I’m going to be honest. If I had never been given a PWS muzzle device, I probably would never have bought one. “Nearly $100,” I said. “What does it do that’s worth $100? I thought the Smith Vortex was too expensive at $50.” Well, I would soon find out.
At the 2008 SAR West show, PWS was handing out their FSC 556 muzzle device like Halloween candy, so I gladly took one. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with it. I’ve moved it around between a half dozen rifles before heading to the range, especially when I’m going to introduce new shooters to the AR-15. It does a wonderful job of keeping the muzzle down between shots, but unlike traditional muzzle brakes, it’s not exceptionally loud, and it doesn’t throw huge fireballs. Frankly, the FSC 556 seems quite comparable to the standard A2 flash hider in terms of flash reduction.
But this article isn’t about the FSC556.
It’s about the TTO, or “Todd’s Tiny One” (I’m not going there). In a nutshell, it’s an FSC556 without the flash reducing “tines”. Why would you want to buy such a thing? Well, it’s short. It’s very short. It’s shorter than an A2 flash hider, in fact. But like the FSC556, it does an amazing job for something so small (and also like the FSC556, it was given to me for free).
I normally have the FSC556 on my 5.45 rifle, because the action of that weapon seems much more violent than a comparable 5.56 carbine, and the FSC does a splendid job of taming that beast. Comparing the FSC and TTO back to back at the range, I noticed little, if any, difference between the two.
If you have a rifle that you’re trying to keep as short as possible, this would be a good option for you. Many folks go with 14.5″ barrels that have permanently attached devices in order to maintain the legal barrel length of 16″. If you put a Smith Vortex or a YHM Phantom or a PWS FSC556 on a 16″ barrel, it’s effectively become a 17.5″ barrel. There are functional benefits to having a slightly shorter weapon. If you’ve ever tried to exit a vehicle quickly with a rifle or carbine, you know what I’m talking about. Beyond that, some people prefer the looks of a shorter device. Admittedly, the functional difference in the length of the TTO compared to the FSC is quite small – however, if you’re concerned about the flash hiding tines snagging on something, the TTO’s smooth “face” should make you feel warm inside.
If you’ve ever used a muzzle brake or compensator, you probably are of the opinion that they direct a lot of noise and blast back towards the shooter. Well, I am too. And in my opinion, the PWS compensators do increase the noise and blast ratio of the weapon compared to standard devices. The difference isn’t horrific – my initial thoughts on the FSC556 back in 2008 were distorted by the fact that I did a significant amount of shooting under a shade port with a tin roof – but there is a noticeable increase.
As for the effects on other shooters, well, it depends on how twisted their knickers are. I’ve had disgruntled shooters chase me away from “their end” of the range at the sight of a 16″ midlength upper with an A2 flash hider – the actual quote was “You’re going to shoot next to me with that 18″ barrel? And that muzzle brake?” I had yet to put a round downrange.
However, in over a year of shooting the FSC 556 and/or TTO at various public and private ranges, I have yet to receive any complaints or even sideways glances of disgust. I’ve attended rifle matches with the FSC 556 – matches that expressly prohibit muzzle brakes – and no one said anything. Furthermore, I can confidently say that the design of both devices has no negative effect on accuracy, because with the aforementioned 5.45 rifle equipped with the FSC 556, firing surplus Russian ammunition, I’ve been able to hold 3 to 5 MOA at 600 yards with iron sights. At 100 yards, it shoots about 3 MOA with either an A2, a Smith Vortex, or the TTO/FSC556.
On another note – I would like to say that sometimes I see competition rifles get out of hand. To me, tactical rifle competitions are a place to hone skills for the real world, not simply go beyond what’s practical for a millisecond-faster split time. I wouldn’t take any rifle to a competition match that I wouldn’t grab off a rack before going to a potentially bad place or situation. In my opinion, the PWS compensators are in keeping with the spirit of what tactical rifle matches should be.
So, in the end, are these PWS muzzle devices worth $100? To me, the answer is yes. My initial concerns about noise and flash have been, shall we say, dampened. The TTO and FSC556 perform their intended tasks without any drama. If I had to choose between the two, I’d get the FSC556 – if only because my primary home defense carbine has a PVS-14 night vision monocular, and flash reduction is a priority with night vision devices. However, for realistic competition use, or really any use during daytime, the TTO is the best compact muzzle device on the market.
Giving credit where credit is due, this device is the brainchild of Jeff C./USMC03 on various forums. His website is 03designgroup.com, and he is a fantastic resource for this sort of thing.