Physical Security is an Illusion

I could have (but, being the respectable citizen that I am, didn’t) passed through security checkpoints with handguns on three occasions. In all three cases, the security guards had metal detectors, both the pass-through type and hand-held wands. Also in all three cases, the guards were too busy checking purses or too lazy or incompetent to pick up on the fact that I could have been carrying a concealed handgun.

These experiences have reinforced my view that in almost every situation in which you are likely to encounter a “security checkpoint,” it is in place more as a check-in-the-box or to deter casual and minor violations of policy than to provide actual security.

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Ironically, while on the flight back from Iraq, everyone had a firearm but was thoroughly searched for ammunition.

The first time I ever could have done so was at a seasonal attraction that apparently had problems with gangs; I had a handgun inside the waistband, and a small knife in my right front pants pocket. The security guard found the knife with his metal detector wand, and I asked if I could put it back in my car. He said yes, so I put it there (of course, along with the handgun) and came back. The guard waved me through without any further inspection. They were very thorough in examining my date’s purse, though.

The second time was at an outdoor festival. The security guards were busy looking into a woman’s purse, and the woman was standing beyond the metal detector and to the side. I walked through the detector, setting it off. I kept walking. No one stopped me. I was not, of course, armed.

The third time, I thought I’d have problems getting through. There were five metal detectors and two or three guards per detector, plus a few ancillaries with bomb detectors and hand-held metal detectors. I did a test run after leaving my pistol secured at my vehicle, and found that their procedure for passing people through the walk-through detectors was to have everyone remove the contents of their pockets and hold them in their hands while walking through the detector. Naturally, this set off the detectors. After thousands of people set off the metal detectors, the guards had conditioned themselves to not react to the “beep.”

They could have easily done a better job, too. There were tables between each detector which would have easily facilitated inspection of the “stuff” everyone carries around, or at least its separation from the person as they went through the detector. I returned to my vehicle, did not retrieve my handgun, and underwent the same procedure. Again I set off the metal detector and again I was waved through.

I’m sure that most of the people at the event felt safe after going through security, especially its inevitable purse-search. Perhaps women, feeling embarrassment as their purses were examined in detail by a young man, were simultaneously reassured. If their privacy was being violated, surely that meant evildoers were also being thoroughly searched, right? And a loss of privacy is a small price to pay in order to be safe.

In reality, these types of security checkpoints do not prevent even a mildly determined individual from carrying a weapon into a “sterile area.” They do not prevent attackers from targeting people in the security line – a large and motionless group of people can be a richer target than more widely dispersed individuals inside. They are probably more effective at preventing outside food and beverages from being brought in than from preventing weapons from being brought in.

Even the presence of many armed personnel does not prevent specific individuals from being hurt or killed, especially when the unarmed innocents vastly outnumber the armed security. The safety of one person may be maintained by the elimination of an attacker by security, but that is secondary to security’s mission of stopping the attacker.

For an innocent person without one or more bodyguards, ensuring personal safety is the result of attention to potential threats (more correctly, an avoidance of inattention), the mental ability to react quickly and properly to a variety of threats (this might mean a bad guy with a gun or an out-of-control vehicle, and the proper reactions to these different life-threatening situations are wildly different), and the physical ability to effect the mental reaction (this could be with tools or via physical conditioning).

But in the day of the highly publicized mass shooting, it’s a lot easier, and it makes everyone feel better, to put up metal detectors and employ uniformed guards.

Burger Showdown: In-N-Out Burger vs. Five Guys

Organizationally, the burgers differed in that the Five Guys bun had sesame seeds, and the In-N-Out burger placed lettuce and tomato under the meat and cheese.

Ask someone where the best burgers in town can be found, and they might tell you the name of a good local place. That’s great, but what about when you go to the next town over? You won’t find that little burger joint. You need consistent burger quality across the map.

Double cheeseburger.

If you’re a vegetarian, you probably won’t like this article.

That’s why I decided to launch VuurwaffleBlog with a comparison of In-N-Out and Five Guys, two burger chains with rabid followings. There are multiple examples of each in my hometown of Tucson, and I was able to order at both restaurants within six minutes, allowing for an equal taste comparison.

Company Information

In-N-Out was founded in 1948 with a base of operations in Southern California. It now has approximately 290 locations in 5 states – California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Texas. It is known for paying its employees wages significantly above legally required minimums (starting wages are approximately $10.50). The relatively localized restaurant distribution is due to a company decision to not open a new location more than a day’s drive from a food distribution center, ensuring freshness. The recent opening of a distribution center in Texas has expanded opportunities for the company, which was for many years a purely California brand. The lack of restaurants outside those five states doesn’t really bother me, because they’re the only parts of America worth visiting.

Five Guys was founded in 1986 but has seen massive expansion in recent times, with the number of stores going from 5 to over 1000 in approximately ten years. Locations may now be found across the US, Canada, and the UK. The name “Five Guys” refers to the founder and his first four sons; a fifth son was later born and all five are now involved in the business.

Restaurant Ambiance

It's like a movie about hometown America in the '50s, except not everyone is white.

Visiting an In-N-Out is like watching a movie about hometown America in the ’50s, except not everyone is white.

The first thing you’ll notice when walking into an In-N-Out is its clean, retro appearance, from the neon sign above the order counter to the uniforms worn by employees. You’re also likely to be met by a smiling and happy employee who actually seems to care about whether or not you like your food. The restaurant architecture is open, pleasant, and attractive, and time and money have gone in to the signs and other branded features.

"If you don't like our burgers, then YOU HATE AMERICA"

“If you don’t like our burgers, then YOU HATE AMERICA”

Walking into a Five Guys, you are immediately assaulted by large signs lining the walls, proclaiming how great everyone says Five Guys burgers, fries, and hot dogs are. You’ll also notice giant boxes of peanuts, still in their shells, free to customers standing in line along a metal rail that reminds me of a cafeteria or amusement park food court. The employees I’ve encountered were neither friendly nor unfriendly; they were simply there to take and prepare my order, nothing more, nothing less. The seating accommodations, signage, and architecture seemed hastily – and cheaply – assembled.

