella against the acid rain of insurgents.
But this story took place in New Orleans, which, if you didn’t know, is part of America. And it would not be justifiable, legally or morally, to shoot American citizens simply for the act of being armed in the wake of a natural disaster – especially given his vocal support of the Second Amendment. That Chris Kyle found it acceptable enough to make up stories about it is illuminating.
As for the other story, the ultimate tragic irony is that after bragging about having killed two men who failed to steal his truck, he and a friend were killed by one man who successfully stole his truck. The former story has been thoroughly investigated and found to be without basis, the latter is a matter of legal fact.
The movie American Sniper does not discuss these stories; it focuses on the emotional rollercoaster of deployment cycles and the combat experienced by Kyle in Iraq. Correction: it is a fictionalized depiction of that combat. The majority of plot points are not based in reality, and many of the figures or groups depicted therein are loose representations of reality.
For example, there was no sniper battle stretching over multiple deployments between Kyle and a Dragunov-wielding family man with beautiful eyelashes and excessive amounts of eyeshadow – or if there were, it didn’t make it into the book upon which the movie is based.
There are other SEALs depicted in the movie, but they exist only to be ancillary figures to Kyle or to die in ways that leave Kyle unable to save them. Unlike many of the other things that are discussed in this article, those SEALs did in fact die near Kyle and in ways he could not have prevented. I would like to have had some knowledge of the impact these injuries and deaths had on the SEAL corpsman assigned to that platoon, but we are never given a chance to find out.
The movie relentlessly revolves around Kyle, most likely as he would have preferred, given how many stories he told which were apparently intended to boost the legend of, well, The Legend – Kyle’s nickname for a good portion of the movie. This focus on Kyle is so intense that no mention of Chad Littlefield, the friend who was murdered alongside the SEAL, is made in the movie, although Kyle’s death is addressed.
There is a stateside scene in which a Marine addresses Kyle and his young son and describes how Kyle carried him out of a house while injured, thus saving his life. Of course, no mention is made of any of the other people who were involved in saving his life, such as the other person who most likely was involved in carrying the Marine out of the house. Everything is about Chris Kyle. There can be no other heroes. The scene ends with the Marine, in civilian attire and indoors, saluting Kyle. Yeah, right.
The film is so fictionalized that it becomes less of a representation of Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL sniper, than of the trials and tribulations of many post-9/11 servicemembers. Bradley Cooper worked very hard to become Chris Kyle, or the Chris Kyle that Chris (and Taya) Kyle wanted the world to see, but this New Kyle was in fact an amalgamation of all the positive attributes – and a few of the negative ones – a patriotic American public wants to see in its’ servicemen. And, although I may be slightly biased, I think this depiction was accurate. American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are indeed tough, brave, and kind to the weak, but not infallible and not without a few flaws that make them human like everyone else.
The movie capitalizes on the adoration of a significant amount of Americans for those in the military. Bradley Cooper becomes the definitive American war hero in a way that few other movies have managed to depict. Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of World War 2, wrote an autobiography which became a movie. The movie was all about a scrawny little guy who wanted to join the Army and ends up saving the lives of everyone in his unit over and over again. He played himself in the movie, and he was a true hero, but the family aspect of American Sniper makes Chris Kyle a hero to which most Americans can relate in some aspect.
This may lead the reader who has not seen the movie to think that it is a jingoistic propaganda piece. It is not, at least not to me. All of the servicemen in the movie end up seriously injured, dead, or at the very least having lost close friends. The strain of military service is obviously difficult on Taya Kyle, to the point that she hints to Chris that she will leave him if he doesn’t leave the military. Chris himself is severely affected by his experiences although he denies that he is one of the guys who has problems adjusting. Audie Murphy wrote a followup book about his difficulties in adjusting to civilian life, but no one wanted to make that into a movie.
All told, I found that the movie did not depict military service in a very positive light. Those who feel it is a two hour recruiting film are misinformed. There have been a number of people comparing American Sniper to Nation’s Pride, the faux movie-within-a-movie in Inglorious Basterds about a Nazi sniper who kills hundreds of Allied soldiers.
It would appear that the people making these comparisons have not seen American Sniper; in the faux propaganda piece, the German sniper is shown shooting dozens or even hundreds, including noncombatants and wounded and unarmed soldiers – and revels in doing so. In American Sniper, we see only a few sniper “kills,” none of which would be considered illegal under the laws of war or applicable rules of engagement, and Bradley Cooper’s Chris Kyle is shown to be hesitant to kill those who are not clearly enemy combatants and is relieved at not having had to take certain shots.
That said, while there are many aspects of the film which are Hollywood-movie-playbook-emotion-inducing and clearly inaccurate, such as the final scene of the movie, there are a number of things which are accurate.
The film – rather, Bradley Cooper – accurately shows the psychological anguish of knowing that other men are off fighting a battle that you signed up for, participated in, and then left. Post-traumatic stress can take many forms, but guilt is one of the most insidious and damaging on a long term basis.
Chris Kyle was a SEAL. A significant number of SEALs (compared to other special operations troops) have been eager to write books or give interviews on their experiences and exploits. This was true before Chris Kyle left active duty, remains true today, and will almost certainly continue to be true for years to come. While many SEALs work in the shadows, literally and figuratively, without ever seeking fame, some do not.
To become a SEAL you must (presumably, I am not a SEAL nor have I ever considered going to BUD/S) have a very aggressive personality. Were it not for that, you would likely quit before successfully becoming a SEAL. Given the history of some SEALs seeking fame, it makes sense that the most aggressive of these men would embellish their own histories in an attempt to set themselves apart from their most impressive peers. Furthermore, when every American serviceman is a hero, one must be truly exceptional to be recognized as a hero of the first tier.
Most recently, we saw a public and rather embarrassing squabble between former SEALs over who really shot Osama bin Laden. Enough people are interested in such things that the media will breathlessly recount almost anything a SEAL says. Delta Force? Well, if one of them were to talk about a current operation, it is likely that the media would not treat it as being one tenth as interesting as if it had been said or done by a frogman.
Chris Kyle’s tall tales overshadow some of his most lasting accomplishments – helping returning veterans and working to show that men and women who have seen war should not be viewed with suspicion and distrust. In this he was quite genuine. It is a shame that the lies he told have received far more attention than the good work he did – but there is only one person responsible for this, and that person is Chris Kyle.
Why couldn’t the things he actually did have been enough?
Having completed my spirit walk/vision quest, I now return to blogging.
Every six months, give or take, we learn of some minor (or major) gun world personality who has exaggerated, inflated, or outright invented a history of military service in an attempt to make money, gain influence, or further their career. Inevitably, three groups of people form in response:
– Those who never cared for anything the person in question had to say;
– Those who are outraged at the thought of stolen valor;
– Those who think it wasn’t a big deal and that the person has positive traits which mean their tall tales can, or should, be overlooked.
With the increasing lionization of military members in the post-9/11 era, it was probably to be expected that military service would eventually become even more of a selling point in certain circles. There are a lot of people who didn’t join the military but wish they had, especially in the gun world. They look at military members and veterans with varying degrees of envy, adoration, and respect, but also resentment and distaste.
It is this latter group, I think, which forms the bulk of the military fakers. They were unable to join, to complete their basic training, they didn’t have time, etc. – but they see praise being lavished on those who did go through with it and their resentment grows to the point that they think they will only succeed if they pretend to be a member of the elite. They don’t see that there was honor in their attempt to join the military, and that no one would have questioned their integrity if they just said something like “I didn’t make it through boot camp because of a medical condition, but I still love my country and I like to shoot guns. Watch my videos!”
It is the former group of non-veterans which becomes their fans. The more adoration one has for the military and its members, the more likely one is to swallow a load of crap. Adoration intensifies to the point that even when the story is revealed to be false, a significant number have stopped caring about the specifics of military service and have transferred their hero worship directly to the individual in question. These are the diehard fans – the ones who will encourage the faker to continue their work despite “the haters.” They will try to explain away the stories as “not a big deal.”
There are several recent examples to discuss. The most notable is Cory of Range Time, or Cory07ink as he is known on YouTube. He appears with “Erika,” and the duo are often referred to as “Cory and Erika.” For those who don’t know, Cory recently had some issues with…bad publicity. Long story short, he claimed to have been honorably discharged from the Army when in fact he went AWOL before completing his training.
A more recent case is that of “Amy Jane,” a woman who sought to work in the gun industry (and saw moderate success in her brief efforts) based on having been a Marine, but then it came out that she had never graduated basic training and received a medical discharge. This apparently left some people with egg on their faces.
How do these things happen? It comes down to two basic steps.
Step One – Build a Background, But Slowly
This is where the nuances of storytelling are important. Rather than lump all of his eggs into one easily verifiable basket, the Cory and Erika Show planted the seeds of a complicated and decent background in various places until a respectable legend had emerged. Just as with creating a fake identity, these things are best done over time – if someone appears out of nowhere with a fancy video claiming to be a SEAL, they can be exposed as a fraud in a matter of hours. But when the claims are limited to being an Army infantryman who served overseas, and these claims are made over time and in a less obvious manner, the average person’s motivation to research them is lessened.
So it was that Cory built a business and a large YouTube following due in no small part to his false background stories. The other reason he came to prominence – rather, they came to prominence – is that they were not shy about marketing their videos with the use of Erika’s “assets.”
As I stated previously, military service has become a selling point to some – and Cory used his military background the same way he used Erika’s body, to attract men who should have known better. In all likelihood, he didn’t see a difference between lying about his military background and Erika’s body – they were just things he could use to advance his career.
Step Two – Apologize (Sort Of), Redirect
In almost every one of these cases, there is an apology of sorts – Cory’s was rather pathetic and came only after a series of denials and attempts to shift blame – followed by an attempt to redirect attention to the “good” things about the person or what they have done, such as, in Cory’s case, essentially “try really hard to learn from different people about being a good instructor.”
The most rabid fans, the ones who have gone past the military adoration to the personal adoration stage, eagerly accept the suggestion and proceed to attack those who take issue with the liars.
