AK Muzzle Device Test Part 1: Recoil Reduction

Courtesy Chris Dumm for The Truth About GunsThe 7.62×39 cartridge is a fairly heavy hitter in the world of intermediate-caliber military rifles. Its .312 caliber slugs don’t shoot as fast or as flat as zippier 5.45 or 5.56mm rounds, but they’re almost 50% wider and almost twice as heavy. They hit hard and chew through barriers that their lesser brethren simply can’t. Drawbacks to all this punch include increased recoil and muzzle jump, but most AKs have 14×1 left-hand threads on their muzzles and spring-loaded retaining plungers. These make it a snap to mount whatever kink of muzzle brake or flash hider you want, with no need for wrenches, crush washers, or Loctite. So . . .

We tested several AK muzzle devices from Tapco, which represent nearly (but not quite) every type of AK flash hider and muzzle brake available. We couldn’t test everything, however: the AK-74SU flash hider, AMD-65 muzzle brake, and the Claymore-style linear compensator are still on our wish list.

Since the background light was way too bright to notice muzzle flash, this part of the test will only evaluate how well these muzzle devices attenuate recoil and muzzle climb. Part 2 of the test will feature an evening shoot where we evaluate their muzzle flash reduction.

THE CONTENDERS:

These muzzle devices all range in price from $10 to $30,and they’re all solidly constructed of machined steel, with precise threading and tough metal finishes. The styles (and effectiveness) of these Tapco devices vary widely, but their quality was uniformly first-rate.

No Muzzle Device (AKA: AWB-Compliant Muzzle Device)

If your AK is from the AWB era, you’re SOL when it comes to muzzle devices. Rifles from the Clinton years tend to have unthreaded muzzles or faux welded-on flash hiders. They basically suck because they subject you to all the recoil and muzzle flash that the 7.62×39 has to offer.

AK-47 Slant Brake

Image courtesy Tapco

Back when the US military wasn’t putting muzzle devices on anything other than BARs, Mikhail’s Masterpiece featured this extremely simple and surprisingly effective muzzle brake. By selectively directing some of the muzzle blast upwards and right, it significantly reduces muzzle climb and rightward muzzle drift during very rapid fire. The Tapco AK Slant Muzzle Device has left and right-side plunger cutouts, so left-handed shooters can lock it in the leftward-canted position to counteract their tendency for the muzzle to drift to the left.

Whether it’s canted left or right, however, I’ve got my doubts about how well it will suppress the AK-47′s muzzle flash. We’ll see. AK slant brakes are barely an inch long, weigh only 0.7 oz., and cost about ten bucks.

Cage-Style Flash Hider

Image courtesy Tapco

Looking rather like a stunted cousin of an old Mini-14 flash hider, the Tapco AK Cage Muzzle Device has a modest effect on recoil and muzzle climb. On the other hand, it’s cheap and tiny and weighs almost nothing, and it cuts the flash and protects your muzzle threads.

It’s under 2 inches long, weighs 1.0 oz., and lists for $15. It probably does a decent job of flash suppression, but we’ll have to test that function another day.

A2 Flash Hider

Image courtesy Tapco

Th AK M16 Style Muzzle Device is patterned after (wait for it…) the M16A2 flash hider! Hanging one off your AK’s muzzle makes it look like the love child of the 20th century’s two iconic assault rifles. Unlike it’s AR cousin, however, the Tapco AK version features venting slots all around its circumference. This doesn’t help reduce muzzle climb (since just as much gas escapes downward as upward) and it has only a modest effect on recoil.

It’s under 2 inches long, weighs 2 ounces, and sells for $15. Like the cage-style flash hider, this A2 hider probably does a good job at flash suppression; after all, the U.S. military has stuck with a similar design for 40+ years.

AK-74 Muzzle Device

Image courtesy Tapco

Joe Grine’s underfolding AK-47 came equipped with an AK-74 styled muzzle device which features an expansion chamber, two large lateral ports and smaller angled and vertical ports. The impact of the muzzle gasses on the front of the chamber and the sides of the ports pulls the rifle forward and deflects combustion gasses to the sides of the muzzle. At the same time, the vertical ports hold the muzzle down. This design does an excellent job of reducing muzzle climb and felt recoil, but subjects neighboring shooters to a terrific muzzle blast.

