Ar-15 Flash Hider Comparison Essay

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.

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.

 

 

 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.

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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.”

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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.

a2ar15brakecompensatorflash hiderflash suppressorhigh speed videomuzzle devicemuzzle flash

In Muzzle Brake Shootouts Part 1 and Part 2, we were primarily testing recoil reduction performance. With something like 64 brakes and comps recoil tested, it was time to move onto muzzle flash. For this shootout we were able to gather 33 different muzzle devices — mostly dedicated flash hiders but also some hybrid units — and pit them against each other for flash suppression prowess. Not only did we capture photographs of each FH in action, but with the use of a trick light meter we were able to record actual brightness measurements and scored some real, objective data. . .

EDIT: In addition to the 5.56 muzzle brake tests linked above, there is now a second 5.56 flash hiding test HERE and a .308 muzzle brake test HERE. You may also be interested in the AR-15 Drop-In Trigger Roundup HERE.

These tests are expensive, but I’d love to do more. I’ve purchased air pressure sensors designed to log blast waves so we can compare the amount of concussion each muzzle device generates, and these will be used in test four. But I have a lot of brakes to round up for that and the funding is low. I also want to do another AR-15 trigger roundup (component triggers this time) and a couple of flashlight roundups (tactical and gun-mounted). Please consider supporting this sort of testing via my Patreon page. As a Patron you can also get free stuff, join live streams, gain early access, and more.

First, this test was made possible thanks to Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop in Spokane, WA. They were nice enough to not only loan me their entire south shooting bay with all of the lights turned off, but also loaned me a couple of the muzzle devices seen here. Sharp Shooting has dozens of flash hiders, brakes, triggers, grips, optics, and just about every other rifle part you can think of in stock along with many hundreds of firearms, NFA items, holsters, ammo, and other gear. In fact, they’re one of the largest Primary Weapons Systems dealers in the U.S. and should have every single PWS product in stock and they ship ’em free of charge.

If you appreciate all this data as much as I do, they’re happy to ship guns (to your dealer) and gear and can be reached at (509) 535-4444 or through their website or Facebook.

Flash Testing

Protocol for the test was as follows:

  • Camera was set up a couple feet to the right of the muzzle and elevated to see the top and the right side of each FH.
  • Aperture and shutter speed were locked for the entirety of the test. The shutter was open for 3.2 seconds for each FH.
  • The light meter was placed about two feet from the muzzle off at a ~45° angle to the front and slightly elevated, which should have ensured its ability to “see” brightness from the side, top, and out the muzzle of each device.
  • The light meter I purchased is capable of recording flashes as brief as 10 milliseconds. It was set on “peak hold” to hopefully record the brightest single moment for each FH.
  • Three shots of American Eagle 5.56 were fired while the camera’s shutter was open. This means every photo seen below is actually three gunshots all captured on one camera shot. Same goes for the light meter, which recorded the peak brightness moment of all three of those shots.
  • This was all fired through my go-to upper, which is an Adams Arms complete piston upper with 16″ barrel.

Thanks to the artificially-[not]lighted environment inside of Sharp Shooting’s range, the light meter read a consistent 0.25 Lux during the entirety of the testing. For reference, 0.25 Lux is apparently about how bright a 3/4-full moon makes the ground. The light meter was not “zeroed” out, so all of the Lux readings to follow “include” the ambient light level. For example, our winner turned in a result of just 0.31 Lux. With an ambient reading of 0.25, it sure didn’t add much.

With all of that said, our flash suppression winner is…drum roll please…

 

JP Enterprises’ Flash Hider!

Click any of the charts, graphs, and photographs that follow to enlarge them. Click here to download the Excel doc with all of the data — Lux reading, weight, length, diameter, and price — for each FH.

^^^ note that bare muzzle, DoubleStar Dragon, Spike’s Tactical Dynacomp Extreme, and Troy Claymore are missing from the graph above. As you’ll see in the chart below, they were so bright that including them would have completely destroyed the scale of the graph.

Flash Hiders

Listed alphabetically. All stated weights and dimensions are as measured by me. I noted obvious errors and/or complete omissions on many manufacturers’ sites so chose not to use any of their info across the board.

