A muzzle brake is an easy, convenient way to reduce recoil and muzzle climb, making your shooting more accurate. For that reason, they’re an incredibly popular upgrade for modular rifles like the AR-15.
But how exactly do muzzle brakes work? And how do you know what muzzle brake is right for you?
We’ll answer those questions and more in this handy guide. First, we’ll talk about what, exactly, a muzzle brake is, how muzzle brakes work, and how they’re different from (and similar to) other muzzle devices.
Next, we’ll discuss how to choose the best one for your particular purposes. Finally, we’ll then give you our top 5 recommendations for AR-15 muzzle brakes to help you get started on your search.
Now let’s dive right in.
Table Of Contents
- Our Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes
- What Are AR-15 Muzzle Brakes?
- How Do AR-15 Muzzle Brakes Work?
- What Do You Look For In The Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes?
- Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes Reviewed
- Final Thoughts On AR-15 Muzzle Brakes
Our Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes
- Precision Armament M4-72 Severe-Duty Compensator (Our Top Pick)
- Strike Industries JCOMP Gen2 AR-15 Compensator (Best Budget)
- Lantac Dragon Muzzle Brake (Best High End)
- VG6 Precision Gamma 556
- Wilson Combat Q-Comp
What Are AR-15 Muzzle Brakes?
As we’ve already stated, a muzzle brake reduces felt recoil and muzzle jump. That means that the rifle moves less after each shot, which allows for faster and more accurate follow up shots.
A muzzle brake is not the same as other muzzle devices like compensators and flash hiders. A compensator is quite similar but has holes in the top to vent gases to prevent muzzle flip while doing little to nothing about recoil. Now technically a muzzle brake doesn’t actually do much about muzzle flip and primarily fights recoil.
However, many muzzle devices are actually hybrids of the different types of muzzle devices, and muzzle brake and compensator hybrids are particularly common. That’s why muzzle brakes are generally thought to mitigate both flip and recoil. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear “compensator” and “muzzle brake” used more or less interchangeably these days.
A flash hider, or flash suppressor, is a muzzle device that handles the other side of the muzzle blast: muzzle flash. They have no effect on recoil or muzzle movement on their own, but they do reduce muzzle flash and noise. Muzzle brakes with flash hiding capabilities are less common, but still relatively easy to find.
Because they’re a barrel attachment, muzzle brakes need to be the right caliber. For an AR-15 rifle, that’s generally .223 Remington/5.56 NATO ammo. However, just like there are AR-15s in different calibers, there are also muzzle brakes for different calibers, such as .300 Blackout.
AR-15 muzzle devices typically use standard 1/2-28 threads, but that varies based on caliber. Still, regardless of caliber, a barrel or muzzle device that doesn’t use that standard configuration is quite unusual, so you shouldn’t have to worry about this too much.
How Do AR-15 Muzzle Brakes Work?
Okay, so you know what a muzzle brake is supposed to do, but how does it do it?
Well, when a gun is fired, gases and particles are released. These gases force the bullet out of the barrel, but they also jar the weapon up and back as they exit the muzzle.
A muzzle brake contains expansion chambers and baffles, which provide room for the gases to, well, expand, and reroute them through holes in the side of the muzzle brake. That sends the gases out to the side, rather than forward.
Holes may be drilled at a backward angle, rather than perpendicular to the barrel, to direct the gases backward as well, further combating recoil.
The placement of the holes affects the direction of muzzle movement by controlling the direction of gas flow and therefore the direction of energy relative to the firearm’s center axis (long ways). Muzzle brake/compensator hybrids will typically have holes along the top of the device, as well as the sides, to redirect gas upwards, combating muzzle rise.
Even something as small as the direction of the barrel’s rifling affects muzzle jump, so hole placement needs to take that into consideration.
That means that you need to be sure that your muzzle device lines up properly once on your AR-15 barrel. If your barrel’s rifling has a right-hand twist, as most do these days, you’ll need to line up the top gas ports a little to the right of the center. You may need to go through some trial and error before you figure out exactly how your muzzle brake needs to be positioned.
What Do You Look For In The Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes?
When choosing a high-quality muzzle brake, there are a few things to consider:
We’ve already covered that most muzzle brakes on the market now are actually muzzle brake/compensator combos. We’ve already discussed the benefits of those, so let’s go ahead and talk about muzzle brake/flash suppressor combos.
Flash suppressors minimize muzzle flash and noise, which protects your hearing, protects night vision devices in low light, and avoids the telltale flash giving away your position in a self-defense or home defense situation. All of those advantages carry over to a muzzle brake/flash suppressor hybrid as well.
And flash suppressor hybrids are often actually hybrids of all three of the muzzle devices we’ve talked about here with the advantages of each.
However, just like with anything else, the more features you add, the higher you can expect the price to be — or the worse you can expect the device to be at each of its functions. So be sure to consider your budget and how you prioritize those different features to get the best muzzle device for you and your budget.