Pricing & Options

There are some menu differences, which I will briefly cover, but this is largely a burger review. In-N-Out offers burgers, fries, shakes, and…soda…and that’s pretty much it. Five Guys doesn’t have shakes, but it does have hot dogs. Burgers may be customized at In-N-Out via the unpublished “secret menu” which includes things like “animal style,” replacing the bun with lettuce, and additional burgers such as the 4×4, a quadruple cheeseburger. At Five Guys, you start with the meat, cheese, and bread, adding as many condiments and accoutrements as you want for free. From a convenience standpoint, I like that I don’t have to remember to ask the Five Guys employee to not put lettuce and tomato on my burger.

Unfortunately, I end up paying for all those additions even if I don’t order them, because the prices are really quite steep at Five Guys. Remember when Carl’s Jr. introduced the Six Dollar Burger? Yeah, a regular (double) cheeseburger at Five Guys costs $5.99. Fries aren’t cheap, either, with a small order costing me $2.29. Without a drink, I had already spent $8.96.

In-N-Out’s comparable cheeseburger is called the Double-Double, and it cost $3.30. There is only one size of fry at In-N-Out, and it cost $1.60. The price difference was so great that I was able to pick up an extra large strawberry shake (a $3.85 item on the secret menu) and walk out the door having spent exactly 50 cents more than I had at Five Guys.

Look how happy I am picking up my gigantic strawberry shake.

Look how happy I am picking up my gigantic strawberry shake.

Food Size, Calorie Values, And Quality

Here’s what everyone really wants to know: which place had the better burger? Well, that question deserves some consideration.

Organizationally, the burgers differed in that the Five Guys bun had sesame seeds, and the In-N-Out burger placed lettuce and tomato under the meat and cheese.

Organizationally, the burgers differed in that the Five Guys bun had sesame seeds, and the In-N-Out burger placed lettuce and tomato under the meat and cheese.

While both companies’ websites describe their double cheeseburgers as weighing 330 grams, or approximately 10.7 ounces, only the Five Guys product met this weigh-in, at exactly 10.7 ounces sans wrapper. The In-N-Out burger weighed 9.1 ounces, an ounce and a half less than claimed.

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I carry calipers with me everywhere I go, to verify that my food is dimensionally consistent with the TDP for that item.

Dimensionally, the In-N-Out burger was taller and thinner than the Five Guys burger, which makes sense given that the latter has 840 calories compared to 590 for the Double-Double.

calperdollar

From a cost analysis standpoint, the clear winner is In-N-Out, delivering 179 calories per dollar compared to 140 calories per dollar for the Five Guys Cheeseburger. But food is more than that, isn’t it? Food is all about taste.

On left, Five Guys burger (after being unwrapped from takeout foil, hence the squished appearance). On right, In-N-Out burger in odd and slightly annoying, yet useful, paper wrapper.

On left, Five Guys burger (after being unwrapped from takeout foil, hence the squished appearance). On right, In-N-Out burger in odd and slightly annoying, yet useful, paper wrapper.

To me, the In-N-Out burger was clearly superior. The bread had a better taste and texture, and the meat was cooked well, unlike the slightly dry Five Guys patties. Cheese quality was equal, but lettuce quality clearly favored In-N-Out, as the Five Guys lettuce was slightly wilted. I should mention that one of my fellow taste testers preferred the Five Guys meat to the In-N-Out meat, but both chose to eat at In-N-Out instead of ordering with me at Five Guys, primarily due to cost.

On the fry front, my $2.29 at Five Guys was met by 7 ounces of thick, skin-on fries that had a mushy texture. Given how much they had bragged about their fries, I was highly disappointed. How disappointed? When I walked in to that Five Guys, I hadn’t eaten a single thing in 24 hours, and was ravenously hungry. On the way to In-N-Out, I could only stomach three fries before trying to forget that they existed. Both of my food experts tried the fries, and neither wanted more than a few.

I don't always order fries at fast food places, but when I do, they generally suck. Which is why I don't order fries at fast food places.

I don’t always order fries at fast food places, but when I do, they generally suck. Which is why I don’t order fries at fast food places.

The In-N-Out fries were better, but not by leaps and bounds. I could actually eat them, but they had a somewhat hard and gritty texture that I found unnerving and unpleasant.

Final Thoughts

I don’t see why I should ever eat at a Five Guys again. Their fries were bad and they should feel bad because they bragged about bad fries. The burger was decent, but compared back to back with the better quality In-N-Out burger at half the price, it’s not even worth considering. For $8.96, I could almost go to a sit down restaurant and get a gourmet burger with a side of properly cooked fries.

I think that Five Guys’ rapid expansion has resulted in inconsistent quality, as evidenced by the various reports of failed health inspections I found via Google. I didn’t find any for In-N-Out, although it’s possible that I missed a few.

I was disappointed that In-N-Out didn’t deliver the weight of double cheeseburger stated on their internet nutrition description, but this wasn’t stated on the menu, so I don’t think it’s really false advertising. The quality and service I receive at In-N-Out are leaps and bounds better than what I saw at Five Guys – at nearly half the price. I really don’t understand what I’m paying extra for at a Five Guys.

Neither one is healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but I rarely have a burger I don’t prepare myself, so that isn’t a huge consideration. My infrequent visits to a burger joint would be most likely with friends, to enjoy the atmosphere, and especially to enjoy a shake – one of my many guilty pleasures. At In-N-Out, I can find all of this. As for Five Guys? I might as well go to the Costco food court. They have lower prices, better selection, the same decor – and churros.

VuurwapenBlog is now VuurwaffleBlog!

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Look, I’m really tired of guns. You can tell because I haven’t written anything about guns in a while. It’s time to start writing about my true passion – food. As my friend Steve from The Firearm Blog says, I have the worst diet of anyone he knows, and he knows a lot of people. So I’m going to refocus my energy towards creating the best food reviews on the internet. I’ll use the same technical and objective outlook to bring the consumer facts about what they’re putting in their bodies.