If you notice the action photos getting blurrier as the test goes on, well, it isn’t in your head. Looks like the blast from the gunshots progressively bumped the focus on my lens, and naturally I didn’t notice until looking at the pictures on my computer later. If there’s a FH test #2 in the cards, I suppose I’ll have to tape the focus ring down.

Bare Muzzle

10,760 Lux

A2 Birdcage:

0.48 Lux

Fairly standard going rate for a brand new A2 Birdcage style flash hider is about $9. Of course, there’s a good chance that one came on your rifle from the factory. If hiding flash is your priority, the ol’ birdcage is always going to be the budget champion. Solid performance and you probably already, accidently own one(s).

2A Armament T3 Compensator:

1.12 Lux

Previously seen in the AR-15 Muzzle Brake Shootout #2 recoil test.

Flawless machining and an extremely consistent and nice black phosphate finish. The complex appearance of the baffle and port structure is really cool. It’s a dual baffle comp that vents more gas upwards than downwards to compensate for recoil-induced muzzle rise. 2A claims it keeps flash to a minimum compared to most brakes and comps, and now we know. It’s small, light, and works as a QD mount for some suppressors. Also available in titanium.

Material: 4140 bar stock steel
Finish: black phosphate
Length: 2.12″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.86″
Weight: 2.56 oz
MSRP: $75

Advanced Armament Corp (AAC) BLACKOUT 90T Flash Hider:

0.35 Lux

I got my hands on a 90-tooth QD suppressor mount version of the BLACKOUT for this test, but if you aren’t looking to mount an AAC suppressor then the non-mount version here should offer identical flash hiding performance in a smaller, lighter, less-expensive package.

Machining and finish are top notch. Flash hiding performance is almost absolute. For the record, one of the prongs of the FH is blocking the camera’s view of what may be going on inside of the BLACKOUT. The light meter was positioned lower and forwards and would have “seen” brightness inside the BLACKOUT that the photo doesn’t show.

Material: “high strength corrosion-resistant aerospace alloy”
Finish: Nitride
Length: 2.61″ (2.125″ for non-mount version)
Diameter (at largest point): 1.145″ (~0.85 for non-mount)
Weight: 4.63 oz (~2.9 oz for non-mount)
MSRP: $119.99 ($58.99 for non-mount)

Battle Comp Enterprises Battlecomp 2.0:

1.41 Lux

Previously seen in the first AR-15 Muzzle Brake Shootout.

The Battlecomp is definitely a known quantity, so it had to be included here (even if Vuurwapen Blog hates its guts). It’s popular in part because it’s small, light, and an effective compensator. Now we know how it is as a flash suppressor. Machining is good. Black oxide finish is standard.

Material: 17-4PH heat treated stainless steel
Finish: Bead oxide
Length: 1.755″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.866″
Weight: 1.81 oz
MSRP: $165

Bravo Company USA BCMGUNFIGHTER Compensator MOD 1 – 5.56:

0.60 Lux

Previously seen in the first AR-15 Muzzle Brake Shootout.

Designed to reduce muzzle rise, flash, noise, concussion, and recoil. I must say that I think the design with the internal cone is pretty cool. Machining has only minor imperfections, and only if you’re looking for them, and the finish is very nice.

Material: Stainless steel
Finish: unknown (not mentioned on BCM’s website)
Length: 2.169″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.862″
Weight: 2.75 oz
MSRP: $94.95

Black Rain Ordnance 223 Flash Suppressor:

0.59 Lux

It’s rare that a design with such strong aesthetic considerations also comes with solid performance, but BRO’s flash suppressor does not disappoint. Machining is crisp, sharp, and clean with no visible tool marks. Finish is even and appears to be matte parkerized.

Material: stainless steel
Finish: black
Length: 2.23″
Diameter (at largest point): 1.00″
Weight: 3.24 oz
MSRP: $139

Black River Tactical Covert Comp 5.56:

2.21 Lux

Previously seen in the first AR-15 Muzzle Brake Shootout.

