Are you currently on the hunt for a new muzzle brake for your AR-15 rifle or carbine? If so, your search is about to come to an end because you’ve come to the right place.
Best Overall: Nemo DC-1 AR-15 Muzzle Brake
The Nemo DC-1 AR-15 Muzzle Brake is a lightweight and yet durable muzzle brake built out of titanium and with a nice corrosion resistant bead blasted finish. It utilizes a twin top port design to redirect the gasses from your AR-15 upward to keep recoil and muzzle rise down. It may be expensive for a muzzle brake, but with the DC-1 you definitely get what you pay for.
Budget Pick: Palmetto State Armory Custom Six Port Muzzle Brake
The Palmetto State Armory Custom Six Port Muzzle Brake is a solid choice for a budget muzzle brake. The PSA is built out of 4140 steel with a manganese phosphate finish, which while admittedly a bit crude looking is still effective at keeping moisture at bay.
Value Pick: Wilson Combat Q Comp AR-15 Muzzle Brake
The Wilson Combat Q Comp AR-15 Muzzle Brake is an overall excellent value thanks to its alloy construction, rust resistant melonite finish, and the fact that it keeps muzzle flash to an absolute minimum. This is also a muzzle brake and compensator hybrid, which reduces both side blast and muzzle rise but at the expense of much louder gunshots.
The muzzle brake is a device attached to the end of your AR-15 that is designed to make it much easier to shoot. With a muzzle brake, less kick will be delivered into your shoulder, and you should be able to make faster follow up shots as well.
That being said, not all muzzle brakes are created equally, which is why it is important to carefully do your research to find the best one for you.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the top three best AR-15 muzzle brakes that you can get in 2020. We’ll also discuss the merits of the AR-15 as a platform, the purposes the muzzle brake services, a comparison between muzzle brakes and other muzzle devices for the AR-15, and the top qualities that you need to look for in a muzzle brake in the first place.
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What Is the Muzzle Brake and What Purposes Does It Serve?
The muzzle brake is also known as the recoil compensator. It’s a device that you can affix to the end of your AR-15 barrel. The purpose behind the muzzle brake is to redirect gases created from the fired round away from the gun. This counters the recoil, thereby reducing the kick that is delivered back into your shoulder. As you can imagine, this should make your rifle more pleasurable to shoot at the very least.
In other words, a muzzle brake makes it much easier to shoot your rifle and to make faster and more accurate follow up shots as well. As you can imagine, a muzzle brake is useful for all sorts of purposes, including tactical use, hunting, competition shooting, or just normal target shooting.
The concept of a muzzle brake in the first place originated in the military. Muzzle brakes were originally installed on artillery guns used by militaries so they could increase their rate of fire. It didn’t take long for weapons designers to realize that they could shrink down muzzle brakes substantially to small arms. Today, most military snipers use muzzle brakes installed on the end of their sniper rifles, again because they help to reduce recoil and make their shots more accurate.
As a golden rule, you can expect the muzzle rise to your AR-15 to reduce by up to 50%, which is nothing to laugh about. Muzzle brakes really are effective at making your rifle easier to shoot. However, muzzle brakes are also not without their cons, and it’s important that you be aware of what these cons are.
One major downside to muzzle brakes is that they do make your gunshots much louder. Furthermore, they can enable the redirected gases to come back at you. The only way around this is to be prepared for it and to wear the appropriate hearing protection. Your rifle will become even louder if you utilize a muzzle brake and compensator hybrid. Also take note that other people at the range may not appreciate you firing such a loud rifle, so just keep this in mind.
The other downside to muzzle brakes is that they add weight and length to your rifle. This is inevitable, but it can be mitigated by investing in a muzzle brake that is more compact and lightweight.
A commonly cited alternative option to using a muzzle brake is to use a ported barrel. However, ported barrels will create greatly increased muzzle flash, which can easily disorient you in darker conditions. Muzzle brakes do create muzzle flash as well, but significantly less than muzzle brakes.
All in all, is installing a muzzle brake totally necessary for your AR-15? No, but if you want to reduce muzzle rise, they are a good idea to add on.
It could be that you already have your muzzle brake installed on your rifle, but are considering upgrading it. Why should you upgrade your muzzle brake?
