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Rifle Suppressor & Muzzle Brake – What The Pros Use

Trying to pick between a rifle suppressor and muzzle brake? Or are you trying to research good options for a brake or suppressor? See what suppressors and muzzle brakes the top 100 precision rifle shooters in the country are running on their rifles.

I recently surveyed the top 100 shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS), and this post reviews the rifle suppressors and muzzle brakes those elite shooters were using in 2015. The PRS tracks how top competitors place in major rifle matches across the country. These are the major leagues of sniper-style competitions, with targets typically from 300 to 1200 yards. These world-class shooters represent the best of the best in terms of long-range shooting in field conditions. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are, or to view what other gear they’re running scroll to the bottom of this article.

This is one of several posts based on that gear survey of the top PRS shooters. Want to be the first to know when the next set of results is posted? Sign-up to receive new posts via email.

Muzzle Brake vs. Suppressor

Are you trying to decide whether to invest in a suppressor or just use a muzzle brake? You might find this really interesting. First, let’s look at what those top shooters said when asked what they use most often in rifle matches. The different colors indicate where the shooters finished. A black bar represents shooters that finished in the top 10, the dark blue is shooters who finished 11-20, and so on. Darker colors represent shooters that finished closer to the top, where lighter colors are farther from the top … but all of them finished in the top 100, so they’re all outstanding shooters.

Suppressor vs Muzzle Brake

You can see there are twice as many guys running muzzle brakes than suppressors, which is consistent with results from previous years. I was surprised when I first saw this trend, but I conducted a muzzle brake field test recently and through that I gathered some hard data the helped me understand why these guys might prefer muzzle brakes.

Pros of Muzzle Brakes

  1. Reduces recoil more than suppressor (see field test data)
  2. More maneuverable, because it’s lighter and shorter than a suppressor
  3. Many offset muzzle rise and help you stay on target (see field test data)
  4. Much cheaper (brakes these guys are running cost $80-185, popular suppressors are $1000 plus the $200 tax stamp)
  5. Brakes aren’t regulated like suppressors and don’t have to go through the 4-10 month process of acquiring a silencer tax stamp or keep related paperwork on hand

Pros of Suppressors

  1. Reduces noise/concussion dramatically over muzzle brake (see field test data)
  2. Reduces chance of hearing damage and may not require hearing protection (see field test data)
  3. Reduces muzzle blast and ground signature, which can kick up dust or give away location (see field test data)
  4. Slight increase in muzzle velocity (20-40 fps in my experience with these cartridges)
  5. Some believe more weight at muzzle may improve precision (In “Rifle Accuracy Facts” leading researcher Harold Vaughn explains experiments and simulations he performed that show this to be true.)
  6. Shooters nearby won’t hate you

Remember these guys are shooting in tactical/practical matches, which are in real-world shooting conditions out in the field. They aren’t firing from a bench or on a square range with wind flags. Many targets may be engaged from a prone position, but competitors may also be required to maneuver through obstacles and shoot from improvised shooting positions. It’s also common to have extreme time constraints (like a few seconds to engage multiple targets). Competitors carry their rifle and gear all day across natural (and sometimes rugged) terrain, and even a couple days in a row. Those conditions and constraints mean how they choose gear is very different than benchrest, F-class, high power, or other styles of competitions.

With all that in mind, you can see how items 1, 2 & 3 under Pros of Muzzle Brakes are attractive for shooters in these types of tactical matches. Many would agree that shooting a suppressor is more comfortable if you’re just flopping down and firing a bunch of rounds from a prone position in one location. But that’s not what these guys are doing, so some of the benefits of a muzzle brake can outweigh the comfort and convenience of a suppressor.

Here is another helpful view of the data, which looks at how many of these elite rifle shooters are committed to either a brake or a suppressors 100% of the time, and how many vary what they use based on the situation.

Muzzle Brake vs Suppressor

The overwhelming majority said they may run either a muzzle brake or a suppressor, depending on the situation. There were only 24 people who said they use a brake 100% of the time, and only 11 who said they use a suppressor 100% of the time. What’s interesting is there are guys from each category who finished in the top 10.

Another interesting point is that obviously most of these guys have both, and still choose a muzzle brake most of the time. So it isn’t that they didn’t want to pay the high price for a suppressor or endure the ridiculous process to acquire one. They have one. It likely just comes down to personal preference, with most guys feeling like a muzzle brake gives them an edge for these styles of competitions.