Linear comps are designed to redirect all of the blast, pressure, and as much of the noise as possible forwards, away from the shooter and anyone next to him or her. Most of them attempt to reduce flash signature as well, and the Covert Comp certainly does that when compared to a bare muzzle.

Machining is top notch and the gloss Melonite finish is really nice. Covert Comps are available in fluted or smooth exterior designs and in multiple thread pitches to suit many calibers.

Material: Tungsten Enhanced Chrome-Moly Steel, through hardened
Finish: Melonite
Length: 1.95″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.866″
Weight: 2.51 oz
MSRP: $59.95

Daniel Defense Superior Suppression Device, Extended:

0.54 Lux

Machining is above average, finish is durable but not quite as perfectly even in tone and gloss level as some. A clean, yet interesting look with solid flash hiding performance.

Material: 17-4 stainless steel
Finish: salt bath nitride
Length: 2.255″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.865″
Weight: 2.89 oz
MSRP: $59

DoubleStar Dragon Flash Hider:

17,900 Lux

Pretty sharp machining and an even, dark gray finish. DSC’s Dragon has teeth, eyes, and nostrils and looks like a dragon’s head from the sides or from above. Kind of cool how some of it overlaps the barrel. It isn’t quite as much of a dragon’s head as this one from the first muzzle brake test, but it dang sure spits fire like the mythical beast.

That’s lots of fun for shooting on the range, but “flash hider” certainly shouldn’t be in the product name. The extraordinarily bright fireball from this bad boy caught me by surprise and I was pretty well blinded for a minute or two afterwards haha

Material: steel
Finish: not specified (guessing phosphate or parkerized)
Length: 2.14″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.99″
Weight: 2.17 oz
MSRP: $53.99

Griffin Armament M4SD Flash Comp:

1.36 Lux

Machining is clean with only the lightest tool marks in the muzzle flutes, and the black oxide finish is above average for consistency. The M4SD offers a look — and performance — that isn’t too flashy. It’ll return for muzzle brake test #3.

Material: 17-4PH stainless steel
Finish: black oxide
Length: 2.26″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.864″
Weight: 2.89 oz
MSRP: $99.95

JP Enterprises Flash Hider:

0.31 Lux

At first glance JP’s Flash Hider is a fairly standard, 3-prong job, although maybe a tad longer than the norm. Look closer and you’ll notice the serrations on the inside of each prong. Apparently they’re effective, as this was the least-flashy unit in the test, turning in a Lux result barely above ambient — and I tested it twice to be sure. The base actually overlaps the barrel by about 1/2″ for easier pinning and welding, so the length stat below slightly exaggerates the effective “installed length.”

I see no imperfections in the machining, and the finish is entirely even. It ships in a standard JP clamshell package complete with ear plugs, crush washer, pin for permanent attachment, and install instructions. The JPFH-556 is also under $60, which is below average for MSRPs in this test.

Material: steel
Finish: magnesium phosphate
Length: 3.125″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.875″
Weight: 3.75 oz
MSRP: $59.95

King Armory KA-1222A:

5.26 Lux

King’s 1222A is a combination muzzle brake and flash hider that reduced recoil force by just over 46% while maintaining a clean, sleek design and light weight. Its diameter is perfect for a mil-spec barrel and can look like an integral part rather than a bolt-on. Looks like it doesn’t really disrupt the gasses jetting out of the muzzle aperture enough to stop that jet of fire, though. Of course, it’s still a massive reduction compared to a bare muzzle.

Machining and finish are great, as I happen to like the really fine and consistent tool marks that give it that “turned” look and the nitride finishes tend to be my favorite.

Material: 4140CM (also available in 416P70 stainless steel)
Finish: Nitride
Length: 2.25″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.74″
Weight: 2.11 oz
MSRP: $64.99 ($74.99 in stainless)

Knight’s Armament QDC MAMS Brake:

1.87 Lux

The MAMS Brake acts as a quick disconnect coupling (QDC) for a few of KAC’s suppressor models. At just shy of $300, it’s the most expensive, currently-produced muzzle device in this roundup. Machining and finish are good, and all of the tiny vent holes are particularly clean. Welding the muzzle cap onto the body allows for interior features that may have otherwise been impossible to machine through a 5.56-appropriate muzzle aperture. KAC claims up to a 67% reduction in felt recoil, so the MAMS will definitely return for muzzle brake test #3.

