DUMB Idea – Handguards Past Muzzle Brakes

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the long handguard on a rifle, but there is a thing as TOO long of a handguard. In recent years the trend has been to push handguards out as far as possible with the non-firing hand pushing forward on the gun for better stabilization, especially when moving laterally from target to target.

However, its now gone too far, and I don’t just mean figuratively in terms of absurdity. Hand-guards are now being pushed past the end of the handguard to dangerous consequences.

Chart courtesy of Small Arms Defense Journal, who has a remarkable write-up on barrel pressures. Click on the photo to be taken to the article.

Chart courtesy of Small Arms Defense Journal, who has a remarkable write-up on barrel pressures. Click on the photo to be taken to the article.

Muzzle brakes work by diverting the combustion gasses, harnessing that energy to reduce felt recoil. They work phenomenally well, with the most aggressive brakes diverting/capturing the most gas. This diversion, even on longer barrels with 5.56 is still at over 5,000 PSI of pressure contained behind the bullet at 20″. Unfortunately, shooters are not realizing that the this pressure acts on handguards (which are typically viewed as safe places to put one’s hand) and in some cases, has completely broken the handguard. Aluminum was not meant to contain pressures that high.

Cutting it close, but perfectly OK. The blast would not impact the handguard and the hand would not go past the handguard.

Cutting it close, but perfectly OK. The blast would not impact the handguard and the hand would not go past the handguard.

The corollary of this is that if one has a hand at the location, the hand will fare far worse. Soft tissue will stand up to multi-thousand PSI like butter to a hot knife meaning catastrophic consequences. In fact, TFB has posted up a POTD showing the issue on a AR handgun. This can be solved easily by ensuring all ports of a brake are past the handguard.

To me, the problem is these hybrid handguards that are coming to the market like the LVOA-C and the Salient Arms Tier One AR-15. While these handguards eliminate the aluminum from the blast area (and therefore the fracturing), they still have handguard going past a “safe zone” for human manipulation. In fact, I would assert that the design and its offering is gross negligence, as the manufacturer HAS to know this is an issue as they purposefully cut out the handguard.

At 14.7", the blast would be over 8,000 PSI. No hand would stand a chance.

At 14.7″, the blast would be over 8,000 PSI. No hand would stand a chance.

 

Say one goes full Chris Costa on a rifle grabbing to the end and a round is let loose? The results would be life-changing.

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Therefore, it is a certifiably DUMB idea to have a handguard deployed in such a way it will not actually guard the hand from muzzle blast.

Build your rifle and shoot safe!



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • PK

    “Build your rifle and shoot safe!”

    Amen to that! Thanks for the writeup on this subject, it’ll be handy to have an article to point to for when I next see such a setup. It seems like it’s becoming very trendy, a sort of “SD look” without a can… foolish.

    Also, I just looked. I knew that chart looked familiar, that’s from the incredibly useful test of muzzle pressure from Philip Dater. I’ve referenced that more than once while designing F1 cans.

  • hking

    I don’t know how many people are going to spend $3k on a luxury AR and be dumb enough to grip it that far forward. On the other hand money doesn’t buy smarts.

    • 277Volt

      Probably the same amount of people that buy supercars then stack ’em because they have no idea how to handle one properly.

      • iksnilol

        You can say that again.

        I’ve beat folks with twice my horsepowers simply because I know when to shift gears (I get really annoyed when people shift early, it jostles so much). That, and people brake too much before turns.

        knowing what you’re doing > money

        knowing what you’re doing + money = mighty decent

    • nova3930

      Bout to say, I’ve known plenty people with far more money than brains.

  • nova3930

    You mean the handguard is actually supposed to guard your hand? WTF? Who knew?

    Also, this makes time #2 that the SuperDERP Gold AR has made an appearance on TFB!

    • thedonn007

      Yea, I was going to say that it was a repost as well.

    • M.M.D.C.

      Derpa derpa!

  • marine6680

    Muzzle brakes loose their effectiveness when trapped under a handguard.

    Sure, there are gaps and holes in the handguard, and the energy isn’t transferred with 100% efficiencyso… So the brake isn’t completely rendered useless… But physics is physics, and any gas directed at the handguard will act in an opposing manner to the brake.

  • Anon

    If you needed to be told that this is a horrible idea, then it’s no great loss to the world if you lost your hand doing this crap.

    It’s kind of like testing a malfunctioning grip activated laser by pointing it at your hand and pulling the trigger on the gun itself…

    • phuzz

      “Think of it as evolution in action”

  • Nicholas C

    Warsport did change their muzzle brake design. It is called the Top Hat. There is a brim around the base of the muzzle brake to block gases from going back into the handguard.

  • Otm Shooter

    It should have worked….it was gold and everything…

  • Squirreltakular

    That design would be fine if they’d just gone with a linear comp.

    • Sam

      I have a Spike’s Barking Spider II on my SBR. 11.5″ barrel. 12.5″ Odin Works handguard. It looks sexy.

      • Squirreltakular

        Sounds sexy. Pics?

  • Gary Kirk

    Love watching the straight-armers with the super extended handgaurds, with a fore grip.. ??

    • Paladin

      The fore grip is mostly just there to act as a hand stop, you wrap your hand around the forend with your pinky against the grip to make it easier to pull the rifle into your shoulder.

      • Sam

        Yeah that’s what I do. I use one of the slightly angled ones from BCM and just kinda cup my hand around it and I still have my thumb forward or slightly wrapped over the bore.

  • Austin

    I smell a Darwin award in the future

  • Bronson

    I noticed the in the first pic the “pistol” has a Shockwave Blade stabilizer. Do any of you guys own one or have shot one? How do you like it? I’ve been thinking about getting one and would be interested in hearing people’s opinions.

    • I don’t have that one, but I have the “Amazon Muzzle Brake” that placed #3 for recoil and rise reduction out of like…?30 Muzzle brakes? in TTAG’s reviews last year or so. That and it is only $18!

      Looks similar and is amazing.

  • stfram1

    Why does a 5.56 rifle need a muzzle brake designed for a .50? Is the recoil and muzzle rise that punishing?

    • DIR911911 .

      haven’t ya heard . . . it’s a PTSD inducing powerhouse that can make a grown man cry 🙂

      • Cleophus

        Yeah, you jug head! Don’t you listen to the news media? They tell you, almost every day, that the AR-15 is a “HIGH POWERED RIFLE,” whose standard round is capable of near nuclear destruction. Huge, costly muzzle brakes are a necessity if you expect to survive the release of the round’s massive and devastating projectile. You really do need to watch more Fox News!

        • hANNABONE

          That would be CNN News, my friend

    • Thinker-1

      Nah, they want it louder. As with their vehicles, they mistake noise for power.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Hasn’t someone tried a solid extension past a muzzle device to limit side-and back-blast while allowing the brake to function? If that works, then a solid handguard that covers the muzzle might have a purpose.

    The ‘handguards’ in the article are anything but. I think of photos where shooters got a thumb too far forward when shooting a magnum revolver.

  • DIR911911 .

    let the thinning of the herd begin

  • Sianmink

    I’ve seen this pulled off with a Troy Claymore brake (as my SBR is set up when it’s not wearing its near-permanent can which is still in purgatory), because obviously no gas being pushed to the sides.
    Aside from that though…

  • n0truscotsman

    Very handy. I like.

    Cerakote is good stuff.

  • uisconfruzed

    At least it’ll only be the non-dominant hand.

  • Cmex

    Can anyone say finger bang?

  • Jamie Clemons

    Owch. Seemed like a good idea at the time.