Once you’ve made some progress in building your perfect AR-15, there comes a point when you need to decide what kind of muzzle device you’ll be attaching to the business end of the rifle.
You may even be asking yourself whether you need a muzzle device at all and whether you want a muzzle brake, a compensator or a silencer. Let’s take a look at these devices, what they are good for and which ones you should buy if you opt for them.
Comparison Chart of the Best Muzzle Brakes and Compensators for the AR-15
1. Precision Armament
2. DPMS AR-15/M16 5.56 14.5" Barrel W/ Miculek Comp
3. Wilson Combat - AR-15 Muzzle Brake Q-comp
4. Bravo Company - AR-15 Gunfighter Comp Mod 1 22 Caliber
5. Blackhawk Industries - Barrage 5.56mm
5. FM Products Inc - AR-15 Muzzle Brake 9mm (California Compliant)
6. Smith Enterprise - AR .308 Muzzle Brake .905 30 Caliber
7. Primary Weapons - AR-15 CQB556 Compensator 22 Caliber
What are Muzzle Brake and Compensators For?
Muzzle brakes and compensators both are screwed onto the end of your AR-15 rifle to help deal with recoil and muzzle climb. Normally, the explosion that unleashes the bullet towards its target is accompanied by a loud bang and hot air being released from the front of the gun. The function of the muzzle brake is to redirect the propellant gases that are released when the bullet is fired. This can both counter the recoil and the climb.
A muzzle brake has a simple design. It consists of a small tube with baffles and sometimes holes at the top. It is designed to prevent the combustion gases from bursting, redirecting the force mainly to the sides of the barrel.
A compensator behaves quite similarly to a muzzle brake by redirecting pressure and high-velocity gases. But in this case, it directs them upward, mainly reducing muzzle climb. Compensators consist of a tube with holes along the top to push the gases out. The jet of gas that is expelled acts as a counterforce to the rise of the muzzle. The higher the pressure of the gas behind the bullet the more effective the compensator.
Differences Between Muzzle Brakes and Compensators
The main difference between muzzle brakes and compensators is that muzzle brakes can mitigate both recoil and muzzle climb, although its main function is to prevent recoil. On the other hand compensators are meant to prevent muzzle climb only.
The benefits of using muzzle brakes are that you can perform successive shots better by immediately acquiring your target without waiting to recover from recoil. The downsides are that it doesn’t suppress flash. It also causes extreme amounts of noise, pressure and gas to be blasted toward shooters or observers on your left and right.
Meanwhile, a compensator can reduce the muzzle climb on your AR-15, speeding up the recovery after each shot and helping you acquire the target before the next shot. This is especially useful in a rapid-fire situation. The downside to a compressor is that it doesn’t offer flash suppression and is noisy for those close by.
What to Look For in a Muzzle Brake or Compensator
A good compensator or muzzle brake can add to your shooting experience, and many guns now come standard with one. As gun owners become more aware of the advantages of these muzzle devices and manufacturers churn them out by the thousands, it has become important to be able to judge the good from the bad.
A high-quality muzzle brake will be efficient in design and will let less gas out of the end of the muzzle. Instead, it will redirect as much away from the rifle as possible, maximizing the recoil reduction as more of the propellant gases are pushed backward. Look for a muzzle brake that has a higher baffle surface area and venting cross-section to achieve good efficiency.
No Hole at the Bottom
If you plan to shoot from a prone position, such as during a hunt, then make sure the brake has no holes at the bottom. The gases expelled downward will kick up dust and dirt, spoiling your aim and preventing you from seeing your target.
Muzzle Climb Reduction
For both compensators and combination muzzle brakes, you should check that the device actually works for your ammo and rifle the way it is intended to. You may need to calibrate or tune the brake to balance the muzzle climb perfectly.
Value for Money
Obviously, price can be a factor when selecting the muzzle device you’ll end up using. With good muzzle brakes costing upward of $250, you need a compelling reason to shell out that kind of money unless money is no object.
Quick Take - The Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes
These are our recommendations for the best muzzle brakes for the AR-15:
Reviews of the Best Muzzle Brakes for the AR-15
Keep in mind the above factors when choosing what kind of muzzle brake will fit your need. To help you select the right muzzle brake for your AR-15, we’ve narrowed down the field to some of the best in the market.
This is one of the best-rated devices to eliminate muzzle rise and also reduce recoil. It features a large initial expansion chamber which dissipates combustion gases at a lower pressure, then expels gases to the side and rear through vents. The bottom of the compensator is closed, greatly diminishing dust being kicked up.
This device is machined from high-strength HTSR 416 stainless steel and comes in matte black or stainless steel finishes. Accu-Washers are required for proper installation.
Measurements: 1/2-28 TPI thread. 2.25" (5.2cm) OAL. 0.875" (2.2cm) dia. It weighs 2.6 oz and fits .223 Cal (5.56mm) caliber.