Nowhere near as bright as a bare muzzle, but the MAMS is still good for a bit of fire.

Material: steel
Finish: black
Length: 2.20″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.864″ (not including the protruding QD pin)
Weight: 2.35 oz
MSRP: $299.95

Knight’s Armament Triple Tap Flash Suppressor/Compensator:

0.74 Lux

It’s no longer in production, but if it were this ~$450+ MSRP compensator would take the prize for top asking price. The “3T” was expensive in part due to being wire EDM-machined from Inconel, a name-brand “superalloy” that maintains excellent strength and corrosion resistance at extremely high temperatures. Machining is extremely good but not entirely flawless. I believe the example I borrowed is bare Inconel with no coating or other finish.

For a hybrid device, flash hiding is pretty solid. The Triple Tap will also visit us again for the next muzzle brake test.

Material: Inconel
Finish: bare
Length: 1.88″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.865″
Weight: 2.66 oz
MSRP: $450 or a bit higher (hard to lock down since it’s out of production)

Lantac Dragon:

2.06 Lux

Lantac’s Dragon muzzle brake (DGN556B) was the single most-requested brake for Muzzle Brake Shootout #2. It’s insanely popular and, if for no other reason, that’s why it appears in this flash hider test as well.

Machining is great. The unique, bead blasted-like texture of the nitride finish is pretty cool. I like the feel of it, and it looks good although it does show some superficial scuffing and such. For a full-on brake, it really doesn’t have much flash or fire at all.

Material: hardened milspec steel
Finish: nitride
Length: 2.57″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.863″
Weight: 3.15 oz
MSRP: $140

Liberty Suppressors Mystic X:

0.50 Lux

2.12 Lux

While not a flash suppressor and not even a 5.56-specific silencer (the Mystic is primarily designed for 9mm pistol rounds), I thought I’d include Liberty’s Mystic X in the test here anyway. The photo on bottom is from the first series of three rounds, where the oxygen inside of the can allowed for the combustion of unburned powder and resulted in that tongue of flame out the front. Actually, only the first round showed flash and the next two did not, so I went ahead and did another set of three shots. That series is what you see in the top photo. With no O2, there’s no flash. This is also explains “first round pop,” where the first round tends to be louder than subsequent rounds thanks to the presence of oxygen inside of the firearm muffler.

For a glimpse inside the Mystic X, what makes it different from the previous-gen Mystic, and how this 9mm pistol can can handle full-on 5.56, see this article.

Material: Titanium tube, stainless steel core
Finish: Type C High Temp Cerakote
Length: 8.0″ (without a mount)
Diameter (at largest point): 1.375″
Weight: 10.5 oz (without a mount)
MSRP: $799

Manticore Arms Eclipse Flash Hider:

0.43 Lux

Manticore’s website says, “ZERO flash. Nada. None …we and others have not found a single brand or bullet weight of ammuntion [sic] that produces any sort of flash with the Eclipse Premium Flash Hider.” Well, I managed to catch some on film (errr, digital “film”) and the light meter picked up a few Lux as well, but it darn sure wasn’t much!

The Eclipse is a solid unit with a decent black oxide finish. Machining is fine, with some little nicks or burrs along the edges of the prongs and some internal machine lines that nobody would ever care about.

Material: 8620 steel
Finish: black oxide
Length: 2.425″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.86″
Weight: 3.49 oz
MSRP: $49.95

Precision Armament AFAB-556:

0.56 Lux

Previously seen in Muzzle Brake Shootout #2, the new AFAB — that’s Advanced Flash Arresting Brake — takes the old design to a slightly more extreme level, with deeper grooves and a baffle pattern inside the bore. It kind of reminds me of a Graboid (not an insult).

