As we get closer to hunting season, this week’s tip to get your shots on target is about muzzle brakes. When we plan to hunt with a rifle, we must do our best to ensure we have good shot groupings.
I’ve shared ways to attain a tighter shot grouping and a few ways to reduce shooting flinch. After that, I received a message from a friend telling me that adding a muzzle brake to the rifle is a way to reduce flinch. While the brake reduces recoil, it doesn’t necessarily reduce shooting flinch.
I have a muzzle brake on the end of the barrel of my 6.5-300 Weatherby, my daughter has one on her .270 WSM, and H has one on his .338-378 Weatherby. Are you noticing a pattern with these three guns? They are the ones that shoot very hot rounds. That means the cartridge is loaded with a lot of gunpowder, and when it’s ignited, it produces a mass of gasses that go “bang” and push the bullet out of the barrel. Many of the rifles that shoot “hot” loads will have muzzle brakes on the end because without one, the recoil would be tremendous.
Muzzle brakes are ported devices that attach to the end of the barrel and are designed to reduce recoil. They are not suppressors. The brake has ports that angle to push the gasses, which push the bullet out of the barrel back. The shooter and bystanders will feel the effects/wind from the shot.
( + ) Reduced Recoil
The redirecting of the gasses causes the felt effect of recoil to be spread out instead of pushing the rifle directly back into the shoulder. Most muzzle brakes reduce recoil by about 50%.
This is something that indeed may reduce shooting flinch for someone, but let’s talk about some of the other plusses and minuses before we come to a verdict.
( – ) Noise
You and any bystanders need to wear your eyes and ears when you’re shooting a rifle with a muzzle brake on the end of the barrel. Instead of being blown downrange, the sound is being blown back to you. Along with this, dust and debris may be propelled in your direction Be safe and wear your proper protective equipment.
( +/- ) Accurate
The muzzle brake won’t decrease the velocity or accuracy of the projectile. However, you’ll need a gunsmith to install it, and then you’ll need to sight it in. If you remove it you’ll need to sight in your rifle again.
( – ) Adds Barrel Length
The brake adds to the length of the barrel. I have no issue with the added length; however, some people do. If overall length is an issue, you may order your rifle with a shorter barrel before adding the brake.
( – ) Debris
A ported device that adds length to the barrel makes me think about knocking tree branches as I’m hiking, leading me to the debris issue. With a muzzle brake, you need to be aware that the ports will increase your chances of collecting debris in the barrel. The ports can snag pine needles and other items as your hike. The good news is it’s easy to remedy this issue. Either rubberband a plastic bag over the brake or cut the fingertip off of a latex glove and roll it over the brake at the barrel’s end. These are easy to remove, and you can even shoot through them in a pinch.
A muzzle brake is something you can look at to reduce recoil. It makes those larger calibers and hotter loads more “shootable.” However, the increased noise and air blowback can actually increase shooting flinch. Overcome that with practice at the range.