This post summarizes the results for the recoil tests ran on 20+ muzzle brakes using 6mm and 6.5mm test rifles. To see the full line-up of muzzle brakes tested, check out this post. The recoil data was collected using high-speed, high-resolution force sensors. For more info on the test equipment and how the data was gathered, please see the previous post.
How to Read the Results
As we discussed in the last post, when someone claims a product “reduces recoil by 50%” … it usually isn’t clear what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, there is no industry standard for measuring recoil, which means manufacturers often publish whatever makes them look better. The big question comes down to what measurement most closely correlates to perceived recoil from the shooter’s perspective. Some experts lean more towards that being related to the total impulse or momentum, and others think it is more linked to the peak force. As we learned in the last post, it seems like it may be short-sighted if you ignore either of them. Honestly, I’m not here to try to convince anyone one way or the other, but simply present the data.
The results are based on the average of multiple shots fired with each muzzle brake. I started out firing 5 shots per muzzle brake, but as I refined the system and setup, my data became so consistent and repeatable that 5 shots seemed like I was just wasting a lot of good match-grade ammo without adding any value. So I backed that down to only be 3 shots per muzzle brake. You can watch a video of me running through this for one of the muzzle brakes in the previous post. Here is an example of the results I recorded for one of the muzzle brakes:
As I publish these results, I plan to show how much each muzzle brake reduces recoil compared to a bare muzzle. For each muzzle brake, I will show 3 pieces of information:
- % Reduction in Overall Momentum – This is the reduction in overall impulse or total momentum of the rifle at the end of the recoil. It represents the total “size” of the force that I described in the last post. It isn’t just the peak force, but the entire “area under the curve” when you graph force over time.
- % Reduction in Peak Force – This is the reduction in the highest instantaneous peak force through the entire recoil event. It’s essentially how tall the highest point on the curve is.
- Average % Reduction – This is just the combined average of the previous two measures (evenly weighted).
To learn more about those measurements and hear the cases experts make for both sides, please read the previous post.
6mm Muzzle Brake Results
We’ll start with the smallest caliber tested, the 6mm. The rifle used for this was chambered for the 6XC (view rifle details). I used my personal handloads for testing the 6XC, which launch a Berger 105gr Hybrid at 3,000 fps. That load is also roughly representative of the popular 6mm Creedmoor or 6×47 Lapua cartridges. All 3 cartridges are very popular among the top shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (see the data).
My 6XC rifle weighed in at portly 16.2 pounds with a bare muzzle, and no bipod or magazine. That weight includes the scope and mount shown in the photo. It represented the heaviest rifle in our test, although that weight is not uncommon for a precision rifle.
Without further ado, here is the data for the recoil reduction on the 6mm rifle for each muzzle brake:
Any surprises? I have to guess there might be a few. Let’s start at the top. There were two muzzle brakes that separated themselves from the rest of the group: the brand new Alamo Four Star Cowl Induction Muzzle Brake, and the very popular American Precision Arms (APA) Little B*. Both of those brakes had outstanding performance in terms of recoil reduction.
Beyond that, there was a big group of muzzle brakes in 26-36% range of recoil reduction. That is interesting, considering there are many different designs represented in that cluster. The brake designs vary by number of baffles, size of the baffles (i.e. surface area the gas has to work against), angle of the baffles, distance between the baffles, etc. Leading that group is the JEC Customs Recoil Reduction Brake, new Impact Precision Muzzle Brake, Holland Radial Muzzle Brake, Center Shot Rifle’s Blast Tamer, JP’s Large Compensator and the Recoil Eliminator, and new West Texas Ordnance Muzzle Brake.
Notice on this rifle I also included a “High-End 9-inch Suppressor” for comparison. That is a Thunder Beast (TBAC) 30P-1 9” Suppressor I personally own. You can see the suppressor isn’t as effective at reducing recoil as many of the muzzle brakes, finishing in the bottom half of the pack. While suppressors and muzzle brakes do have a lot in common, they also have very different design constraints. A suppressor is limited on the amount of gas it can capture (based on the volume of the can), and eventually all the gas has to exit the suppressor along the same path as the bullet. On the other hand, there isn’t a practical limit to the amount of gas a muzzle brake can redirect, and it can redirect that gas in a direction that allows it to do more work in our favor. (For more info on this, see the previous post.)
Another thing you may notice is the suppressor is more effective at reducing the peak force of the recoil (31% reduction) than reducing overall momentum (24% reduction). That means the suppressor is spreading the recoil force over time, but isn’t as effective at actually reducing the total amount of force coming back. This aligns with how I’ve heard shooters talk about the recoil with a suppressor as more of a “push” than sharp recoil.
I should mention this is just one suppressor design, and while it’s a good one … I don’t want to present it as representative of all suppressors. Many are actually worse (especially if they’re shorter), and there may be a few that offer better performance. This isn’t a suppressor field test, but I just wanted to include one on this first set of results for comparison.
Here is a different view of that same data. This scatter chart helps you see the cluster of brakes in the center, and the outliers on both sides of the spectrum. It also helps you separate the different types of recoil reduction, so you could place more weight on either overall momentum or peak force, if you thought one was more important than the other. Remember, I’m not trying to convince anyone one way or the other, I’m just trying to present the data I collected and leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions.
You can see two stragglers lagging pretty far behind the rest of the group: the Surefire SOCOM Muzzle Brake and the OPS Accuracy Tuning Brake. Both Surefire and OPS design suppressors, and it could be that these muzzle brake designs were optimized to work well with their suppressors rather, which caused them to compromise on pure muzzle brake performance. However, the TBAC Compact Brake is also designed to be a Thread-Over-Muzzle-Brake (TOMB) for Thunder Beast suppressors, and it performed much better than those other two designs. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering it is almost 1/2 of their size! Regardless of the reason, both the Surefire and OPS muzzle brakes had underwhelming performance when it came to recoil reduction.
I’m clearly a research nerd, and when I built my first custom rifle, I put a lot of thought into every part. After reading a ton of forum threads, I bought an OPS brake for that rifle. I was excited to see how the empirical data stacked up to the hype I read online. I was obviously a little disappointed by the results. It just goes to show, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet! 😉
Likewise, there are a lot of guys running the Surefire muzzle brake. Surefire is an established and recognizable brand in the industry, so I was surprised to see where they fell on this chart. But I fired a lot of rounds through those muzzle brakes and I couldn’t be more confident that these results represent reality, however tough that might be for some people to come to terms with.
A couple sharp guys suggested I also display the recoil signatures of each muzzle brake overlaid on the same chart. It helps you visualize how each design changes the shape of the recoil force. It took some time to generate, so I won’t do it for every rifle. There is an average of 614 data points included for each line! That is some high-resolution force measurements, considering the average length of recoil was just 0.012 seconds!
Notice how the suppressor stretches out the amount of time the recoil event is spread over, but the muzzle brakes keep it about the same amount of time and do a better job of reducing the size of the “area under the curve.”
Click on the image to view the high-res version with more detail.
I did want to point out that some of these brakes were caliber-specific to 6mm and others weren’t. Some are only available in 30 caliber.
To be clear, I tried the 6mm, 6.5mm, and 30 caliber brakes all on the 6XC, and in all 4 muzzle brake designs, there was only a difference of 1-3% in recoil reduction in terms of both overall momentum and peak force. That surprised me. I expected the caliber size of the bullet hole in the brake to make more of a difference. But, that’s why I actually run the tests and don’t just talk about this stuff!
But, for the sake of transparency, here are the calibers of the brakes represented in the data above:
|6mm||6.5mm||30 Caliber (7.62mm)|
The only brake I wasn’t able to test on the 6XC was the Badger Ordnance FTE Muzzle Brake. I actually wasn’t able to test it on a few rifles, because the Badger FTE design requires the barrel to be contoured to exactly 0.800” or 0.875”. Most muzzle brakes simply screw on the threaded part of the muzzle. But, Badger FTE brakes screw on and clamp onto the barrel. For the barrel clamp to fit, you must contour the end of the barrel to specific dimensions. The reason for design constraints like this has to do with their intended user, which is the military. This brake is designed to be field serviceable/replaceable, which means it can’t use a shim kit or loctite to time and retain the brake. As long as the barrels fit the specific contour requirements at the muzzle, you could take it off one rifle and put it on another very quickly.
