What is a Flash Hider or Flash Suppressor?
Before we go into details about the best AR15 flash hider, we need to give you some background information about this device. A flash hider is basically a muzzle device that goes on the end of your weapon that has a main purpose of suppressing (or hiding) the flash as the hot gases exit the weapon while firing. Because of the pressure, the explosive nature of gun powder, and the heat given off at a high velocity, there is usually a pretty big visual signature that is displayed out of the front of the weapon when firing. The visual signature, or “flash”, is even more apparent at night.
Flash hiders (or flash suppressors) have been around for a while and were prevalent during Vietnam. One of the most well-known is the M16 birdcage flash hider that is on many of the US military service rifles. This flash hider does not suppress or hide the flash very much at all and troops often complained about the lack of light discipline their rifles have during fire fights. The enemy is able to easily acquire their position at night because of the bright flash the M16 birdcage gives off.
So the best flash hider first and foremost must suppress the flash the most out of all the others. There are multiple angles and variations companies have experimented with to address this issue. They have tried open-prong versions, angled versions, various shapes, various holes, various materials, various lengths, and various sizes. The best way to tell which is the best at blocking the flash is by reading reviews like this one or by testing them objectively yourself.
One metric is clearly not a good metric for the best flash hider – the coolness factor. If you are buying a muzzle device for its coolness – it probably does not qualify as a flash hider. It is more of an ornament that your typical gun guy uses to look cool on Facebook or Instagram.
Best Flash Hider Effectiveness
This should go without saying. You want your flash hider to actually work. It must block the flash, or most of the flash. It must conceal you from being able to visually be detected at night when shooting. The way you can tell if the flash hider actually works is to do your own test. You can also see government reports from experts in the field or government laboratory tests. You want it to block 90-98% of the flash for a good range.
Best Flash Hider Quality
Quality is a big part. You want your flash hider to last. You want it to be able to withstand the rigors of combat or for whatever application you are using it for. So look for the material it is made out of. Look for the finish of the metal. Look for the special processes that are done to the flash hider to strengthen it and give it corrosion resistance. Look for consistency of the shape. For open pronged flash hiders, see if the flash hider bends easily. If it bends easily or at all then it is made of poor quality. The steel hardness should be around 50-60 Rockwell – if the item is made out of aluminum you are doing yourself a disservice by using it. It won’t last.
Best Flash Hider Color
Most flash hiders are a dark color. That is definitely something you want. You don’t want a chrome or silver flash hider unless you just want something to look cool. But you are going to have camouflage issues with a bright colored flash hider. Also, you want to make sure your flash hider is dull and not reflective. A lot of black flash hiders have a shiny finish – this is not good. You want a dull dark finish to best help camouflage your rifle.
Best Flash Hider Additional Features
Look for additional features. Look for flash hiders that allow you to connect a sound suppressor and can work with a blank firing adapter. Ensure the sound suppressor is a good one, otherwise your flash hider is limiting your capabilities. Look for flash hiders that are easy to clean, especially with sound suppression.
The Best AR15 Flash Hider Verdict – The Smith Enterprise Vortex Flash Hider G6A3
The Smith Enterprise Vortex Flash Hider G6A3 is the best AR15 Flash Hider out there. It is a newer version of an older patented design. Smith Enterprise uses helical flute technology to ensure the flash is suppressed the best. It disperses the hot gases in a manner that dissipates the heat and the trajectory of the gases better than any flash hider out there. Ron Smith, who is an expert in defense metallurgy, practically invented the heat treating processes that the majority of the defense industry uses today to harden steal and other metals. Below is a summary of a recent proposal Deployment Essentials wrote on behalf of Smith Enterprise. It goes into detail why we think this is the best flash hider:
Best AR15 Flash Hider Proposal Excerpt
Approved by Crane Naval Surface Warfare
Three of SEI’s Vortex® have been tested by CRANE Naval Surface Warfare division – the .50 Cal, the MK48, the MK14 (or M14). All three models passed very rigorous flash testing. In two of the instances we received back was that our flash hiders reduced the flash by 95%. End user comments, laboratory tests, and field tests continue to demonstrate that our suppressor is superior in blocking flash than any product available.
In 2010 Smith Enterprise was awarded a $1.5 Million contract with the Navy for 4,500 .50 Cal Flash Hiders. The flash hider had to undergo rigorous tests to include but not limited to a 10,000 round test with no issues, vibration testing, rust resistance, salt fog testing, drop testing, flash inspection, and user feedback. The Smith Enterprise .50 Cal flash hider received the award, beating out 3 other models. The Smith Vortex also received a flash reduction rating of 95%.
During the CRANE Family of Muzzle Brakes and Suppressors (FMBS) solicitation in 2011, Smith Enterprise submitted its MK48 flash hider for testing and approval by CRANE’s testing team. SEI’s MK48 passed with flying colors and is now officially safety certified by the military for deployment and use on the MK48 Machine Gun. SEI is the only company with a safety certified MK48 Flash Hider. The .50 Cal machine gun and the MK48 machine gun is much more rigorous than an AR15, which makes the AR15 version of the Smith Vortex very credible.
Patented Helical Flute Technology
SEI has a patented 15 degree helical flute design built into our Vortex® Flash Hider that blocks more of flash and gases than any other suppressor on the market today. Also the flutes are twisted with a 4.5 degree angle (tapered sidewall) further allowing the breakup and misdirection of the gases. The helical flute design guarantees a complete propellant burn and negligible flash, unlike the standard issue “bird cage” unit or competing and outdated straight-flute designs.
