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Muzzle Brakes

Muzzle Brake: Summary of Field Test Results

This post summarizes the eye-opening results for the massive muzzle brake field test I’ve worked on the past few months. It included several objective tests to quantify the performance of 20+ muzzle brakes designed for precision rifles in 6mm through 30 caliber. My goal with this project was to equip fellow long-range shooters with as much hard data as I could reasonably gather, so they could make an informed buying decision for their application.

I’ve already published ridiculously exhaustive details of each test, but I’ll try to sum it up in this post.

This test focused on muzzle brakes designed for precision rifles in 6mm through 30 caliber. I used 4 rifles during testing, including a 6XC, 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win, and 300 Norma Magnum. I may do another test in the future focused on AR-15’s or large magnums (i.e. 338 Lapua to 50 BMG), because both of those seem to get you in a different type of product.

I started by including the most popular precision rifle muzzle brakes. All brakes used by more than 2 of the top 50 shooters in the PRS are represented (see the data). Beyond that, I simply tried to represent the wide variety of the designs that are available, and others that are widely popular on custom bolt-action rigs. If you’re wondering why I didn’t include your favorite, read the Muzzle Brake Line-Up Post.

Muzzle Brakes

Ultimately, I hope this test gives all manufacturers info they can use to improve their designs. It provides fresh insight into the competition, shows what works well, what doesn’t seem to be working, and what precision shooters are looking for. Part of the motivation behind my thoroughness was in hopes that I’ll be able to buy an even better muzzle brake for my rifle 2 years from now! 😉 This field test has already been a catalyst for conversations, and I hope it ignites some innovation over the next year or two. It’ll be fun to see what comes out!

About The Field Tests

DON’T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED! The bottom line is to deal in absolute fundamentals, measure them, and remove all the assumptions. Don’t ever assume that something is what it says without measuring it. – Bryan Litz, Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting

Bryan was talking about rifle sights/optics in the quote above, but it articulates my fundamental philosophy. I’ve tried to find an objective approach to quantify as many features and performance metrics as I could. Keep in mind this is a field test, not a laboratory test … and I’m not claiming it’s flawless. I did put my best effort into this being as objective, precise, and unbiased as practically possible using the equipment I could afford.

While this field test is absolutely an original, valuable tool for evaluating muzzle brakes, people shouldn’t take this as gospel. It’s just another tool in your toolbox when researching muzzle devices. I recommend a balanced approach by reading other reviews, talking to shooters with hands-on experience with the equipment, looking at what the experts are using, and considering a company’s reputation and longevity.

As a full disclaimer, my goal isn’t to make money off this website. At this point, I’m still in the red (i.e. it costs WAY more than it’s paid). I’ve been approached by countless manufacturers with offers to sponsor this website. I’ve declined everyone to date. I want to stay independent, so you guys can trust my content to be unbiased. While I’m very passionate about long-range shooting, it’s just a hobby for me. Honestly, I have a great job that I love in a completely different industry. I’m content with my pay there, so fortunately I’m in a spot where I can afford to be an idealist! Ultimately, I believe the shooting sports world needs an independent voice without unseen alliances or hidden financial incentives, so I’m trying to be that. I’m absolutely not out to get any manufacturers, but I’m not interested in getting in bed with any either. I don’t want to be tempted to pull punches if I see flaws in their products. This may sound foreign or hard to believe, but it’s the way it is.

Here’s a recap of the tests:

Recoil Reduction

I put a giant heap of effort towards quantifying recoil reduction. I worked with a lot of sharp guys from several different industries to devise a test system, which directly measures recoil force at the butt of the rifle. That was no small feat. The recoil event happens in approximately 1/100th of a second, which is 10 times faster than the blink of an eye! Plus the amount of force can exceed 1,000 pounds! I committed to creating a system using high-resolution sensors capable of recording hundreds of data points in a single shot … and I pulled it off. The system I built is similar to what is used by government agencies, large firearms manufacturers, defense consultants, and academic researchers.

I measured recoil on 4 different cartridges and rifle configurations, from a mid-sized 6mm to a monster 300 magnum, and all types of stock designs and rifle weights.

Test Rifles and Cartridges

I literally fired 1,000+ rounds of match-grade ammo in my recoil test system. I continually tweaked my approach until the data was very repeatable shot-to-shot. After I was confident in the consistency of the data, I went back through and fired at least 3 shots from every rifle and muzzle brake combination, plus the rifle with a bare muzzle. I measured overall impulse/momentum and peak force/acceleration of each shot.

For exhaustive details on the test system, why I selected these cartridges and rifles, or other details, see the Recoil Post.

Ability To Stay On Target

One important aspect of a muzzle brake is helping the rifle stay on target. In fact, I was discussing this muzzle brake test with David Tubb, a very accomplished rifleman, and he is convinced the ability to stay on target was the most important aspect of a muzzle brake. He thought a few percentage points difference in recoil reduction may not make a huge difference (or help you get more hits), but a brake that can keep you on target can be a big advantage. And when I polled 1,000+ shooters … that’s what you guys thought too!

Staying on target not only allows quick follow-up shots, but more importantly for precision shooting, it allows you to watch your bullet impact. By spotting your bullet splash, you can fine-tune your elevation or windage adjustments with confidence.

So I came up with the most objective test I could devise to quantify how well each brake helps you stay on target. I attached a laser to the rifle, and placed a target at 25 yards that had a grid of 1”x1” squares on it and an aiming point. I also setup a high-speed camera capable of recording 240 frames/second to record the laser movement through each shot. I recorded a couple shots for each muzzle brake. Those were fired from a bench with a bipod and no rear support, which exaggerated any muzzle movement. I graphed the results and calculated the average displacement of each muzzle brake immediately after the shot.

