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80 Percent Lower Receivers, Flash Suppressors, Hiders, Muzzle Breaks, Compensators

Do I Need a Compensator, Muzzle Brake Or A Flash Hider?

When Customizing Your AR-15 Or AR-10, There Are Few Options More Confusing Than The Muzzle Device. Should You Use A Flash Hider, A Compensator, Or A Muzzle Break? What Is The Difference Between These Very Similar Objects? Does It Really Matter Which One You Pick?

We’re going to go over some of the nuances of these three muzzle devices, what makes them good, and which one you should choose for your best result before you build your rifle from a 308, Dpms, SR25 or AR15 80 Percent Lower Receiver

What are Compensators, Muzzle Brakes And Flash Hiders?

We can’t properly select our options if we don’t know what they actually are. Each of these devices brings something to the table in terms of firearm performance and will have a noticeable impact on your shooting experience, unlike some AR-15/AR-10 accessories.

This brings us to what all of these items have in common. All of them are directly threaded onto the barrel and all of them deal with the aftermath of a gunshot. This mostly entails felt recoil, the muzzle flash as gasses are dispersed from the barrel, and the movement of the gun under recoil.

Depending on how specialized the muzzle device is, the more effective it will be in dealing with any of the factors involved after firing an AR pattern rifle.


A compensator is designed to redirect the gas produced by a gun. This is done to counteract recoil or to reduce the concussive force of the rapidly expanding gasses. Generally this is done in a specific direction but it can vary from design to design.


Because compensators redirect gasses this means they can exert energy in a direction we want. This will help mitigate muzzle flip by using the force of the muzzle blast to exert energy in an opposite or different direction of the normal recoil impulse.

Compensators can also direct the muzzle direction forward. These types of compensators are referred to as linear compensators. These can provide a more comfortable shooting experience when there are other people in your general vicinity.

Since the muzzle energy is being pushed forward it isn’t going to impact other people. Muzzle blast can be felt, especially when using full-powered cartridges in AR-10 pattern guns.


Since compensators redirect gasses instead of dispersing the visibility of muzzle flash, your signature is going to be emphasized. This can be from the redirected gasses kicking up dust and dirt, or it can be a more noticeable “fireball” in lower light conditions.

More aggressive compensators can physically pull the gun down, creating “negative” recoil. If you are not prepared for this level of recoil mitigation, this downward motion can impact your accuracy.

Muzzle Brakes

Muzzle breaks function similarly to compensators and are often confused for compensators, with some individuals using the terms interchangeably. However, unlike a compensator, a muzzle brake has a series of baffles that direct the muzzle energy away from the centerline of the rifle. This will usually be horizontally, vertically, or diagonally depending on the design.


Muzzle brakes are great for softening the recoil impulse of your particular rifle. These designs are usually geared for the best recoil mitigation, even better than some compensator designs. This can be beneficial for those looking for better control over their rifle.


The major drawback to a muzzle brake is where the brake directs muzzle energy. While a brake may make it more comfortable and controllable for you, the individuals on either side of you will feel the full power of the muzzle energy.

Additionally, more aggressive brakes can increase your overall signature. Almost maximizing the visible effects of the muzzle flash. This can be detrimental on indoor ranges, since the concussive force will be bouncing off the shooting area instead of going down range.

Flash Hiders:

Flash hiders are one of the most basic muzzle devices and are designed to dissipate the hot gasses expelled out of the barrel during firing. These gasses expand so quickly they produce visible light. Flash hiders were designed to mitigate this phenomenon by breaking up the flow of gasses.


Flash hiders cause your rifle to have less of a visible signature during shooting. This can help in low light scenarios for both you and those around you. Dispersing the light of a muzzle flash can help during night time hunts, if you’re unable to use a suppressor, or other defensive scenarios where a muzzle flash could be dangerous.


Stand-alone flash hiders are only good at dealing with muzzle flash. And using a shorter barrel can impact how effective a flash hider is. This is because there is less barrel for the gas to dissipate in, resulting in a more noticeable muzzle flash.

Combination Designs:

A large number of designs on the market will blend these types of muzzle devices together. This results in harder classifications but better overall performance. However due to how the designs interplay there are only two major combinations: flash hider/compensators and compensator/muzzle brakes

Flash Hider/Compensator

As the name implies, these types of muzzle devices dissipate muzzle flash and redirect the gasses to help mitigate recoil. This combination is one of the most common styles with the A2 birdcage being a perfect example.

Flash hider/compensators will lower your signature and increase the controllability of the rifle under recoil.

Compensator/Muzzle Brake

Compensator and muzzle brake combinations are better options if you are only looking for increased recoil control and a lower felt recoil impulse. Thes designs are solely focused on performance, and are best illustrated by the muzzle devices selected by 3-gun competitors.

With that being the case your muzzle signature will not be mitigated at all. This comes from the fact that the needs of flash mitigation are the complete opposite of those needed for a lower felt recoil.

However, this changes with the introduction of linear compensator blast shields. These are devices that slip over your compensator/muzzle brake and direct the muzzle blast forward. These shields completely obscure the muzzle device’s sides, concealing the muzzle flash.

This is similar to how suppressors mitigate muzzle flash, but blast shields are not legally suppressors. This makes them a good alternative to a suppressor for those who do not want the extra paper involved in acquiring a suppressor.

One of the drawbacks to these blast shields is that they are brand specific. This is because the locking surfaces or attachment points are proprietary to the manufacturer. Another drawback is the increase in cost compared to a standard muzzle device.

The last drawback is that it adds weight to the end of the gun. This can affect handling, balance, and in some cases the impact shift on a firearm.

Blast shields can be easily put on and off your selected device allowing you to use it when a lower signature is required. If you need better recoil performance, all you will need to do is remove the blast shield.

Which Should You Choose?

While this usually comes down to personal preference, selecting the right muzzle device comes down to your intended use for the gun. If you are looking to get into competition shooting, compensators, muzzle brakes, and similar combinations should be your main focus.

If you are more concerned with a general use AR-15 or AR-10, or if a 308 flash hider or flash hider/compensator will be a better option. With that in mind, most individuals will benefit from the standard A2 style flash hider/compensator.

While this isn’t the most appealing choice, you shouldn’t chase minimal increases in performance unless you’ll truly get a benefit from them, for example participating in high end shooting competitions.