Category Archives: Technical Issues/Notes

Anderson Mfg AR Lower Receiver/PSA PTAC Kit Initial Observations

A few weeks back I bought a few Anderson lowers from AIM Surplus for $40. The anodizing and machining look very nice. However the grip screw hole wasn’t threaded nearly far enough, even for the shortest grip screw I had. Fastest solution was to tap that hole with a 1/4-28 tap. Okay, so I don’t have the most expensive tap and die set in the world, but for my low volume needs, it works fine.

lowertap

I also noticed that the bolt catch detent hole wasn’t deep enough prior to anodize, but they had apparently caught that and drilled it deeper, through the anodizing.

I assembled the lower with PSA PTAC lower parts (purchased from PSA as part of rifle kits) and don’t have anything bad to say about them so far. The trigger pull is actually quite crisp and none of the other components seemed to vary from other LPKs I’ve used in the past in terms of quality or appearance.

Having to tap the grip screw hole was annoying, but a diversion of only a few minutes and I’d still say these $40 lowers are well worth the price.

I’ve taken a few of the uppers apart and noticed disappointing things like barrel nuts torqued to over 100 ft-lbs (they should be over 30 but I prefer less than 80) without the use of anti-seize, front sight bases that are slightly canted, taper pin holes drilled haphazardly, etc. But nothing that has affected function yet – zero malfunctions so far with all seven uppers -not a very high round count, but a good mix of brass and steel cased stuff.

This is definitely the time to buy if you’re looking to build an AR.

FP-10 and WeaponShield Infrared Spectroscopy Comparison

If you have read past articles on this blog, you know that I like Shooters Choice FP-10 as a lubricant for the AR-15. I have been using it for years and am consistently impressed with its performance. I generally just call it FP-10 because I was unaware that it was available from multiple companies.

FP-10 was developed by George Fennell, who later developed a product called WeaponShield. I had never heard of WeaponShield until about six weeks ago. In researching WeaponShield, I discovered Mr. Fennell’s connection to FP-10 and saw several posts by him on various forums which I took to be him disparaging the quality of FP-10 in favor of WeaponShield.

In conversations with him since, he told me that he was not criticizing Shooters Choice FP-10, made by people he sold the formula to, but rather MPC FP-10, which is his old company that has apparently allowed quality control to slip. In any case, he says that WeaponShield is better than either FP-10 formulation.

Confused yet?

Given recent…revelations…about other products in the gun lube industry, I wondered if Mr. Fennell had simply repackaged FP-10, or added something simple such as an eye of newt, and called it WeaponShield. No one else seemed to be wondering this, but I was.

So among other samples of oils I sent off for testing recently, I included two examples of Shooters Choice FP-10 – one new and one purchased approximately seven years ago – as well as a sample of WeaponShield.

Here are the results, and also what Everett (who conducted the testing, click the link to read more about the science) had to say.

2 v 7 v 9

“Based purely on IR it looks like #2 and #9 are extremely similar, #7 is not at all.”

Samples 2 and 9 were the new and old FP-10, and Sample 7 was Weaponshield. It is easy even for the layman (such as myself) to see how different WeaponShield is from FP-10. For those who wondered if all oils looked alike on IR (such as those who didn’t want to believe that FireClean was similar to canola oil), this should give you a good frame of reference for such things.

Does WeaponShield work better than FP-10? It would take me years to answer that question. I have been thoroughly satisfied with Shooters Choice FP-10, going so far as to fire over 2700 rounds through a 5.45 AR lubricated with a minimal amount of FP-10 – and no further lubrication – before encountering a malfunction. One drop of FP-10 was added to the most critical lubrication point on an AR, and the weapon continued to function for another 150 rounds without malfunctioning, at which time I ran out of ammunition.

In comparison, I have about 100 rounds downrange with WeaponShield since receiving some free samples from Mr. Fennell a few weeks back.

I can’t say if WeaponShield is better, but I can say definitively that FP-10 and WeaponShield are not the same, or even similar – answering a question no one seemed to be asking.

Everett (who conducted the testing and is linked above) wished me to thank:

Professor Drew Brodeur of Worcester Polytechnic institute for advising the project
Daryl Johnson, Andy Butler, and Professor John MacDonald of WPI for help with the methods and testing
Curtis of The VSO Gun Channel for help with the methods

CLP Changes Over Time

Several weeks ago I submitted eighteen samples of various gun lubricants and cooking oils for infrared spectroscopy and other testing. If you would like to read more about how the testing was conducted and learn some science, read this article written by the man who was instrumental in this second round of gun lube chemical analysis.

All eighteen will be the subject of future articles, many of which will be published this week – but we’ll start with the mundane. Four of those samples were CLP, and they are the subject of this post
(It’s important to note that from manufacturer to manufacturer, the term “CLP” may not mean the same exact thing, even though they might be intended for the same purpose).

