Understanding AR 15 Flash Suppressor vs. Muzzle Brake vs. Compensator

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to customize both the look and function of your AR 15 – start by looking at a muzzle device.

A muzzle device is a piece of equipment that is attached to the muzzle of your AR-15 (end of the barrel). The AR has a threaded end on the barrel, so it’s generally pretty easy to attach muzzle devices (just screw it on and tighten).

There are three main categories of muzzle devices:

Each of these items serves a specific purpose and the right muzzle device can enhance any AR setup.

Many of today’s muzzle devices offer a combination of their functions to achieve optimum results. For example, the standard A2 “half birdcage” flash suppressor actually shares some of the qualities of a compensator.

Let’s take a look at these muzzle devices individually to better understand which muzzle device would be best suited for your AR15.

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Muzzle Brake

AT3 3-Port Muzzle Break/Compensator

A muzzle brake redirects or deflects high pressure and high-velocity gases to the rear and reduces the effects of recoil to better gain control of your weapon.


  • Reduces the effects of recoil to better gain control of your weapon.
  • Allows you to perform successive shots better by acquiring or reacquiring targets easily with the weapon’s reduced movement.
  • Reduces recoil impact on your shoulder and body. Not such a big deal on an AR, but never a bad thing!


  • Lack of flash suppression – may impair your night vision or give away your position in combat
  • Gas vent direction means that you are directing extreme amounts of noise, gas, and concussive force to the people around you. This can be an issue in combat, or at the range.

Flash Hider (Flash Suppressor)

AT3 4-Port Combat Flash Hider with Crush Washer

A flash hider manipulates vented gases to reduce or eliminate muzzle flash.


  • Helps to keep your position concealed during night-time combat excursions.
  • Night blindness is reduced or eliminated. After all, in the seconds it takes for your eyes to regain focus due to the blinding flash of your weapon, a bullet may already be on its way with your signed ticket to the underworld.


  • No recoil or accuracy increasing benefits
  • Specialized muzzle device that primarily benefits the user in low-light or night time missions – dead weight in daytime missions.


AT3 Tactical AR-15 Compensator with Crush Washer

A compensator redirects high pressure and high velocity gases upward. to reduce muzzle climb or “flip


  • Reduces muzzle climb or “flip”. Similar to the muzzle brake, except the muzzle brake primarily reduces recoil and the compensator primarily reduces muzzle climb.
  • Perform successive shots easier – reduced muzzle flip means quicker followup shots.
  • Improved control for rapid fire, grouping is tighter which means a more effective barrage of bullets going downrange.


  • Same as the muzzle brake – loud, and no flash suppression



Other considerations

  • Barrel Length and Muzzle Device Durability – Due to barrel variance, the intense super hot gas pressures are also at different levels and because of this the best muzzle device for your AR will depend on calculating for this factor.
  • Size and Weight – A rifle is cumbersome enough and adding length and extra weight will affect the weapon’s balance and the way you are able to maneuver the weapon to bear on targets. It can also become an ATF compliance issue.
  • Thread Pitch and Caliber – Not all muzzle devices fit the AR/M16/M4 (1/2”-28) some are made for the .308 (5/8”-24). The right caliber and thread pitch for the right barrel.
  • Suppressor Compatibility – If you are planning on keeping your AR silent, the choice of muzzle devices get limited, often they will have to be fitted with an adapter to make them work.

These are some ideas to think about when choosing the best muzzle device for your AR15. It is good to mention again that some muzzle devices today perform a combination of these functions, so the right muzzle device for you might have a combination of features. One example of this is our highly-recommended FOSSA-556 flash hider/compensator – it virtually eliminates muzzle flash while reducing muzzle rise.

One Last Tip

If there’s anyone that knows the AR-15 platform, it’s the US military. As a special offer for our readers, you can get the Official US Army Manual for AR-15/M4/M16 right now – for free. Click here to snag a copy.

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11 thoughts on “The Best Muzzle Brake vs Flash Hider vs Compensator

  1. Very good I learned a lot thank you

  2. Thank you for the article!

  3. As John said, almost too many options. But great ones. All I need is money…

  4. Just learning about muzzles, interesting articles

  5. There are so many options for rifles. I already found that a A2 birdcage works well on your bigger caliber rifles. A person can go broke trying different muzzle brakes. You need an adjustable gas block, hydraulic buffer and flatwire buffer spring. All these go together on choosing the right muzzle brake.

  6. I am of the same belief as Adam {above} in the effect hat I don’t believe there is any one thing to stop barrel rise or flash or sound ,but I am fairly new to this weapon,AR15, and this one has milspec flash hider. I am some what disabled in the effect I cant get around as well as most but I try to stay ready as much as passible while still maintaining effectiveness and not becoming part of the problem. having said all that I put all things to my AR that I consider useful to me specifically and useful in my condition. so in that respect I probably would not be night shooter unless it were in emergency but the Idea of it ALL is to maintain full ready. so you are only as good as those things on your gun as you have tested and tried and KNOW they work for YOU !!!!

  7. I am looking for a muzzle break for my Daniel Defense 6.8 SPC II and I’ve heard a lot of good revies about battle comp. what do you think is the best?

  8. I have several rifles and it depends on what they are set up for.My cqb setup is a2 flash hiders but my spr setup is bcm comp.

  9. now that we are in the throes of the ” Black Rifle Revolution “, everyone out there wants to buy, build or invent some Sexy Kit. First, my creds. Marine Corps Armorer circa 1982. Police armorer, SWAT operator and Firearms Instructor ( especially Urban / Tactical / Patrol Rifle ) for 18 years, still learning at every chance.
    Having said that.. there is NO magic device for keeping your muzzle level AND eliminating flash, no matter what ” Expert ” says so !
    You will note here that I do NOT offer advice on any one product ; I have found through expensive trial and error what works for me. Strict daylight shooters will have FAR different preferences from those who work the Vampire hours.. A couple of super high performance brakes produce rock-solid one hand results but are terrible in the dark. There ARE a few compromises out there between flash and muzzle rise, but choose carefully and know the difference.

  10. Sometimes you get lucky and find a device that performs well with multiple functions. My present comp made by 5.56 Tactical reduces more flash than my Troy Medieval flash hider ever did while still performing as a decent comp.

  11. I rarely look at an AR 15 as a sniper rifle or consider using it as such. I use primarily muzzle breaks on mine for the shear lack of any recoil and reaquiring of my target quicker. The added weight is really no concern sinse all of the other accessories( 12″ rail, flashlight,angle forgrip, back up iron sights) add so much extra weight already. The only drawback is when I hunt hogs at dusk and its still doable. I fully understand it comes down to personal preference at the end of the day

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