The simple reason is because, as we will see later, not all muzzle brakes are created equally. For example, your existing muzzle brake may be too long or too heavy, or it may not reduce recoil as much as you would like.
Muzzle brakes can vary drastically from one another when it comes to factors such as size, weight, durability, and the finish that is applied to the outside of the brake.
Overall, the top reasons to consider installing a new muzzle brake on your rifle are as follows:
- Your carbine or rifle has a significant amount of kick that you want to reduce
- You’re willing to make your rifle louder in exchange for making it a bit easier to shoot
- You want to fire faster follow up shots more accurately
Next, let’s dive into how muzzle brakes compare to other kinds of muzzle devices, because there can be a fair amount of confusion.
Suggested read: Our favorite AR-15 Foregrips
Muzzle Brakes vs. Other Kinds of Muzzle Devices
Muzzle brakes are often confused with other kinds of muzzle devices, and this can become even more confusing when you are using a hybrid muzzle device such as a muzzle brake and compensator together.
The main difference that exists between a compensator and a muzzle brake is that compensator is designed to redirect the gases from your rifle upwards, which prevents the rifle from climbing upwards. Meanwhile, a muzzle brake is designed to redirect the gases away from the sides of the barrel.
To put this in other terms, the muzzle brake will reduce felt recoil that is delivered into your shoulder. The compensator will reduce muzzle flip, or how far your rifle travels upward with each shot. Using a muzzle brake and compensator hybrid helps to reduce both recoil and muzzle rise.
Another item that muzzle brakes are commonly mixed up with are flash suppressors. Flash suppressors are installed on the end of your rifle as well, but they are designed to reduce muzzle flash and do not have any impact upon the recoil or the muzzle rise of your AR.
The main purpose behind a flash suppressor is to make your rifle easier to shoot in darker or dim conditions, where the bright muzzle flash could quite easily disorient you and throw your shots off.
However, muzzle brakes can also be combined with flash suppressors to create other kinds of hybrid devices as well. If anything, a muzzle brake and flash suppressor hybrid could be the ideal muzzle device to add onto the end of your rifle for tactical missions, as both flash and recoil are reduced (albeit at the expense of much louder gunshots due to the muzzle brake).
Read also: Our buying guide for the best AR-15 80% lowers
What Is A Featureless Muzzle Brake?
A featureless muzzle brake is a muzzle brake that is designed to be legal in states and jurisdictions with tight laws, such as California, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, or New Jersey. Furthermore, certain cities may have tighter laws in less restricted states as well.
Muzzle brakes are currently legal throughout the United States, but flash suppressors or flash hiders are not legal in all states. When you see or hear the term ‘featureless muzzle brake’ it often always refers to a muzzle brake without the addition of a flash hider or suppressor, therefore ensuring that it can be legal.
Of course, the laws can vary widely by jurisdiction, city, or state. At the end of the day, the responsibility is yours to research whether the muzzle device you want is legal in your area.
Buyer’s Guide For The Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes
These are the most important factors to consider when looking for a new muzzle brake for your AR-15:
First and foremost, you need to make sure that your muzzle brake is designed to thread onto your barrel. Not all muzzle brakes affix to a barrel in the same manner, and while some can be simply threaded in or off, others will literally need a gunsmith in order to get properly attached. Ideally, look for a muzzle brake with a twist on and off design.
Length and Weight
Muzzle brakes are going to add weight and length to your AR-15 no matter what. Nonetheless, by going with a more compact muzzle brake that is also lighter, you can keep both to a minimum. Compact muzzle brakes are almost universally a better choice than longer or heavier ones.
Certain muzzle brakes will come with a flash suppressor installed on them as well, which means that your visibility will not be disoriented in any way when shooting your rifle in darker conditions. While it’s not a necessary feature to have, there’s also no denying that a flash suppressor could be very desirable in most tactical situations.
Durability and Rust Resistant
Last but not least, you want a muzzle brake that is very strong and durable and also rust resistant against moisture. The best muzzle brakes are built out of high quality steel, with a corrosion resistant finish that will enable it to hold up much better against inclement weather.