The oldest was a bottle I’d been issued while in the military. It was manufactured by Royal Lubricants Co in March of 2000. This was sample number 15.

The second oldest was a bottle of Otis CLP I’d also picked up in the military, but it was made in (roughly) 2005.  This was sample number 10.

Next was an aerosol can of Break-Free CLP purchased in 2010. This was sample number 14.

Finally, I bought a new bottle of non-aerosol Break-Free CLP in September of 2015. This was sample number 5.

5 v 10 v 14 v 15

The IR spectroscopy showed that they were all similar, but…well, here’s what Everett had to say, before he knew what they were.

“Samples #5, #10, #14, and #15 are all similar, but the varying height of the 2000 to 500 cm-1 peaks indicates that there are some differences. I almost wonder if they are the same starting material but some samples broke down more than others.”

Seems he’s a pretty smart guy, or at least, he knows chemistry. Yes, it would appear that CLP breaks down over time. Is the older stuff less effective as a result? I’ve no idea. The Y2K tube was one I’d used without issue over the last ten years, but that is not conclusive proof that old oil is as good as new oil. We can see that there are some chemical differences, so we should expect some difference in performance at some point. Hook me up with a million rounds of 5.56 and a dozen people whose fingers never get tired, and I’ll find that point.

Everett (who conducted the testing and is linked above) wished me to thank:

Professor Drew Brodeur of Worcester Polytechnic institute for advising the project
Daryl Johnson, Andy Butler, and Professor John MacDonald of WPI for help with the methods and testing
Curtis of The VSO Gun Channel for help with the methods

AR15 Muzzle Brake/Flash Hider/Compensator Comparison, Part 3

Late last year I published parts one and two of a muzzle device comparison; the third part was essentially complete at that time, but I decided to hold off on publishing it until I could verify some of my data.

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.

Rearward Forces

gforcesfinal

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.

Downward Forces

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.

downwardforces

Muzzle Device Videos

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.

 Bare Muzzle

While a bare muzzle offers no recoil reduction, it has no quirks and recoils in a fairly straight line to the rear.

A2

The A2 did very little to retard the rearward movement of the rifle, but did force the muzzle down with every shot.

AAC Blackout

The rifle with AAC Blackout attached tracked in a nearly identical manner to the bare muzzle.

BattleComp 1.0

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.

BWA X-Comp

The X-Comp reduced recoil and kept the muzzle flat.

PWS FSC556

Similarly, the FSC556 reduced recoil and kept the muzzle on target.

PWS Triad

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.

Silencerco Trifecta

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.

Vltor VC-1

The Vltor VC-1 reduced recoil slightly and kept the muzzle on target.

YHM Phantom

The YHM Phantom reduced recoil very slightly and kept the muzzle on target.

Overall Results

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?

muzzledevicecompareoverall

 

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.

Is That All She Wrote?

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.

AR15 Muzzle Brake/Flash Hider/Compensator Comparison, Part 2

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, a Brüel & Kjær 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.

Since I forgot to take a better photo of the device, here's a cell phone pic.
Since I forgot to take a better photo of the device, here’s a cell phone pic.

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.

spl1meter

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.

splear

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.

AR15 Muzzle Brake/Flash Hider/Compensator Comparison, Part 1

Note: While I work to verify my recoil data, I have decided to release the first part of this comparison, which covers muzzle flash.

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.

 

 

Muzzle Flash Comparisons

 

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.

Surefire’s Micro can is not designed to reduce noise to hearing-safe levels, nor does it eliminate flash when attached to a Surefire brake.

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.

Ammunition makes a big difference, too. Here’s the same rifle and silencer with Q3131A (the ammo used for this test) instead of S&B SS109 (the ammo used in the above photo).

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.

 

 

 Bare Muzzle

This discussion must start with the baseline of “no muzzle device.”

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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.

 

 

A2

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.

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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.

 

 

AAC Blackout

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 BLACKOUT® 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.

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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.

 

 

BattleComp 1.0

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.

[slideshow_deploy id=’4765′]

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.

 

 

B.E. Meyers 249F

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.

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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.

 

 

BWA X Comp

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.

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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.

 

 

PWS FSC556

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.

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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.

 

 

PWS Triad

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.”

[slideshow_deploy id=’4773′]

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 Z-Comp

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.

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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 Z-Tac

Proto Tactical’s Z-Tac is a compensator with short flash suppressing tines on the front of the device. It retails for $129.

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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.

 

 

Rainier Arms XTC

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.

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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.

 

 

Silencerco Specwar Brake

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.

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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.

 

 

Silencerco Trifecta

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.

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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.

 

 

Simple Threaded Devices 5.56

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.

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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.