It’ll be an interesting transition, but stick with me – I think you’ll find this new project worthwhile. In accordance with the change, all previous content has been deleted.

vuurwafflemeasure

Vuurwapen Concepts Carbine/Pistol Course, May 9-11, Utah

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Following up on successful courses last year, there will be several Vuurwapen Concepts courses at Sniper Country in Utah this year. The first is scheduled for May 9-11 (with an optional day of additional training on May 8). There have been significant investments on the part of Desert Tech to improve the range at Sniper Country, and we will now have access to a classroom, vehicles, and turning targets, among other nifty things. As before, we have onsite lodging and food available, as well as rental firearms and gear. For more information or to sign up, go here.

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Magpul Dynamics Courses At Sniper Country In Utah

caylen

I first met Caylen Wojcik at the 2013 Sniper Adventure Challenge, where he and his (shooting, not domestic) partner Jon Canipe displayed shooting skills far in excess of the entire field of competitors. For example, of the 26 teams in the competition, only 7 scored a rifle hit on the first shooting stage. Two teams had one hit, four teams (including Paul and I) had two hits, and one team (Ares Armor, I believe) had four hits. Caylen scored seven hits out of ten possible.

Caylen Wojcik

Caylen Wojcik

So he can definitely shoot, but it’s not surprising that he also has a solid background. He was a Scout Sniper in the Marine Corps, having taken part in Phantom Fury and been an instructor at 1st Marine Division’s Sniper School. He’s also been teaching shooting since he got out of the military, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the quality of his instruction.

Why am I telling you this? Because he’ll be teaching two Magpul Dynamics courses at Sniper Country (also known as the Desert Tech Training Facility), hosted by Deliberate Dynamics, in March. The first is a three-day DMR course on March 22-24, and the second is a four-day introduction to precision rifle course on March 26-29. The courses are all-inclusive, meaning that one price pays for your lodging, food, and the training. More information can be found here.

I have co-taught a good number of courses at Sniper Country, and at first it was basically a very large open range with steel targets out to 1800 yards. Desert Tech has since put a lot of money in the facility, with new improvements coming on line at a rapid pace. It’s a really awesome place for a shooting class, and Caylen is a pretty awesome guy to take a class from. If you have the time, I highly recommend taking one of these courses.

The BattleComp is Bad and BattleComp Enterprises Should Feel Bad

battlecompsmallwm

There are many reasons to buy a product. I use Barbasol because Dodson Dennis Nedry smuggled dinosaur embryos off Isla Nublar in a modified Barbasol can. Might I get a better shave with another product? Perhaps. But every time I pick up a can of Barbasol, I smile and think about Jurassic Park.

I don’t have any happy childhood memories regarding AR15 muzzle devices, so I generally stick to practical reasons for using one product or another. If you’ve read my muzzle device comparison, you know that…well I have a good handle on what each device in that test does in terms of muzzle flash, sound/blast, and recoil control.

That’s why I have a really big problem with BattleComp Enterprises. Their device is not very good by any objective standard, and their claims regarding the performance of the device are not at all accurate. In fact, they are in some cases blatant lies. Here’s what their site says about the BattleComp:

The BattleComp offers muzzle control like some of the best brakes on the market, with none of their liabilities.

Well, that’s not true. In terms of rearward recoil reduction, the BattleComp lagged far behind the best brake in the test, and it beat out only one other product which is sold as a recoil reduction device.

gforcesfinal

It was less effective than almost every brake and compensator tested, and that’s only rearward forces. When it comes to pushing the muzzle down, the BC 1.0 is a champ. But that’s not something to be proud of. And that means another BattleComp claim is nonsensical, that

“the increase in muzzle stability allows the user the ability to see rounds hit while looking through the scope.”

The BattleComp exhibits significant downward forces on the muzzle, driving it off target, and inhibiting the shooter’s ability to keep the muzzle directly on target between shots.

downwardforces

As for

“none of their liabilities,”

let’s look at sound. The BattleComp is within 1-1.5 decibels of the loudest (and coincidentally most effective) muzzle brakes in the test.

splear

This throws into question another BattleComp claim, that the device does not have the

“crushing blast and concussion common to most muzzle brakes.”

Finally, BattleComp claims that their device offers

“flash comparable to an A2.”

brightnessclose

brightnessFAR

By every measurable standard, the BattleComp is much, much brighter and more visible in low light than the A2. This has held true in all of the testing and observations I have conducted over the last few years. I have never seen a BattleComp exhibit a flash signature in any spectrum that was comparable to the A2.

battlecompsmallwm

It does have a really pretty flash, though.

a2sm1

This is as bright as I have ever seen the muzzle flash of a 16″ AR with an A2 muzzle device.

There is not a single (quantifiable) statement made by BattleComp regarding the performance of their device that is even remotely true.

So why is the device so popular?

It’s a combination of things. The BattleComp got some hefty gun-celebrity endorsements, especially from those who are popular on gun forums. Next, enter the placebo effect. A person hears from a celebrity, or hears the parroted words of a celebrity, that the BattleComp worked really well and then shoots a rifle with one. In the absence of hard data saying otherwise, they agree that it works really well. I initially liked the BattleComp for that reason. That changed when I truly compared it to other devices.

Popularity intensifies, and then it becomes cool to have a BattleComp on your rifle. The price doesn’t hurt either – it’s pretty expensive (over $150), and you gain admission to a pretty exclusive club when you can drop $150 on a muzzle device. BattleComp Enterprises is savvy with marketing, too, and they have cultivated this exclusive image quite well over the last few years. After all, it’s not a muzzle brake, it’s a “world class tactical compensator.” None of those words actually mean anything, but they’ve sure sold a lot of widgets.

The strength of that placebo effect really… stuns me, to put it simply. People will insist that the BattleComp has significantly reduced muzzle blast compared to other devices, but I have conducted other tests and found that it is essentially impossible for a person to pick out the BattleComp in a group of (more effective) muzzle brakes when the shooter is standing next to the blindfolded test subject. And there’s the above sound data, too, which is all a logical person needs to understand that any device which reduces recoil is going to redirect sound to the sides and rear of the muzzle.