This is when we see the “it’s not a big deal” arguments, or in the case of Amy Jane, the leghumpers and Captain Saveahos come out of the woodwork with encouragement for the damsel in distress. It helps when other personalities such as James Yeager go to bat for people like Cory – and since Yeager has a large following of people willing to overlook a lack of background, Cory’s salvation was virtually assured. In Amy Jane’s case, her looks guaranteed a certain number of desperate, unattractive men willing to reassure her that they were behind her.
Why You Shouldn’t Support Military Fakers
Here is the crux of my argument – why you should no longer give these people your time, money, or attention.
Military service is not incredibly difficult to achieve in all its forms, but for some it is an impossibility. Some are physically/medically unable to join and some don’t feel they have the time or are unwilling to set aside other goals, such as education or family, to join. And most, if not almost all, of these people are honorable and in no way inferior to those who joined the military.
But when someone joins the military, they are in essence saying that they are willing to put aside their personal life for the greater good – that they are willing to serve the public at the risk of their life. Yes, volunteering to join the military has many benefits, and some join solely for those benefits, but it has many drawbacks as well. Constant deployment and training cycles cause stress and family hardship on a level with few equivalents in the civilian world (at the same time, certain aspects of military life are infinitely easier than those of civilian life, but I’m getting off topic).
When someone fakes or exaggerates military service, they not only want you to see them as a hero – for many Americans see all servicemembers as heroes – but they want you to see them as a fundamentally different person at their core than they really are. Rather than being a human with flaws, as we all are, who set aside other aspects of their life to serve their country, they are essentially lazy and untrustworthy people.
They had a choice between honesty and hard work and dishonesty and the easy path of just telling a lie, and they chose the latter. Having a military background is not a requirement for success in the gun industry. Many competition shooters have no military background, and yet they are as in demand, if not more than, military shooters when it comes to firearms instruction or sponsorship deals. But being a good competition shooter requires a lot of hard work and dedication. And that’s simply not something people like Cory or Amy Jane are willing to do.
Nor were they willing to spend months, years, or decades in the service of their country instead of the service of themselves, wrongly feeding their reputation with every story of military heroism that Americans associate with every member of the military. The men and women Cory and Amy Jane were taking advantage of couldn’t compete with the years-long process of building a successful business or brand in this industry, because they were overseas or in training or spending some of their precious little free time with their family.
The fakers and their acolytes will contend that they have worked hard to get where they are, but repeating a lie long enough that they believe it to be true while networking at SHOT and the gun range isn’t hard work – it’s fundamentally dishonest and lacking in the sort of fortitude and moral fiber one traditionally expects in a role model, especially an armed role model.
From taking gun safety seriously at all times to protecting their home and family before expecting others to do so, people in the gun world, and gun owners in general, put a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility.
I wish these people no ill will and hope they find work as something other than a firearms instructor or gun TV show host, but I don’t feel that they have a place in a field where a sense of honor is, or should be, at the core of everyone’s soul.
I first met Caylen Wojcik at the 2013 Sniper Adventure Challenge, where he and his (shooting, not domestic)Â partner Jon Canipe displayed shooting skills far in excess of the entire field of competitors. For example, of the 26 teams in the competition, only 7 scored a rifle hit on the first shooting stage. Two teams had one hit, four teams (including Paul and I) had two hits, and one team (Ares Armor, I believe) had four hits. Caylen scored seven hits out of ten possible.
So he can definitely shoot, but it’s not surprising that heÂ also has a solid background. He was a Scout Sniper in the Marine Corps, having taken part in Phantom Fury and been an instructor at 1st Marine Division’s Sniper School. He’s also been teaching shooting since he got out of the military, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the quality of his instruction.
Why am I telling you this? Because he’ll be teaching two Magpul Dynamics courses at Sniper CountryÂ (also known as the Desert Tech Training Facility), hosted by Deliberate Dynamics, in March. The first is a three-day DMR course on March 22-24, and the second is a four-day introduction to precision rifle course on March 26-29. The courses are all-inclusive, meaning that one price pays for your lodging, food, and the training. More information can be found here.
I have co-taught a good number of courses at Sniper Country, and at first it was basically a very large open range with steel targets out to 1800 yards. Desert Tech has since put a lot of money in the facility, with new improvements coming on line at a rapid pace. It’s a really awesome place for a shooting class, and Caylen is a pretty awesome guy to take a class from. If you have the time, I highly recommend taking one of these courses.
There are many reasons to buy a product. I use Barbasol because
DodsonÂ Dennis Nedry smuggled dinosaur embryos off Isla Nublar in a modified Barbasol can. Might I get a better shave with another product? Perhaps. But every time I pick up a can of Barbasol, I smile and think about Jurassic Park.
I don’t have any happy childhood memories regarding AR15 muzzle devices, so I generally stick to practical reasons for using one product or another. If you’ve read my muzzle device comparison, you know that…well I have a good handle on what each device in that test does in terms of muzzle flash, sound/blast, and recoil control.
