When it comes to AR-15s, there are a number of great muzzle devices out there, especially if you’re into shooting sports like 3-Gun competitions, where big compensators and muzzle brakes are the names of the game.
It seems, though, there’s one category that’s often overlooked.
A humble flash hider is a frequently-ignored option that really shines in the right situations—particularly on a short barrel or for night-time use.
Many folks don’t realize just how blinding and disorienting a muzzle flash can be in low-light scenarios.
This is especially an issue in a number of scenarios, such as hunting close to dark (or after dark, when legal), keeping the flash from your weapon low for stealth, or shooting in a competition that runs late in the day.
Even if none of the above apply, but you just want something that looks a bit better on the end of your rifle than the factory flash hider, I recommend picking up an aftermarket flash hider.
We’ll go over how exactly these flash hiders work, how to choose a new one, and some of the best ones out there.
So keep reading if you’ve ever pondered whether one of these is worth the cash…
Table of Contents
How Do Flash Hiders Work?
When we fire a gun, propellant inside the cartridge is transformed into energy and used to propel a projectile.
This has a secondary effect of producing a flash of super-hot gasses and unburnt powder out of the end of the barrel.
A flash like this is especially evident in something like a short-barreled rifle, a shotgun, or an AR pistol.
With these weapons, less powder is burnt before the bullet leaves the end of the barrel, and thus you have an expanding cloud of powder leaving the barrel along with the bullet.
This unburnt powder creates a brilliant flash of light that can blind the shooter and can make stealth in such a situation an even more difficult proposition.
If you’re using an AR-15 defensively, you’re going to have problems without a flash hider.
First, you’re going to clearly give away your position even more than you would with the sound of the shot alone.
A gunshot in close quarters may not be as easy to triangulate the origin of as you might think, but a giant fireball tells the bad guy just where to empty a mag.
If you’re shooting at night without a good flash hider, you’ll be seeing stars for minutes afterward.
God help you if you’re doing something like action shooting sports where you’re ripping through mags. You’ll find yourself wondering why you thought it was a good idea to do this in the first place.
Enter the humble flash hider —here to spare your corneas and save the day.
These devices work by quickly dissipating the expanding gases, cooling them, and dispersing or containing the unburnt powder.
They do this by using prongs to cool the gases and unburnt powder and shunt them away from the end of the barrel.
This allows them to cool further and keeps them from igniting in the great big fireball you’d have otherwise.
What you’re left with isn’t a totally invisible flash — and if you’re running 5.56 in a less than 12-inch barrel you’ll still have a sizeable fireball — but the results from a good flash hider will be remarkably better than a bare barrel.
Some of the best flash hiders also double as compensators or muzzle brakes, so you’ll be getting a little better performance in the recoil department as well.
We cover those too in Best Muzzle Brakes & Compensators.
But for now…let’s go over the best flash hiders.
Best Flash Hiders
It might not be sexy and fancy as a lot of the flash suppressors on this list, but the A2 birdcage has lasted the test of time for a reason.
It works and it works well. Over the last few decades, the United States military has proven the A2 design to be a functional choice.
The prongs at the top break up the unburned powder. They do a great job at killing flash, especially from M4 and M16 length barrels.
On shorter guns, it might lack some pizzazz but will still reduce the flash enough to help preserve your natural night vision.
Beyond great flash suppression, the design also functions as a compensator. It keeps the barrel on target as you rapidly fire the weapon.
The open-top and closed bottom ensure it works rather well. That closed bottom also prevents the design from blasting gas downward.
Side benefit of this is that it doesn’t kick up dust when firing in the prone — it keeps things nice and comfy for low-prone shooting positions.
The A2 is the best budget choice for shooters looking to build a quality, budget rifle.
2. SOCOM 4-Prong Flash Hider
While the general military went with and stuck with the A2 birdcage, the American Special Operations Command went with Surefire.
Specifically, the SOCOM 4-Prong Flash Hider doubles as a suppressor QD point, but more on that later.
The four-prong design isn’t new, and the open-tine design is a classic flash suppressor style. It’s been proven to work well, but the open prongs can be fragile for field use.
Surefire wisely decided to reinforce the prongs to keep them from being bent and thus useless.
A DLC finish and the use of heat-treated stainless steel ensure it is a rugged and durable design. This flash hider is made for serious use, and its service in the GWOT proved it capable.
The SOCOM 4-Prong Flash Hider’s classic design works and works very well.
Flash is dashed and eliminated by the four prongs and the length of the prongs helps with shorter than average barrels.
The prongs can’t hold a tune, but they power through and break up burning gas and gunpowder.
If you plan to use a suppressor, the SOCOM flash hider makes it easy to attach.
If you rock and roll with a quick attach SOCOM suppressor, then this flash hider makes it easy to attach and detach.
The real downside to the SOCOM flash suppressor is the 2.6-inch length, although when pin and welded, it keeps a 14.5-inch barrel from making an SBR.
As gun owners, we should prioritize function over style.
But what if something is both functional and stylish? Well, if that’s acceptable, check out the Rainier Arms FHV2 Flash Hider. The helical design adds a twist to the flash hider and gives it a stylish but very effective design.
Ports twist and spin but do a fantastic job of catching and disbursing burning gas and gun powder and nearly eliminating muzzle flash.
These helical ports align perfectly with the rifling of Rainier Arms 1:8 barrel.