Muzzle Brakes

So let’s look at the specific muzzle brakes these guys were using:

Best Muzzle Brake

American Precision Arms (APA) were the most popular muzzle brakes last year, and they took an even bigger lead in 2015. There were twice as many APA brakes represented as any other brand. Of those using muzzle brakes, 1 in 3 of were sporting an APA. But there were actually 5 shooters in the top 10 using an APA brake! And I know why. The APA designs proved to be VERY effective in my muzzle brake field test. The hard data showed APA designs were one of the best at reducing recoil (see the data). The APA Little B* muzzle brake is the most popular model for 6mm and 6.5mm calibers, which is what all of these guys are running.

APA Little Bastard Muzzle Brake

Center Shot Rifles’ Blast Tamer was the next most popular design, with 13 shooters in the top 100 shooters using one of their muzzle brakes. 8 of those finished in the top 50. And the guy who invented the design, Jim See, finished #6 overall! Jim has finished in the top 20 in each of the past 4 years, since the inception of the PRS. There are very few that share that honor. Jim is an outstanding shooter and extremely knowledgeable guy. He specifically designed the Blast Tamer for PRS-style of shooting.

Blast Tamer Muzzle Brake

Badger Ordnance was the next most popular brand of muzzle brakes represented. 11 shooters said they were using a Badger Ordnance muzzle brake, with 4 of those landing in the top 50. These are a popular option for brakes on rifles made by GA Precision and Surgeon Rifles.

Badger Muzzle Brake

Impact Precision had 10 shooters represented, including 7 in the top 50. Tate Streater (finished 7th overall this year) and Wade Stuteville (finished 34th in 2015, 1st in 2012) are 2 of the partners in Impact Precision. Those guys obviously know what it takes to perform at this level, and they designed the Impact Precision Muzzle Brake to be ideal for these types of matches.

Impact Precision Muzzle Brake

JEC Customs muzzle brake was the next most popular model, with 4 guys using that muzzle brake. This was another top performer in my muzzle brake field test. It was one of the best overall, only being edged out by the massive JP Tank brake (see the data). It provides good recoil reduction, and was also one of the best at helping you stay on target.

JEC Muzzle Brake

Behind those, there was a long list of other brakes being used by 1-2 shooters in the top 100. It seems like there are a ton of muzzle brake designs on the market, so this group was spread over a wider range of models than other components. While I’m not familiar with many of these designs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t excellent. And there are hundreds (if not thousands) of additional designs out there, and it’s likely at least a few of those provide the same level of performance as the brakes listed here. But this list will help you see what the top precision rifle shooters in the country are using.

Rifle Suppressor

Now let’s look at the rifle suppressors these top shooters were using.

Best Rifle Suppressor

While Thunder Beast led the pack for the past couple years, SilencerCo took the lead in 2015! SilencerCo had 4 shooters represented in the top 10, where the other 3 that said they use a suppressor were spread over 3 different brands. The new SilencerCo Omega Suppressor seems to be the most popular model among these PRS competitors. The Omega is a 7” titanium suppressor that weighs just 14 ounces! It’s a 30 caliber can that is rated for full auto and up to a 300 Win Mag. It retails for $1100.

SilencerCo Omega Suppressor

Thunder Beast Arms Corp (TBAC) was close on their heels, with 22 shooters represented among the top 100 shooters. TBAC released their new Ultra series of suppressors earlier this year (full write-up on the Ultra series), which boasted huge improvements over previous models … and then mid-year TBAC announced 6.5mm versions of the 7” and 9” Ultra suppressors. The 6.5 Ultra models offer improved sound suppression when firing 6.5mm or smaller calibers. In fact, they claim when “shooting .260 Rem mag loads, the 6.5 mm ULTRA 7 has the same or more sound reduction as the normal .30 cal ULTRA 9. With the 6.5 mm ULTRA 9 on a .260, the level of suppression is approx 2-3 dB better than the .30 cal ULTRA 9.” Since all of these guys are running 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges, that is especially pertinent. There was excitement about the new 30 caliber Ultra’s earlier this year, but now you’re able to get better sound suppression out of a 7” 6.5 suppressor! Because these are so new, I doubt any of these guys could have been running a 6.5 Ultra this year, but they likely were running the 30 caliber Ultra suppressors. I bet we’ll see some 6.5 Ultras in 2016! These retail for $1,045-1,095.