For more details on this test, see the Staying On Target Post.

Sound Test

We all know muzzle brakes are loud, but this test finally gives us some hard data and makes objective comparisons. Sound is much more complex than it seems! If you don’t have the right equipment for recording loud, impulse sound levels … you’ll still get data, but it could be misleading. So I recruited the help of industry pro, Zak Smith (maker of Thunder Beast Suppressors), to help me record all this data. We used a Bruel & Kjaer 2209 Impulse Precision Sound Level Meter, which is considered the “industry standard” for this kind of sound measurement.

Most sound tests are measured from the side of the muzzle, in accordance with mil-spec standards, so we did that. But we also measured the sound level of each brake from behind the rifle, closer to the shooter’s position. This provides a more accurate indicator of the actual sound levels firearms operators will encounter while shooting.

The difference between brakes was significant, with some more than twice as loud as others!

Muzzle Brake Sound Test

To see more details on this test, view the Sound Post.

Ground Signature & Muzzle Blast

Some brake designs direct gases down toward the ground, which can cause some serious issues if you’re firing from a prone position. In those situations, the muzzle is just a few inches off the ground and if any gas is redirected towards the ground … you’re going to be eating sand, grit, small insects, and whatever else isn’t bolted down. All jokes aside, if that stuff gets in your eyes, you’re not firing a follow-up shot. It’s more than inconvenient. It’s a real problem.

I had to be creative for capturing this aspect of performance, but I’m resourceful. I tried a couple pragmatic approaches, and a friend helped me come up with an idea that worked well. I funneled baking soda into vinyl tubing, tunneled the tube into a rubber stopper, and shoved the stopper into the chamber of a barrel. Just add an air compressor, blow gun, high-speed camera, and voila … new insight! The resulting photos can help us understand how the muzzle brake redirects gas. Most of the brakes in this test don’t have significant ground signature, but at least one of them does … which is apparent in the high-speed photos.

Muzzle Brake Blast

To see more details on this test, view the Muzzle Blast & Ground Signature Post.

The Results

I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all “best” muzzle brake. The importance of each aspect of performance will vary based on the application (cartridge size, intended use, etc.). The brake that is “the best” for a heavy 6mm competition rifle, may not be “the best” for a lightweight, long-range, hunting rifle, and it may not be “the best” for a big tactical rifle chambered for a magnum cartridge. My goal is to simply provide the data, so you can make an informed decision for your specific application.

For each test, I came up with a rating to quantify the performance of each brake. I translated those ratings to the Consumer-Reports-like view below. It allows you to make a quick, at-a-glance comparison of all the brakes. Notice none of the brakes have red dots all the way across. No product is perfect. It’s about striking the right balance for your application.

Muzzle Brake Field Test Summary

Here’s another more granular look at the summaries from each of the tests. I didn’t include the Ground Signature Rating on the tests below, because the Shrewd was the only brake that didn’t get full credit for that rating. With that on the chart, it just seemed to add more noise than being helpful.

Muzzle Brake Reviews

Reader’s Overall Rating

While I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all “best” muzzle brake, I know many readers prefer some type of overall rating. I was trying to decide how much weight to put on each test, and finally decided to just ask you guys. Thank you for your feedback! Here is what 1,011 rifle shooters said was most important:

Most Important Muzzle Brake Features

I created a formula that calculates an overall rating completely based on that reader feedback. So I didn’t even know the overall rankings until a couple days ago! I just took the ratings from the individual tests, and transformed them so the ability to stay on target would count towards 40% of the overall rating, recoil reduction counts towards 40%, the ground signature rating counts towards 15%, and the noise level counts towards 5%. So here is the overall performance ratings, based on what you guys said was most important.

Best Muzzle Brake

I do want to point out that I had to infer the results for the JEC and Tubb muzzle brakes on the sound test, and the same for the Badger Ordnance FTE Muzzle Brake on the staying on target test. See those posts for more details on why that was.

Here are the prices of all the brakes as of August 2015, and it is ordered by the reader’s overall rating. All pricing is for informational purposes only. I don’t sell any of this stuff, and pricing is subject to change without notice. See the manufacturers website for the latest pricing info.

The lighter green bars in the chart below indicate that model’s pricing may vary. The dark bar shows the starting price, the light green bar shows the highest price. For example, on the APA models, there are Gen I and Gen II models. The Gen II have a slick integral locking nut feature, but other than that … they’re identical. The tolerances on the integral locking nut have to be really tight, so it’s more complex to make … and therefore costs more. So that is an example of why you’d see the lighter green bar on some of the brakes.

Muzzle Brake Review

 

Other Big Take-Aways

  • Caliber-Specific Brakes – Some of these brakes are only available in 30 caliber, and others are available in any caliber. I tested the recoil reduction on 4 very different muzzle brake designs that I had in all calibers: the APA Little B*, Holland 1.25” Radial QD Brake, Impact Precision Brake, and West Texas Ordnance Brake. 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 really 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! Adith, one of my sharp readers, had one theory on why this happens, and you can read that comment on the original post.
  • Suppressor Comparisons – I included a high-end 9” suppressor for comparison on the 6mm recoil tests and 30 cal recoil tests for comparison. Compared to the brakes, the suppressor always ended up near the bottom of the list. The top brake was 62-64% more effective at reducing recoil on the rifles tested. I also included a suppressor in the test for staying on target, and while it did slightly better than a bare muzzle … virtually all of the muzzle brakes were better at keeping you on target, and some of them significantly better. It was only fair to include the suppressor in the sound tests too … it was 16 times more quiet than the loudest brake! If you’re going for sound suppression, the decision is clear. If you’re going for recoil reduction and staying on target … you might understand why most of the pros use a brake.
  • Correlation between loudness and recoil reduction – This might not be shocking, but there seems to be a correlation between how loud a brake is, and how well it reduces recoil. Most “quieter” brakes aren’t good at reducing recoil, and most of the brakes that are great at reducing recoil are very loud.
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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:

  1. Field Test Overview & Line-Up: Overview of how the tests, what brakes were included, and which were caliber-specific.
  2. Recoil Reduction Results: Let’s get right to the meat!
    1. Recoil Primer, Test Equipment & Rifles: Explains how I tested, and what equipment and rifles were used.
    2. Results for 6XC and 6.5 Creedmoor: Recoil results for the mid-sized 6mm and 6.5mm rifles.
    3. Results for 308 Win and 300 Norma Mag: Recoil results for the mid-sized 30 caliber and large magnum 300 rifles.
    4. Summary: Overview of recoil results from all rifles, and overall ratings of each muzzle brake.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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92 comments

  1. Mind Blown!!!… Thank you for all the hard work that went into this test.

    • You bet, Beau! I learned a lot, right alongside you!

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • I’m new to this site and am simply mind blow at you’re write ups. The attention to detail is outstanding. Thanks for all you’re hard work!

      • You bet, Grady! Glad you find the content helpful. Please share the website with your buddies at the range and on Facebook!

        Thanks,
        Cal

  2. As always great post! It’s always helpful to see all the data innone place. Quick question though, on the pricing chart, what do the bars with two numbers mean? Are those alternate prices?

    And I think you have a small typo at
    “Here are the prices of all the brakes as of August 2015, and it is ordered by the reader’s overall reading.”
    Did you mean overall rating?

    • Thanks, Adith. I can understand the confusion on the pricing chart. I went back and added a paragraph before the chart that gives a little more context on that. Hopefully this answers your question:

      The lighter green bars in the chart below indicate that model’s pricing may vary. The dark bar shows the starting price, the light green bar shows the highest price. For example, on the APA models, there are Gen I and Gen II models. The Gen II have a slick integral locking nut feature, but other than that … they’re identical. The tolerances on the integral locking nut have to be really tight, so it’s more complex to make … and therefore costs more. So that is an example of why you’d see the lighter green bar on some of the brakes.

      I may actually tweak the chart when I get time to be a little more clear.

      And thanks for spotting that mistake. I did mean rating. Just got to typing too fast! I need an editor. Maybe one day I can afford one! I appreciate the feedback.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  3. Cal:

    As you stated one would expect a correlation between recoil reduction and loudness. Were there any brakes that departed significantly from the overall correlation, such as significantly louder or softer for the recoil reduction?

    Rick

    • Rick, great question. I actually touch on that point exactly at the end of the Sound Test Post, and have charts showing those aspects and even point out a few noteworthy performers. It’s towards the bottom of the post.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  4. Nice work and the online publication is professionally done. Good job!

    • Thanks! I put a lot of effort into it. Glad you appreciate the presentation and formatting. Thanks for the encouragement.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Will indeed do. One question on the topic of muzzle brakes. Are you familiar with clamp on muzzle brakes, and would you recommend a particular manufacture, if one is not wanting to thread their barrel. Thanks again!

      • Grady, the only muzzle brakes I’ve ever used thread onto the barrel. So I’m afraid I can’t give any recommendations for the kind that clamp around the barrel. Sorry!

        Cal

  5. Again wonderfully done. A huge contribution to all of us shooters. Thank you for all you do! One other aspect that myself as well as I’m sure several others may have – could you include some information on ease of installation? i.e – can the brake be installed by the shooter without special tools or does a gunsmith need to perform the installation? Again, thanks!!

  6. Cal:

    I am embarrassed. Only read the summary blog. Have taken foot out of mouth.

    I am nominating you for the Harold R. Vaughn trophy. Well done.

    Rick

    • No problem. I know a lot of guys do that, and I totally understand! It’s a lot to read. I know I can be a little long-winded. Honestly, my writing style doesn’t lend itself well to blogs or online format.

      And I’m not sure I deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Harold Vaughn. That kind was incredible. He was definitely before his time. I was talking to some of the engineers over at Applied Ballistics recently, and they were referencing that book for a few things. Vaughn’s research was primarily done at Sandia National Laboratories from 1959 to 1986 … and we’re still talking about it! We’ll see if anything I ever do stands the test of time like that. He’s a legend, and definitely advanced our sport of precision rifles. I do appreciate the compliment. If I can contribute 1% of what he did, I’ll consider it a wild success!!!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. The amount of work you put into these tests is crazy. Thanks for the hard work, glad I went with a JEC =)

  8. Very cool tests — thanks for publishing this. Do you think there is any correlation between ground signature and muzzle flash? I have always heard that you can have muzzle break — related to staying on target — or flash suppression but not both. I may be misunderstanding the tests, but I think measuring muzzle flash, staying on target, and recoil reduction are the big three. I agree that loudness is not important, and you make a great point about ground signature. Why no flash test — am I missing something?

    • I just didn’t do it … Didn’t seem important to me. I could be way off, but flash seems like something military guys need to worry about, but not civilians. It just didn’t seem like enough people would be interested in it to justify the time it’d take. It would also seem to vary considerably based on the ammo/powder you use, so I’m not sure how you’d test that in a comprehensive way.

      I do appreciate the suggestion. That’s what makes these tests better. If there is enough support, I might consider doing it next time.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  9. My friend sent me this information and it is informative. I am an old-school gunsmith and have installed several Shrewd muzzlebrakes for my customers. One thing missing from this exhaustive test is how the brake “looks” on the rifle. I like Shrewd brakes because they look like part of the barrel instead of looking like the brake on a Russian main line battle tank. If you can’t handle recoil, have a “tactical” rifle and don’t mind what your rifle looks like, then get someone to install one of these more ugly and effective devices. On a sporting rifle they look like hell.