According to Rainier Arms, when the 1:8 barrel and FHV2 combine forces, the flash suppression is cut even more.
A helical design is a lot like a fluted barrel. It disburses heat effectively as well as suppressing and redirecting flash.
Plus, the machining looks fantastic. Rainier Arms went extra on this design.
It combines a stylish helical design with an effective flash hider. The bottom of the flash suppressor has a port to allow it to be pinned and welded if necessary.
Griffin Armament does a fantastic job of creating minimalist muzzle devices.
From their mini comp to the Minimalist Stealth flash suppressor, Griffin Armament does a great job of keeping things small and effective.
The Taper Mount Minimalist Stealth Flash Suppressor gives you a short, lightweight flash suppressor.
The overall length is only 1.8-inches, and the flash suppressor weighs 2.9 ounces. That’s about 40% lighter than most competitive flash suppressors.
Also, if you want a Griffin Armament suppressor, this flash suppressor acts as a mounting platform with threading near the rear of the device.
This open tine design uses three stubby prongs to catch and disburse all that unburned gunpowder that predictably turns to flash.
Griffin Armament made sure the prongs are nice and wide. They’re also reinforced to avoid accidental damage.
As you’d expect, this minimalist design doesn’t drastically reduce flash and isn’t as effective as full-sized flash suppressors.
However, for those wanting to keep things light and short, the Minimalist Stealth flash suppressor has your name written all over it.
Are you building a retro AR-15? Or maybe you just appreciate the retro look, whatever the reason Brownells has your back.
Their reproduction XM16E1 3-Prong Flash Hider gives you the old-school look without the old-school problems.
Back in the day, the original three-prong flash hider was prone to bending, breaking, and doing lame stuff like that.
This led to its eventual replacement. It also eventually led to Brownells solving the problem without sacrificing the retro look.
Brownells reinforced the prongs to ensure your “duckbill” flash hider will maintain its rigidity and strength.
The classic 3-prong design has always done a great job of disbursing flash, and the design still works to this day.
Does it work as well as more modern designs with decades of knowledge and improvements in firearm technology?
No, not necessarily. However, it does maintain that classic look and is rather short and lightweight.
You won’t be adding an excessive amount of length to your gun.
The biggest downside to the classic 3-prong design is that it has no wrench flats. You’ll need to find a three-prong wrench to attach it.
Speaking of decades of improvement and technology information improvements…the Precision Armament EFAB Hybrid Muzzle Device brings you a high-tech flash suppressor.
Well, it’s as high-tech as a piece of steel attached to your rifle barrel can be.
EFAB stands for Enhanced Flash Arresting Brake and it’s perhaps the fanciest way to say “flash suppressor.”
The EFAB does more than block flash, though. Precision Armament found a way to mix flash suppression with a muzzle brake.
Typically, a brake creates more flash and increases your control over your weapon.
The EFAB gives you a bit of both, and a two-for-one muzzle device is tough to beat. Reducing recoil and flash is a noble goal, and the EFAB accomplishes both.
Does it do both as well as a single dedicated device? Kind of. It reduces flash as well as any modern device, but as a break, it’s not the very best.
To me, that’s excusable since it’s pulling double duty.
As a bonus, it’s long enough to pin and weld to make a 14.5-inch barrel into a 16-inch barrel.
Seekins Precision took the traditional 3-prong muzzle device and did something new with it.
Instead of using an open tine design, Seekins Precision closed it up but kept the core of the design.
As a flash suppressor, the close tine design ensures durability is maxed out.
Outside of closing the tine, they also slanted the ports. As we know, the slight slant does a great job of disbursing flash and breaking up the escaping gas and flash.
That flash is almost completely eliminated and is well disbursed.
Seekins machined the Nest from steel and uses a melonite coating that makes this a hard use, long life item. It’s beefy and can take some serious abuse.
This flash hider also looks rather nice. I won’t lie, the non-symmetrical design gives the Nest a satisfying appearance and also eliminates the need for timing or a crush washer.
It doesn’t need to be aligned in a specific manner to function. Toss it on and forget about it.
Last but not least is the B.E. Meyers 249F.
This legendary flash suppressor comes last on the list. Why?
Because it seems like B.E. Meyers wants to make them as hard as possible for the average shooter to purchase.
On the aftermarket, they run for several hundred dollars.
The 249F was evaluated by the U.S. Army and found to reduce 96% of visible muzzle flash and was given the highest score during testing – the more flash “arrested,” the better right?
Well, if you despise flash the way I despise the last Star Wars movie, then the 249F is for you.
The 4-prong design provides excellent flash suppression, and those prongs are reinforced to resist damage.
The grooves on the prongs don’t just provide a stylish touch. They also reduce weight without sacrificing durability.
As the name implies, this flash suppressor is designed for the M249 — a light machine gun. As such, it’s tasked with reducing far more flash than a rifle, and dealing with a higher firing rate, along with the heat that brings.
It’s rather long at 2.75-inches but light at 2.5 ounces. Sadly, it’s tough to find.
When you can find one expect to pay a premium for it.
Flash hiders serve a multitude of roles from protecting your eyes to protecting your position.
While there’s plenty on the market to choose from, we’ve brought some of our favorites for you to consider.
What do you think of these flash hiders? Got another one I should try next? Let me know in the comments below! Looking for some recoil taming or reduced reticle movement? Check out our Best Muzzle Brakes & Compensators.