308-suppressor.jpg

Silencer Tech was the next most popular suppressor among this group with 10 shooters represented. Silencer Tech is a family-owned, word-of-mouth advertising business that has been building suppressors for 16+ years. There isn’t a lot of product details on thier website, but you can call them for more info. Barry from Silencer Tech said they offer 3 models of 30 caliber suppressors, and each of them were designed by PRS shooters:

  • Rhino: 6″ long, 14 oz., Rated up to 308 Win
  • CFP: 6.5″ long, 15 oz., Rated up to 30-06
  • 3G: 6.5″ long, 18 oz., rated up to 300 Win Mag

Those 3 brands represent 88% of the suppressors used by this group of guys, but there were several other brands represented by 1-2 shooters. Remember, that doesn’t mean these aren’t as good … it just means less shooters were using them. Here is a list of those other suppressors:

Other “What The Pros Use” Articles

This post was one of a series of posts that look at the equipment the top PRS shooters use. Check out these other posts:

Meet The Pros

You know NASCAR? Yes, I’m talking about the racing-cars-in-a-circle NASCAR. Before NASCAR, there were just a bunch of unaffiliated, regional car races. NASCAR brought structure by unifying those races, and created the idea of a season … and an overall champion. NASCAR identified the top races across the country (that were similar in nature), then combined results and ranked competitors. The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) is like NASCAR, but for rifle matches.

Watch PRS In ActionThe PRS is a championship style point series race based on the best precision rifle matches nationwide. PRS matches are recognized as the major league of sniper-style rifle matches. These matches aren’t shot from a bench or even on a square range. They feature practical, real-world field conditions, and even some improvised barricades and obstacles to increase the difficulty from hard to you-have-to-be-kidding-me. You won’t be able to take all shots from a prone position, and time stressors keep you from getting to comfortable. Typical target ranges are from 300 to 1200 yards, but each PRS match has a unique personality with creative stages that challenge different aspects of precision shooting. You might start off the day with a single cold bore shot on a small target at 400 yards, then at the next stage make a 1400 yard shot through 3 distinct winds across a canyon, then try to hit a golf ball on a string at 164 yards with no backstop to help you spot misses (can’t make that up), then see how many times you can ring an small 6” target at 1000 yards in 30 seconds, next shoot off a roof top at 10”, 8”, and 6” targets at 600 yards, followed by a speed drill on 1” targets at 200 yards and repeated at 7 yards … plus 10 other stages, and then come back tomorrow and do some more! Many stages involve some type of gaming strategy, and physical fitness can also come into play. For a shooter to place well in multiple matches, they must be an extremely well-rounded shooter who is capable of getting rounds on target in virtually any circumstance.

There are about 15 national-level PRS matches each year. At the end of the year the match scores are evaluated and the top ranked shooters are invited to compete head-to-head in the PRS Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the championship, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 100 shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Wade Stuteville of Stuteville Precision, Jim See of Center Shot Rifles, Matt Parry of Parry Custom Gun, Aaron Roberts of Roberts Precision Rifles, shooters from the US Army Marksmanship Unit, and many other world-class shooters.

Think of the best shooter you know … it’s actually very unlikely that person is good enough to break into the top 100. I know I’m not! I competed against a few of these guys for the first time earlier this year, and I was humbled. It’s incredible what these guys can do with a rifle. For example, the match in Oklahoma I was in had a station that required you to engage 4 steel targets scattered at random distances from 300 to 800 yards, and you only had 15 seconds! I think I hit 2, and rushed my 3rd shot. I didn’t even get the 4th shot off! But, one of these guys cleaned that stage with 4 seconds to spare! Yep, he got 4 rounds on target at distance in 11 seconds. That’s the caliber of shooter we’re talking about. It’s very different from benchrest or F-class competitions, but make no mistake … these guys are serious marksmen.

Thanks to Rich Emmons for allowing me to share this info. To find out more about the PRS, check out What Is The Precision Rifle Series? or watch this video to see it in action.

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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26 comments

  1. Dont guess I follow how adding a can to the end of a barrel will suppress harmonics. Given that the the harmonics occur in the elastic region of the stress/strain curve, the added weight should exacerbate harmonic oscillation, not suppress it.

    • Hey, Jay. I appreciate the input. It sounds like you may be more familiar with this than me, so you may be exactly right. I may have not worded that correctly, so I changed that list item to “Some believe more weight at muzzle may theoretically improve precision (similar to a barrel tuner, but not adjustable – read a great article on how a barrel vibrates).” I am trying to say that one softly, because I don’t know of any studies that have proven that rifles with a suppressor are more precise than without. But there seems to be enough people out there that believe it that I felt compelled to list it as a “theory” for one benefit of a suppressor.

      I’m sure there have been advances in our understanding of barrel harmonics that I’m unaware of. If you have a good resource you could point us to, I’d love to learn more.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • I dont know of a resource for actual testing data. My thinking was that additional mass hanging off of the end of the barrel should increase the amplitude of the barrel harmonics, but may reduce the actual frequency at which it oscillates. I dont know that for sure, just thinking out loud. Not sure how one would be able to measure and test such dynamics but I think it would be very interesting stuff.

