April 03, 2023
When the Soviets introduced the AK-47, they didn’t bother to include a muzzle device. They added a simple slant brake in 1959 with the AKM update. It’s not really a brake, as it’s essentially a compensator that pushes the barrel down by directing some of the propellant gas upward. Eventually a true muzzle brake was introduced with the fielding of the AK-74. This added the function of recoil reduction by pushing the gun forward during firing.
Today, the distinction between a muzzle brake and a compensator gets a bit blurred. The majority of muzzle brakes nowadays have venting ports added to the top or have angled some of the ports upward to provide the function of a compensator. Most of those labeled as compensators do more to reduce recoil than to keep the barrel flat. What really matters to me is the port design of a muzzle brake/compensator. There are essentially two major types: large port and small port. Most select the large port design because it’s highly effective, easy to develop and economical to manufacture.
However, the large port design is very loud, typically produces a large concussive blast and a very bright flash. The small port design in general is quieter, with a softer side blast, and produces less flash. The tradeoff of the small port design is it’s harder to design it to be effective, and since it needs more ports to get the same recoil reduction, it’s more expensive to manufacture.
Midwest Industries AK Two-Chamber Muzzle Brake
For a number of years now, Midwest Industries (MI) has been making good quality AK handguards at an attractive price point. Their AK Two-Chamber muzzle brake is the only true muzzle brake in this round up, as it doesn’t vent any gas upward to push the muzzle down. It’s a large port design with a bigger main port and a slimmer second port in front with three small venturi in-between. As expected, the MI 2-Chamber muzzle brake is quite loud from the side. However, from the shooter’s perspective it’s no louder than the stock slant brake.
Interestingly, MI puts detent-indexing cutouts at all four quarter-turns. This allows you to turn the brake 90¡ and orient the ports up and down. This is actually useful when shooting in close proximity to others. You can redirect the side blasts while maintaining the same performance. The MI 2-Chamber muzzle brake did a good job reducing felt-recoil on my two AK test samples. In low light, it doesn’t produce a blinding flash from the top like some others. On the other hand, the side flash is very typical of large port designs, and there’s a lot of it. Retailing for only $40, the MI AK Two-Chamber muzzle brake is one of the most affordable AK muzzle brakes on the market.
CRH Customs 2 Port and 3 Port AK Muzzle Brakes
CRH Customs is the sister company of Circle 10 AK, a popular online AK component retailer. I met Circle 10 AK’s owner, Luke Williams, at the Red Oktober Kalashnikov event last year and saw his muzzle brakes in action during the competition. He liked my comment about CRH brakes having the aesthetics of a Cold War Soviet military-industrial design. As I found out later, the three-port version of the CRH muzzle brake is somewhat of a U.S.-made copy of the Russian SRVV Jet Brake, which Circle 10 AK imported for a few years. I believe they were having issues with the SRVV in regards to supply and it not being 922r compliant. The CRH clone is a bit lighter, cheaper and completely made in the USA. The CRH two-port version is significantly shorter and half the weight of the SRVV. The CRH three-port model is available in both steel and titanium. The titanium three-port model weighs 1.5 ounces less than the steel two-port version.
In my field test, the two-port version made my AK-47s flat shooting, and with the three-port titanium version installed, my AK-74 has neither recoil nor muzzle climb. Both are loud, with ferocious side blasts. In low light, the two-port 7.62mm model has a large flash signature, while the flash from the three-port 5.45mm model was fairly modest in comparison. It must be the differences between the cartridges and the third port helps to slow down the gas. If you are not bothered by the noise and blast, both versions of the CRH muzzle brakes are very effective and reasonably priced.
JMac Customs RRD-4C Slim Brake Compensator
JMac Customs is a West Virginia-based custom AK component manufacturer. Its founder and designer, Justin McMillion, spent more than two years to develop his RRD-4 series of brake compensators. With an engineering background, he did a lot of work figuring out how gas flows in a muzzle device. On the latest “Slim” RRD-4C version, Justin said he cut down the width of the design with hardly any change in performance compared to the original. The number “4” on JMac RRD-4C stands for its four wide-open slot-shaped side ports. These ports are carefully designed with progressive width, which is the narrowest at the back to widest at the front. It’s a feature that helps to control the gas flow.