The bottom line is that the A2 does a better job of matching BattleComp’s claims than the BC 1.0 does. It has good flash reduction, it’s not as noisy or blasty as a brake, and it “offers excellent muzzle control.”

The Remington R51 Is Bigger Than You Think

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I was excited to see the Remington R51 at SHOT, but then I saw it, and was no longer excited.

Two reasons why.

1. Remington didn’t bring any to Media Day (which, considering that they’ve had them at media events before, means only one thing: that the current iteration of pistols aren’t reliable enough)
2. It’s bigger than you’ve been led to believe.

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See? It’s huge.

I made these comments on the blog’s Facebook page, and shared a photo of the R51 next to a 1911. People told me I was wrong, and that it was smaller than I was saying, because they read something on the internet. They even linked this site which purportedly offers a size comparison of the R51 and popular pistols. Here’s the R51 versus the Glock 42.

Well, here’s the R51 next to a 1911.

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And here’s the Glock 42 next to my Benchmade Mini-Griptilian, which has a 6.78″ overall length.

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And here’s the Remington R51 next to said Mini-Griptilian.

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These aren’t a perfect comparison, but my best guess is that the R51 is between 5/8″ and 3/4″ longer than those diagrams (and their related specifications, which claim 6″) show. If you look at the overall size of the pistol in those diagrams – and maybe this is only apparent to me because I’ve held the R51 – but it looks very wrong. Just the opening for the trigger guard, compared to the other pistols, looks way too small for human hands. Unless you shoot with your pinkie.

AR-15 Muzzle Device Comparison

125microcan

This article combines the three previous parts (flash, sound, recoil) into one link.

One of the most popular accessories for today’s AR15 owner is a muzzle device. Want less muzzle flash? There’s a device for that. Want less recoil? There’s a device for that, too. Want less muzzle flash AND less recoil? Some devices even claim to perform multiple functions.

I have been closely studying how various muzzle devices perform for years, and this summer, with the assistance of Advanced Armament Company, B.E. Meyers, and Silencerco, was able to test a significant number of devices currently on the market in unique and highly educational ways. I did not manage to test all of the devices on the market, or even all of the most popular ones. I did include a good sample of different types of devices. It is my hope that after reviewing this article, the reader will be able to look at any muzzle device and be able to make an educated guess regarding its characteristics in a number of areas. As you will see, some perform quite similarly to one another.

 

Muzzle Flash

 

Introduction

 

If you would like to see how each device performed, scroll down to the graphs below. However, I feel that a preface is warranted here.

Surefire’s Micro can is not designed to reduce noise to hearing-safe levels, nor does it eliminate flash when attached to a Surefire brake.

Many manufacturers claim that their device reduces muzzle flash, and this may be true – compared to the bare muzzle. However, a bare muzzle will emit a huge amount of fiery awesomeness with most types of .223 or 5.56 ammunition. Every device tested reduced muzzle flash compared to the bare muzzle. The consumer might assume the manufacturer meant reduced muzzle flash compared to some other standard – perhaps the A2 muzzle device – which would eventually lead to disappointment.

What is your personal definition of too much muzzle flash? If your shooting only requires that you not be blinded by a huge fireball every time you pull the trigger, then nearly any device will do in this regard. However, if you want to not have bad guys see your exact position every time you shoot at them in the dark, then serious consideration must be given to which muzzle device is on the end of your rifle.

I personally feel that for combat, flash suppression is more important than sound suppression. I can hear and identify suppressed subsonic fire in my direction at over 80 yards, but if I do not have a visual reference point, I cannot effectively return fire. If someone with a very loud firearm that emits no flash is shooting at me, I am really no better informed than I would be if he had a sound suppressor. I just know that someone is shooting at me.

However, many sound suppressors, contrary to popular belief, do not do a very good job of reducing flash. So, armed with the knowledge that someone is shooting at me or my friends (from the sound) and exactly where he is shooting at me from (thanks to the flash), I would be able to shoot back with relatively high effectiveness. Of course, I would already be behind the curve, but I would have more information than the guy shooting at me would probably like. Were I the shooter instead of the shootee, this would be quite vexing.

Ammunition makes a big difference, too. Here’s the same rifle and silencer with Q3131A (the ammo used for this test) instead of S&B SS109 (the ammo used in the above photo).

With all of this in mind, this comparison uses multiple methods to evaluate muzzle flash: long-exposure photography close to the muzzle, long-exposure photography from downrange, high speed video, and high speed video using night vision equipment. Each device will be discussed individually, followed by a summary at the end of the section. Objective methods were used to analyze the results whenever possible. Winchester Q3131 was used for the still photographs and Federal M855 was used for the videos. All shots were with (unless otherwise noted) a 16″ AR15 in 5.56mm.

Images and videos are in slideshow format – look for arrows to the left and right of each slideshow photo to cycle through the images AND videos for that muzzle device.

 

Individual Device Data

 

Bare Muzzle

This discussion must start with the baseline of “no muzzle device.”

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The bare muzzle, as stated above, allows a large (and in this case, somewhat uninspired) fireball to form in front of the muzzle. It’s by far the largest in terms of area, although with this particular evaluation method it didn’t result in the highest peak brightness. Camera settings for all shots from this angle (unless otherwise specified) were f2.8, ISO 400, 1 second shutter speed. Absolutely no modifications were made to these photos, other than to resize them.

From 80 yards downrange, it was very clear where shots were coming from – note that in this and all downrange photos, you are seeing the aggregate muzzle flash of five shots. The photos of the muzzle from the side are a single shot, but are representative of the average muzzle flash exhibited by each device in near-total darkness.

Unfortunately, we lost the high speed video file which showed the bare muzzle.

 

 

A2

The ubiquitous A2 muzzle device is sold for $5-7. It is in use on nearly all US Military M16/M4 rifles, and a significant number of civilian AR15s as well.