 

 

Spike’s Tactical Dynacomp

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.

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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 Precision Gamma 5.56

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.

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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.

 

 

Vltor VC-1

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.

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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.

 

 

YHM Phantom

The Phantom is advertised as a flash hider which “virtually eliminates flash and provides excellent performance with night vision.” It retails for $34.

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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.

 

 

Muzzle Flash Summary

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.

The next portion of this article relates to sound, and it will be released soon.

My Thoughts on Various Gun Oils and Lubricants

– BreakFree CLP – I use CLP fairly often just because I have a ton of free sample packets and try to keep them in my cars and range bags and so on. It works fine as a lubricant in most conditions as long as you have put it on the firearm recently. It offers good corrosion resistance for storage purposes, but isn’t all that great for a carry gun prone to rusting. That problem is better solved by a more durable finish.

– Dry film lube – No.

FireClean – I chose this as the lube for the 40000 round test because it was new on the scene and thought it deserved a shot at some good publicity. It works really well as a lubricant. I don’t think it is advertised to provide great corrosion resistance, and I haven’t tested that. Compared to CLP it cleans better, but I don’t think this property is entirely unique to FireClean. I probably wouldn’t buy it because I think it is rather expensive. I have had a lot of problems with the bottles leaking, which would be more annoying if I had paid for them. I have started putting all my FireClean bottles in Ziploc bags, otherwise my entire range bag will become covered in expensive gun oil.

FP-10 – This is probably my favorite lubricant in terms of what it does and how much it costs. A 4oz bottle is twice the size of the Fireclean 2oz bottle but costs about half as much, so by volume it is a quarter of the price. It is a great lubricant (after shooting an AR without lubrication until it malfunctioned, or approximately 2700 rounds, a single drop of FP10 returned the firearm to proper function for another 150+ rounds) and in my opinion offers corrosion resistance nearly as effective as CLP for storage. It cleans fairly well also. The bigger bottle is harder to lose or misplace.

– Froglube – I have never used this and do not see why I should make plans to do so.

– Graphite – No.

Hoppe’s Elite – I have used it as a lubricant a few times with good results. I have not thoroughly tested it. One time I broke a bottle of Hoppe’s #9 on my workbench and I smiled every day for the next six months that I walked past that workbench. Unfortunately Hoppe’s Elite does not smell like Hoppe’s #9.

– Mobil 1 – On the few occasions when I have been at the range without oil (such as when a bottle of FireClean has decided to leak all over my range bag/car/backpack) and find myself or others in need of oil, I pull the dipstick from my car and use whatever my fingers wipe off said dipstick. It will get me by for a range session. I don’t use it all the time. I think it does not have the right viscosity and other properties for firearm lubrication.

– RemOil – I look at people who use RemOil the same way I look at people wearing socks with sandals.

SlideGlide – This is a grease which I use sparingly (I have been using the same two small tubs for over six years) on pistols with a lot of metal to metal contact, such as 1911s or Sigs or Berettas. I think it is a fantastic product to keep such pistols running. I would not use it for corrosion resistance purposes or cleaning, but it is worth using for its other properties. Sig puts TW25B on pistols from the factory, but I think SlideGlide is superior for most purposes.

I probably have some sort of opinion on other products which I cannot recall at this time. I will be happy to answer questions.

Dealing With HK416 Bolt Over Base Malfunctions

In my opinion, the HK416 is not a good carbine. This is primarily due to its increased weight and recoil compared to the standard M4. The increased recoil, due to greater reciprocating mass and velocity, also increases the probability of damaged or loosened components. Furthermore, the already high cyclic rate of the 416 is increased further by the attachment of a silencer. As you can see in this video, the cyclic rate is simply too fast for even one of the strongest magazine springs on the market, the Lancer L5 AWM, to keep up with – resulting in a bolt-over-base malfunction (the rear of the case has not risen to the top of the magazine before the bolt face has returned to push a new round into the chamber). This is not an isolated incident, but a common occurrence with the multiple 416s I have witnessed exhibiting this problem.

If you are part of a unit or organization which must use the HK416, the best upgrade (short of replacing the entire weapon) would be to replace the receiver extension tube and buffer assembly with the Vltor A5 system (specifically the A5H4). Vltor tested the HK416 with the A5 and saw a reduction in cyclic rate from 1106 rounds per minute (stock, suppressed) to 973 rounds per minute (A5H4, suppressed).

If you cannot replace the receiver extension tube with the A5 system or get rid of the HK416s entirely, try using a Tactical Springs LLC/Springco “Red” action spring along with an H3 or heavier buffer.

