A muzzle brake is a device installed on the end of your barrel with a specific design to change the recoil characteristics of your gun. Muzzle brakes may look similar to flash hiders but they are designed for a different function. A muzzle brake is designed to direct the gasses leaving the barrel in a way so that the recoil of the rifle will be mitigated and kept in a straight line (moving directly backwards towards the shooter). By keeping the recoil “flat” the muzzle brake allows the shooter to stay on target for rapid follow-up shots. Muzzle brakes are highly favored for competition shooting.
A flash hider performs a different function; it hides the flash or fire-ball seen during firing. The flash hider is designed to conceal the shooter’s location for combat operation, it also reduces the noise of the firearm slightly. The flash hider is not designed to mitigate recoil and a standard A2 style flash hider has similar recoil character to a barrel with no muzzle device at all.
There are also muzzle devices that function as a muzzle brake/flash hider combo. They are designed to play both roles for shooters who want a tactical firearm that still retains a flat recoil character for quick follow-up shots.
If you want a more controllable firearm which allows for faster follow-up shots on target then a muzzle brake may be for you, especially if you are not concerned with visible flash or an increase in noise. There are a bunch of different muzzle brakes on the market ranging in price from $20-150. From my research it is safe to say that most of the lower cost muzzle brakes function well doing the intended job. There may be a slight increase in performance with the more expensive muzzle brake but it will be minor and only matter to the high level competition shooter. The differences would only be noticed if you shot the two different muzzle brakes back to back immediately. In a blindfold test done a few days apart I doubt most shooters could tell the difference between a $50 and a $150 brake. But hey, if you want to spend $150 on a muzzle brake go for it.
Until next time, keep shooting out those bull’s-eyes.