That’s why I have a really big problem with BattleComp Enterprises. Their device is not very good by any objective standard, and their claims regarding the performance of the device are not at all accurate. In fact, they are in some cases blatant lies. Here’s what their site says about the BattleComp:
The BattleComp offers muzzle control like some of the best brakes on the market, with none of their liabilities.
Well, that’s not true. In terms of rearward recoil reduction, the BattleComp lagged far behind the best brake in the test, and it beat out only one other product which is sold as a recoil reduction device.
It was less effective than almost every brake and compensator tested, and that’s only rearward forces. When it comes to pushing the muzzle down, the BC 1.0 is a champ. But that’s not something to be proud of. And that means another BattleComp claim is nonsensical, that
“the increase in muzzle stability allows the user the ability to see rounds hit while looking through the scope.”
The BattleComp exhibits significant downward forces on the muzzle, driving it off target, and inhibiting the shooter’s ability to keep the muzzle directly on target between shots.
“none of their liabilities,”
let’s look at sound. The BattleComp is within 1-1.5 decibels of the loudest (and coincidentally most effective) muzzle brakes in the test.
This throws into question another BattleComp claim, that the device does not have the
“crushing blast and concussion common to most muzzle brakes.”
Finally, BattleComp claims that their device offers
“flash comparable to an A2.”
By every measurable standard, the BattleComp is much, much brighter and more visible in low light than the A2. This has held true in all of the testing and observations I have conducted over the last few years. I have never seen a BattleComp exhibit a flash signature in any spectrum that was comparable to the A2.
There is not a single (quantifiable) statement made by BattleComp regarding the performance of their device that is even remotely true.
So why is the device so popular?
It’s a combination of things. The BattleComp got some hefty gun-celebrity endorsements, especially from those who are popular on gun forums. Next, enter the placebo effect. A person hears from a celebrity, or hears the parroted words of a celebrity, that the BattleComp worked really well and then shoots a rifle with one. In the absence of hard data saying otherwise, they agree that it works really well.Â I initially liked the BattleComp for that reason. That changed when I truly compared it to other devices.
Popularity intensifies, and then it becomes cool to have a BattleComp on your rifle. The price doesn’t hurt either – it’s pretty expensive (over $150), and you gain admission to a pretty exclusive club when you can drop $150 on a muzzle device. BattleComp Enterprises is savvy with marketing, too, and they have cultivated this exclusive image quite well over the last few years. After all, it’s not a muzzle brake, it’s a “world class tactical compensator.” None of those words actually mean anything, but they’ve sure sold a lot of widgets.
The strength of that placebo effect really… stuns me, to put it simply. People will insist that the BattleComp has significantly reduced muzzle blast compared to other devices, but I have conducted other tests and found that it is essentially impossible for a person to pick out the BattleComp in a group of (more effective) muzzle brakes when the shooter is standing next to the blindfolded test subject. And there’s the above sound data, too, which is all a logical person needs to understand that any device which reduces recoil is going to redirect sound to the sides and rear of the muzzle.
The bottom line is that the A2 does a better job of matching BattleComp’s claims than the BC 1.0 does. It has good flash reduction, it’s not as noisy or blasty as a brake, and it “offers excellent muzzle control.”
I was excited to see the Remington R51 at SHOT, but then I saw it, and was no longer excited.
Two reasons why.
1. Remington didn’t bring any to Media Day (which, considering that they’ve had them at media events before, means only one thing: that the current iteration of pistols aren’t reliable enough)
2. It’s bigger than you’ve been led to believe.
I made these comments on the blog’s Facebook page, and shared a photo of the R51 next to a 1911. People told me I was wrong, and that it was smaller than I was saying, because they read something on the internet. They even linked this site which purportedly offers a size comparison of the R51 and popular pistols. Here’s the R51 versus the Glock 42.
Well, here’s the R51 next to a 1911.
And here’s the Glock 42 next to my Benchmade Mini-Griptilian, which has a 6.78″ overall length.
And here’s the Remington R51 next to said Mini-Griptilian.
These aren’t a perfect comparison, but my best guess is that the R51 is between 5/8″ and 3/4″ longer than those diagrams (and their related specifications, which claim 6″) show. If you look at the overall size of the pistol in those diagrams – and maybe this is only apparent to me because I’ve held the R51 – but it looks very wrong. Just the opening for the trigger guard, compared to the other pistols, looks way too small for human hands. Unless you shoot with your pinkie.
This article combines the three previous parts (flash, sound, recoil) into one link.
One of the most popular accessories for today’s AR15 owner is a muzzle device. Want less muzzle flash? There’s a device for that. Want less recoil? There’s a device for that, too. Want less muzzle flash AND less recoil? Some devices even claim to perform multiple functions.
I have been closely studying how various muzzle devices perform for years, and this summer, with the assistance of Advanced Armament Company, B.E. Meyers, and Silencerco, was able to test a significant number of devices currently on the market in unique and highly educational ways. I did not manage to test all of the devices on the market, or even all of the most popular ones. I did include a good sample of different types of devices. It is my hope that after reviewing this article, the reader will be able to look at any muzzle device and be able to make an educated guess regarding its characteristics in a number of areas. As you will see, some perform quite similarly to one another.