Justin told me his early prototype had top ports, but he eliminated those on the production versions. Instead, each port is cut slight higher with a rounded end. This feature directs enough gas upward at an angle to keep the muzzle down. Like most large port muzzle brakes, the JMac RRD-4C is loud, with a bit of side concussion. My test AKs were very flat shooting with it installed. In low light, the JMac RRD-4C produces surprisingly little flash signature, which is unusual for a big port design.
I could see the bright spots through the port slots but only saw minimal flash outside of them. I guess all that gas flow research by Justin really shows on the JMac RRD-4C design. The arrangement, shape and size of the four ports cause enough gas turbulence that it effectively suppressed most of the flash coming out. JMac Customs is working on two new special variants of the RRD-4C brake comp. One is made from titanium and weighs in at just 1 ounce, and the other has an integral suppressor mount for the Dead Air Sandman suppressor.
Aklys Defense Shorty Brake
The Louisiana based Aklys Defense specializes in manufacturing muzzle devices, suppressors as well as custom gunsmithing services. The Aklys Shorty Brake works both as a muzzle brake and as a suppressor mount. The back half of the Shorty Brake has quick-detachable threads to accept the Aklys Orion .30 cal. suppressor ($799). The front portion has 20 small ports, 10 per side, laid out in an offset pattern. Some of the ports on the top row are pointed upward at an angle to provide downward compensation to aid keeping the muzzle down. It has the option of having a smooth flat front face or a strike face tip with four sharp spikes. One thing that the Aklys Shorty Brake lacks is the small indexing cutout for the AK muzzle device detent. Instead it comes with a peel washer for proper installation and timing.
For its size, the Aklys Shorty Brake did well in recoil reduction and controlling muzzle climb. Its compact small port design helps to reduce concussion and flash from the muzzle, but it’s still fairly loud. In low light, there is noticeable amount of flash coming out from the front and the smaller ports on the side. Considering that the actual working area of the unit is less than an inch long, where its 20 small ports are located, the compact Aklys Shorty Brake is a really good performer. The ability to mount a suppressor is a bonus.
BattleComp AKBC Version 2
I met BattleComp’s Alan Normandy many years ago on the filming set of the popular Discovery Channel show MythBusters. We were both the onset firearms experts for the show. Back then, Alan was a police sniper and SWAT commander. From his law enforcement experience, he wanted to develop a rifle compensator that could be used safely in CQB without the drawback of excessive concussion and flash. He started the company and developed the BattleComp with the help of Marty Bloem. A retired aerospace engineer, Bloem has a great understanding of gas dynamics and material science. The version 2 of the BattleComp AKBC is 3/4 shorter than the original and $90 cheaper. Its design somewhat resembles a modernized enclosed chamber “pepper-pot” brake with small perforated holes.
On the BattleComp AKBC, it uses 38 small slots in a 280¡ spread to do the job. Marty told me the careful layout of these small slots, together with the four holes at the tip, is what controls the gas flow inside the BattleComp’s chamber. These features also require a lot of precision machining and high quality alloy is needed due to the chamber’s thin wall. All of this led to higher production costs. At the range, the BattleComp AKBC performed very well on my AKs. It doesn’t have the same amount of recoil compensation as the big port muzzle brakes, but it’s much quieter with very little concussion. In low light, the BattleComp AKBC also produced a low flash signature similar to that of a birdcage flash hinder. Those small slots seem to effectively break up the venting gas. While it’s costly, I always consider BattleComp to be the perfect all-around compensator.