It weighs a hefty 5.2 ounces, is 3 inches long, and the Tapco version sells for $20. My own AK-74 experience hints that it won’t be so good at flash suppression.

Tapco RAZR Muzzle Device

Image courtesy Tapco

As I joke in one of the videos, the RAZR looks like a muzzle-mounted rotisserie spit or a gruesome intestine-spooling bayonet. It provides only modest recoil or muzzle climb attenuation, but it will turn your AK’s muzzle into a four-pronged bayonet and hardened glass breaker all in one.

The RAZR is three inches long, weighs 2.3 ounces, and costs $27. While it looks totally wicked, the prongs tend to ring like high-pitched tuning forks for several seconds after firing. This is amusing when you’re blasting pepper-poppers in a quarry somewhere, but I suspect that military and law enforcement types don’t want a ringing muzzle brake to betray their position in a firefight.

TAPCO AK Slot Muzzle Device

Image courtesy of TapcoThis slotted muzzle device has no ports on the bottom, and the single plunger cutout tells you ‘this side up.’ The slots and ports direct most of the muzzle gasses upwards and sideways. It virtually eliminated muzzle climb and substantially reduced felt recoil to allow the quickest follow-up shots of any device we tested.

For just $15, this solidly-built muzzle brake can dramatically improve your AK’s handling, but the muzzle blast will batter your neighbors on the firing line. It’s quite small: 2 inches long and 1 ounce in weight. We’ll test its flash-suppression qualities in Part Two of this comparison.

THE RANKINGS:

Wayne and I didn’t disagree much about how these muzzle devices stack up when it comes to recoil reduction and muzzle control. He filmed me shooting them all, and I filmed him doing the same. His shooting form was better than mine that day (and he’s a much bigger guy) but we came to the same conclusions.

The slotted muzzle brake was the hands-down winner. It eliminated muzzle jump and dramatically reduced the felt recoil of the 7.62×39 cartridge. I would put one on every AK I owned–even if my AKs were already equipped with the runner-up, the AK-74 style muzzle device. Why replace one good device with another? Because the slotted brake cuts an inch and a quarter of a pound off of your rifle’s muzzle, and it almost eliminates recoil and muzzle climb.

The AK-74 muzzle device did come in a very respectable second place. Recoil reduction was similar to (or slightly better than) the slot brake, but muzzle jump was more noticeable. The AK-74 style is effective, but this 1970s design is really too heavy to be competetive.

The bronze medal went to the old-school slant brake, which performed far better than we expected both at muzzle control and recoil reduction. It also weighs nothing and barely adds a half-inch to a rifle’s length.

Fourth place goes to the Tapco RAZR. This ‘outside-the-box’ design looks pretty awesome, and it adds an element of hand-to-hand menace to any AK. But that tuning-fork noise is not so awesome. Tapco ought to consider redesigning the RAZR to reduce this ringing, perhaps by making the prongs slightly less symmetrical.

The M14-style flash hider and the A2-style flash hider both turned in the same mediocre performance when it came to muzzle control and recoil reduction. They were noticeably better than nothing device at all, but they were much less effective than the other muzzle devices. Looking to the next phase of testing, my prediction is that these two designs will be highly effective as flash hiders, where the slant brake and the AK-74 style device will probably fall short. I’m curious to see how well the slot-style brake will work at flash suppression; its ports may be the right size to provide decent flash suppression, or it might just throw a huge orange fireball out the muzzle.

The obvious loser in this comparison is the straight-cut barrel with no muzzle device at all. Recoil, muzzle climb and muzzle flash are all completely unmitigated, and all for no purpose whatsoever. If you’ve got an AWB-era AK you’re stuck with this. But if you’ve got an AK with a threaded muzzle nothing on it, you owe yourself the measly $10 to $30 it will cost you to get one of these.

