In the movies, soldiers are often equipped with ubiquitous “silencers,” which make their weapons nearly silent, sounding little more than a soft “pop, pop” sound when the weapons are fired. In fact, it is pure fiction and while there are suppressors that reduce the muzzle velocity of firearms it hardly “silences” them. Moreover, suppressors typically produce a larger flash, which can expose a shooter, especially at night.
In addition, suppressors trap gases in the weapon, which increases the carbon fouling and that can reduce accuracy and require additional cleaning of the weapon.
Now engineers at the U.S. Army’s CCDC Army Research Laboratory, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which is part of the Army Futures Command, have developed the “smuzzle,” a muzzle brake that reportedly could reduce machine gun noise, flash, and recoil all at the same time.
The goal of the project is to improve a tactical-level soldier’s accuracy and movement.
The smuzzle, which has been in development since 2007 when the Army began to consider the requirements for its next-generation infantry weapon, could cut the volume in half at the shooter’s ear while reducing recoil by as much as one third, and even dropping the volume downrange by one quarter.
“A few years ago, we were asked whether our next-gen squad weapon should have a muzzle brake or a suppressor,” Greg Oberlin, a small-arms engineer who developed the Smuzzle with Daniel Cler and Eric Binter at U.S. Army’s CCDC Army Research Lab, told TechLink. “We asked ourselves ‘why not both?’ It was an ‘a-ha’ moment.”
Back in 2007, Cler had already been working on an improved muzzle brake for the U.S. military’s 155mm howitzers, and he turned his knowledge of fluid dynamics to the M240B, the military’s 7.62mm machine gun. The engineers began to work on a way to reduce recoil and muzzle flash for that machine gun, and their research continued from 2007 to 2018, which led to the development of dozens of prototypes and four patented technologies.
One of those received U.S. Patent 10,598,458, a twenty-year utility patent granted to the Army in March 2020 – for a “suppressed muzzle brake.”
It works similarly to most small-caliber muzzle brakes, where the smuzzle vents the pressurized gas of each shot to counteract the recoil of the weapon. By venting the gas through a series of tiny holes the smuzzle is able to reduce the volume by 50 percent near the shooter and reduce the flash signature by 25 percent.
“That brake baffle actually has a curvature to it borrowed from a 155-millimeter muzzle brake I designed,” added Daniel Cler, head of suppressor research at the U.S. Army’s CCDC Armaments Center in Picatinny, New Jersey.
To date, the smuzzle has been used in several tests in a variety of calibers including the 7.62×5-millimeter and with the Army’s new 6.8mm GP projectile, which will be used in the Next-Generation Squad Weapon Demonstrator, developed by Textron. The engineers have said that the design can be adapted to a variety of calibers or requirements and to date they’ve produced short and light cans that weight just .8 pounds, while they’ve also produced longer three-pound versions of the smuzzle.
“It was designed for automatic and semi-automatic weapons, but it’d be useful for anyone shooting magnum cartridges,” Cler said. “It has what you could call a bottom blocker that also reduces how much dust kicks up.”
So far, the smuzzle has been tested with thousands of rounds, including one involving a M240B on a full auto failure test. “It was glowing red,” said Cler. “But it never failed.”
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.