If you would like to see how each device performed, scroll down to the graphs below. However, I feel that a preface is warranted here.
Many manufacturers claim that their device reduces muzzle flash, and this may be true – compared to the bare muzzle. However, a bare muzzle will emit a huge amount of fiery awesomeness with most types of .223 or 5.56 ammunition. Every device tested reduced muzzle flash compared to the bare muzzle. The consumer might assume the manufacturer meant reduced muzzle flash compared to some other standard – perhaps the A2 muzzle device – which would eventually lead to disappointment.
What is your personal definition of too much muzzle flash? If your shooting only requires that you not be blinded by a huge fireball every time you pull the trigger, then nearly any device will do in this regard. However, if you want to not have bad guys see your exact position every time you shoot at them in the dark, then serious consideration must be given to which muzzle device is on the end of your rifle.
I personally feel that for combat, flash suppression is more important than sound suppression. I can hear and identify suppressed subsonic fire in my direction at over 80 yards, but if I do not have a visual reference point, I cannot effectively return fire. If someone with a very loud firearm that emits no flash is shooting at me, I am really no better informed than I would be if he had a sound suppressor. I just know that someone is shooting at me.
However, many sound suppressors, contrary to popular belief, do not do a very good job of reducing flash. So, armed with the knowledge that someone is shooting at me or my friends (from the sound) and exactly where he is shooting at me from (thanks to the flash), I would be able to shoot back with relatively high effectiveness. Of course, I would already be behind the curve, but I would have more information than the guy shooting at me would probably like. Were I the shooter instead of the shootee, this would be quite vexing.
With all of this in mind, this comparison uses multiple methods to evaluate muzzle flash: long-exposure photography close to the muzzle, long-exposure photography from downrange, high speed video, and high speed video using night vision equipment. Each device will be discussed individually, followed by a summary at the end of the section. Objective methods were used to analyze the results whenever possible. Winchester Q3131 was used for the still photographs and Federal M855 was used for the videos. All shots were with (unless otherwise noted) a 16″ AR15 in 5.56mm.
Images and videos are in slideshow format – look for arrows to the left and right of each slideshow photo to cycle through the images AND videos for that muzzle device.
Â Bare Muzzle
This discussion must start with the baseline of “no muzzle device.”
The bare muzzle, as stated above, allows a large (and in this case, somewhat uninspired) fireball to form in front of the muzzle. It’s by far the largest in terms of area, although with this particular evaluation method it didn’t result in the highest peak brightness. Camera settings for all shots from this angle (unless otherwise specified) were f2.8, ISO 400, 1 second shutter speed. Absolutely no modifications were made to these photos, other than to resize them.
From 80 yards downrange, it was very clear where shots were coming from – note that in this and all downrange photos, you are seeing the aggregate muzzle flash of five shots. The photos of the muzzle from the side are a single shot, but are representative of the average muzzle flash exhibited by each device in near-total darkness.
Unfortunately, we lost the high speed video file which showed the bare muzzle.
The ubiquitous A2 muzzle device is sold for $5-7. It is in use on nearly all US Military M16/M4 rifles, and a significant number of civilian AR15s as well.
Compared to the bare muzzle, the A2 offered a significant reduction in muzzle flash.
From downrange, the A2 was barely visible – I was able to spot it only because I knew exactly where the shooter was standing. If I were searching for the shooter, I would have a more difficult time – especially if he were shooting directly at me.
While photos are useful and illustrative of the overall flash allowed by each device, they show all of the light which occurred in a one second period in a single frame, which is not exactly how the human eye sees muzzle flash. The duration of muzzle flash from an AR15 with a muzzle device is approximately 1 millisecond, which is why many standard (30fps/60fps) camera videos are a poor choice for showing an entire event – a flash could be missed entirely by the camera.
High speed video, shot on Silencerco’s Phantom v12.1 at 7000fps and slowed down 10x, shows a closeup of the muzzle flash in slow motion. The duration of the visible flash is approximately 5/7000sec. It appears similar to the long exposure photography, although we can see each part as it occurs.
A still frame from high speed video, shot with a B.E. Meyers OWL night vision lens adapter, allows us to see much more flash than with the naked eye.
The Blackout is a 3 prong muzzle device described by the manufacturer as “the world’s most effective flash hider. The proprietary features eliminate muzzle flash, even on CQB-length barrels. The BLACKOUTÂ® is inherently stronger and more impact resistant than four prong designs, while not being subject to the rapid erosion of closed-ended units.” It retails for approximately $59.
Using the same f2.8/ISO 400/1 sec camera settings, very little visible flash was observed.
Because it was so difficult to discern the best flash hiders from one another, additional shots were taken from the side with an ISO of 1600 and no other changes. This increases the camera’s sensitivity to light, but makes the images not directly comparable to the ISO 400 shots. Only attempt to compare these shots with other ISO 1600 shots, which will be identified as such below each photo.