Compared to the bare muzzle, the A2 offered a significant reduction in muzzle flash.

From downrange, the A2 was barely visible – I was able to spot it only because I knew exactly where the shooter was standing. If I were searching for the shooter, I would have a more difficult time – especially if he were shooting directly at me.

While photos are useful and illustrative of the overall flash allowed by each device, they show all of the light which occurred in a one second period in a single frame, which is not exactly how the human eye sees muzzle flash. The duration of muzzle flash from an AR15 with a muzzle device is approximately 1 millisecond, which is why many standard (30fps/60fps) camera videos are a poor choice for showing an entire event – a flash could be missed entirely by the camera.

High speed video, shot on Silencerco’s Phantom v12.1 at 7000fps and slowed down 10x, shows a closeup of the muzzle flash in slow motion. The duration of the visible flash is approximately 5/7000sec. It appears similar to the long exposure photography, although we can see each part as it occurs.

A still frame from high speed video, shot with a B.E. Meyers OWL night vision lens adapter, allows us to see much more flash than with the naked eye.

 

 

AAC Blackout

The Blackout is a 3 prong muzzle device described by the manufacturer as “the world’s most effective flash hider. The proprietary features eliminate muzzle flash, even on CQB-length barrels. The BLACKOUT® is inherently stronger and more impact resistant than four prong designs, while not being subject to the rapid erosion of closed-ended units.” It retails for approximately $59.

Using the same f2.8/ISO 400/1 sec camera settings, very little visible flash was observed.

Because it was so difficult to discern the best flash hiders from one another, additional shots were taken from the side with an ISO of 1600 and no other changes. This increases the camera’s sensitivity to light, but makes the images not directly comparable to the ISO 400 shots. Only attempt to compare these shots with other ISO 1600 shots, which will be identified as such below each photo.

From downrange, I did not observe any flash. The camera captured one “spark,” but I didn’t see it until I looked at the image.

In the Phantom high speed video, only 2/7000sec of relatively small flash is seen.

Using the OWL, a small amount of flash was visible in the IR spectrum.

 

 

BattleComp 1.0

The BattleComp, according to the manufacturer, “offers muzzle control like some of the best brakes on the market, with none of their liabilities” and gives “…excellent control WITHOUT the excessive concussion and crushing blast produced by most compensators on the market — with flash comparable to an A2.” It retails for $155.

Flash from the BattleComp was rather attractive, with tendrils of flame arcing out from the device in several directions. The muzzle flash was also immediately obvious and bright. The position of the muzzle was easily identifiable from downrange. Phantom high speed video showed significant flash which was visible for 1 millisecond, or 7/7000sec. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

B.E. Meyers 249F

The B.E. Meyers 249F is a 4 prong muzzle device which, according to the manufacturer, “virtually eliminate(s) muzzle flash.” It was originally designed for and sold to military and government customers, but recently became available on the civil market for $149.

From the side, almost no flash was visible at ISO 400. At ISO 1600, some flash was visible, but it was still remarkably low. From downrange, no flash was visible. Keep in mind that all downrange shots show the light from 5 rounds being fired. Using the Phantom high speed camera, a very small amount of flash was visible for 3/7000sec. The B.E. Meyers OWL showed more flash on average in the IR spectrum with the 249F than the AAC Blackout.

 

 

BWA X Comp

The Black Weapons Armory X Comp is made by Proto Tactical, and is described by BWA as “produc(ing) a light straight back recoil instead of producing muzzle rise…Most compensators and flash hiders cause the muzzle to rise up and lengthen the time required for the shooter to get back on target…The X design incorporated into the tip of the compensator and interior chamber design helps reduce the flash, which produces a much smaller signature that is normally produced by muzzle brakes.”

It’s designed to control the movement of the muzzle and retails for $120.

Flash from the X Comp was clearly visible and rather bright. From downrange, the position of the muzzle was immediately obvious. Phantom high speed video showed a relatively large muzzle flash which was visible for 6/7000sec. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

PWS FSC556

The Primary Weapons Systems FSC556 is a hybrid device which, according to PWS, “provides superior compensation characteristics combined with enough flash suppression to keep the flash out of your optics and line of sight.” It retails for $100.

Flash from the FSC556 was greater than that of the A2 and clearly visible. From downrange, the shooter’s position could be identified with relative ease. High speed video showed a moderate amount of flash which lasted 5/7000sec. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

PWS Triad

The PWS Triad is a three prong muzzle device which retails for $70. PWS say it “features a revolutionary design bringing true flash suppression together with reduced muzzle flip by redirecting gases exiting the muzzle without the overpressure created by muzzle brakes and recoil compensators.”

Flash was visible from the Triad, and although it was not very bright, it did cover an area of decent size. From downrange, it was slightly easier to identify the position of the Triad than the A2. High speed video showed a sizable amount of flash which was visible for 5/7000sec. The video also showed the Triad rotating as the rifle was fired due to its design (devices were not torqued for this test). No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

Proto Tactical Z-Comp

Proto Tactical’s Z-Comp is a compensator with a unique angled forward end, which Proto claims “delivers significantly reduced recoil and decreases muzzle climb to help you get back on target quickly” without commenting on muzzle flash. It retails for $129.

Flash at the muzzle was comparable to other devices of this type – that is to say, bright. Flash from downrange was very easy to spot. On high speed video, it lasted just under one millisecond. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

Proto Tactical Z-Tac

Proto Tactical’s Z-Tac is a compensator with short flash suppressing tines on the front of the device. It retails for $129.

The Z-Tac was rather flashy at the muzzle. From downrange, it was easy to spot, and flash lasted just under one millisecond on high speed video. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

Rainier Arms XTC

The Rainier XTC is a hybrid device “designed to reduce felt recoil & muzzle rise with a relatively low muzzle flash. A true multi-functional muzzle device designed to do it all while looking great at an affordable price.” It retails for $57.