This is easy to install, a good value for money and looks good. But it rusts quickly, is quite loud and blows gases back into the face with every shot.
The Wilson Combat Q-Comp reduces the recoil while also lessening the blast and flash that other AR-15 muzzle devices have. It is a hybrid AR-15 brake/compensator which is tuned to minimize the side-blast and concussion.
The slotted expansion chamber design of the Q-Comp is robust and snag-free and the muzzle brake is made from Melonite QPQ-coated alloy steel for maximum durability and corrosion resistance.
It is easily installed on your AR rifle, and a crush washer is included.
The 5/8-24 TPI threads with an internal bore diameter of .375” work for most 6.8, most .300 and .308 rifles and some 9mm (Wilson AR-9).
The 11/16-24 TPI threads with an internal bore diameter of .485” are for Wilson Combat SOCOM rifles and some other aftermarket large-caliber AR’s.
This is tough, easy to install and a good-looking combo muzzle brake.
The Barrage Muzzle Brake will allow your rifle to accept a Blackhawk Barrage Suppressor but can also be used by itself. It reduces recoil and diminishes muzzle climb during rapid fire. The three ports redirect combustion gases to mitigate recoil and push the blast away from the shooter.
It will fit 5.56/.223 caliber rifles with 1/2"-28 muzzle threads and doesn’t need crush washers when for installation. It’s made from stainless steel alloy with a durable matte black finish.
These muzzle brakes from Smith Enterprises are made from stainless steel with a manganese-phosphate finish. They are easy to install and reduce recoil and muzzle rise. They are closed at the bottom to reduce dust signature.
These are heat-treated to a surface hardness of Rc 60 to resist gas erosion and are designed to be snag-free.
The 1002RR fits any rifle up to .308/7.62mm with 5/8"-24 tpi muzzle threads and includes a lock nut. This item is available in matte black. It works with many guns, so it’s a good choice if you plan to switch it from gun to gun.
Reviews of the Best Compensators for the AR-15
Whether you’re a competitive shooter looking to decrease the recovery time between shots or trying to improve your hunting skills, a compensator for the AR-15 can be quite helpful. While there are literally hundreds of options out there; the ones in this list are amongst the best we could find.
The DPMS AR-15/M16 5.56x45mm Barrel is different from the other items on this list, as it’s a complete barrel. The barrel is machined from 4140 chrome-moly steel, and feature a matte-black phosphate finish.
Each barrel includes a front-sight base and is available in 14.5” length, with a pinned and welded Miculek muzzle brake. The barrel features M4 feedramps and includes a barrel nut and handguard cap. The entire barrel is less than 16’’, but including compensator should be legal.
This compensator reduces muzzle rise and flash while also decreasing side blast and noise. The exterior is designed to accept a blank firing adapter or flash-hider mounted suppressors. It is made from stainless steel with a black oxide finish. The standard length fits .223/5.56mm rifles.
Dimensions: .830" (2.1cm) O.D. Washer included. Standard – 1.7" (4.4cm) long, with ½"-28 threads. This compensator is easy to install and looks good.
This muzzle brake is ideal for 9mm carbines or AR-15 rifles with 9mm barrels. It reduces muzzle flip & recoil impulse greatly. The device is machined from steel & has a matte black finish.
It has a ½-36 right-hand thread pitch and is 2” long. The item does not include crush washer or shims. It a tough and easy to install compensator that will work with many guns.
This compensator offers excellent muzzle stabilization and recoil reduction. It also provides enough flash suppression to keep flash out of the shooter’s line of sight. It comes with a peel washer for precise indexing of the side ports.
The CQB556 is designed mainly for entry teams and other operators working in confined spaces like buildings. The muzzle blast is directed forward to protect the shooter and team members nearby from hot gases and concussion.
CQB556 models fit AR-15/M16/M4 and clones chambered in .223/5.56mm, with ½”-28 tpi RH muzzle threads. CQB556 –2¾” (7cm) long x 13⁄8” (3.5cm) diameter. 9.1 oz. (258g) wt. ½”-28 tpi RH thread.
Featureless Muzzle Brakes?
You may be worried about laws that outlaw certain kinds of muzzle devices, especially in states like NY and CA. Featureless rifles are designed to meet the legal requirements of certain states; one of those requirements is that they can’t have flash hiders or flash suppressors.
To be on the safe side, just don’t purchase any muzzle devices that incorporate flash suppression if you live in a state where featureless rifles are necessary to own an AR-15. Following this little rule of thumb should keep you out of trouble, but in case you are in doubt, do check your local and federal laws.
Hopefully you’ve learned a bit about the uses and designs of muzzle brakes and compensators as well as the pros and cons of these devices. The fact that muzzle brakes and compensators reduce recoil and muzzle climb also means that they are not necessary for every user.
While many competitive shooters and other AR owners love their muzzle brakes, they can be overkill for some owners. Before purchasing an expensive muzzle device, do your research to figure out whether you’ll need one of these devices for your own shooting.