32 Responses to AK Muzzle Device Test Part 1: Recoil Reduction

  1. avatarsdog says:

    this is a great review of the options out there. By chance have you come across this muzzle device?

    http://www.rifledynamics.com/products/akbc.php

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      I didn’t know anybody even *made* AK muzzle brakes that sell for $200. That’s a lot of cheddar for a small chunk of steel, and I can’t imagine spending that much for single AK accessory. You can get Ultimak rail (or a top-quality QD side rail mount) AND a Bushnell TRS-25 red dot for that kind of money.

      The slotted Tapco brake does such an outstanding job (for fifteen bucks!) that it’s silly not to buy it if you want your AK to have better manners.

      • avatarDave says:

        It annoys me that their BattleComp is $200, since it’s just a standard AR Battlecomp with a large adapter welded on to the back of it. I’d much rather BC make a dedicated M24x1.5 version.

  2. avatarjwm says:

    Where do I get a job like that?

  3. avataruncommon_sense says:

    Great post. If I only had an AK!

    Has someone already evaluated muzzle breaks/compensators for for AR-15s?

  4. avatarThomas Paine says:

    aw man, Tapco? no lazer cut zig-zags.

  5. avatarAharon says:

    Good piece. It was an interesting read.

  6. avatarJoke & Dagger says:

    Very good read indeed. I’m confused though. Where in this story is the boogey-man that all the commenters will screech at? Bob Costas, some gun-grabbing politician, an anti-2A journalist, random anti-gun tweeter or an irresponsible gun owner?

    • avatarDJ says:

      Good point; there doesn’t seem to be one. Luckily, we have you for a stand-in. Thanks for volunteering!

      Great muzzle-device review! Notes taken for future use (no 7.62×39 in the stable right now, but it’ll happen eventually).

  7. avatarAPBTFan says:

    “I suspect that military and law enforcement types don’t want a ringing muzzle brake to betray their position in a firefight.”

    Wouldn’t firing the weapon pretty much do that?

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      It just keeps ringing…and ringing, even while you’re moving around or reloading. It’s kind of like Bugs Bunny and the Singing Sword, but without the vocal genius of Mel Blanc.

      • avatarJay Dunn says:

        My AK came with the Tapco RAZR already attached. It doesn’t ring even a little and the gun has very low recoil. Any chance your sample could be defective??

  8. avatarRob says:

    Great reviews and I look forward to the evening shoot.

    One newbie sort of question just to clarify, when you use terms like “but the muzzle blast will batter your neighbors on the firing line” or “but subjects neighboring shooters to a terrific muzzle blast.”, you are referring to the sound and shockwave of the blast that as long as proper hearing protection and distance is observed will not cause injury, correct?

    I’m curious because I don’t want to take one of these to my local range and either not be allowed to shoot or cause the injury to someone that may be in a close proximity like being in a range entails.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      The sideways muzzle blast won’t injure anyone with their eyes and ears on, but it will really annoy them.

      Actual muzzle brakes, and to a lesser extent flash hiders, direct some of the supersonic combustion gasses to the sides of the muzzle. This *profoundly* increases the noise and concussion that nearby shooters (not you) will be subjected to on the firing line. Not enough to cause physical damage, but enough to be really unpleasant.

      Many firing ranges have one end of the line designated for rifles with muzzle brakes, so that other shooters can be a little farther from them.

      Wayne and I didn’t notice this increased muzzle blast too much on our testing day, because we were in an open space surrounded by sound-absorbing trees, and the air (and ground) was full of sound-absorbing snow. The cameraman (me) would have had an earful if we were shooting at a covered, enclosed range.

      • avatarRob says:

        Thanks for the info. In the area I live in I don’t get frequent chances to shoot in an outdoor environment like that. I’ll have to give a go at the range and see if I get complaints and at the worst it’s an easy swap for when I can get some outdoor shooting in.

  9. avatarAT says:

    Now you didn’t answer the most important question about any AK muzzle device, can I still put my pigsticker on the end? :-P

  10. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I’m sorry, I’m unclear on the problem here.

    You have a semi-auto AK variant… and you’re complaining about recoil, much less the muzzle climb…?

    • avatarjwm says:

      exactly, there’s no muzzle thingy on my SKS and I don’t notice recoil or muzzle climb. It’s a 7.62×39. Not a .300 win mag. I routinely shoot 60-100 rounds out of my 7.62×54 mosin and haven’t felt that battered.