The area of flash as viewed from the side was relatively small, but very bright. From 80 yards downrange, the muzzle flash was spectacular and easily seen. If you are ever stranded on a hostile planet and need to signal for help from a passing spaceship, use the XTC. High speed video shows rolling fireballs escaping out each side of the XTC, with a total flash duration of approximately 6/7000 of a second. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

Silencerco Specwar Brake

The Silencerco Specwar Brake is a three port muzzle device intended to reduce recoil and provide a mounting location for the Specwar silencer. Its brother is the Saker Brake, which offers identical performance, but is intended to mount the Saker silencer. Both devices retail for $80.

As you might expect, this device had a lot of flash. I think this was my favorite muzzle device in terms of flash. Turn your head sideways, and it looks like a Christmas tree. From downrange, the Specwar brake was easy to spot, but it was not as bright as a few of the other devices, surprisingly. Unfortunately, we didn’t get high speed video of the Specwar Brake. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

Silencerco Trifecta

The Trifecta is a three prong flash hider designed to mount certain Silencerco suppressors while eliminating the ringing tone which other multi-prong devices are prone to emit when tapped on a hard surface or fired. It retails for $70.

The Trifecta allowed a small but somewhat visible amount of flash. At 1600 ISO, the flash was easily identifiable. A small but noticeable amount of flash was visible for approximately 5/7000sec on high speed video. Although performance in the IR spectrum varied from shot to shot more than the other devices, this is a representation of the average flash visible from the Trifecta with night vision.

 

 

Simple Threaded Devices 5.56

The, uh, STD is a unique device which looks rather like an elongated thread protector and is intended to keep noise and muzzle flash from interfering with the shooter during hunting. It sells for $55.

From the side, the STD had a noticeable amount of flash. It wasn’t terribly bright, but it was sizable. The position of the muzzle was easy enough to spot from downrange. On high speed video, the single fireball lasts just under 1 millisecond at 6/7000sec. No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

Spike’s Tactical Dynacomp

The Dynacomp is, according to Spike’s, “designed to reduce recoil impulse and muzzle climb to provide faster follow up shots.” No claims are made on the Spike’s Tactical site regarding muzzle flash reduction. It retails for $90.

Muzzle flash from the Dynacomp is beautiful and awesome – and also bright. From downrange, the Dynacomp’s flash was immediately obvious. It was somewhat less than the XTC, but still unmistakable. On high speed video, the Dynacomp’s initial flash looked remarkably like the first microseconds of a nuclear explosion, lasting one millisecond, or 7/7000sec.

No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

VG6 Precision Gamma 5.56

VG6′s Gamma 556 is claimed to be “a muzzle brake and compensator hybrid. It virtually eliminates recoil and minimizes muzzle movement. The unique combination of both braking and compensating features inspire shooter confidence and allows the shooter to make very fast follow up shots.” No statements are made regarding flash suppression.

Muzzle flash from the Gamma 556 was, as expected, healthy. The position of the shooter was easily identifiable from downrange. The VG6′s muzzle flash lasts 5/7000sec.

No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device, due to the excessive muzzle flash.

 

 

Vltor VC-1

The Vltor VC-1 is a birdcage-looking muzzle device that acts as a flash hider and mount for the Gemtech HALO silencer. It retails for $57.

The VC-1 has muzzle flash roughly comparable to the A2. From downrange, it was a challenge to spot the VC-1 – again, about on par with the A2. On high speed video, the flash profile was also remarkably similar to that of the A2 and lasted 5/7000sec.

No night vision or ISO 1600 methods were used with this device.

 

 

YHM Phantom

The Phantom is advertised as a flash hider which “virtually eliminates flash and provides excellent performance with night vision.” It retails for $34.

Although brighter than the Blackout and 249F, the Phantom provides rather excellent flash suppression for the price. At 1600 ISO, the flash was easily visible. From downrange, I could not identify the position of the muzzle, but flash was visible on camera (after 5 shots).

On high speed video, we can see a small amount of flash for roughly 3/7000s. Unfortunately, we lost the high speed night vision video of the Phantom.

 

 

Muzzle Flash Summary

It’s nice to look at photos and videos, but how do you quantify all of this information?

Photoshop was used for this. I resized the images and made them black and white, then used the Mosaic filter to create a blocky version of each image.

I then noted the relevant HSB data for each block, measured in relative terms, with 0 being pure black and 100 being pure white. For area, I noted the number of “blocks” for the up close images – the downrange shots all fell into one block.

Thus, we are able to compare muzzle flashes up close…

 

…as well as from downrange.

 

Due to the angles and distances involved, some of the devices performed better at distance than they did up close – and vice versa. However, the best flash hiders did well at all distances and angles.

Sound Pressure Levels

Following up on the gargantuan first post of this comparison is a relatively short yet no less important portion. Especially to civilian shooters, the sound and blast of a muzzle device can be a huge turnoff. Yeah, that new brake keeps the muzzle on target, but if the noise rattles your friends every time you shoot the rifle, and other shooters on the firing line give you dirty looks and move away? Chagrin might give you second thoughts about your purchase.

For this portion of the test, a Brüel & Kjær 2209 Impulse Precision Sound Level Meter was used. Despite having been introduced in 1971 and looking quite like it could be an important quest item in Fallout 3, this is the device specified by the US Military and used by many silencer manufacturers to measure sound pressure level. The particular meter used for the test was provided by Rob Silvers of Advanced Armament Corp.

Since I forgot to take a better photo of the device, here's a cell phone pic.

Since I forgot to take a better photo of the device, here’s a cell phone pic.

As with the previous installment, scroll down to the charts if you’d just like to see the results.

Of course, all firearms are going to be loud. Even a silenced firearm with subsonic ammo makes noise. A rifle firing supersonic ammo without a silencer? Very, very loud. We are dealing with degrees of very loud here, but the difference between the loudest and quietest device (measured to the left of the muzzle) was approximately 8 decibels. Considering that a 10 decibel difference makes something sound twice as loud, these differences should not be considered entirely minor. If you would like to read some scientific papers regarding muzzle blast and gunshot acoustics, read this, this, or this.