Minimal Side Blast
Side blast refers to the shockwave that comes out of the side of a muzzle brake as a result of its redirection of the gases. It’s not especially important, except that people shooting next to you will find it annoying. Depending on where and how you’re shooting, it may also kick up dust, but mostly wanting minimal side blast is just a polite thing. Still, manners matter.
Overall, muzzle brakes are very easy to install. However, there is typically some hardware involved, such as crusher washers or shims, and that hardware may or may not come with the muzzle brake.
Make sure you know what hardware is necessary and whether or not you need to purchase it separately from the muzzle brake.
Of course, you also need to make sure it has the proper threading to fit your barrel. For AR-15s, the standard barrel threading is 1/2″ x 28.
Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes Reviewed
Now on to the muzzle brakes themselves.
Precision Armament M4-72 Severe-Duty Compensator (Our Top Pick)
Our top pick and one of the best AR-15 muzzle devices overall is the Precision Armament M4-72 Severe-Duty Compensator. As you can probably guess from the name, it’s a muzzle brake/compensator hybrid.
This handy little muzzle device is very effective, offering between 73 and 75% recoil reduction with standard .223 Remington rounds. It’s made of heat-treated stainless steel and comes with an Ionbond high-temperature CrCN coating matte black finish or matte stainless steel finish.
The one downside? It doesn’t come with installation hardware. Precision Armament recommends using it with their Accu-Washer Muzzle Device Alignment System.
- Easy to install
- Incredibly effective at recoil and movement reduction
- Closed bottom so there’s no dust signature when firing in kneeling or prone positions
- Not for use with short-barreled rifles with barrels shorter than 14.5 inches or with bullpup rifles
- Washers not included
Strike Industries JCOMP Gen2 AR-15 Compensator (Best Budget)
Our top budget pick is the Strike Industries JCOMP Gen2 AR-15 Compensator.
It’s a Type 89 style compensator, which is the style used on the Howa Type 89 rifle used by the Japan Self-Defense Forces, the Japan Coast Guard’s Special Security Team, and the Special Assault Team.
It has a two-chamber design for reduced recoil. This muzzle brake also offers muzzle rise compensation, which the Gen1 JCOMP did not. It’s also compatible with the Strike Industries Oppressor concussion reduction device, without the need for an adapter, for even better performance.
- Pre-drilled for pinning and welding to barrel
- Comes with mounting hardware
- Compatible with the Strike Industries Oppressor
- A bit heavier than most of the other muzzle devices on this list
- Requires a non-standard wrench for installation
Lantac Dragon Muzzle Brake (Best High End)
The Lantac Dragon Muzzle Brake is an excellent option for those willing and able to shell out the money for a top of the line muzzle brake/compensator hybrid.
It features Lantac’s Short Energy Pulse system for shorter recoil, which makes it great for full auto or rapid fire. The energy from shots won’t overlap, keeping your shots as accurate as possible.
It’s made from hardened mil-spec steel and features a black nitride finish. It comes with a crush washer for installation.
- Great for rapid fire or full auto shooting
- Also available in 9mm for pistol caliber carbine AR-15s
- Manufactured in the United States
VG6 Precision Gamma 556
Our next pick, the VG6 Precision Gamma 556, is yet another muzzle brake and compensator hybrid.
VG6 Precision boasts that the Gamma 556 was designed using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) for top-of-the-line performance.
This muzzle brake is CNC machined from heat-treated stainless steel and has a black nitride satin finish. It can be used with SBRs and AR pistols, but it’s designed for optimal performance for barrels between 10.5 and 18.5 inches.
- Shortest and lightest muzzle brake on this list.
- Made in the US
- Comes with a crush washer
- A little loud
- Side blast is a little strong
Wilson Combat Q-Comp
Last up is the Wilson Combat Q-Comp, a muzzle brake/compensator hybrid that also helps with flash suppression. Now I wouldn’t call it one of the best AR-15 flash hiders or anything, but it definitely helps.
It’s made from hardened 4140 steel with a melonite QPQ steel coating to prevent corrosion and improve durability. The slotted expansion chamber reduces muzzle rise and recoil. It also doesn’t have tines or prongs, which can break or catch on other things.
- Durable and snag-free
- Also provides flash suppression
- Good value
- Installation is a little tricky relative to others
- Doesn’t offer as much improvement in accuracy as others
Final Thoughts On AR-15 Muzzle Brakes
There are a ton of great muzzle brakes on the market, but unfortunately, we’re limited to just five picks, so I want to give shout outs to a few other awesome options before we part.
Each of the brands above makes multiple excellent muzzle devices in addition to the ones we’ve listed here. The Precision Armament EFAB and Precision Armament Hypertap, for example, are a couple of our other top muzzle brake picks, though we left them off this list in order to highlight some other great brands.
And speaking of other great brands, we didn’t have room to include muzzle brakes from Surefire, Dead Air, Odin Works, or Smith Enterprise, but they’re other great brands worth checking out if none of our top five are exactly what you want.