From downrange, I did not observe any flash. The camera captured one “spark,” but I didn’t see it until I looked at the image.
In the Phantom high speed video, only 2/7000sec of relatively small flash is seen.
Using the OWL, a small amount of flash was visible in the IR spectrum.
The BattleComp, according to the manufacturer, “offers muzzle control like some of the best brakes on the market, with none of their liabilities” and gives “…excellent control WITHOUT the excessive concussion and crushing blast produced by most compensators on the market — with flash comparable to an A2.” It retails for $155.
Flash from the BattleComp was rather attractive, with tendrils of flame arcing out from the device in several directions. The muzzle flash was also immediately obvious and bright. The position of the muzzle was easily identifiable from downrange. Phantom high speed video showed significant flash which was visible for 1 millisecond, or 7/7000sec. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
The B.E. Meyers 249F is a 4 prong muzzle device which, according to the manufacturer, “virtually eliminate(s) muzzle flash.” It was originally designed for and sold to military and government customers, but recently became available on the civil market for $149.
From the side, almost no flash was visible at ISO 400. At ISO 1600, some flash was visible, but it was still remarkably low. From downrange, no flash was visible. Keep in mind that all downrange shots show the light from 5 rounds being fired. Using the Phantom high speed camera, a very small amount of flash was visible for 3/7000sec. The B.E. Meyers OWL showed more flash on average in the IR spectrum with the 249F than the AAC Blackout.
The Black Weapons Armory X Comp is made by Proto Tactical, and is described by BWA as “produc(ing) a light straight back recoil instead of producing muzzle rise…Most compensators and flash hiders cause the muzzle to rise up and lengthen the time required for the shooter to get back on target…The X design incorporated into the tip of the compensator and interior chamber design helps reduce the flash, which produces a much smaller signature that is normally produced by muzzle brakes.”
It’s designed to control the movement of the muzzle and retails for $120.
Flash from the X Comp was clearly visible and rather bright. From downrange, the position of the muzzle was immediately obvious. Phantom high speed video showed a relatively large muzzle flash which was visible for 6/7000sec. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
The Primary Weapons Systems FSC556 is a hybrid device which, according to PWS, “provides superior compensation characteristics combined with enough flash suppression to keep the flash out of your optics and line of sight.” It retails for $100.
Flash from the FSC556 was greater than that of the A2 and clearly visible. From downrange, the shooter’s position could be identified with relative ease. High speed video showed a moderate amount of flash which lasted 5/7000sec. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
The PWS Triad is a three prong muzzle device which retails for $70. PWS say it “features a revolutionary design bringing true flash suppression together with reduced muzzle flip by redirecting gases exiting the muzzle without the overpressure created by muzzle brakes and recoil compensators.”
Flash was visible from the Triad, and although it was not very bright, it did cover an area of decent size. From downrange, it was slightly easier to identify the position of the Triad than the A2. High speed video showed a sizable amount of flash which was visible for 5/7000sec. The video also showed the Triad rotating as the rifle was fired due to its design (devices were not torqued for this test). No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
Proto Tactical’s Z-Comp is a compensator with a unique angled forward end, which Proto claims “delivers significantly reduced recoil and decreases muzzle climb to help you get back on target quickly” without commenting on muzzle flash. It retails for $129.
Flash at the muzzle was comparable to other devices of this type – that is to say, bright. Flash from downrange was very easy to spot. On high speed video, it lasted just under one millisecond. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
Proto Tactical’s Z-Tac is a compensator with short flash suppressing tines on the front of the device. It retails for $129.
The Z-Tac was rather flashy at the muzzle. From downrange, it was easy to spot, and flash lasted just under one millisecond on high speed video. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
The Rainier XTC is a hybrid device “designed to reduce felt recoil & muzzle rise with a relatively low muzzle flash. A true multi-functional muzzle device designed to do it all while looking great at an affordable price.” It retails for $57.
The area of flash as viewed from the side was relatively small, but very bright. From 80 yards downrange, the muzzle flash was spectacular and easily seen. If you are ever stranded on a hostile planet and need to signal for help from a passing spaceship, use the XTC. High speed video shows rolling fireballs escaping out each side of the XTC, with a total flash duration of approximately 6/7000 of a second. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
The Silencerco Specwar Brake is a three port muzzle device intended to reduce recoil and provide a mounting location for the Specwar silencer. Its brother is the Saker Brake, which offers identical performance, but is intended to mount the Saker silencer. Both devices retail for $80.
As you might expect, this device had a lot of flash. I think this was my favorite muzzle device in terms of flash. Turn your head sideways, and it looks like a Christmas tree. From downrange, the Specwar brake was easy to spot, but it was not as bright as a few of the other devices, surprisingly. Unfortunately, we didn’t get high speed video of the Specwar Brake. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
The Trifecta is a three prong flash hider designed to mount certain Silencerco suppressors while eliminating the ringing tone which other multi-prong devices are prone to emit when tapped on a hard surface or fired. It retails for $70.