Below is a great depiction of how the gases are so dispersed by all of the very precise angles that there is no flash created because the hot gases are not concentrated and are dispersed in the most efficient way possible.
Arc Helix Technology
The old very successful Vortex® (above) had a helix that rotates on 3 axis where the new Vortex® flash hider has a helix that rotates on 4 axis in order to further improve propellant gas dispersion therefore reducing the flash even more. In order to do the Arc Helix, we had to write a very complicated program in order for our milling machine to make this part. We have an arc and a helix combined with a 4 ½ degree tapered wall. This new technology has been tested showing significant flash reduction and is now in production for all of our Vortex® Flash Hiders. Because there is now an arc, the gases are even more dispersed than before. SEI has filed for a patent for this technology.
Ten Pitch Radial Bottom Helical Grooves Technology
We now have a very thin ten-pitch helical groove that goes on the outside of the Vortex® Flash Hider in order to help with carbon build up during sound suppressor shooting. The ten-pitch helical groove reduces surface contact inside the coupler and gives carbon a place to escape making it easier to get the sound suppressor off after consistent sustained fire. This new technology has been tested and is now in production for all of our Vortex® Flash Hiders.
Improves Accuracy and Consistency
Because of the helical flute design and the alignment of the exiting gases via the helical tines, the Vortex® assists in improving overall systems accuracy. Many tests by SEI and external reviewers has shown much tighter shot groups when shooters have a Vortex® on the weapon being fired. The reason for this is when the standard GI issue birdcage flash hider is put on the weapon, there must be 35-50 foot pounds of torque required applied to the flash hider in order for it to be tight enough to not loosen under fire. SEI has measured the effects of the GI issue flash hider and this causes the bore to be stretched making an hourglass shape on the end of the bore. This can cause the bullet to yaw and slows the bullet down.
When the Vortex® is installed, one only needs to hand tighten with 15 foot pounds of torque. This allows the bore to be stress free and return to its normal intended shape. The Vortex® will not loosen under fire because the flutes are angled in such a way that they cause the flash hider to self-tighten under fire.
As touched on briefly above, because of the angle in the helical flute design, the Vortex® actually self-tightens under fire. This is important because operators do not have to over-tighten the flash hider during installation to keep the suppressor stable on other vendor’s models. Also, if the flash suppressor of other vendors is not tightened well, it can even loosen under fire causing safety concerns. The self-tightening technology of the Vortex® makes it easy and safe to install and fire. No additional tools are needed to install our flash hider.
One may ask about over-tightening while firing – this is not an issue for our flash hider because the shoulder of the flash hider butts up against the muzzle lip preventing over-tightening. We measured the distance very precisely to ensure this doesn’t happen for any of our flash hiders to include for the AR15.
Optimal Size/Weight Assurance
All Vortex® Flash Hiders are made to the smallest size possible without compromising the ruggedness and structural integrity required for such devices in a combat environment. The Vortex®, no matter what weapon it is on, is known as very light-weight to include our AR15 Flash Hider.
Universal Quick Sound Suppressor Capable
All of our flash hiders are all sound suppressor capable, allowing any size-compatible SEI sound suppressor to be attached with ease at the user level. Our AR15 flash hider is seamlessly compatible with our AR15 Wind TalkerTM Sound Suppressor.
Will Not Wash Out Thermals
The flash reduction ability of the Vortex® is so great, it will not affect thermal night sites like the PAS-13. This can be a common problem among other flash suppressors like the standard “bird cage” and obsolete straight flute designs.
All of our flash hiders can be removed with ease by the end user with a small wrench even after firing thousands of rounds through them. There is no need for any special carbon removal greases or special high torque tools.
Long Shelf Life & Thousands of Rounds Standard
Because the SEI Vortex® is very rugged and durable, it has an extremely long shelf life. While we cannot say how many rounds the Vortex® can withstand, we have yet to be told any of our Vortex® need replacing due to a failure of any kind in the design. Also, we know that CRANE Naval Surface Warfare fired at least 10,000 rounds through our .50 Cal Vortex® with no issues. Our AR15 Flash Hider is made with the same material and heat treating processes as the .50 Cal Flash Hider. The life cycle cost of the Vortex is very low because the Vortex does not need to be replaced or repaired.
Blank Adapter Capable
SEI makes a blank adapter out of ordinance grade 8620 steel for every Vortex® we design to give military personnel the ability to train with our flash suppressors using blanks. It is essential to train with the same equipment servicemen use when deploying to combat. To the best of our knowledge, we are the only vendor that has blank adapters available making it a major factor when considering the logistics of training. It prevents the need to switch out flash suppressors during blank and live fire training.
The SEI Flash Hider and Sound Suppressor are treated with the most advanced corrosion resistant techniques to include SEI and MILSPEC heat treatment, mag phosphate treatment, carbo nitriting, tiodizing, and black oxide treatment. These treatments protect SEIs Flash Hiders and Sound Suppressors from water, wind, sand, impacts, solvents, and other combat related hazards. The material is dry and does not attract dust, contamination, or sand.
SEI’s quality materials and processing standards allow our products to pass a 10 day salt fog test. We have Salt Fog tested many of our products that use the same processes and every time they pass with no issues. We are confident that when we do our own internal testing and CRANE does their testing our Sound Suppressor and Flash Hider will pass the 10 day Salt Fog test.
Where to buy the best flash hider for the AR-15?
The Smith Enterprise Vortex Flash Hider can be purchased at Brownells. If you like what we have written, buy the best AR-15 flash hider by clicking on the image below.
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