        To tune the harmonics, you would either need to be able to change the weight, and/or have a length adjustment like was used in the Winchester/Browning BOSS system years ago. It was basically a muzzle break with a lock nut and graduations that could be used to tune to a specific load.

      • Yes sir. David Tubb’s muzzle brake has that same “tuning” feature. He threads his barrels with a long tenon so you can adjust the weight of the brake in and out, and then he has a locking nut to hold it in place when you find the accuracy node. You can do that with most brakes if you use a locking nut and have enough thread. I guess you could do that with a suppressor too, but I’d be more worried about a baffle strike because of the added length and weight. Anyway, thanks for the comments! Fun to think about this stuff!

        Thanks,
        Cal

    • Cal,
      This is Barry with Silencer Tech. We offer more than one 308 suppressor, most of the guys shooting in the PRS that are using our suppressors with the built in break, have 3 options.

      • “Rhino” 6″ long, weight 14oz. 22LR up to 308
      • “CFP” 6.5″ long, weight 15oz. 22LR up to 30/06
      • “3G” 6.5″ long, weight 18oz. 22LR up to 300WM

      All 3 suppressors were designed by PRS shooters and being used by them.

      We are a family owned, Word of Mouth Advertising business as it should be. We have been involved in designing and building suppressors for 16 plus years.

      Our suppressors are one of the most accurate and rugged on the market and with a price range from $550 to $650, and customer service that is best in the industry. How can shooters go wrong?

      We also offer sponsor pricing for PRS members who are actively shooting in the PRS.

      Barry

      • Thanks for the info, Barry! I went ahead and updated the post with those product details. It’ll be helpful for people to be able to find those details online, so I appreciate you reaching out to me.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  2. Another benefit of the suppressor is the increase in muzzle velocity. I’ve seen an increase of 50 to 75 fps when using a suppressor.

    • Great point, Carl. I added that one to the list. However, in my personal experience … they only add around 20-40 fps. You might be right about them adding more, but I just haven’t seen that in all the rounds I’ve fired over a chronograph and I don’t want to overstate that in the article. It likely varies based on the cartridge and suppressor you’re using. I appreciate the input, and I’ve inserted that to the “Pros of Suppressors”.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  3. Canting has come and gone as a perpetual question on brake instalation. You should add that to next year’s questions.

    • Thanks for the input, Jesse. The field tests I did proved to me that the canting to should be extremely slight (no more than 10 degrees), if any. You can see in my “Staying On Target” results that there is 10 degrees or less of cant in displacement from the point of aim. I tried to cant the Tubb brake as directed, and it resulted in significant horizontal displacement on that test rifle. I haven’t noticed anyone canting brakes in PRS competitions.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  4. I was surprised when I first saw this post, but here i get real stuff to gathered some hard data the helped me understand why guys might prefer muzzle brakes.

    • Me too, Jeremiah. But hopefully this year I helped explain the thought process that I think leads to that decision. Ultimately, I’m not one of these guys … so I can’t say for sure. But this is why I think most lean in that direction. Glad you found it helpful.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  5. I’m surprised by SilencerCo’s jump to the top over TBAC. It makes me take serious consideration into adding the Omega to my 30 cal suppressor lineup. I have a 30P-1, and couldn’t be happier. I’ve been holding off on the TBAC Ultra series to see how much of a difference it really makes over the 30P-1. From your previous blog post earlier this year, it seems as if there are some differences; however, are they big enough to upgrade? Or maybe add the Omega to try something new.

    Thank you again Cal for this blog. Its a daily read, and re-read for me. The information that I’ve taken from your posts have definitely helped me out.

    Merry Christmas & thanks!
    Ryan

    • Hey, Ryan. Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you’re finding the content helpful. I also have a TBAC 30P-1, and a couple months ago I bought a 6.5mm Ultra-7. The new Ultra line of cans do offer better performance over the 30P-1, but it wasn’t enough for me to justify the switch. But, when they announced they were making 6.5mm suppressors, they mentioned if you’re running a 6.5mm you could expect the same performance in a 7″ suppressor that you’d find in their Ultra-9. So there is a boost in performance from the 30P-1 to the Ultra-9, and with the release of the 6.5 Ultra-7 … I can now get that boost in performance in a shorter and lighter package. I was sold. I’m still waiting on the Form 4 at this point, but I’m excited to try it out.