But now, the charts.

First, using the military standard of 1 meter left of the muzzle and 1.6 meters above the ground, using Speer Gold Dot 64gr 5.56mm. These numbers represent the average of 10 shots.

spl1meter

After I had expended every round of .223 and 5.56 in my house, I used 5.45 to measure sound pressure levels at the shooter’s ear.

splear

To be entirely sure of these results, I actually shot them all twice, on four separate days.

As you can see, there is a pretty clear line between muzzle devices intended to reduce recoil and those intended to reduce flash.

Recoil Control

Using high speed video (courtesy of Silencerco) and multiple accelerometers, I will be able to show visually as well as mathematically how effective each device in the test is at recoil reduction. During a four month period, over 1500 rounds were fired to verify g-force data from the accelerometers. The results may be surprising to some.

Rearward Forces

gforcesfinal

Not surprisingly, the most effective muzzle devices in the test were also at the loud and bright end of the spectrum in the previous tests. Silencerco’s massive Specwar triple port brake/silencer mount was by far the most effective device at recoil reduction, for example, but it was also loud and created a distinctive muzzle flash.

Downward Forces

If we think of limiting rearward forces as recoil reduction, then limiting upward forces must be called “combating muzzle rise,” right? Wrong.

Consider yourself shooting a rifle with a bare muzzle from the standing position. In scientific terms, the rifle is an arm with forces being placed upon it at the very end – the muzzle. The gases exiting the muzzle do so in a very uniform manner, with essentially no variation from side to side and top to bottom. They do not inherently cause the muzzle to move up – if the rifle were to be suspended in the air, it would move straight back.

But it’s not suspended in the air, it’s connected to your body. It has to move in some direction, because an external force has acted upon it and it is no longer “at rest.” Because your body is connected to this arm, and the rifle is long and essentially pointed at (in physics terms, not weapon terms) your body, the arm will move mostly to the rear. However, because there is much more of your body below the point where the stock meets your shoulder, and because that part of your body is eventually connected to the ground, there will be a natural tendency for the muzzle to move upwards. Unless, that is, you adjust your stance and hold to limit this effect.

In other words, the only reason “muzzle rise” exists is due to the way we position ourselves as we shoot, and we can position ourselves to minimize that, especially with a 5.56 AR-15. There is no inherent tendency for the muzzle to rise on its own. Therefore we should use devices that push the muzzle down, right?

Of course not. The ideal device in terms of muzzle control would keep the muzzle exactly where it was before the shot was fired. We don’t always fire from the standing position, and if you’re trying to shoot side prone or underneath the bumper of a car, a device which “combats muzzle rise” will be constantly forcing the muzzle left or right with every shot.

With that in mind, here’s a chart showing the downward forces caused by each device.

downwardforces

Muzzle Device Videos

For those interested in the specifics of individual devices, here are the videos, which were shot with a 16″ midlength upper on a registered full auto lower. We’ll start with the bare muzzle as a baseline and then move on to the other devices. For all videos other than the bare muzzle, the video of the rifle being fired with the specified device will be seen, semi-transparent, on top of the video of the rifle with no muzzle device being fired.

 Bare Muzzle

While a bare muzzle offers no recoil reduction, it has no quirks and recoils in a fairly straight line to the rear.

A2

The A2 did very little to retard the rearward movement of the rifle, but did force the muzzle down with every shot.

AAC Blackout

The rifle with AAC Blackout attached tracked in a nearly identical manner to the bare muzzle.

BattleComp 1.0

The BattleComp forced the muzzle down with every shot.

B.E. Meyers 249F

The 249F, for an unknown reason, tracked higher than the bare muzzle. It’s likely that this was shooter error, but all due care was given to maintaining a consistent position and stance.

BWA X-Comp

The X-Comp reduced recoil and kept the muzzle flat.

PWS FSC556

Similarly, the FSC556 reduced recoil and kept the muzzle on target.

PWS Triad

The PWS Triad forced the muzzle down more than almost any other device tested.

Proto Tactical Z-Comp

The Z-Comp did a good job of reducing recoil, but pushed the muzzle down slightly.

Proto Tactical Z-Tac

Performance of the Z-Tac was nearly identical to that of the Z-Comp.

Rainier Arms XTC

The XTC reduced recoil significantly, but pushed the muzzle down slightly with each shot.

Silencerco Specwar Brake

Recoil with the Specwar brake was minimal and straight to the rear.

Silencerco Trifecta

Performance of the Trifecta in this regard was nearly identical to the bare muzzle.

Simple Threaded Devices

The STD tracked in a nearly identical manner to the bare muzzle.

Spike’s Tactical Dynacomp

The Dynacomp pushed the muzzle down with each shot.

VG6 Precision Gamma 5.56

This early version of the VG6 Gamma reduced recoil but pushed the muzzle down significantly with each shot.

Vltor VC-1

The Vltor VC-1 reduced recoil slightly and kept the muzzle on target.

YHM Phantom

The YHM Phantom reduced recoil very slightly and kept the muzzle on target.

Overall Results

After three rounds of comparing muzzle flash, sound pressure level, and recoil reduction, how do the devices compare overall? And do I have any recommendations?

muzzledevicecompareoverall

 

For the best flash reduction, the B.E. Meyers 249F would be my choice.

For truly outstanding flash reduction at a more affordable price, the AAC Blackout is excellent.

For the best recoil reduction, the Silencerco Specwar Brake was the clear winner.

For an excellent middle ground of recoil reduction, neutral muzzle position, and fireball mitigation, the FSC556 is a great compromise.

For recoil reduction on a budget, albeit with higher muzzle flash and some downward force on the muzzle, the Rainier XTC is a good choice.

For those seeking acceptable levels of muzzle flash without cash outlays, just keep the A2 that came with your rifle.

Despite its lackluster overall showing in the test, I rather like the STD simply because of its appearance, relatively low cost, and ever-so-slight reduction in sound levels at the shooter’s ear.

Is That All She Wrote?

