If your gun is spewing too much fire, a flash hider is the best solution.
For the most part, you find most flash hiders on modern sporting rifles such as the AR-15 and other common semi-automatic rifles.
These semi-auto rifles are typically available with barrels in the 16-inch range. While that is certainly long enough for adequate accuracy and velocity, it leaves something to be desired regarding the fireball found at the muzzle.
Of course, barrels in the 20-inch range are going to have flash as well, but it is not nearly as significant as on short barrels. As you get shorter, flash tends to increase, primarily due to unburnt powder.
Most large-format pistols and SBR’s have a tremendous amount of flash and blast. The latter is often made worse with the addition of a muzzle brake.
The effect of muzzle flash in low light is quite dramatic. Unfortunately, most rifles equipped with brakes actually increase flash and produce a distinct signature, visible from a distance.
It is not uncommon for many muzzle brakes to emit a jet of flame out both sides. While this is cool, it does little to aid in identifying what happened after you fired.
Why You Need A Flash Hider
In a self-defense scenario, especially in the home, a muzzle brake is not necessarily a disadvantage. It can, however, prove a liability if you have not trained to overcome the blast and flash.
A defensive rifle is much better suited with a flash hider in these instances. Managing recoil with these guns is not as important as retaining the ability to see.
Flash Hiders, Mainly a Rifle Affair
While compensators are becoming more common on handguns, it is rare to find any pistol-dedicated flash hiders.
A large reason is the device adds length to the barrel without adding a tremendous amount of function in return. It doesn't control recoil and it doesn't suppress noise. All it really does is make for an interesting hood ornament.
Despite its name, a flash hider does not typically eliminate flash completely–much as a suppressor does not fully suppress the report of a gun. Regardless of the device used, there will always be some amount of flash or noise.
Not All Flash Suppressors Are Created Equal
Different flash suppressor designs dissipate gasses with varying degrees of success. Even if some models look externally similar, there are nuanced differences separating the devices' performance.
Just because it looks like it works does not mean that it will. Even the best flash hiders may work better with one load than it does with another. If you find you have virtually no flash with one factory load, it does not mean you will have the same results with the next one in line.
Best Flash Hider Options:
Standard Military A2
The basic military A2 flash hider has been around for quite some time. It is just about as simple as it gets. All it really does is vent the flash in a semi-circle with the 12 o’clock position being center.
The bottom of this flash hider is solid to prevent the blast from kicking up a cloud of dust if firing prone, the most substantial change from the fully open A1 version.
It doesn’t really look all that advanced, but this little, cheap and reliable flash hider is a solid option and extremely affordable. Some companies make new ones, but they can be found by the dozen in surplus bins at just about every gun show. Expect to pay around $5 for a used one and not more than $20 for a new one.
Yankee Hill Machine Phantom
The YHM Phantom serves as a flash hider and a mount for the company’s line of suppressors. It is a longer flash hider, but it is extremely effective, even in larger calibers and on short barrels.
This may be one of the better flash hiders for shorter .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor rifles and large-format handguns. While the effectiveness of a flash hider on such types of guns is debated, the author of this article has used one on a 13.5-inch .308 Winchester for over 10 years and there is very little flash, even in low light.
The effectiveness of this simple product cannot be understated, it was way ahead of its time when it was introduced. Yankee Hill makes several types of this mount in various calibers that can accept their suppressors, with choice between a smooth and an “aggressive” end as well. MSRP: $32 // yhm.net
A relatively common sub-genre of flash hider is the ‘flash can’ style. The design is essentially a cylinder that traps and dissolves the initial flash at the muzzle.
The Noveske KX3 is designed primarily for shorter rifles, and it performs exceptionally well on anything shorter than the standard 14.5-inch M4 barrel length. Not only does it reduce blast and concussion, but it also aids in reducing recoil and does not generate a tremendous amount of side flash. MSRP: $125-$135 // noveske.com
An extremely effective flash hider, the ASR doubles as a mount for the company’s various suppressors. Not only is it great at mitigating flash, but it’s very aesthetically pleasing as well.
The slight downside to this model is it is on the heavier side, but this is a necessary part of the design in order for it to accept a suppressor. Directly behind the prongs is a beefier threaded area that interfaces with your suppressor. MSRP: $64.40-$92.00 // silencerco.com
SureFire 3P Eliminator
This is one of the most effective standalone flash hiders currently on the market. It does not function as a suppressor mount and it is relatively simple in terms of design. It is longer than a standard military A2 flash hider, but it is very effective in low-light and dark conditions. MSRP: $99 // surefire.com
SureFire WARCOMP Flash Hider
This SureFire flash hider also works as a compensator and a suppressor mount. In terms of the overall design, it is not any longer than the above 3P Eliminator, but has extra features for only a little bit of added weight.
It is a well-designed and very functional flash hider, though because it is also part compensator there will be some amount of flash behind the prongs. This is a good choice for someone who still wants recoil compensation in their muzzle device. MSRP: $149 // surefire.com
Forward Controls Design 1815 Flash Hider
The main advantage of this design is its compactness. Not only is it similar in size to a regular A2, but it also has some compensating ability as well. For being as small as the 1815 is, it really is an effective design that allows the user to mitigate flash without increasing the overall length, a concern on some other flash hiders. Cost is also very low considering the benefits. MSRP: $50.00-$74.99 // forwardcontrolsdesign.com
Brownells Early 3-Prong AR-15 Flash Hider
Brownells has made a name for itself in the retro market. If you are looking to attempt a replica build from the Vietnam era, it has you covered with replica small parts.
Its 3-Prong is an effective flash hider, but it’s also a faithful reproduction of those found on some of the early military M16 variants. If you are trying to make something historically accurate, this is a great way to go. MSRP: $29.99 // brownells.com
More On Muzzle Devices:
- Best Compensator Buyer's Guide
- First Look: Faxon EXOS Pistol Compensators
- How To: Choosing A Flash Suppressor, Muzzle Brake And Compensator
- Muzzle Brakes VS Flash Hiders
- First Look: HIPERCOMP Compensators