For a hybrid compensator design that mitigates recoil as well as muzzle movement in other directions, all with a bare minimum of blast and concussion, the AFAB manages to turn in solid results as a flash hider as well. In fact, of all of the hybrid devices in this test — meaning the ones with any design consideration for reducing recoil — the AFAB was ever so slightly outperformed on flash reduction by only one unit, Precision Armament’s EFAB seen below.

Machining is as good as it gets, and the Ionbond finish is very nice.

Material: HTSR 416 stainless steel
Finish: Ionbond CrCN
Length: 2.23″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.866″
Weight: 3 oz
MSRP: $109.95

Precision Armament EFAB:

0.55 Lux

Also returning after Shootout #2, PA’s EFAB, or Enhanced Flash Arresting Brake, is supposed to be the absolute pinnacle of flash hiding compensator design. Each port has a round hole in the middle that diverges outwards into the “Y” shapes visible on the outside. Looking down the bore, the appearance is that of 9 circular blast baffles. It’s certainly a joy to shoot a rifle with an EFAB (or AFAB) on it, and now that this test is complete it appears PA’s flash hiding performance claims are warranted.

Again, machining and finish are absolutely flawless. Although the EFAB is supposed to outperform the AFAB in every way, I still kind of lean towards the AFAB for my personal rifle because I like the looks a bit more and it’s $50 less expensive (the EFAB ties up a CNC machine for quite a bit more time).

Material: HTSR 416 stainless steel
Finish: Ionbond CrCN
Length: 2.43″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.9″
Weight: 3.51 oz
MSRP: $159.95

Primary Weapon Systems (PWS) FSC556:

1.47 Lux

With a well-deserved reputation for being an excellent all-around muzzle device, the FSC556 visits us again after its inclusion in the first Muzzle Device Shootout.

PWS’ FSC (or Flash Suppressing Compensation) series are combination devices intended to reduce recoil while also reducing flash signature. The FSC556 is factory equipment on the FN SCAR16s and some other very nice rifles, including many from PWS of course. It also acts as a QD mount for the Gemtech HALO suppressor.

Machining is great, finish is good, and this is one clear case of excellent design where a “combo” device resulted in little compromise. Recoil reduction was very good, flash suppression was decent.

Material: steel
Finish: black
Length: 2.335″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.865″
Weight: 2.35 oz
MSRP: $99.95

RISE Armament RA-713 Razor Brake:

0.66 Lux

I admit, this one really took me by surprise. I figured this was a muzzle device designed to look cool but not really provide any other value, and I was expecting a healthy, bare muzzle-like fireball. Wrong. The Razor Brake is actually a pretty decent little flash suppressor. And hey, it does look cool and it’s super lightweight as well — the 2nd-lightest FH in this test, behind one made of titanium.

Machining and finish are top notch. I would have appreciated wrench flats instead of having to stick a flat-head screwdriver through one of those little slots (which actually is the recommended installation procedure), but unless you’re installing and removing dozens of muzzle devices for some internet test it’s probably not an issue.

Material: steel
Finish: black
Length: 2.063″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.752″
Weight: 1.31 oz
MSRP: $65

Seekins Precision Flash Hider:

0.40 Lux

Once again we’re hit with proof that good looks and good performance aren’t mutually exclusive. Although the creative department may have been on vacation when Seekins came up with “Flash Hider” for its name (about as creative as “fireplace”), it sure does look cool. Machining and melonited finish are spot-on without an imperfection visible anywhere.

Considering the sharp aesthetic, solid performance, small size, light weight, and relatively low price point, I’d guess this is an extremely popular product.

Material: steel
Finish: melonited
Length: 2.20″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.86″
Weight: 2.39 oz
MSRP: $55

Smith Vortex Flash Eliminator / CMMG Vortex Striker Flash Hider:

0.37 Lux

The Smith Vortex has long been the gold standard for flash hiders, and clearly that’s for good reason. I’ve combined the standard model from Smith Enterprise as well as the modified version from CMMG here because they perform identically. CMMG’s Striker variant adds tungsten carbide striker tips for your everyday glass breaking needs. Smith also offers a handful of versions for different mounting requirements as well as some models with external ribs for your aesthetic pleasure, but functionally this sample is representative.