Some muzzle brakes will come with flash suppressors on them, so your visibility will not be reduced in any meaningful way while firing. This is not a truly necessary feature to have, but it is still something to think about.
Rust and Corrosion Resistance
The best muzzle brakes will come with either a stainless steel or parkerized finish for good rust and corrosion resistance against rain, snow, and humidity. This will enable your muzzle brake to last longer and maintain good performance over the long term.
If you want to read more AR-15 content, we also have a guide on magazine well grips.
The 3 Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes For 2022
Now that we’ve covered why you need to upgrade your muzzle brake for your AR-15, here are our top three choices for an AR-15 muzzle brake in 2020:
Palmetto State Armory Custom Six Port Muzzle Brake
The Palmetto State Armory Custom Six Port Muzzle Brake is an affordable choice for an AR-15 muzzle brake. This muzzle brake is specifically designed to reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise, permitting you to make faster and more accurate follow up shots.
Utilizing a six port design, the PSA is built out of a very durable 4140 steel with a crude but effective manganese phosphate finish. This is a muzzle brake designed to take a beating and continue to function. Just take note that it is only designed to function with the 5.56 or .223 calibers, and if you plan on using different rounds in your AR-15 you’ll need to take your search elsewhere.
All in all, the Palmetto State Armory Custom Six Port Muzzle Brake is a solid choice for an inexpensive and yet effective muzzle brake. Built out of 4140 steel with a rust resistant manganese finish, this is a muzzle brake built to last.
- Manganese phosphate finish is rust resistant
- Has a six port design
- 4140 steel construction is very durable
- Finish is rather crude
- Only compatible for the 5.56 or .223 rounds
Wilson Combat Q Comp AR-15 Muzzle Brake
Wilson Combat is one of the biggest names in the firearms industry, and while they are predominantly known for their 1911 pistols and assorted accessories, they also serve the AR-15 market as well.
The Q Comp is technically a muzzle brake and compensator hybrid designed to reduce both muzzle rise and side blast. However, take note that it also creates much more noise with each gunshot than you may have been expecting, so bring appropriate ear protection when you hit the range.
The Wilson Combat is built out of alloy steel with a nice melonite finish for excellent durable and corrosion resistance. Rest assured, this is a muzzle brake that can hold up well under inclement weather and will last for many generations.
Overall, the Wilson Combat Q Comp is an excellent pick thanks to its durable alloy steel and Melonite finish. It creates nearly zero muzzle flash and reduces both the muzzle rise and side blast. Just be prepared for the gunshots out of this brake to create a bit more of a pop than you may be expecting.
- Muzzle brake/compensator hybrid
- Reduces both muzzle rise and side blast
- Creates nearly zero muzzle flash
- Built out of alloy steel for good durability
- Melonite finish is very rust resistant
- Noise from each shot fired will be much louder due to the compensator
Nemo DC-1 AR-15 Muzzle Brake
Built completely in the US state of Idaho, the Nemo DC-1 AR-15 Muzzle Brake is a high quality muzzle brake built out of lightweight and yet very durable 6AL-4V titanium. Designed to affix onto most common mil-spec AR-15 barrels, the DC-1 is compatible with the 5.56/.223 rounds and assorted smaller calibers.
The DC-1 utilizes a twin top port design, which works by redirecting the gases from the bore upwards to keep rearward movement from your AR-15 mitigated. It has a bead blasted finish, and measures just over two inches long.
It may be quite expensive for a muzzle brake, but the Nemo DC-1 still delivers. This is a compact and durable muzzle brake built out of very strong titanium. The twin top port design is extremely effective at reducing recoil out of your AR-15. As an added bonus, the DC-1 is completely American made.
- Very lightweight
- Has an appealing laser engraved logo
- Built completely in the United States
- Bead blasted finish
- Twin top ports direct the gasses upward to stabilize recoil
- Built out of durable titanium
- Very expensive
And that concludes our list of the top three best muzzle brakes for an AR-15 in 2021.
Any one of these muzzle brakes will be a solid choice for your AR-15, or alternatively, you can always follow the buyer’s guide that we outlined before as well to help you find a suitable option as well. The best muzzle brakes will be durable, rust resistant, and do a good job of reducing muzzle flip so you can keep your shots on target.