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Steve Comus – GUN TALK

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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Muzzle brakes might be ugly — but they work
Talk around deer camp earlier this season eventually got around to the subject of muzzle brakes on hunting rifles. Folks seem to love them or hate them, with not many in between.

Detractors note that they are obnoxiously loud and that they are just plain ugly plumbing on the end of the barrel. Okay, no argument there. But when it comes to any equipment, the proper answer is found by weighing the advantages against the disadvantages.


muzzlebrakes
MUZZLE BRAKES CAN help make shooting hunting rifles much more comfortable, actually increase accuracy, and make shooting and hunting more fun overall.


The benefits of muzzle brakes are that they reduce muzzle rise (flip) while they reduce felt recoil (some also reduce actual recoil). When properly in­stalled, they do not adversely affect accuracy, but often can improve it (the dynamics are complicated, but they can).


Also, with good muzzle brakes, it is possible to watch the hit on the animal, which provides vital information about whether it was a good hit. Finally, for longer shots, muzzle brakes provide what I call “audioflage,” which is like camou­flaging the sound of the shot. By spreading the expanding gases from the powder when the bullet leaves the barrel, it is more difficult for the animal to know exactly where the shot came from. That can be nice, because it affords a quick follow-up shot, should that be necessary.'


Some people use a muzzle brake during the hunt, but take it off and screw on a “cap” for the rest of the time. Nothing wrong with that, except the point of impact often changes when a muzzle brake is screwed on. Make certain that the rifle is sighted exactly as it will be on the actual hunt. This also applies to bipods. Adding bipods can change the point of impact dramatically.


More than all of the advantages listed above, I like to use muzzle brakes because they make the rifle much more comfortable to shoot. When a rifle is more comfortable, it is easier to shoot more accurately.


And, muzzle brakes can tame rifles enough so that new shooters can learn to shoot without the jarring effects of normal recoil. For example, the felt recoil from a .300 mag with a good muzzle brake feels more like a .30/30 than a mag. Or, a 7mm mag feels more like a .257 Roberts than a mag. A .308 feels much like a .243.


There are many different kinds of muzzle brakes on the market and most seem to work at least okay. Some companies offer them as either standard on some models or as upgrades on other models. Pricing varies, but consider that it is a one-time purchase, even a hundred or two hundred bucks can be a good investment.


Certainly, when using a muzzle brake, it is necessary to wear effective ear protection. For me, that is not a big deal because my hearing is so bad that while hunting, I usually use a set of earmuffs that have the built-in electronics that enhance sound under normal circumstances, but cut off the sound at the shot. That way I can actually hear better with the muffs on during the hunt and don’t have to worry about the noise from the muzzle brake when the shot is taken.


I used to scoff at muzzle brakes until I used one on a .223 prairie rat rifle. Even with the slight recoil of the .223, it is difficult to watch the bullet hit the critter at the shot without a brake.


Traditionally, that meant that I had to have someone else with me as a spotter to tell me if I hit, or where I missed if I missed. That’s not only labor-intensive, but there were a lot of mixed signals.


When I used the .223 with the muzzle brake, I could watch the bullet either hit the prairie rat or I could see where it hit around the rat and then knew exactly how to change the sight picture to make a hit.


Muzzle brakes turned my .460 and .378 Weatherby mags into relative pussy cats and actually fun to shoot. Hence, I shot them more, and the more I shot them, the better I shot them. More recently, I had Weatherby put a muzzle brake on a rifle chambered for the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum. It is incredible to use that rifle, because I can watch the hit on deer. Literally, it makes everything easier after the shot.


A number of years ago, while hunting Coues deer with riflemaker David Miller, Dave took a shot as I watched through the spotting scope. The bullet hit a small branch Dave didn’t see between him and the deer and diverted the bullet. The buck froze in place and looked all around, obviously trying to figure out where the noise from the shot came from before bolting. That gave Dave time to take a quick follow-up shot and bag the deer.


One note, however, about muzzle brakes. The higher pressure the powder gas is at the muzzle, the more effective the brake will be. For example, the brake works stunningly well on my .460 Weatherby, but muzzle brakes on .458 Lott and .458 Winchester Magnum rifles don’t work as effectively simply because of the difference in pressure at the muzzle. They still work, but just not as effectively.


So, in my book, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to muzzle brakes. They may not be totally necessary, but they certainly are nice. Something to think abou.


* * *


Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a WON Guns and Hunting Guns Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at scomus@cox.net.


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