    • I hear you, but they don’t all look like the JP tank. I do like the look when they appear to be integral to the barrel, but not at the cost of performance. The Shrewd certainly doesn’t perform in the same league as these other models. I wouldn’t put one on any of my rifles, but that’s just my opinion … you’re entitled to your’s as well. “Looks” just never seemed to help me get rounds on target. I just tried to publish all the data and let people draw their own conclusions.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  10. Good work Cal! Might I suggest… Since you already have the ratings and the prices, you can also rank the muzzle brakes by best value.

    • Thanks, buddy! I almost did that … but we’re talking $50 difference on most of these. Don’t let $50 play into your decision on a $1000+ rifle setup. My suggestion is buy the one you think is best. These can dramatically change the feel of your rifle.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  11. Thanks for putting in the effort and time to produce such an excellent data driven review!!

    Not many people out there willing to go half the distance you did here unfortunately so its very appreciated.

    I was wondering though have you given any thought into testing out how effective those muzzle brake shrouds are at reducing the excessive report that plagues most of the high performance muzzle brakes? And also if they have any effect on the muzzle brake’s ability to reduce recoil?

    I’ve heard they’re effective and that they don’t effect muzzle brake performance at all but I’ve never shot one so that is pure anecodtal unfortunately.

    • That’s for the kind words. Glad you’ve found it helpful. I haven’t tried any of the shrouds, so I can’t speak to that. I’m not sure what kind of impact they’d have. Sorry I could be more help on that!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  12. No test of the Amazon brake? Best value for the money and could compete seriously on this list.

    • Dude, I do all this for free in my spare time. There are thousands of designs out there … I can’t test them all. Just throwing your opinion out there that it could compete is based on what? Tell you what, you spend thousands of dollars out of pocket and test it, like I did for all of these. Please don’t forget to spend hundreds of hours publishing the results so others can benefit from it. Send me a link when it’s up!

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • No doubt, and I truly appreciate the work that went into this. I didn’t back up my data because respectfully I didn’t want to link to a competing blog’s extensive muzzle brake testing on your blog. I maybe should at least of mentioned that I am using one on my AR15 5.56 and the results speak for themselves. It is loud, but there is almost no recoil or muzzle jump. Great for the shooter but if you have people on benches next to you the will definetly hear it, and feel it when you take a shot. It looks similar to the Holland’s Radial B you tested, but the finish on the brake is not pretty. Could be fixed with cerakote or something later down the line.

        Currently it is $24 on Amazon and this is why I feel it should be included. At half of the price of your lowest priced test brake, builders on a budget may want this option. I know I am planning on finishing a .308 build in the next month or two and will be trying one out. However if the performance isn’t there I wouldn’t want to waste my money.

      • Yeah, it is definitely a copy of the Holland brake. There are a lot of people copying that design out there. It is $24, and has great reviews. Might be something to try out. I’ve handled a lot of designs at this point, and I’d bet it isn’t as effective as some of these other designs … but if you’re on a super-tight budget, it could be an option.

        I assume you are referring to Jeremy’s AR-15 Muzzle Brake test over at TheTruthAboutGuns.com. That’s good work, and I don’t see him (or anyone else) as a competitor. We’re all just trying to figure this stuff out, and help the shooting community. I read TTAG, and they produce a lot of great content. But, his tests were focused on AR-15’s, which gets you into a different product. Most brakes are optimized for a particular caliber size, and my test focused on 6mm through 30 caliber. If you go above or below that, the results won’t be directly applicable. I actually didn’t test AR-15 muzzle brakes, because I felt like Jeremy had done a great job of covering that subject.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  13. Nice work mister…nice to see that my photography / laser test method still holds value.
    From my 2009 article on muzzle brakes. http://www.multigunmedia.com/ar15-comps-pt-2.pdf

    • Patrick, that is AWESOME work! Seriously. I hadn’t seen it, so thank you for sharing. I love the creative, pragmatic approach. It shows we apparently share a high level of resourcefulness. That brings to mind this quote from David Parnas: “We must not forget that the wheel is reinvented so often because it is a very good idea; I’ve learned to worry more about the soundness of ideas that were invented only once.”

      Really good stuff!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  14. Great review, thank you. I do wish you included the Gemtech Jake Brake and AAC Brakeout 2 too though. Love to know how those two would hold up.

    • Yes, sir. It seems everyone wishes I would have included their favorite brake … but there are literally 100s and maybe even 1000s of brake designs out there. I just can’t test them all, since I do this all in my spare time. If I test more brakes in the future, I may let my readers vote on which models are included on that test. That seems to be a very diplomatic way to approach this. On this one, I wanted to focus on the brakes that are used for the best precision rifle shooters in the country, and those 2 are not in that category. They might be great designs, but none the top shooters are using them … so they didn’t make it in this round. But, you may have an opportunity to vote for them if I do a 2nd round of this at some point. I appreciate the feedback.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  15. Cal,
    thank you for another excellent post.

    That the shooter perform better with less recoil is known.

    But what about the rifle’s own precision?
    Is there any evidence that the improved harmonics of the rifle by adding a muzzle break have a positive impact on precision if you take the shooter out of the equation?

    • Great question, Chris. I didn’t test precision with the brakes, because I couldn’t think of an objective way to do that. That was an integrity moment for me, and shows that I really would prefer to not publish results on something, rather than publish results that could be misleading. For me to be confident in accuracy results, I’d want to use a rail gun … and I don’t have one (yet). I also thought about getting 3 shooters to shoot a few 10 shot groups with each brake, and average all the results … but I think you’d be “in the noise.” I doubt it would offer enough value to justify the cost of the match-grade ammo it would take to conduct the test.

