The 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
This 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.
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.