S.O.M. Muzzle Brake – not everything needs to be big.
Sometimes, no matter what you’ve been told, size really does matter – but sometimes bigger isn’t better. Depending on your intentions, a smaller one can be just what you need. Bigger can mean more recoil mitigation, sure, but who really wants a big old tip just hanging out of your handguard getting in the way, hitting corners, getting caught up in brush, etc? When building an AR pistol, or a SBR, having a big muzzle brake can sort of defeat the purpose of the shortened barrel.
With that in mind, when Scott over at Rifenbark Armory sent us a S.O.M. (Sound of Madness) muzzle brake for 5.56, Ryan and I decided to stick it on his brand new 7.5″ AR pistol build to run it through its paces. I mean, Ryan has such a short barrel that it will make the S.O.M. work its butt off with all that excess powder.
The S.O.M. is really small. It has 2 rows of holes at the 11 and 1 o’clock positions – these allow it to make exhaust jets pushing down on your barrel to mitigate muzzle rise. On the sides, the muzzle brake has 2 slot ports to reduce recoil by venting gases out the sides instead of out the front. In the slots are a couple of round cutouts, which allow you to insert a screwdriver through for installation (more about that in a minute). The front of our S.O.M. had a pain infliction strike face – pointy spikes used for striking in close quarters. They look pretty wicked and I like the addition, but they also make a target crown faced version as well.
The S.O.M. ships with a Peel washer, and the manufacturer recommends that or a shim over a crush washer to prevent keyholing when installing. The really cool part about installation? No need for a wrench! After getting pissed off from getting my wrench wedged between my Birdcage and crush washer on my .300blk pistol build, and between my muzzle brake and crush washer on my AR-10, this is a welcome change! Instead of a wrench, the S.O.M. is made to let you use a screwdriver or similar item, and slide it through the side ports to align the brake. Cool idea and I wish other brakes did the same.
Rifenbark Armory has just completed production for a special wrench, made of non-marring Delrin, to use with all current versions of their brake, if desired – it’s included with their introductory offer for their new .30 brakes, but can be purchased separately for $9.99. Again, it isn’t required since you can use any non-marring tool that will fit through the side ports, but it’s a nice touch!
For reference, Ryan’s pistol has a 7.5″ barrel with a 7″ handguard and the top vent ports just clear it.
We decided to test the S.O.M. brake on a 7.5″ pistol because it would make everything exaggerated in difficulty: more recoil, greater muzzle rise due to short length, increased excess gas and unburned powder, and decreased control due to hand position. Now Ryan wasn’t expecting much out of this muzzle brake because it’s so small. After firing his first magazine, he had a bit of a puzzled look on his face – he had much better control over his pistol than he thought he would. We confirmed it by reviewing the video: The rows of tiny jet ports on top were doing their job perfectly – muzzle rise was minimal, and there was no dropping from excess pressure. When I was shooting it, I was able to keep my sight picture in place between shots, even while double tapping or rapid firing.
Now when it comes to recoil though, it’s a slightly different story. Recoil is still there, though it is mitigated somewhat. Rather than removing it, it loweres it some and changes it to more of a rabbit foot thump (as Ryan phrased it) – a short impulse. Part of that is because we’re using a very short barrel but also because it’s a tradeoff with the small size of the S.O.M.; to further reduce the recoil, the side ports would need to be much larger to vent more gas to the sides. Well, there isn’t much more room for bigger ports. Considering 5.56 isn’t a high recoil round in the first place, this is much less an issue than it could be with heavier thudding rounds (which is the perfect excuse for us to test out Rifenbark Armory’s new .30 version on my .300blk pistol, and on Ryan’s TacOps Echo 51 bolt action). When we spoke to the manufacturer to get some back info before reviewing the brake, Scott mentioned that muzzle rise was their primary concern and recoil definitely secondary due to the low recoil of the 5.56, so this wasn’t unexpected.
Finally, the strike face. The spikes hurt. I’m a believer that any muzzle device to the face is going to hurt like a SOB so pain infliction muzzle devices aren’t that big a deal, but these do work very well and really look cool. I had to keep resisting the urge to start poking Ryan with it. I’m curious about their target crown face as well, but will save that for Ryan’s bolt action.
Like my wife has said, just because something is small doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Does the S.O.M. have all the recoil mitigation of some of the larger brakes? No, though it is still very manageable. But the muzzle control is excellent, the installation process is easy, it looks pretty damn sexy and is available for 5.56/.223 and .30 calibers with or without the strike face. And at a $89.99 price point, the brake is well within the price range of its competitors, even being cheaper than many less effective brakes.
Both Ryan and I will grab these for future short barrel builds, as the small size and less weight make it perfect for those types of builds. If you’re building a full length rifle or carbine and want a competition brake, you may want to consider a larger brake to squeeze out the most recoil mitigation you can… but with how well the S.O.M. works, how inexpensive it is, and how light and small it is, you won’t go wrong at all with picking the S.O.M..
Fit and Finish: