People frequently use the wrong words when trying to describe something. This fact of life is also true when talking about the parts of a firearm. Three components that are often confused with one another are the flash hider or flash suppressor, a muzzle brake and a compensator. Here is how to distinguish the difference.
Sometimes called a flash suppressor, the flash hider is the attachment at the end of the barrel that looks like a birdcage, which is what some firearm enthusiasts call this device.
This piece does exactly what its name implies, namely hide the flash of the rifle. Even though modern firearms are designed to burn as much gunpowder as quickly as possible, this doesn’t always occur. The powder may still burn as the bullet leaves the barrel, particularly in firearms with shorter barrels.
Whenever this occurs, it produces a bright flash of light that everyone can see, including a present enemy. It can also make it difficult to use a firearm at night as the flash can be blinding. Flash hiders help disperse the direction of the flash so that it is more difficult for an enemy to see, while also helping shield the gun operator from blinding light.
Whenever someone fires a gun, physics causes the front of the gun to rise in a term that is commonly referred to as a muzzle rise or a muzzle flip. The issue with this phenomenon is that it makes the front sight rise above the target fired upon, requiring the operator to reacquire the target to deliver follow-up shots. To some degree, all firearms experience muzzle rise, some more than others.
Using a compensator helps the operator to balance or offset the muzzle flip of a guy and allows a quicker return to the target. The holes or slots cut into the upper portion of this device help the gases escaping from the barrel stay down instead of moving upward.
For some rifles, such as the AR-15, the flash hider that comes with it may be more than enough to keep muzzle flip from occurring. With larger rifles or even high-speed competition handguns, compensators are necessary to help keep the operator on target.
This device has holes or slots cut in a manner that make the gases move in a certain way so that the recoil an operator feels is reduced.
A tremendous amount of gas and pressure is released every time a shot is fired, which is what causes a gun to kick back into the operator’s shoulder. A properly designed muzzle brake disperses these gasses by pushing them in the opposite direction, thus helping to minimize recoil as much as possible.
Rifles such as the AR-15 don’t need a muzzle brake attached to the barrel, as this gun does not produce much recoil. Larger rifles often use large cartridges that produce heavy recoil that can make repeated shots uncomfortable for the average shooter. When considering a muzzle brake purchase, research your options well as not all models work properly.