      Having said that, I’d be surprised if any of these brakes affected precision in any measurable way. I don’t know that (wish I did) … but that is my hunch. Theoretically, your idea about different harmonics (I don’t know if improved is the correct word), could have some impact. Perhaps if you’re a benchrest shooter you might notice something … but for us practical/tactical guys … it’s likely in the noise, and you wouldn’t miss a target because of it.

      Maybe one day I’ll buy a rail gun and be able to do precision tests like that with confidence! Just don’t tell my wife I said that! 😉

      Thanks,
      Cal

  16. Awesome review and writeup Cal! Damn good selection of brake designs, the only ones I could think to do testing on now would be the Center Shot Rifles Muscle Brake, APS Painkiller, and Terminator Products’ Faeries brakes. (Although I heard Greg wanted to have the Terminators tested…) Great work as always, keep it up!!

  17. Cal, love your blog. Just ordered some JP Enterprise brakes based on your testing.

    Also, I took your advice and took the Accuracy 1st course twice. Just finished up in Clarendon, TX. I also attended the one in Lampasas, TX–a bit closer to my home in Waco. Pete Gould is the instructor and does an awesome job. We used the Kestrel 4500 with the Applied Ballistics software. Awesome is the only word to describe this little device. Have you tried the Magneto Speed chronometer? I took the Magneto data from some work I did before the class, plugged it into the Kestrel, and without making any adjustments or “truing” of the Kestrel, was shooting out past 1200 yards accurately.

    My question: you’ve demonstrated that brakes help manage recoil and get one back on target quicker. What happens if a brake is used under a suppressor? Does the suppressor mitigate some of the benefits of just a brake?

    The guys this weekend that were next to me on the line when I was shooting my Sako .308 with a Lil B* brake were not happy with me! Because of the M18 x 1.5 thread pitch on the Sako, I’m somewhat limited as to brakes/Suppressors. I do have a direct thread suppressor on order with the Silencer Shop in this thread pitch, but it doesn’t have a brake paired with it (obviously, since it’s a direct thread)

    So, how much benefit is lost by adding a brake to a suppressor vs just a brake alone? Just a quick glance of the brakes seems to suggest that the best brakes are not those mated to a suppressor. Is that right?

    Are there any brake/suppressor combo’s that you might recommend that might come close to the benefits of just a brake? Thinking about my mates on the firing line!

    Thanks.

    Scott Oslund

    • Hey, Scott! Thanks for the kind words about my website. I’m glad you found my suggestions helpful. The Applied Ballistics Kestrel is an amazing little device. I used one this weekend to get on at 2228 yards with a 338 Lapua. The suggested elevation and windage adjustments were dead on. Honestly, I was shocked.

      And I have tried a Magneto Speed, and have been very impressed. Recently, I fired over an Oehler 35p, Magneto Speed, and LabRadar all at the same time. I’ll be publishing the results soon, but I can say that I was impressed with the Magneto Speed. It was much more accurate than I expected it to be, so I’m not surprised you didn’t have to tune the muzzle velocity.

      Now to your question, I’m not sure there is any evidence that shows a TOMB (Thread Over Muzzle Brake) suppressor is any more effective than a direct-thread suppressor. Really, the muzzle brake simply acts as the first baffle(s) within the suppressor. Once the suppressor is mounted on the brake, they act as one part. So those first baffles could be integral to the suppressor, or to the muzzle brake within the suppressor. I don’t think the result would be any different. In fact, TBAC offers both a brake-attached and a direct thread version of their new Ultra series, and I tested both of them. There was no measureable difference between those two models in terms of recoil force.

      I agree the best brakes aren’t the ones designed to be mounts for a suppressor. Think about the goal of the suppressor company making the muzzle brake. Your primary goal is that the brake compliments and works well when connected to the suppressor. The performance of the muzzle brake when ran stand-alone is of little importance to those guys. They aren’t going to tweak the design so that it works better as a stand-alone muzzle brake, if it means it wouldn’t be completely optimized for use with the suppressor. The suppressor is just the overriding priority in their mind, and it probably should be. That’s why it’s unlikely I’ll ever use a TOMB design as a stand-alone muzzle brake.

      Now, I did just order a TBAC 6.5mm Ultra-7 suppressor last week … and I ordered the brake-attached version. I did that because the brake-attached version has a better lock-up than the direct-thread version. I explained why in a recent post on that series of suppressors. I find myself constantly checking my 30P-1 suppressor to make sure it hasn’t come loose. I’ve got in the habit of doing that between each stage or string of fire, because if it comes even a little bit loose it will change your POI. That can be a frustrating problem to diagnose. The brake-attached version doesn’t suffer from that problem as much.

      I have found myself using muzzle brakes in matches ever since I did all the brake tests. The 7” Ultra suppressor is crazy light, so I may use it in matches when I get it in … but for the past 3 matches I’ve shot in, I ran a muzzle brake. In those cases, I’ll just screw off the TOMB brake that I use with the suppressor and screw on a JEC or APA Little B* muzzle brake. I think it’s very unlikely a suppressor manufacturer will ever have a TOMB design that will outperform either of those.

      In your case, I’d definitely do a brake-attached version. That way you can use the brake as your thread-adapter. You could buy a brake for your Sako thread and put it on that rifle, and a different brake for other rifles … and the suppressor would work on all of them. You wouldn’t be threading the suppressor for a specific rifle, you’d only be threading the brake a specific rifle … so the suppressor could be used on anything. You are isolating your thread-specific dependency to a $100 part that isn’t regulated, and not the $1000 heavy-regulated suppressor.

      Unfortunately, I don’t know of any suppressors on the market that have a built-in mechanism to offset muzzle rise. I’d really only recommend 2 suppressors for precision rifles: Thunder Beast Ultra Series Suppressors or SilencerCo Omega. Those are what most of the top shooters in the Precision Rifle Series are using, and what I personally have confidence in. There may be other brands out there that are excellent, but those are the two I’d personally consider buying and what I’d recommend to family or friends.

      Hope this helps, buddy! Maybe one day I’ll be able to provide some hard data on suppressors to make the decision a little easier. There doesn’t seem to be much out there to help with the decision at this point. It will be hard to do that, since suppressors are so heavily-regulated, but I know it would help a lot of shooters in your position.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  18. When I was looking at the results of your muzzle break study does the APA micro bastard have the same recoil reduction as the fat bastard and little bastard that you did the studies on?

    • I’m not sure, Russell. I didn’t test that design, but based on the other APA designs … I’d expect it to be a good performer. But because of the reduced size, I’d expect it to come up short of the performance of the Little B or Fat B designs. How much? Your guess is as good as mine. You know the Little B* didn’t provide as much recoil reduction as the Fat B*, so the step down to the Micro B* might be roughly the same. There is really no way to know for sure without mounting it up and testing it. I didn’t see a lot of precision rifle guys running those, so I didn’t include it in the test. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good one.

      Sorry I couldn’t be more help,
      Cal

  19. By the way fabulous job on this test. I appreciate the hard work you put into this

    • Thanks, Russell. I hope that it provides a lot of insight into one aspect of precision shooting that has been largely neglected in terms of objective comparisons. I just hope everyone else learned as much as I did, and I’m hopeful manufacturers will use this info to improve their products. If that happens, we all win.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  20. I would love to use the lite or big b but my 1/2-28 thread and 9/16 od on my .270 barrel didn’t allow those. I have shrewd on there now but realized there wasn’t much of a reduction and then I saw your site and it confirms it. I know the 270 doesn’t kick like others listed above but just want it to be fun but potent. Don’t suppose you would know if much of the others can readily screw on to or can easily be machined to fit that 1/2-28 thread pitch would you?

    • Ah, the 270. I have a special spot in my heart for the 270. It was my first centerfire rifle, and the only rifle I owned from the time I was 12 until I was 22. Such a great all-around cartridge. I eventually moved away from it because it didn’t have as good of bullet selection as the 6, 6.5, 7, or 30 calibers … but I still love the cartridge.

      1/2×28 threads are typically used for smaller calibers (like 223), so if I were you I’d buy a thread adapter to make that 5/8×24. That is the standard thread pattern for cartridges in that 6mm through 30 caliber range, so that makes more sense for your 270. I bought one from Brownells for $27 not that long ago, and it works great. Use a little Loctite on it and it will be solid.

      That would get you to a standard thread for that caliber, so all that is left is finding a skinny brake that looks appropriate on your barrel. I was impressed with the West Texas Ordnance muzzle brake, especially based on it’s size. It was just as skinny as the Shrewd or OPS brake, but it was actually effective at reducing recoil. 😉 Those guys can typically contour it to make the barrel diameter (shown below), although I’m not sure if they could do that for a 9/16 OD barrel. You might just call them and see. Even if you can’t get it to be the same diameter as the barrel, I think it’d still look appropriate on it … and it would certainly help tame the recoil of 270.

      West Texas Ordnance Muzzle Brake

      Hope this helps,
      Cal

  21. Does the length of a muzzle brake matter as far as recoil reduction goes?

    • Great question, Russell! Unfortunately, the answer is probably “it depends.” (I know, I hate that answer too.) The length does come into play, especially if the longer brake has more baffles or more surface area (like the Center Shot Rifle’s Blast Tamer models … the 30 caliber model I tested was longer and had 4 baffles, where the 6 and 6.5mm versions were shorter and just had 3 baffles). A greater distance between baffles also seems like it would lower the pressure and allow more gas to be redirected off the bullet path, which would make it more effective at reducing recoil. But there has to be a point of diminishing returns. If you extend a 3″ brake to be 6″ long, it’s plausible you could see a minor improvement … but if you then extend that to 12″, I’d be surprised if you’d see any improvement. At least that is my theory! It’d be fun for a brake fabricator to test that!

      Once again, great question!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  22. Has any body used the micro FTE on a 10/22 benchrest
    with a .920 barrel?

  23. Just looking for the best 1/2×28 break to keep you on target and to see impact.

  24. Cal-
    Thanks for the extensive testing of brakes. Which would you highly recommend for 308?

    Thanks

    • Thanks, Tim. Glad you found it helpful. Really, all of these are designed to be ideal for the 308. That is probably the cartridge most of the manufacturers had in mind for these models. I was targeting brakes for mid-sized cartridges with this test, and the 308 is the most popular mid-sized cartridge.

      The recommendation might vary based on your specific application, but personally I find myself using the JEC and APA Little B* most often for a cartridge that size. But there are a lot of good options in this test.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Thanks for the info. You recommended the JEC or APA brake, how do they compare to the blast tamer? I’m trying to buy once not multiple times. Lol

      • The Blast Tamer is a great one too. It doesn’t redirect as much of the muzzle blast rearward, which can be less annoying (and safer) for those around you. Impact Precision is that same way too, if you were looking for a little more compact package. If you were looking for super-compact, the WTO brake would be a good choice. If you didn’t care about the size (and can get past the aesthetics), the JP Recoil Eliminator is a great choice. If recoil reduction is the most important, then the Alamo Four Star or APA Fat B* might be the best choice. The Hollands could be the most popular for a good all-around brake on a high-end custom rifle.

