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You know Newton’s Third Law of Classical Mechanics, “To every action, there is always an opposed equal reaction.”
Or, perhaps you have heard it paraphrased as, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Do you know why you know Newton’s Third Law of Classical Mechanics?
It’s not because you took physics in high school or college (although that may also be the case).
It’s because you’re a recreational or competitive shooter.
Recoil is the shooting-world corollary to Newton’s Third Law.
One action is the forward motion of the projectile. The reaction is the force that is redirected into your shoulder. Action and reaction - basically quite simple.
Now, the truth of the matter is that most AR-15 rifles are chambered in .223 or 5.56, both of which are very light-shooting loads.
They don’t produce a lot of felt recoil, even hot loads. Still, there are things you can do to mitigate what recoil they do produce.
One of the best of these is a muzzle brake, also known as a compensator, which is certainly one of the best accessories for an AR 15, at least when it comes to reducing recoil. Here are some of the top advantages of dropping one of these on the end of your barrel.
Controlling Muzzle Jump, Staying on Target
When you pull the trigger, igniting the primer and propellant, a large volume of gases is produced in the chamber, and these gases push against the bullet.
A propellant charge in the cartridge of a round of .223 Remington ammunition can generate upwards of 50,000 PSI. That’s a whole heck of a lot of pressure.
That pushes the bullet forward. Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. The bullet has mass and accelerates. It requires force to do so.
Some of the force - an equal proportion, in fact - is redirected back into the firearm. Some of the gases are spent cycling the bolt carrier group.
Some of that force is redirected into kinetic energy that travels rearward with the bolt carrier group. Some of that energy is used to compress the buffer spring within the buffer tube, which helps reset the BCG when it moves forward.
The rest of the energy goes through the back of the gun, through the stock, into your shoulder.
This is recoil.
But let's move to the front of the gun - the muzzle - because what happens here has the greatest impact on the felt effects of recoil.
The bullet is not the only thing that exits the muzzle of the firearm when you pull the trigger. A large volume of hot gas exits and vents forward, too.
A muzzle brake, also known as a compensator, is a remarkable shooting accessory and a special type of muzzle device that changes the ported trajectory of gases vented at the muzzle.
Basically, the operation of a muzzle brake is very simple. Instead of allowing the majority of vented gases to shoot straight out of the end of the barrel (which in turn pushes recoil straighjt back into you), most muzzle brakes have special lateral ports that allow gas to escape out of the sides.
The overall force of recoil is the same. The difference is that the muzzle brake changes the vector of that force. Instead of pushing back into your shoulder, muzzle brakes allow that gas to vent out the sides of the muzzle.
The effect is a significant reduction in felt recoil.
Why is this such a big deal, you ask, especially with light-recoil loads like .223 and 5.56?
Well, one of the greatest advantages of muzzle brakes is not that they reduce recoil itself. Your shoulder can probably handle that. It’s that they keep muzzle jump to a minimum.
Even with a light load like .223, the muzzle is going to jump or rise a little bit with each shot. That pulls your iron sights, your reticle, or your red dot ever so slightly off of your target, requiring you to make minuscule adjustments to get back on target.
That costs precious time.
Muzzle brakes minimize muzzle jump so your sights will wander less between shots. That can help you achieve faster, more accurate follow-up shots - which can be vital not only for competition but also for hunting and even self-defense.
Just Don’t Forget Hearing Protection (Another One of the Best Accessories for an AR-15 That Has a Muzzle Brake)
One thing we have to mention is that, as great as muzzle brakes are for upgrading your AR-15 to generate less felt recoil, they produce a whole heck of a lot more noise. Make sure you have adequate hearing protection at all times. The muzzle blast from a device with a compensator is ridiculous.
Is a muzzle brake one of the best accessories for AR 15 rifles? Absolutely. Is it the only one? Absolutely not.
If you’re going to enter the world of rifle upgrades and AR-15 accessories, consider:
●Red dot sights for reflex shooting, or night vision optics.
●Optics like scopes for long-range shooting.
●Upgraded, ergonomic, ambidextrous charging handles.
●Vertical grips to improve handling and maneuverability.
●Upgraded or over-molded pistol grips to improve ergonomics and reduce shooter fatigue.
●Updated double or single-stage triggers to improve the standard mil-spec triggers that come with many ARs.
●A collapsible stock that offers a better fit to you for LOP and comb height.
●High-quality rear and front sight upgrades.
●A brass catcher like our Brass Goat that will not melt, catch fire, jam, obstruct your sight picture, or clutter your rail space.
●And countless other Picatinny rail and quad rail accessories that complement your shooting style.
Start here with a Brass Goat, and keep on refining your shooting experience.