Manticore Arms NightBrake
One of the AK-74’s big upgrades was the inclusion of a muzzle brake. The AK-74’s stock muzzle brake is more or less a big single-port design with a few smaller holes at the top or on the side. While it’s great for controllability, especially in full-automatic fire, the AK-74 muzzle brake has been a known cause of Russian troops’ hearing loss. Plus, it’s lengthy and heavy from its heavy-duty steel construction, and some would consider it ugly looking. Looking to replace the stock muzzle brake on my AK-74, I reached out to Sven Jonsson, the owner and head-designer at Manticore Arms. He recommended the NightBrake.
Sven had originally developed the NightBrake for the popular Yugo M92 and M85 shorty. Now it is available in both common AK thread sizes. The Manticore NightBrake features 18 small, rounded slots in a 270¡ arc. It is another modernized “pepper pot” closed chamber design, with multiple small ports. Compared to the 1970-era original AK-74 muzzle brake, the NightBrake is 1/3 shorter in length and half the weight. During my field test, the Manticore Arms NightBrake performed well. Just as Sven mentioned, the recoil reduction is at least as good as the stock AK-74 muzzle brake, but with a much milder noise signature and less side blast.
In low light, the flash signature is somewhat better but definitely different than that of the stock AK-74 muzzle brake. Instead of two large flashes coming out of the two big ports of the stock unit, the NightBrake produces 18 small jets in a semi-circular pattern. Overall, the Manticore Arms NightBrake is a good replacement for the stock muzzle brake on my AK-74, and it certainty improves the looks.
VG6 Precision Epsilon AK
Founded in 2013 by Jayden Jung, a young Korean aerospace engineer and defense contractor who had immigrated to the USA, VG6 Precision is a maker of modern muzzle devices for black rifles. The AK model in the VG6 Epsilon series is based on the popular Gamma muzzle brake, but with compensator and flash hider features added. In 2015, Aero Precision acquired VG6 Precision and took over manufacturing the VG6 muzzle brake and compensator in its Tacoma, Wash. facility. Jayden is now the director of VG6 Precision and a senior engineer with Aero Precision.
As with many combination muzzle devices, the VG6 Epsilon AK is more of a muzzle brake than the other two types. Its three short prongs up front really don’t do much, since most of the flash comes out from its two large ports on the side. The muzzle brake part of the device works exceptionally well in recoil reduction. There are six small tuning ports on the underside of the second chamber, which help to soften recoil by changing the velocity of the venting gas. The compensator part of it consists of nine smaller slots on top. The VG6 Epsilon AK is beautifully made from stainless steel and it has a contemporary look in its design, making it a good fit for an AK with modern accessories. While it makes my AKs flat shooting, the VG6 Epsilon AK is quite loud, which is typical of big port designs. Although the side blast is not bad, I wouldn’t stand next to it.
Jayden told me that it’s not possible to make a small, quiet muzzle device that reduces recoil, while remaining affordable. To mitigate the noise and concussion drawbacks, Jayden developed the VG6 CAGE Device as a modular add-on to any VG6 muzzle brake. By covering up the big ports with small venting holes, the VG6 CAGE Device basically turns it into a small port design with smoother recoil, lower noise and less concussion. The VG6 CAGE Device will work with other brands’ muzzle devices as long as they use the NATO 22mm diameter and have the two grooves at the back for mounting a NATO spec blank firing adapter.
Damage Industries Bayonet Compatible Compensators
The two Damage Industries (DI) compensators are really just flash hiders. I think they call them compensators for political reasons since some of the gun-hating states restrict flash hiders in certain gun configuration. The DI Cage Comp features long slots like that of the SVD and early model PKM flash hider, while the Three-Prong Comp has three long open-ended slots to separate the sidewalls of the device into three prongs. As indicated, both DI compensators are made slim enough to allow mounting an AK bayonet.
During my field test both DI comps did basically nothing for recoil and had minimal effect in reducing muzzle climb. As expected, both were great at reducing flash. The long slots and prongs break up the gas and eliminated most of the flash at the muzzle. Priced at just $15 for each, they are economical replacements for a barrel thread protector or the stock slant brake. Damage Industries does have a line of effective yet economical muzzle brakes we’ll look at in the future.
This article was originally published in Book of the AK-47. You can find the original magazine on the OSG Newsstand. If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.