      I’m not trying to talk you out of the SilencerCo Omega. I considered it, and I’m sure it’s a good one too. Sometimes I like trying other stuff just for the sake of variety. But I personally ended up going with the 6.5 Ultra-7. I find myself shooting my 6XC and 6.5 Creedmoor far more than any of my other rifles, so that seems to fit me well.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Good Morning Cal,
        I ended up ordering the Omega, based on your results I figured I should give another company a shot. If professional PR shooters are using it, I’m sure an amateur like myself will see success with it as well. Thanks again for the very helpful posts. Looking forward to the next one!
        Ryan

      • You bet! I’m sure it’s an outstanding product. You’re right, if these guys are using it … you can safely assume it is capable of exceptional precision.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  6. This might be a silly question, but why don’t any of the surveyed shooters use the JP Recoil Eliminator? In your muzzle brake field test the JP Recoil Eliminator came out on top for the overall performance rating.

    Do the competitions in the PRS have a size limit for compensators/brakes?

    Cheers,

    Cor

    • Hey, Cor. Great question. I honestly can’t say for certain. There are a couple things that may have played into that:

      1. First, my study was the first of it’s kind. As far as I know, nothing like it had ever been published before. I know I learned a lot I didn’t know before, and I’ve heard a few others say the same thing. But it actually wasn’t published until June/August this year. The PRS season finale was in September. I’m not saying it will influence those guys, but it didn’t really even have a chance to be able to impact this year’s “What The Pros Use” data.
      2. I actually have a JP Recoil Eliminator, but haven’t found myself screwing it on my rifle. I’m usually 100% about function over form, but it’s kind of like fanny packs and minivans … they’re both excellent ideas that are very handy, but you won’t catch me using one. Call it vanity or whatever … I’m just not wearing a fanny pack, regardless of how convenient it would be to have a spot to carry things so conveniently. The Recoil Eliminator just isn’t aesthetically pleasing to a lot of people, and I’m sure that has some impact on how many you’ll see.
      3. There are sponsors and friendships that affect gear choices. I’m not sure how involved JP is with the PRS, but I haven’t seen much sign of them being supportive in this sport (but I could be wrong). Even if there isn’t anyone paid to run a certain brake, if a company is actively supporting the PRS and related matches … shooters are more likely to buy and use their products. That’s why those sponsorships like that are a good idea for companies. We all like companies that take in interest in what we’re doing and help make it possible.

      So, those are the only reasons I could think of. It’s not like the JP Recoil Eliminator beat the pants off the rest of the brakes. It wasn’t the best at recoil, it was just the highest overall based on the weighted ratings that my readers helped me come up with. The 2nd place brake overall in that test was the JEC Customs Recoil Reduction Brake, and the 3rd place overall was the APA Little B*. You see both of those represented in big numbers among this crowd. And those are the two muzzle brakes I personally find myself screwing onto my rifles. Both are better at recoil reduction, but may give up a slight advantage to the JP brake when it comes to staying on target. But there certainly aren’t dogs in that category either.

      Hope that helps. As far as I know, there aren’t any size limits at matches. I know 3 gun competitions are like that, but we’re just all tougher than those guys! 😉

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. je suis surpris des resultats de surefire

    (Rough Translation: I’m surprised by the Surefire results.)

    • Hure, that’s the reaction a lot of people have. Surefire seems to be more popular in the semi and full auto world. I have a good friend who is a PRS shooter, and one day he decided he wanted to run a suppressor. At the time he didn’t know a lot about them, but he knew Surefire was one of the big brands people talked about … so he bought 2 of their 30 caliber suppressors for his precision rifles. He took them out to the range a couple times, and found they had a measurable, negative affect on his precision. They’ve probably sat in his safe for 2 years at this point. He just never gets them out, because we precision is just the most important thing to us … far more than suppression or recoil reduction. If we think something is going to affect our precision, we just won’t use it … even if it cost us a lot of money. That is an anecdotal example, but that may be some evidence for why more of these guys aren’t running a Surefire suppressor.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  8. I’m surprised Allen Engineering, formerly OpsInc isn’t on here. Do you not have one or used them?

    • I have used a muzzle brake from OPS, and personally own one. I even included it in a huge muzzle brake field test I conducted a couple months ago … and it’s terrible. It was by far the worse performer of any of the designs I tested. I wish that wasn’t the case, because like I said … I personally paid out-of-pocket for it, and put it on my first custom rifle. But, it’s performance sucks compared to other muzzle brakes out there … and I’m sure that’s why none of these guys are using it. You should go check out the data for it in that test.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  9. So cool aritcel a real stuff to gathered some hard data the helped me understand why guys might prefer muzzle brakes. I am gonna love this post. Keep up