This post provides a comprehensive view of the muzzle brake recoil reduction data gathered on all 4 rifles. You can dive deeper into the recoil data in these posts:
To recap, here is a look at the 4 cartridges and rifles used for the recoil tests:
You may be wondering why some of the recoil signatures are smooth and others are more irregular. I believe much of that is correlated to stock design. Those unique quirks in the recoil signatures were consistent for a given rifle, even when using different muzzle brakes. In fact, you can see echoes of the same patterns of peaks and valleys in the bare muzzle and best muzzle brake signatures shown above, within the same rifle. I did test other rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and 308, and while the % of recoil reduction for the muzzle brakes were very similar within the same cartridge … the recoil signatures seemed to vary based on the stock. Just as a reminder, the 6XC was a Manner’s Carbon Fiber Stock, the 6.5 Creedmoor was a McMillan A5 Stock, the 308 was a standard Savage stock (not their AccuStock, but their cheapest stock), and the 300 Norma Mag was an Accuracy International AX chassis. This isn’t a stock field test, but I thought that was interesting to note … and maybe an idea for a future project! 😉
It’s clear that muzzle brakes significantly reduced the recoil of the each rifle. Not only was the peak of the force reduced, but the total impulse or momentum coming back at the shooter was also reduced (represented by the total “area under the curve”). I explained those two aspects to recoil in more detail in the recoil post, including why some people believe one or the other to be more important. Here is a summary of the underlying numbers behind the recoil signatures shown above.
|Average Impulse (lbf·s)||Average Peak Force (lbf)|
|300 Norma Mag||15.7||8.62||4.88||43%||1452||739||49%|
By using a muzzle brake, we were able to tame the monster 300 Norma Mag so that it felt more like a bare muzzle 308 or 6.5 Creedmoor. We were able to cut the recoil on a featherweight 308 Win to be much less than a hefty 6XC (roughly the same cartridge as a 243 Win). I can confirm that your shoulder feels the difference!
Results & Overall Ratings for Individual Brakes
Now let’s get to the results of the individual muzzle brakes. The heat map below shows the average % reduction for each muzzle brake and rifle tested. The percentage shown is the average of the reduction in overall momentum and the reduction in peak force. The numbers in bold indicate the top performer for each cartridge. That was the Alamo Four Star Cowl Induction Muzzle Brake for all but the 308 Win, where the APA Fat B* did slightly better. Both of the Alamo Four Star and American Precision Arms (APA) muzzle brakes seemed to outpace the others when it came to recoil reduction.
Update: The Alamo Four Star muzzle brake design was purchased by Masterpiece Arms, and is now sold as the MPA Cowl Induction Muzzle Brake.
I came up with an overall rating for each brake, which is indicated in the last column above. On my rating system, if a brake were to have an average recoil reduction of 15% or less, it would receive a rating of 0. That seems like the bare minimum into this game. On the upper-end, if a brake reduced recoil by an average of 44% or more, which only the top 2 brakes did, it received a full 10.0 rating.
I devised several methods for ratings, but this seemed the most objective and fair. With this rating system, none of the numbers are based on where a brake ranked relative to the others tested. A muzzle brakes rating is entirely based on its own performance.
Here is another visualization of the overall ratings, including a photo of each brake. This allows you to see which designs are more effective when it comes to recoil reduction, and spot some common characteristics among the top performers.
Pros & Cons of Angled Baffles
One thing interesting to note, that isn’t apparent in the photos, is that the top 5 performers all have angled baffles (i.e. the baffles aren’t perpendicular to the bullet path).
Here is a breakdown of how much the top muzzle brakes are angled back toward the shooter (0° indicates the baffles are perpendicular to the bullet path). There seems to be a strong correlation between the angle and overall rank.
- Alamo Four Star Cowl Induction Brake = 35°
- American Precision Arms Fat B* = 30°
- American Precision Arms Little B* = 30°
- JEC Recoil Reduction Brake = 15°
- Holland Radial Quick Discharge Brake = 15°
- Center Shot Rifles Blast Tamer = 0°
- JP Recoil Eliminator = 0°
- Impact Precision Muzzle Brake = 0°
- JP Large Compensator = 0°
- West Texas Ordnance Muzzle Brake = 0°
I believe there are only 2 outside the top 5 that have angled baffles, the tiny TBAC Compact Brake and the smaller version of the Holland Radial Quick Discharge Muzzle Brake. The angle definitely isn’t the only thing that plays into recoil performance, but it’s clearly significant.
However, in the section on muzzle devices from Dr. Carlucci’s textbook, Ballistics: Theory and Design of Guns and Ammunition, he reminds us “Best design practice is to divert gases to the sides of the weapon, because rearward diversion could affect an exposed gun crew.” During my tests, a manufacturer sent me a prototype of a muzzle brake with 45° baffles back toward the shooter. It provided outstanding recoil reduction (better than anything shown here), but while testing that brake, a friend helping me with the tests caught some shrapnel in his side. It penetrated 2 shirts and caused a wound deep enough to see flesh. I told the manufacturer I wouldn’t write about it, because I didn’t think it was safe. They were concerned as well, and haven’t release that prototype for sale.
The other downside of angled port designs is increased concussion/blast. All of the muzzle brakes are loud, but diverting gases rearward can increase the pressure shock wave at or near the shooter’s position. Some shooters would rather deal with the extra recoil than the increased concussion from that shock wave. So that is another thing to keep in mind. The sound test should give us insight into the pressure difference at the shooter’s position for each brake, so stay tuned for that.
There are clearly downsides to rearward deflection of gases, but it also has a measurable influence on recoil reduction. I don’t want to present this as “right or wrong.” It’s up to each shooter to strike the right balance for their application. I’m just trying to give a balanced and responsible presentation of all the facts to help you make an informed decision.
In the next post, I’ll cover the results related to how well each muzzle brake helps you stay on target. David Tubb, one of the most accomplished rifle shooters in history, helped me develop this part of the field test. David believes this is the most important aspect of muzzle brake, and much more important than recoil reduction. So stay tuned!
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.