Machining and finish are perfectly clean and even on both. The Smith appears to be parkerized and the CMMG looks more like it’s melonited, but neither company specifies on its website.

Material: heat treated steel
Finish: black
Length: 2.323″ (without carbide tips)
Diameter (at largest point): 0.86″
Weight: 3.12 oz (without carbide tips)
MSRP: $65 for Smith version, $129.95 for CMMG version

Spike’s Tactical Dynacomp Extreme:

8,120 Lux

I like a deep black, semi-gloss melonite or nitride finish, and the Spike’s Dynacomp delivers here (they also make it in other finishes, like Nickel Boron). Machining is also near flawless and I’d say I’m generally a fan of this tons-of-tiny-ports aesthetic. Good muzzle control (it was in shootout #2), but obviously it isn’t doing much for flash or fire reduction. Although a bit more expensive, the Precision Armament AFAB does seem to provide at least as much muzzle control, more recoil reduction, and next to no flash. Still a solid choice, though, for the shooter looking for low concussion and low blast, plus muzzle control and some recoil reduction.

Material: 303 stainless steel
Finish: melonite
Length: 2.25″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.87″
Weight: 3.05 oz
MSRP: $89.95

Strike Industries J-Comp (Japan Type 89 Comp):

1.44 Lux

The J-Comp is actually pretty damn awesome, so it’s back yet again after appearing in both muzzle brake recoil tests. It’s an extremely effective brake, despite exhibiting low concussion, blast, and flash, and it has a simple and classic sort of a design. Machining and finish (note that mine’s a bit beat up on the wrench flats from being installed and removed a half dozen times) are average, but the price is dirt cheap. It basically crushes the other ~60 muzzle brakes and comps in recoil reduction per dollar, and it produces far less flash than most any other brake with effective blast baffles like it has.

Material: steel
Finish: parkerized
Length: 2.44″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.86″
Weight: 2.98 oz
MSRP: $29.95

Strike Industries Venom Flash Hider:

0.41 Lux

Strike Industries’ Venom is another cool looking flash hider that performs. Machining is quite nice, and the parkerizing looks good. As with most of SI’s products, the asking price is also really affordable. It’s just long enough to bring a 14.5″ barrel up to 16″, and is pre-drilled for pinning and welding.

Material: steel
Finish: parkerized
Length: 2.36″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.972″
Weight: 3.01 oz
MSRP: $44.95

Tactical Advantage Armory FH-23 Titanium Flash Hider:

0.85 Lux

So the other titanium muzzle device I tested 9 months ago also threw off a bunch of sparks at first. It seems to be temporary and wears off after a bit of shooting, but I didn’t have enough ammo with me — this test took all 120 rounds I brought plus a handful more (the same brand) donated by Sharp Shooting so I could wrap up — to try and “break in” the FH-23. The photo above, however, is of rounds 7, 8, and 9. The first three were pretty epic:

I believe this is Ti dust left over from the sand blasting process after it’s machined. Can’t say I’m entirely sure, but the other comp I tested stopped doing it and I’m confident this one is just a few more rounds away from knocking it off as well. I’ll be keeping this FH for a future test and shooting with it some more in the meantime. It’s also available Cerakoted in various colors, and that would prevent the light show right off the bat.

Anyway, it’s a sharp-looking muzzle device that’s machined with excellent precision, and it’s incredibly lightweight. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on some more Ti items in the future.

Material: Grade 5 Titanium
Finish: satin (also available in various Cerakote finishes)
Length: 2.06″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.94″
Weight: 1.15 oz
MSRP: $115.99

Troy Industries 3-Prong Flash Hider:

0.38 Lux

Simple, small, and stout. Dang effective, too. Machining is pretty good, and the parkerized or phosphated finish is even. It isn’t on Troy’s website for some reason, but it’s in their product catalog and it’s available — usually for like $51 — at various retailers online.