For a precision rifle, this seems like the tail may be wagging the dog. You have to modify the barrel (arguably the most critical part of a precision rifle) to attach a far-less important accessory. Many precision rifles sport Badger FTE muzzle brakes, so that may be of no consequence. But it does mean the Badger FTE is far from a DIY muzzle brake that you can just order and screw-on. Not only does the muzzle brake have to be bored to the proper caliber by a gunsmith … you may also have to pay the gunsmith to contour the barrel to the proper diameter at the muzzle for it to work. And if the barrel doesn’t have a diameter of at least 0.800” at the muzzle, you can’t use the Badger FTE muzzle brake. It seems like a fairly persnickety design, but we’ll see if the performance makes up for that in the next few posts.
6.5mm Muzzle Brake Results
Now, let’s move on to our next rifle, the 6.5 Creedmoor. Since Hornady’s release of this cartridge in 2008, it has gained quite a following in the precision rifle world. A big part of that is the fact that you can find quality match-grade ammo for around $1.20/round in 6.5 Creedmoor. To learn more about the cartridge, check out this article.
For the 6.5mm tests, of course I used the popular Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor 140gr A-Max Factory Match Ammo. The rifle I used had a 22” fluted Heavy Palma barrel, which launches the 140gr bullet at 2800 fps. Those ballistics are similar to other popular 6.5mm precision rifle cartridges, like the 6.5×47 Lapua and 260 Remington. So the recoil results should be directly applicable to those cartridges as well.
The 6.5 Creedmoor rifle weighed in at 14.1 pounds with a bare muzzle, and no bipod or magazine. That weight includes the scope and mount shown in the photo. This rifle is good representative of a typical rifle you’d see being used by the top shooters in the Precision Rifle Series, in terms of weight and configuration.
Here is the data for the recoil reduction on the 6.5mm rifle for each muzzle brake:
You can see the overall order is similar to the 6mm results, with the Alamo Four Star and American Precision Arms muzzle brakes still out in the lead. Once again, there was a cluster of designs in that 26-36% reduction range, and then Surefire and OPS bringing up the rear.
Here is our secondary view of that same data:
And for the sake of transparency, here are the specific calibers of each muzzle brake used for the 6.5mm recoil tests. Remember, I only found a 1-3% performance improvement if a brake was caliber-specific, over it just being bored to a standard 30 caliber.
|6.5mm||30 Caliber (7.62mm)|
Here are the muzzle brakes I wasn’t able to test on the 6.5mm rifle:
- Badger FTE Muzzle Brake – As I explained under the 6mm results, the Badger barrel clamp design requires a very specific barrel diameter at the muzzle, and it didn’t fit on this rifle either.
- JEC Customs Recoil Reduction Muzzle Brake – I only had a JEC brake in 6mm to test. Unfortunately, JEC didn’t return my calls or emails to try to get other sizes for this test.
- Tubb Precision Muzzle Brake – This brake is only available in 6mm.
Other Post in this Series
This is just one of a whole series of posts related to this muzzle brake field test. Here are links to the others:
- Field Test Overview & Line-Up: Overview of how the tests, what brakes were included, and which were caliber-specific.
- Recoil Reduction Results: Let’s get right to the meat!
- Recoil Primer, Test Equipment & Rifles: Explains how I tested, and what equipment and rifles were used.
- Results for 6XC and 6.5 Creedmoor: Recoil results for the mid-sized 6mm and 6.5mm rifles.
- Results for 308 Win and 300 Norma Mag: Recoil results for the mid-sized 30 caliber and large magnum 300 rifles.
- Summary: Overview of recoil results from all rifles, and overall ratings of each muzzle brake.
- Ability to Stay on Target: Lasers and high-speed cameras were used to objectively quantify how well each muzzle brake helps you stay on target through a shot.
- Sound Test: A high-end sound meter was used to measure how loud each brake was to the side of the rifle and at the shooter’s position behind the rifle.
- Muzzle Blast & Ground Signature: High-speed videos were shot of each brake to show the direction of the muzzle blast, and the impact that could have on the shooter.
- Overall Summary: Putting all the results together in a summary that is easy to take in, and do side-by-side comparison, allowing you to draw your own conclusions on what muzzle brake is best for your situation.