The Trifecta allowed a small but somewhat visible amount of flash. At 1600 ISO, the flash was easily identifiable. A small but noticeable amount of flash was visible for approximately 5/7000sec on high speed video. Although performance in the IR spectrum varied from shot to shot more than the other devices, this is a representation of the average flash visible from the Trifecta with night vision.
The, uh, STD is a unique device which looks rather like an elongated thread protector and is intended to keep noise and muzzle flash from interfering with the shooter during hunting. It sells for $55.
From the side, the STD had a noticeable amount of flash. It wasn’t terribly bright, but it was sizable. The position of the muzzle was easy enough to spot from downrange. On high speed video, the single fireball lasts just under 1 millisecond at 6/7000sec. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
The Dynacomp is, according to Spike’s, “designed to reduce recoil impulse and muzzle climb to provide faster follow up shots.” No claims are made on the Spike’s Tactical site regarding muzzle flash reduction. It retails for $90.
Muzzle flash from the Dynacomp is beautiful and awesome – and also bright. From downrange, the Dynacomp’s flash was immediately obvious. It was somewhat less than the XTC, but still unmistakable. On high speed video, the Dynacomp’s initial flash looked remarkably like the first microseconds of a nuclear explosion, lasting one millisecond, or 7/7000sec.
No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
VG6’s Gamma 556 is claimed to be “a muzzle brake and compensator hybrid. It virtually eliminates recoil and minimizes muzzle movement. The unique combination of both braking and compensating features inspire shooter confidence and allows the shooter to make very fast follow up shots.” No statements are made regarding flash suppression.
Muzzle flash from the Gamma 556 was, as expected, healthy. The position of the shooter was easily identifiable from downrange. The VG6’s muzzle flash lasts 5/7000sec.
No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.
The Vltor VC-1 is a birdcage-looking muzzle device that acts as a flash hider and mount for the Gemtech HALO silencer. It retails for $57.
The VC-1 has muzzle flash roughly comparable to the A2. From downrange, it was a challenge to spot the VC-1 – again, about on par with the A2. On high speed video, the flash profile was also remarkably similar to that of the A2 and lasted 5/7000sec.
No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device.
The Phantom is advertised as a flash hider which “virtually eliminates flash and provides excellent performance with night vision.” It retails for $34.
Although brighter than the Blackout and 249F, the Phantom provides rather excellent flash suppression for the price. At 1600 ISO, the flash was easily visible. From downrange, I could not identify the position of the muzzle, but flash was visible on camera (after 5 shots).
On high speed video, we can see a small amount of flash for roughly 3/7000s. Unfortunately, we lost the high speed night vision video of the Phantom.
It’s nice to look at photos and videos, but how do you quantify all of this information?
Photoshop was used for this. I resized the images and made them black and white, then used the Mosaic filter to create a blocky version of each image.
I then noted the relevant HSB data for each block, measured in relative terms, with 0 being pure black and 100 being pure white. For area, I noted the number of “blocks” for the up close images – the downrange shots all fell into one block.
Thus, we are able to compare muzzle flashes up close…
…as well as from downrange.
Due to the angles and distances involved, some of the devices performed better at distance than they did up close – and vice versa. However, the best flash hiders did well at all distances and angles.
Following up on the gargantuan first post of this comparison is a relatively short yet no less important portion. Especially to civilian shooters, the sound and blast of a muzzle device can be a huge turnoff. Yeah, that new brake keeps the muzzle on target, but if the noise rattles your friends every time you shoot the rifle, and other shooters on the firing line give you dirty looks and move away? Chagrin might give you second thoughts about your purchase.
For this portion of the test, aÂ BrÃ¼el & KjÃ¦r 2209 Impulse Precision Sound Level Meter was used. Despite having been introduced in 1971 and looking quite like it could be an important quest item in Fallout 3, this is the device specified by the US Military and used by many silencer manufacturers to measure sound pressure level. The particular meter used for the test was provided by Rob Silvers of Advanced Armament Corp.
As with the previous installment, scroll down to the charts if you’d just like to see the results.
Of course, all firearms are going to be loud. Even a silenced firearm with subsonic ammo makes noise. A rifle firing supersonic ammo without a silencer? Very, very loud. We are dealing with degrees of very loud here, but the difference between the loudest and quietest device (measured to the left of the muzzle) was approximately 8 decibels. Considering that a 10 decibel difference makes something sound twice as loud, these differences should not be considered entirely minor. If you would like to read some scientific papers regarding muzzle blast and gunshot acoustics, read this, this, or this.
But now, the charts.
First, using the military standard of 1 meter left of the muzzle and 1.6 meters above the ground, using Speer Gold Dot 64gr 5.56mm. These numbers represent the average of 10 shots.
After I had expended every round of .223 and 5.56 in my house, I used 5.45 to measure sound pressure levels at the shooter’s ear.
To be entirely sure of these results, I actually shot them all twice, on four separate days.
As you can see, there is a pretty clear line between muzzle devices intended to reduce recoil and those intended to reduce flash.
Using high speed video (courtesy of Silencerco) and multiple accelerometers, I will be able to show visually as well as mathematically how effective each device in the test is at recoil reduction. During a four month period, over 1500 rounds were fired to verify g-force data from the accelerometers. The results may be surprising to some.