There may be followups to these articles as I test more devices, devise additional test methods, or write more subjective articles about each device, but this constitutes the bulk of the testing I initially set out to complete.

AR15 Muzzle Brake/Flash Hider/Compensator Comparison, Part 3

gforcesfinal-1024x374

Late last year I published parts one and two of a muzzle device comparison; the third part was essentially complete at that time, but I decided to hold off on publishing it until I could verify some of my data.

Using high speed video (courtesy of Silencerco) and multiple accelerometers, I will be able to show visually as well as mathematically how effective each device in the test is at recoil reduction. During a four month period, over 1500 rounds were fired to verify g-force data from the accelerometers. The results may be surprising to some.

Rearward Forces

gforcesfinal

Not surprisingly, the most effective muzzle devices in the test were also at the loud and bright end of the spectrum in the previous tests. Silencerco’s massive Specwar triple port brake/silencer mount was by far the most effective device at recoil reduction, for example, but it was also loud and created a distinctive muzzle flash.

Downward Forces

If we think of limiting rearward forces as recoil reduction, then limiting upward forces must be called “combating muzzle rise,” right? Wrong.

Consider yourself shooting a rifle with a bare muzzle from the standing position. In scientific terms, the rifle is an arm with forces being placed upon it at the very end – the muzzle. The gases exiting the muzzle do so in a very uniform manner, with essentially no variation from side to side and top to bottom. They do not inherently cause the muzzle to move up – if the rifle were to be suspended in the air, it would move straight back.

But it’s not suspended in the air, it’s connected to your body. It has to move in some direction, because an external force has acted upon it and it is no longer “at rest.” Because your body is connected to this arm, and the rifle is long and essentially pointed at (in physics terms, not weapon terms) your body, the arm will move mostly to the rear. However, because there is much more of your body below the point where the stock meets your shoulder, and because that part of your body is eventually connected to the ground, there will be a natural tendency for the muzzle to move upwards. Unless, that is, you adjust your stance and hold to limit this effect.

In other words, the only reason “muzzle rise” exists is due to the way we position ourselves as we shoot, and we can position ourselves to minimize that, especially with a 5.56 AR-15. There is no inherent tendency for the muzzle to rise on its own. Therefore we should use devices that push the muzzle down, right?

Of course not. The ideal device in terms of muzzle control would keep the muzzle exactly where it was before the shot was fired. We don’t always fire from the standing position, and if you’re trying to shoot side prone or underneath the bumper of a car, a device which “combats muzzle rise” will be constantly forcing the muzzle left or right with every shot.

With that in mind, here’s a chart showing the downward forces caused by each device.

downwardforces

Muzzle Device Videos

For those interested in the specifics of individual devices, here are the videos, which were shot with a 16″ midlength upper on a registered full auto lower. We’ll start with the bare muzzle as a baseline and then move on to the other devices. For all videos other than the bare muzzle, the video of the rifle being fired with the specified device will be seen, semi-transparent, on top of the video of the rifle with no muzzle device being fired.

 Bare Muzzle

While a bare muzzle offers no recoil reduction, it has no quirks and recoils in a fairly straight line to the rear.

A2

The A2 did very little to retard the rearward movement of the rifle, but did force the muzzle down with every shot.

AAC Blackout

The rifle with AAC Blackout attached tracked in a nearly identical manner to the bare muzzle.

BattleComp 1.0

The BattleComp forced the muzzle down with every shot.

B.E. Meyers 249F

The 249F, for an unknown reason, tracked higher than the bare muzzle. It’s likely that this was shooter error, but all due care was given to maintaining a consistent position and stance.

BWA X-Comp

The X-Comp reduced recoil and kept the muzzle flat.

PWS FSC556

Similarly, the FSC556 reduced recoil and kept the muzzle on target.

PWS Triad

The PWS Triad forced the muzzle down more than almost any other device tested.

Proto Tactical Z-Comp

The Z-Comp did a good job of reducing recoil, but pushed the muzzle down slightly.

Proto Tactical Z-Tac

Performance of the Z-Tac was nearly identical to that of the Z-Comp.

Rainier Arms XTC

The XTC reduced recoil significantly, but pushed the muzzle down slightly with each shot.

Silencerco Specwar Brake

Recoil with the Specwar brake was minimal and straight to the rear.

Silencerco Trifecta

Performance of the Trifecta in this regard was nearly identical to the bare muzzle.

Simple Threaded Devices

The STD tracked in a nearly identical manner to the bare muzzle.

Spike’s Tactical Dynacomp

The Dynacomp pushed the muzzle down with each shot.

VG6 Precision Gamma 5.56

This early version of the VG6 Gamma reduced recoil but pushed the muzzle down significantly with each shot.

Vltor VC-1

The Vltor VC-1 reduced recoil slightly and kept the muzzle on target.

YHM Phantom

The YHM Phantom reduced recoil very slightly and kept the muzzle on target.

Overall Results

After three rounds of comparing muzzle flash, sound pressure level, and recoil reduction, how do the devices compare overall? And do I have any recommendations?

muzzledevicecompareoverall

 

For the best flash reduction, the B.E. Meyers 249F would be my choice.

For truly outstanding flash reduction at a more affordable price, the AAC Blackout is excellent.

For the best recoil reduction, the Silencerco Specwar Brake was the clear winner.

For an excellent middle ground of recoil reduction, neutral muzzle position, and fireball mitigation, the FSC556 is a great compromise.

For recoil reduction on a budget, albeit with higher muzzle flash and some downward force on the muzzle, the Rainier XTC is a good choice.

For those seeking acceptable levels of muzzle flash without cash outlays, just keep the A2 that came with your rifle.

Despite its lackluster overall showing in the test, I rather like the STD simply because of its appearance, relatively low cost, and ever-so-slight reduction in sound levels at the shooter’s ear.

Is That All She Wrote?

There may be followups to these articles as I test more devices, devise additional test methods, or write more subjective articles about each device, but this constitutes the bulk of the testing I initially set out to complete.

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