Show Me The Data, Or, Why I Like Berger Bullets

I have been reloading for as long as I have been seriously involved in the firearm world, and I have over time gravitated to using three brands of projectiles for rifle shooting: Barnes, Berger, and Sierra. I like Barnes’ Match Burners because they’re priced lower than the competition, but even so they shoot very well, allowing me to shoot more often with the same amount of money. I like Sierra MatchKings because they’re available in a million flavors and I am able to find them almost everywhere I go – plus they’re used in a lot of factory ammo, allowing me to play the fun game of “with the same bullet, are my handloads better than factory ammo?”

When shooting Federal Gold Medal Match loaded with Sierra MatchKings, the answer is generally “no.”

Bergers? I like Berger bullets because they shoot insanely well, but I really like Berger as a company because they are all about sharing data. Berger not only provides sectional density, G1 and G7 ballistic coefficients, and other data for every bullet they make in one handy document, but they also provide form factors – and their chief ballistician, Brian Litz, writes easy-to-understand explanations of why these things are important.

I highly recommend digesting Mr. Litz’s articles, but for those who don’t have the time or inclination to read them (or some other articles which also cover the topics at hand), I will summarize ballistic coefficients and form factors as best I can here.

Ballistic coefficient (BC) – a number representing the relative ability of a projectile to maintain velocity. Relative to what? A “standard projectile.”
Standard projectile – a defined projectile shape used as a benchmark for velocity retention, against which all projectiles of a similar shape may be compared.
Sectional density (SD) – ratio of mass to frontal area. While often used to determine the terminal effectiveness of a projectile, in external ballistics terms, this number is used along with form factor to calculate ballistic coefficient.
Form factor – the drag of a projectile divided by the drag of a standard projectile. This number represents the efficiency of the shape of the projectile regardless of its weight.

Why is form factor important? Consider two bullets with the same ballistic coefficient but different weights. The heavier bullet would only be as efficient (that is, have as flat a trajectory) as the lighter bullet if it was pushed to the same velocity. But since we can generally make lighter bullets go faster, the lighter bullet with the same ballistic coefficient will have a better trajectory. This is form factor: the heavier bullet might be 3% less efficient than a standard projectile, or a form factor of 1.030, while the lighter bullet might be 5% more efficient than the standard projectile, or .950. Why shouldn’t a shooter try to calculate the relative efficiency of projectiles and use that as part of their decision making process? Beats me. For a list of some Berger form factors, click here.

Earlier I mentioned BCs, and many of you may have seen these numbers advertised on boxes of bullets or even loaded ammunition. Shooters use ballistic coefficients to estimate trajectories for their chosen ammunition. Most bullet manufacturers use a G1 BC, which references a standard projectile which is (literally) straight out of the 1800s.

I stole this image from Berger. Sorry, Berger.

Since a ballistic coefficient is a comparison of the ability of a projectile to maintain velocity compared to a standard projectile, the use of a relatively inefficient standard projectile shape will give the false impression of a numerically higher ballistic coefficient. Put simply, the G1 standard projectile’s inefficient shape causes it to shed velocity faster than other shapes. However, most rifle bullets are so much smaller than the standard projectile diameter and weight of one inch/one pound that even a more efficient shape cannot make up for being smaller. So the ballistic coefficient of essentially every rifle bullet will be much less than 1, where 1 is equal to the BC of the standard projectile.

The basic problem with using a G1 BC is that the inefficient but large standard projectile and the efficient but small projectile we’re trying to estimate a trajectory for are not going to fly through the air in the exact same manner at all velocities. Because they’re different shapes, they will behave differently. The two ways to address this are to 1) attempt to calculate multiple ballistic coefficients for a velocity “window,” inside which the efficient projectile should behave kinda-sorta in a manner relative to the G1 projectile at that same velocity (which is what Sierra does), and 2) use a standard projectile shape which is similar to the projectile we’re trying to estimate a trajectory for (which is what Berger does). The standard projectile which most closely approximates modern boat-tail projectiles is called G7.

Also stolen from Berger.

Both approaches work when used correctly. The problem with Sierra’s approach is that it is unwieldy and requires entering multiple sets of data to retrieve a single result. The problem with Berger’s approach is that because the G7 standard projectile is larger than an average rifle bullet and theoretically about as efficient, the resulting “G7” ballistic coefficient will be numerically lower than a “G1” BC for the same bullet.

Put simply, a G7 BC looks unimpressive when one has only seen G1 BCs. The payoff, though, is a much more accurate trajectory than using a single G1 BC, and simpler calculations than when using multiple G1 BCs. From an objective standpoint, I see little reason but marketing to continue selling boat-tail projectiles under a G1 BC calculation.

So why do I like Berger bullets? Because not only do they market their products in the most transparent manner possible, but they use their research in these areas to create the most precise, accurate, and efficient bullets possible. Perhaps most importantly, when they make an error, they quite graciously announce it and what they’re doing to fix the problem.

I wish more companies in this industry were like Berger.