Muzzle brakes, recoil, accuracy and noise

Q: Many rifles come from the factory equipped with a muzzle brake and a threaded cap. Does attaching a muzzle brake to a rifle have any effect on accuracy? What happens to the velocity of the bullet? How does a muzzle brake work?

— Brian Martin 

A: Some people can handle heavy recoil, but many more cannot. Recoil has given some shooters a permanent flinch. For those who are sensitive to recoil I’d definitely recommend a muzzle brake. 

Some makers claim a reduction of as much as 40 to 60 percent in recoil, and some modern brakes do give that much reduction in recoil. 

A muzzle brake is a device attached to the muzzle of the rifle which, on passage of the bullet past the gas port holes, directs expanding and escaping powder gas to the rear. 

The gas must be directed to the rear; if it was directed straight out the sides the jet effect of the gas would do nothing to reduce recoil. 

Gas being directed to the rear decreases the mass of the gas jetting forward from the muzzle and pulls the rifle forward by the gas pressure acting on the forward vanes of the muzzle brake. 

If the brake redirects even half the gases, it is decreasing the gas jet effect component by half. 

A brake can further subtract from the recoil of the rifle by the weight of the gas times its exit velocity times a factor for the angle of the exiting gases. 

A muzzle brake can reduce the actual total recoil impulse by as much as 30 percent, which will be perceived as a reduction in recoil of about 40 percent. 

The main objection to a muzzle brake is increased muzzle blast but it will have no effect upon velocity and in every case I’ve tried, the accuracy, especially in a very light gun, has been improved. 

Evidently, a muzzle brake has some kind of damping effect on a light barrel.

Felt recoil can be further reduced through proper stock design and an effective recoil pad. 

When using a brake, you should always use some kind of ear protection, because on a magnum or high-velocity rifle the noise level normally exceeds 160 decibels. Permanent ear damage occurs at 120 decibels. 

This means that even if you are wearing ear protection, you can still suffer ear damage.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.