        That’s why I was saying it was hard to just recommend one. There are lots of good choices, depending on your application and priorities. Honestly, most of the brakes I included are WAY better than some other ones on the market. There are a ton of brakes out there that will give you similar (sub-par) performance like the OPS, Surefire, and Shrewd brakes … I just didn’t include them in this test. So really these brakes represent best of class, and I’m sure you’d be happy with several of them. So don’t stress too much over the decision.

        Thanks,
        Cal

      • Thanks for the prompt response. I looked at the brakes you recommended. I’m steering more towards the type that directs the sound more to the sides than back towards the shooter. Does the impact precision and blast tamer pretty much the same thing? I don’t mine the JP eliminator, just really big. Lol

      • Both the Blast Tamer and Impact Precision have straight 90 degree baffles, so the blast patterns will be similar. The Impact Precision is a 2 port design, with one blast chamber larger than the other, and the Blast Tamer is available in 3 or 4 port designs (all with evenly spaced baffles).

        And make no mistake, they are all loud. So you will be directing the concussion and blast away from you (and any carbon or whatever else is going to fly out of the brake) … but they’re all loud. Here is an excerpt from my sound test post that gives what I think is a helpful analogy here:

        Some of these brakes are clearly louder than others, but make no mistake … they’re all very loud. Here’s my analogy: If you got hit by a vehicle at 70 mph, it is going to hurt … regardless of whether it was a compact Kia or a big truck. Neither would be pleasant! Likewise, none of these brakes are pleasant. I’ve seen guys online looking for the “quietest muzzle brake,” and that is like looking for the tallest Leprechaun. You’ll likely be disappointed at the end of your hunt.

        So straight baffles can be safer and may also reduce the shock wave you have to endure behind the gun (and certainly those around you have to endure), but I just wanted to make sure you weren’t thinking there would be a lot of difference in sound.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  25. Great article and I follow your posts with great interest! Just as an FYI, to anyone looking to purchase a JEC Customs brake, the wait might be pretty lengthy. I ordered one at the beginning of June and still no word on when it will ship (over four months now). Just an FYI as some might be looking to purchase one due to the results of this study, and there is no indication of this delay on their web site.

    Not knocking them, just to set expectations in case somebody might think they’ll buy one for the next match.

    • Thanks for sharing, Greg. I’m sure that timely info would be helpful for guys considering it. Honestly, this field test likely contributed to that problem. I didn’t know who was going to end up on top until the very end, so I wasn’t able to give Jason a heads up so he could prepare for the demand. My bad. 😉 I bet those guys get caught up at some point, but that’s good to know for those reading now.

      Thanks,
      Cal

    • just ordered the fat bastard in 338, it will ship in 24 hours and the order was processed in 2 hours!i cannot say enough about the speed and quality of my experiance with american precision arms!!!!!

      • Thanks for sharing your experience, Bill. It seems like those guys have been able to keep up with the demand that this field test caused. It is a great product, and if you put a responsive company behind it … that’s even better!

        Thanks,
        Cal

  26. Cal- Not trying to stress about deciding on a new brak . In just don’t wanna waste my money again on something that doesn’t work great. Do you have any experience with the brake from Precision Armament?

    • I don’t. If you want to make sure you don’t end up buying twice, I’d suggest going with something based on this performance data. Precision Armament might be amazing, but none of the top shooters are using them in the PRS and you have no data to help you make an informed decision. It’d be a gamble, and I bet even if it is better than all of these … it would be marginal.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • I hate to admit it but the JP Recoil Eliminator would work great. But boy is it ugly. Lol. The concussion to the shooter shouldn’t be too bad since it vents to left and right. JEC is back ordered. My next two would be the Impact Precision or APA 2nd gen.

  27. Cal,

    Again, another fantastic test. Not sure what I’m more impressed with – the overall review or the research and creation of all the test equipment! I also find your ability to put all the data out in what seems to be the perfect order – every time I thought you might miss something or had a question you covered it almost immediately after I started thinking about it. I’m not in the market for a muzzle brake right now but if I was I would definitely use this and your annual PRS review to make an informed decision. To me this product category is one of the harder ones to cover due to the products being fairly cheap (compared to the rest of the LR equipment out there) and easy to produce which means there are literally tons on the market.

    One question relating to all your reviews – you always have great information you pull from various sources. What would be your “must read” sources in the LR world? In what order would you suggest reading the Litz books?

    Again – tremendous job and I can’t wait for the next review!
    TT

    • Hey, TT. Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. I did put a lot of thought into this, and I’m glad you recognized that and appreciate the results. There are a ton of brakes out there, but there seems to be very little science driving the development … like pretty much zero. So I was just hoping this might help manufacturers understand how they could take a pragmatic, data-driven approach to product development, and kick-start that by showing which designs seemed to work the best.

      And you ask a tough question. I’ve read a lot of great books, but if I had to narrow it down to one, I definitely know which it’d be: Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting by Bryan Litz. I view it as the foundation for most of what I know. Bryan has a heavy technical background, but puts a lot of effort into framing the concepts in a way the typical shooter can understand and apply. He doesn’t get lost in the science or technology of it, but puts it in practical terms. I promise if you read that, you’ll be way ahead in your understanding than 99% of the guys out there.

      The 2nd best resource would probably be The Art of the Precision Rifle DVD Set Featuring Todd Hodnett. I still watch that at least once a year. Todd could likely be the most respected long-range rifle trainers in the world. Both he and Bryan are experts among experts, but they have a very different approach. While Bryan has a very technical/engineering approach, Todd has a very practical/field-based approach. Here is a quote from Todd that illustrates his approach:

      One should understand that a lot of the formulas out there are not correct. My formulas are built around where the bullet hits. The bullet can’t talk, so it cannot tell a lie. What I do is build formulas that replicate the actual performance of the flight path of the bullet. – Todd Hodnett

      I find Bryan and Todd balance each other very well, so I try to balance my training by listening to both of them.

