What you mount to your barrel to round it out.
Let’s say you have your AR rifle or pistol build nearly completed- full float handguard as to not interrupt your barrel’s ability to freely send that high-caliber projectile on an unhindered trajectory; iron back up sights on the front and rear in case your scope needs them; and a fixed multi-magnification powered scope to engage at well over a football field length away. What’s left?, you just need to finish the tip of that barrel with a decent muzzle device that will keep your recoil manageable, without breaking your bank account.
The puzzle of choosing a muzzle.. device.
Dependent on your budget; choosing a muzzle device for your weapon can easily involve two-dozen different brands and models of Muzzle devices. Each one may look similar to the next, or each can be different as the previous in areas such as size, material, construction, and purpose. Choosing a muzzle device should be a carefully thought out undertaking; depending on which State in the union you live in, your choices may be limited, due to your State’s laws regulating the features associated with certain muzzle devices. Other factors in addition to the one’s previously touched on include: caliber compatibility- 5.56, .223, 7.62, or .308 caliber requirements, sound and flash signature, blast mitigation, and compatibility with other muzzle devices used in combination with other devices you are planning to equip your weapon’s muzzle with; mainly blast diffusers, and sound suppressors.
Some different types of muzzle devices for your bolt action, AR rifle or pistol build.
The Muzzle Brake: A muzzle brake can be found on just as many rifle and pistol builds as any kind of muzzle device out there; the muzzle brake profile or side-view will almost always look just like any other kind of muzzle device- especially from a distance, and looking from top view. The main feature of a muzzle brake that distinguishes it is known as its Tine; the tine of a muzzle brake is the front most part of the brake, which will have a closed tine, or solid flat front surface, except for the bore hole that matches the size of the caliber bullet it was made for. The tine obviously matches its outer diameter with that of the rest of the brake body, but will have an inner diameter or bore that matches the weapons bullet. This flat back part of the tine is what will catch the spent bullet casing’s ignited powder- along with its tremendous amount of combusted blast energy. Once part of the blast energy is trapped behind the tine, some of it is deflected out of the brake via ports on either side; these ports are usually larger than other ports in order to quickly disperse that blast energy and deflect it away from the front of the barrel. This act of deflecting muzzle blast is also directed upward through the brake in order to counteract the weapon’s tendency to recoil up and backward after the ignition of powder grain and travel of projectile out of the barrel. The brake ports act as relief for built-up pressures within the breech, barrel, and muzzle. Directing these combusted or spent gases help control the recoil of the weapon.
The Compensator device: Much like the Muzzle Brake, the muzzle compensator assists with trapping, re-directing, and deflecting the intense pressure gases created during bullet travel within the weapon. As a muzzle device; the compensator is tasked with controlling the weapon’s recoil; but at a heightened degree, as compensators are sometimes found on competition-purposed weaponry. Compensators are widely used on competition handguns in order to minimize muzzle jump from recoil, in order to keep the pistol on target while being timed for score. For other shooting disciplines, the Compensator acts in the same aspect as competition specific compensators in that recoil is controlled in order to allow the shooter to quickly re-engage the target as fast and accurately as possible.
The Flash hider: Commonly found on most commercially sold weapons- except for some States due to regulated muzzle devices- the flash hider muzzle device is a simple and straight-forward design that combines basic recoil reduction qualities via its multi-ports machined through the device body, each port allowing expended gas and kinetic blast energy to escape and mitigate felt recoil. However, its two main purposes is to lessen seen (as well as infra-red) flash signature when the weapon is being fired, in order to not give away the shooter’s position to the enemy; and secondly, to lessen muzzle flash seen by the shooter which hinders visibility of target during follow-up pulls of the trigger. A flash hider, because of its simplistic and basic design also tend to be lighter in weight than other types of muzzle devices. Weight- while not being a detriment in terms of muzzle-flip recoil management- has its disadvantages when controlling unwanted muzzle movement. Flash hiders will ideally not be too much of a factor when trying to save overall weight from the weapon- and as mentioned, a slightly heavier muzzle device will usually assist in managing muzzle-flip or muzzle rise.
The Muzzle Blast Mitigating device: With the popularity of short-barrels and pistol- barreled AR builds comes the necessity to tame tremendous amounts of expelled gasses through the weapon’s muzzle. AR Pistol or short-barrel rifle shooters can attest to the fact that shooting a weapon with a barrel length designed to provide quick-handling characteristics in a close-quarter type room clearing training exercise with a 7 inch total barrel length does come at a price- the sometimes massive Muzzle blast induced concussion associated with the fire-ball of burning powder from the bullet casing that only has a short amount of steel piping in which to disperse then dissipate. The muzzle blast device designed to mitigate such concussive and flash fire induced nightmares have been very effective in controlling such effects of the barrel. Flash cans- as they are popularly known among AR pistol and SBR owners- mount directly onto the barrel’s threaded muzzle. Some blast diffusing devices operate independent of a weapon’s muzzle device, while other models work and are mounted in conjunction with a barrel’s existing brake or flash hider. Flash Cans work by harnessing the expelled gasses that have ignited but not been able to dissipate within the shortened barrel, but escape in the form of a flash, and keep both the fire-ball and concussive nature of these gasses, travelling forward along the trail of the bullet’s path. This harnessed ball of flame and pressurized gas is sent away from the shooter’s immediate space to keep away concussive pressure felt by not only the shooter, but also by others lateral of, and to the shooter’s peripheral. When shooting a short-barrel weapon in a practice range environment, one can instantly become aware that your weapon is rather loud and obnoxious to be shooting next to. Muzzle Blast devices are popular for not only their ability to reign in the brute muzzle blast from short-barrel weapons, but also for their relatively similar aesthetics to a sound suppressor- some shooter’s even mount longer than normal muzzle blast devices to purposefully resemble a silenced weapon.
Having the opportunity to test multiple brands and models of muzzle devices in order to better understand and witness each device’s features and its ability to control a weapon’s violently unstable muzzle blast, and inadvertently enhance the shooter’s performance as a result would be an undertaking I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to do. Range time is a valuable time- anytime, for the most part that is. If you are ever able to be in such a test and evaluation position, I would highly recommend bringing your mental and actual note-taking skills with you, as evaluating multiple muzzle devices will have multiple results from multiple makes and models. As an end result- you should be able to find one that suits all of your criteria in picking one for your barrel tip.
As a note of caution; always render a weapon safe first with a breech that is empty before clamping your AR upper with barrel on a vise. I also should mention as a reminder to confirm a muzzle device is properly torqued down onto a barrel before and during testing and evaluation; I had the misfortune of a muzzle device spinning off of the barrel’s threaded tip during live-fire at an indoor range. Most likely the result of built-up back pressure pushing against the compensator device’s prongs and ports- coupled with my neglect to keep everything tightly torqued down, resulting in a costly loss of a muzzle device for me (literally lost inside a vat of shredded rubber backstop). Any time on the range is valuable time; and I hope your time testing and choosing your muzzle device for your barrel will be a productive trials event that leads to a muzzle device just right for your barrel.