Not surprisingly, the most effective muzzle devices in the test were also at the loud and bright end of the spectrum in the previous tests. Silencerco’s massive Specwar triple port brake/silencer mount was by far the most effective device at recoil reduction, for example, but it was also loud and created a distinctive muzzle flash.
If we think of limiting rearward forces as recoil reduction, then limiting upward forces must be called “combating muzzle rise,” right? Wrong.
Consider yourself shooting a rifle with a bare muzzle from the standing position. In scientific terms, the rifle is an arm with forces being placed upon it at the very end – the muzzle. The gases exiting the muzzle do so in a very uniform manner, with essentially no variation from side to side and top to bottom. They do not inherently cause the muzzle to move up – if the rifle were to be suspended in the air, it would move straight back.
But it’s not suspended in the air, it’s connected to your body. It has to move in some direction, because an external force has acted upon it and it is no longer “at rest.” Because your body is connected to this arm, and the rifle is long and essentially pointed at (in physics terms, not weapon terms) your body, the arm will move mostly to the rear. However, because there is much more of your body below the point where the stock meets your shoulder, and because that part of your body is eventually connected to the ground, there will be a natural tendency for the muzzle to move upwards. Unless, that is, you adjust your stance and hold to limit this effect.
In other words, the only reason “muzzle rise” exists is due to the way we position ourselves as we shoot, and we can position ourselves to minimize that, especially with a 5.56 AR-15. There is no inherent tendency for the muzzle to rise on its own. Therefore we should use devices that push the muzzle down, right?
Of course not. The ideal device in terms of muzzle control would keep the muzzle exactly where it was before the shot was fired. We don’t always fire from the standing position, and if you’re trying to shoot side prone or underneath the bumper of a car, a device which “combats muzzle rise” will be constantly forcing the muzzle left or right with every shot.
With that in mind, here’s a chart showing the downward forces caused by each device.
For those interested in the specifics of individual devices, here are the videos, which were shot with a 16″ midlength upper on a registered full auto lower. We’ll start with the bare muzzle as a baseline and then move on to the other devices. For all videos other than the bare muzzle, the video of the rifle being fired with the specified device will be seen, semi-transparent, on top of the video of the rifle with no muzzle device being fired.
Â Bare Muzzle
While a bare muzzle offers no recoil reduction, it has no quirks and recoils in a fairly straight line to the rear.
The A2 did very little to retard the rearward movement of the rifle, but did force the muzzle down with every shot.
The rifle with AAC Blackout attached tracked in a nearly identical manner to the bare muzzle.
The BattleComp forced the muzzle down with every shot.
B.E. Meyers 249F
The 249F, for an unknown reason, tracked higher than the bare muzzle. It’s likely that this was shooter error, but all due care was given to maintaining a consistent position and stance.
The X-Comp reduced recoil and kept the muzzle flat.
Similarly, the FSC556 reduced recoil and kept the muzzle on target.
The PWS Triad forced the muzzle down more than almost any other device tested.
Proto Tactical Z-Comp
The Z-Comp did a good job of reducing recoil, but pushed the muzzle down slightly.
Proto Tactical Z-Tac
Performance of the Z-Tac was nearly identical to that of the Z-Comp.
Rainier Arms XTC
The XTC reduced recoil significantly, but pushed the muzzle down slightly with each shot.
Silencerco Specwar Brake
Recoil with the Specwar brake was minimal and straight to the rear.
Performance of the Trifecta in this regard was nearly identical to the bare muzzle.
Simple Threaded Devices
The STD tracked in a nearly identical manner to the bare muzzle.
Spike’s Tactical Dynacomp
The Dynacomp pushed the muzzle down with each shot.
VG6 Precision Gamma 5.56
This early version of the VG6 Gamma reduced recoil but pushed the muzzle down significantly with each shot.
The Vltor VC-1 reduced recoil slightly and kept the muzzle on target.
The YHM Phantom reduced recoil very slightly and kept the muzzle on target.
After three rounds of comparing muzzle flash, sound pressure level, and recoil reduction, how do the devices compare overall? And do I have any recommendations?
For the best flash reduction, the B.E. Meyers 249F would be my choice.
For truly outstanding flash reduction at a more affordable price, the AAC Blackout is excellent.
For the best recoil reduction, the Silencerco Specwar Brake was the clear winner.
For an excellent middle ground of recoil reduction, neutral muzzle position, and fireball mitigation, the FSC556 is a great compromise.
For recoil reduction on a budget, albeit with higher muzzle flash and some downward force on the muzzle, the Rainier XTC is a good choice.
For those seeking acceptable levels of muzzle flash without cash outlays, just keep the A2 that came with your rifle.
Despite its lackluster overall showing in the test, I rather like the STD simply because of its appearance, relatively low cost, and ever-so-slight reduction in sound levels at the shooter’s ear.
There may be followups to these articles as I test more devices, devise additional test methods, or write more subjective articles about each device, but this constitutes the bulk of the testing I initially set out to complete.