      Behind those 2, I’d probably go Accuracy and Precision for Long Range Shooting by Bryan Litz. There are lots of factors in long-range shooting, and it’s easy to blow one out of proportion and completely ignore other factors that matter more. This helps you put all those things into perspective. Like everyone else, I had a lot of misconceptions this help correct. It made me a better shooter.

      Thanks again for the kind words. Best of luck to you!
      Cal

  28. Hey, do you think it would be possible for someone to build an adjustable brake to be able to dial in the movement after a shot to stay on target? Cause I’d assume different brakes on different rifles/calibers would perform differently, so a winner on one could be a loser on another…

    • That is an interesting idea. I can’t think of a simple way to do that, although it would be plausible to use something like Browning Boss system with directional ports. The Boss system allows you to twist it to turn the brake off (essentially covering the side ports), so if you had a way to adjust how big the holes were coming out of the top of brake … you could then tune the amount of gas that was offsetting the muzzle rise. That’s an interesting idea for sure. The moving parts might affect how reliable or durable the brake is, because there can be significant carbon build-up on a muzzle device. But it’s an interesting idea!

      Lots and lots of muzzle brake designers have read this post. I still get emails all the time from guys like that (and no, I still don’t plan to test any more muzzle brakes within the next 18 months). But maybe one of those guys will try it out. I appreciate your comment.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  29. Have you had any experience with the AWC products? I have been researching the PSR brake with a Thor suppressor for a Surgeon rifle build. I wonder how this combination would match up to the brakes that you tested. Thanks for all time and effort you put into your site.

    • I don’t have any experience with them, David. So I’m afraid I can’t speak to that. I know they’re a sister company of Surgeon, so that may be why they’re recommending them. I personally have a lot of confidence in ThunderBeast (TBAC) suppressors, so that’s what I’ve personally bought … but I can’t say their better than the AWC’s. I just don’t know. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • David Morgenstern

        Cal,

        I contacted AWC about their suppressor noise reduction capability for 338 LM. I’ll paste their response. I thought it would be of interest to you. The Thunderbeast is very impressive. As soon as I have the cash, I’m going to get one.

        Dave

        ————————
        From: David Morgenstern
        Subject: dB levels

        Message Body:
        I have been looking at suppressors and read an article on the Precission Rifle Blog on testing dB reduction and I was curious if you had any specs on the Thor PSR XL for 338 LM. The tests done were for a 308, not the 338 LM, so I won’t make any comparisons to those results. Thanks.

        ————————
        You’d be right around 143, about 30 dB reduction.
        Thanks man!

        Scott Hubner
        Strategic Armory Corps

      • That’s great! Thanks for sharing, Scott. At some point, I think someone independent needs to do sound and recoil tests on suppressors. I’m afraid that isn’t going to be me, but I hope someone picks it up. It’s be incredibly valuable, because they’re not only so expensive … the time you sink into them for the tax stamp doesn’t allow the typical “try it and trade it” mentality that you can take on some rifle parts.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  30. hey there, great write up! Love the scientific measurements you do. If you ever do another break test… this company below makes a great recoil reducing break, the M4-72.

    Its the loudest dang thing i have ever been around. I have to jam ear plugs all the way in as well as wear pro ear 300 muffs and honestly my ears still take a beating running this break. This break for 5.56 actually could live up to its claim of reducing recoil by 75%. the recoil experiment in this video is crud but does appear to be consistent led me to this device.

    it would be interesting to see this device in your testing method someday.

    http://precisionarmament.com/product/m4-72-tactical-compensator/

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/04/jeremy-s/ar-15-muzzle-brake-shootout-2/

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Luke. I did notice a strong correlation between how loud a muzzle brake is and how effective it was at mitigating recoil. Essentially if it’s really loud, it really works! That seems to align with what you’re saying about the M4-72. And that is a cool study that Jeremy did on the AR-15 brakes. I actually saw that come out right as I was wrapping up my tests. I guess we were thinking along the same lines. It’s good to see someone else out there making experimental measurements and publishing the results for everyone else to benefit from. That seems more rare than it probably should be. Glad you found my content helpful.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  31. Nice aproach, very cientific!

    I am not knowledgeable on this subject, but i have some doubts about ground signature. The real signature would be made by high speed hot gases, probably at higher speed than an air compressor can blow and that might change the aerodinamics in the muzzlebrake. That and the shockwaves interacting with the ground might make a difference (may be they do, may be they dont). I give you another idea: why not put the rifle over a sort of shallow sandbox but filled with flour? then you could film some shooting and compare. i know, im just day dreaming 🙂

    Saludos!

    • Hey, Machi. That sounds like an interesting approach. I agree that the air compressor approach doesn’t perfectly represent what happens with high speed/pressure gases. But I did actually fire all of these muzzle brakes … a lot. And they seem to match my experience behind the rifle. So I’d be surprised if the conclusions would be any different, regardless of how you tested it. I do appreciate your feedback and suggestion. It’s good to get other people’s view on this stuff.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  32. I really appreciate your Brake study. Staying as close to possible to original point of aim was my primary concern for followup shots on groundhogs. The JP Eliminator is just as you say and I will be shooting that ugly thing in the PRS series soon as well.

    • Yes sir. That thing is extremely effective, and on the rifle I tested these on … it had the perfect balance of sending gas upward to offset muzzle rise, but not load the barrel with a down force either. It was 100% ideal for that setup, and it’s good to hear you found the same results. Best of luck to you in the PRS! Matches have certainly made me a better shooter.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  33. I finally got my brake. I bought the Rat Worx Big Chubby. The quality, fit and finish is excellent! Aaron was very helpful and answered all my emails. Now waiting on decent weather to go shoot.