      • avatarokto says:

        A lot of the felt recoil from an AK is from the big heavy bolt carrier slamming into the rear trunnion.

        However, if you think 100 rounds of 7.62x54R is no sweat, there’s more to it than physics. ^_^

        • avatarjwm says:

          okto, i’m a large individual. I bought my first centerfire rifle, a sporterized 03a3 springfield in .30-06, at a yard sale when I was 14.

          i may have a slightly skewed opinion about recoil. The heaviest non military weapon I’ve shot was a .458 win mag.

        • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          jwm – ditto. Love the .30-06, love shooting it in a Garand or ’03[a3].

          Like you, the biggest loudengeboomer I’ve shot was the .458. Stout, certainly, but if you’re standing up and have been told what to expect and how you should stand… it’s not a huge problem.

          Most of my hunting rifles are in the mid-30 cal range (.338, .35, etc) and shove me with about 30 ft-lbs. Somehow, I just don’t think all that much of the 7.62×39 or the 54R. Being over 6′ and 200lbs has something to do with it, but also knowing what to expect helps far more.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      Ow, my shoulder! (Just kidding!) Nobody would describe 7.62×39 recoil as objectionable, but followup shots are much quicker and easier when recoil and muzzle climb are neutralized. With a good muzzle brake, a 7.62×39 is as mild-mannered as a 5.45×39.

  11. avatarokto says:

    The -74 style muzzle brake only works right if it’s built to original spec with the BIG expansion chamber (usually requires a two-piece design) and the laser-cut zig-zags (requires costing more than a Tapco product). It’s a really brilliant design, and surprisingly precise/complex for a Russian military product.

    The Tapco one looks the part, but it doesn’t do the job (at least not any better than the other options).

    • avatarDr. Mike says:

      ^^THIS.
      The TAPCO version of the ’74 brake looks like the real thing but does not perform nearly as well as the real deal. The real Russian one is excellent, as is the KVAR version.
      The Bulgarian one that came with some Arsenal SLR series is also great, it is small, light, and works. It is most similar to the slot brake featured in this article.

      • avatarMIKE says:

        Okto and Dr. Mike are correct. Please do not use a Tapco cheapozoid version of the venerable AK-74 Brake as a point of comparison to determine which AKM muzzle Brake is Top Gun.

        Had you investigated just a bit further, you would find that East German made AK-74 Zig-Zag Brakes can be purchased from RTG in Az for about $40.00. I have one such brake on my AKM, and it performs brilliantly as a Muzzle Brake.

        OTOH, it is Not much of a Flash Hider or a Supressor, but it never claimed to be.

        IMHO, the REAL AK74 -style Muzzle Brake is the Best of the Lot.

        Next time, you should consider doing a Real Test with at least one Real AK-74 Muzzle Brake.

        As it stands, this review of yours is worthless as a test between different Muzzle Brake designs on AKMs.. .

        But, OTOH; if your intent was to test which of the Tapco products is best, then you certainly achieved that, no question..

  12. avatartxOutback says:

    This is a great review of all the lower-end options for AK-variant muzzle devices.

    If you have an iPhone or Android device, it would be great to download a free SPL app (decibel meter) and do a comparison of the top three from the shooter’s vantage and nearby. The SPL doesnt have to be perfectly accurate as long as it can detect the delta between the top three devices and you do it all on the same day so the weather conditions are consistent. No need for videos… just do some SPL tests and post the data!

    Also, we’d love to see a comparison of the best of these Tapco’s vs the mid-tier $30-$65 models, like the PWS J-Tac and some of the ~$30 74-types like Krebs.

    Thanks for putting your time and money in doing this test!

  13. avatarVote With Your Feet says:

    I’m surprised the PWS JTAC47 wasn’t part of the review sequence. Primary Weapon Systems makes some top performing brakes for both the AR & AK platform and they merit serious consideration from anyone shopping for a muzzle brake that actually works.

  14. avatarg says:

    AK Operators Union doing some muzzle break tests…

  15. Pingback: AK Control compensation.

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