Silencers can do an excellent job of suppressing flash on a host firearm. They provide a large expansion chamber for gasses that are rapidly expanding behind the projectile. Not only are they able to suppress the sound, but a vast majority of the muzzle flash as well.
As most of us are commonly aware, silencers or suppressors do not entirely suppress the sound of a gunshot–but simply mitigate it. The addition of a silencer can aid in a large decibel reduction, making most firearms hearing safe, even though you’ll never be able to completely eliminate all the noise created by a gunshot.
When it comes to muzzle flash, this rule applies as well. As the bullet exits a naked barrel, the accompanying propellant gas and unburnt powder are exposed to an oxygen-rich environment, resulting in a muzzle flash. When fired through a silencer, two key events take place. First is a phenomenon commonly referred to as first-round-pop, or as suppressor nerds say it, “FRP”. This refers to the first shot in a sequence that commonly produces a higher sound signature as the expanding gasses pass through the silencer tube, burning off the air that was in the silencer and while simultaneously increasing pressure (i.e. sound). Secondly, the silencer body acts as an expansion chamber for the propellant gasses to expand in a controlled manner, effectively hiding the flash within the tube. Regardless of this, a silencer is not a closed system and those gasses will eventually exit the muzzle end of the silencer and create a flash of varying size.
Turn Up The Darkness
Recently, Dead Air Silencers released their line of Flash Hider Frontcaps for their Sandman series of silencers. As the proud owner of a MK18 SBR paired with a Sandman-S, I was curious how much of a difference, if any, these endcaps would make. As a reloader, I’ve spent plenty of time perfecting my own reloaded ammo to reduce flash for my personal MK18. Factory or Mil-Spec Ammo is designed for a much longer barrel and has a tendency to turn an SBR into a flamethrower. Using software called Quick Load, I managed to engineer a load with an 85% powder burn rate. With only 10.3in of a barrel to work with, this was probably the best result I was going to get. Pairing my Daniel Defense MK18 SBR with this new ammo, and a Flash Hider from Dead Air, I was surprised by how well the flash hider alone performed.
By itself, the flash hider works so well you’re able to see the tines in this high-speed shot. Under long strings of prolonged fire, the resulting unsuppressed flash is still large enough to be a visible annoyance. Time to add a silencer.
Turning Up The Silence
Starting with the factory installed 7.62 endcap, you can see the “splash” effect as the gasses are allowed to expand around the bullet as it exits the silencer.
Note: If you’re wondering why the silencer has a light bluish tinge, it’s because i accidentally bumped the flashlight. My bad.
Using the 5.56 flat endcap, you get a better gas seal which creates a thinner, more controlled flash signature. According to Dead Air, this reduces the overall report by a couple decibels. As we were shooting indoors, I really was not able to detect any sort of difference. It is worth noting, this endcap change does increase the back-pressure, and there was a very small addition to felt recoil.
Next up was the 7.62 Flash Hider Endcap. One of the first things that caught my eye was the angled high-pressure jets coming off the endcap. The three channels on the endcap help to divert and dissipate that extra pressure surrounding the bullet. As the gas seal is once again imperfect, you end up with a flash signature that resembles a mix of both the 5.56 and 7.62 flat endcaps.
Saving the best for last is the 5.56 Flash Hider Endap. As this was the last endcap to be tested, I had come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t expect too much in terms of results. This was a high pressure round, in a short barrel, so really there was no way it could be that much better.
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Not only was I amazed by the almost unseen flash, but my cameraman was convinced he kept missing the shot. Convinced of this, we must have taken this high-speed photo at least ten times. Finally, after seeing the same result over and over again, it finally dawned on us that it was really that good.
To put it plainly, I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong when it comes to a product. Prior to doing this testing, I had read the Recoil article written about the Flash Hider Endcaps on a Sandman-K. Their article did an incredible job of being scientific, using off the shelf ammo, and they were able to prove how well these new caps work. In all honesty, if you read that article and decided these caps weren’t for you, this follow up isn’t likely to change your mind. The two cannot be compared on a scientific basis as I used a proprietary load, and with more efficient powder, so the tests should not be compared. This article is to illustrate the potential for these caps have in future development for both silencers and silencer specific ammunition.
If you already have a Sandman and enjoy the idea of a night shoot, I would highly recommend the new endcaps. The new Frontcaps (as Dead Air is calling them) are available on the Dead Air website via the following Link and both options retail for $99.
Huge thank you to Park City Gun Club for letting me turn off the lights to get these amazing shots, and a huge thank you to James Rose for taking these spectacular photos. If you like his work give him a follow on Instagram @jamesondrose
Thanks for reading, and stay safe out there.