Muzzle Brakes


I imagine I might get some heat about this, so let me say up front that despite the fact that I abhor muzzle brakes, I would never promote the idea of banning them. That said, I think muzzle brakes are an abomination. Are they effective in reducing felt recoil? Yes, indeed, most are. Are they equally effective in ushering the user—and anyone who spends much time around him while shooting—into pre-mature deafness? Undeniably.

At the range last week was an otherwise tough young man wringing out some handloads for his .300 WSM, equipped with one of those bulbous colander-like contraptions up front. He was having a grand old time shooting little groups with his big magnum. His buddy, who was serving as a spotter, was having something less than a whole lot of fun. Every time Mr. Magnum touched off a round, Spotter Boy would flinch as if hit with a cattle prod. The muzzle blast would kick dust up off the bench where Spotter Boy had the scope set up. After a few shots, Spotter Boy began holding his hand up near his eyes to block the dust and debris from getting into them. He had nothing but foam plugs for ear protection. By the time Mr. Magnum had sent 20 rounds downrange, it was apparent that Spotter Boy was getting a bit ringy in the head. I was nearly at the other end of the benches, and I cut short my shooting session because the concussion I kept getting from Mr. Magnum was affecting my shooting—and I had full-coverage ear muffs.

Most guides I know hate it when a client shows up with a muzzle brake. Very few people wear ear protection in the field, and guides simply can't because they need to be able to hear game animals. Often they cannot get out of the way of a client’s muzzle blast, and if they forget or miss getting a finger in their ears, they suffer the consequences—usually stoically, until after the hunt is over, the client has left and they hoist a few in the saloon. The adjectives they use referring to such clients cannot be printed here.

I know of one hunter who was—and, according to a mutual friend, still is—inextricably wedded to muzzle brakes, despite the fact he ruptured his own ear drum once with his 7 mm magnum shooting next to the truck. He, again according to our mutual friend, says that he cannot shoot a rifle without a brake. I saw him shoot years ago, and he couldn’t shoot a pellet gun accurately, muzzle brake or not.

I have shot guns—industry guns—equipped with muzzle brakes. I even hunted South Africa a few years ago with revolvers equipped with compensators. I wore full-coverage ear protection throughout that hunt, and I warned the PH and tracker to stay back and away from me when I shot. But I do not—and will not—own a gun with a muzzle brake. As far as I am concerned, if you need a muzzle brake in order to shoot a particular gun accurately, you should move down to a cartridge you can handle without the brake.

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2 Responses to Muzzle Brakes

Tim Ferrall wrote:
August 19, 2011

I agree completely, Dave. I once shot 40 rounds at one sitting from the bench out of my .375 H&H Magnum without undue distress. A rifle that fits properly, with a top notch recoil pad and an appropriate weight goes a long way in eliminating felt recoil. A "Past" recoil shield, or a Lead Sled" help, too. It's a case of "man up!", or step down to something you can handle. BTW, my 5-foot, petite, blond wife loves her .450 Marlin Guide gun!

Rudy from Huntography wrote:
August 17, 2011

I used to have two muzzle brakes - one on my 243 and one on my 270. Replaced them with a threaded cap for conventional recoil. The 243 shot lights out w/ it - almost no recoil - good for bench, not for the field as I hated wearing hearing protection while hunting. Going down a cartridge or even using reduced recoil loads from Remington can work wonders on the shoulder and perceived recoil. I will never hunt w/ a muzzle brake again! Great article btw! - Rudy