Material: hardened 4140 steel
Finish: black
Length: 2.168″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.852″
Weight: 3.01 oz
MSRP: $59

Troy Industries Claymore Muzzle Brake 556:

158 Lux

Troy’s Claymore is a linear compensator and it does an excellent job of sending blast, concussion, and sound forwards. Although the photograph looks relatively similar to me as the one from the other linear compensator in this test, the Black River Tactical Covert Comp, the light meter sure gave a different reading. My subjective experience from the previous muzzle brake tests as well as this FH test is that the Claymore is noticeably brighter, and I simply can’t explain why that isn’t obvious in the photos.

Machining and finish are basically what I’d call “fast and dirty,” but the truth is I think this is probably the most appropriate choice for most muzzle devices anyway. The asking price should be adjusted to reflect this and, indeed, Troy’s options are on the affordable end of the spectrum with many linear comps coming in over 2x the price.

Material: hardened 4140 steel
Finish: manganese phosphate
Length: 2.24″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.97″
Weight: 3.25 oz
MSRP: $64

Troy Industries Medieval Flash Suppressor 556:

0.57 Lux

The slots in Troy’s Medieval Flash Suppressor are few and far between, with no slot on the bottom to prevent kicking up dust and to help mitigate muzzle rise. Those three slots seem to do the trick at disrupting gas flow, though, and suppressing flash as designed. As what would otherwise be prongs are connected at the muzzle, there’s no chance of that “tuning fork” ringing effect that some 3- and 4-prong flash hiders are good for.

Machining and matte finish are about average. Price is below average.

Material: ordnance steel
Finish: black
Length: 2.20″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.86″
Weight: 3.16 oz
MSRP: $45

Witt Machine Directional Muzzle Brake w/ Spiral Cut Shroud:

1.21 Lux

This is a recoil-eliminating muzzle brake first and foremost, so it will definitely be coming back for the next round of brake testing. I’m impressed with how well the spiral shroud suppresses flash. The Directional Brake also ships with a solid shroud to effectively turn it into a linear compensator. Or, run it without a shroud for maximum recoil reduction. As you can see in the photos above, the shrouds simply screw right on.

Machining on my examples is very sharp and clean, and the Cerakote finishes are even. Pretty cool that, when you order your Directional Brake, the product page allows you to choose from any of the offered finishes for the brake, spiral shroud, and solid shroud separately.

Material: 416 stainless steel
Finish: brushed stainless is standard, and a few Cerakote colors are optional
Length: 2.135″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.957″ with shroud on
Weight: 2.79 oz with spiral shroud
MSRP: $125

Yankee Hill Machine Phantom 5C2 Comp/Flash Hider:

0.41 Lux

The YHM Phantom is right up there with the Smith Vortex as one of the gold standard, known quantities in the flash hiding world. Once again, the reputation is well-deserved and the Phantom is a solid performer. Machining and finish are both essentially flawless. This is a very nice looking, lightweight, and relatively compact unit that performs well at a dirt cheap price.

Material: steel
Finish: black
Length: 2.225″
Diameter (at largest point): 0.863″
Weight: 2.03 oz
MSRP: $34

Final Thoughts

Thanks to doing this inside of Sharp Shooting Indoor Range, I’ll be able to do more flash testing in the future and should arrive to find exactly 0.25 Lux of ambient lighting every time. As a lot of folks are already asking about the “best” all-around muzzle device — recoil reduction and flash reduction in addition to low blast and concussion — I’m planning on revisiting to flash test some of the non-dedicated “flash hiders” that are still here (Houlding Precision Curse, Thunder Technologies Brake, the Precision Armament M4-72 since it won both recoil reduction tests, etc).

“Best,” of course, is highly subjective and depends entirely on what aspects each person values more. Is it recoil reduction, flash reduction, aesthetics, quality, price, weight, size, blast/concussion? Suppressor mount capability? Certainly there are a few muzzle devices that stand out in my mind already, such as the AFAB and EFAB from Precision Armament, the Strike Industries J-Comp, PWS’ FSC556, 2A Armament’s T3 Comp, the BCM Comp MOD 1, and maybe the to-be-flash-tested-soon Thunder Technologies Standard Brake and Houlding Precision Curse will keep the Lux low as well.

Until next time. . .

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