Military.com contributor Matt Cox wrote a story for us about how the Army and Marine Corps are working on ways to reduce muzzle flash and even suppress the sound of carbines, rifles and machine guns in the field.

Late last year, overall Afghanistan commander Gen. David Petraeus became concerned that the muzzle flash from weapons such as the M4 carbine was too easy for the enemy to spot.

As a result, the Army began equipping troops with special muzzle flash hiders that significantly reduce the visual powder flare during night firing.

“He wanted an immediate fix,” said Col. Doug Tamilio, the Army’s top weapons buyer, at a Feb. 2 Pentagon round table with reporters.

The Blackout flash hiders, made by Advanced Armament Corp., replace the M4′s closed flash hider with an open-prong device. The Army’s Rapid Equipping Force shipped about 10,000 of these flash hiders to Afghanistan for use on the M4 carbine and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and about 1,000 flash hiders made by Surefire, for the 7.62mm M240 machine gun.

You’ll remember that we noticed the Army’s new carbine RFPincluded a requirement for “signature suppression” which can include flash hiders and “silencers.” Tamilio added that a lot of R&D work has to be done on a flash hider to make it universal so that it can allow the Army bayonet to be attached and also a suppressor if needed. Cox found the AWG is intensively looking for a solution.

The Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group recently conducted an evaluation on what it calls the Signature Reduction System. The SRS consists of a “Signature Reduction Device,” or flash hider, and a “Signature Reduction Component,” or sound suppressor…

During the SRS assessment, AWG testers evaluated about a dozen commercially available suppressor systems, shooting about 30,000 rounds in tests. Army weapons officials are aware of the effort and are interested in using some of the AWG’s lessons learned in the service’s suppressor effort, Tamilio said.

It looks like the Army is moving slowly toward a solution that gives every Soldier a suppressor. It dovetails with what the Corps officials told us about the service’s effort to develop suppressors for machine guns, saying they’ve found the enemy in Afghanistan gets pretty freaked out when they don’t know where the fire at them is coming from.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie Taylor February 7, 2011 at 10:47 am

I've known about the blackout flash hider order for a while now, but I waited for the official word to come out. Good news for AAC!

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Moondog February 7, 2011 at 11:43 am

You will get a lot less muzzle flash and slightly less report from a standard 20" barrel, as opposed to the short M4 barrel. Why does everyone need a carbine, especially in Afganistan which is supposed to be more of a long range war, as opposed urban CQB? 5.56 ballistics are also better out of a 20" barrel.

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Former SF February 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm

You are absolutely right moondog. However I can tell u I would not have been able to accomplish my missions nearly as well with a full length rifle. I see ur point but the M4 is capable of making hits out to 600 meters. With the M16 the range is the same just with slightly more efficiency. I would gladly give up that little performance for a smaller weapon system. With that being said the powder flash issue has been ongoing and something should have been done along time ago. I had to buy my own surefire flash hider and K can for my M4A1 when I went to Afghanistan. That is something else PEO Soldier should think about, getting a sound suppresor in the hands of deploying troops.

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RustyShovel February 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Moondog makes a valid point, but I still applaud AWG for attempting to alleviate this problem.

A shorter weapon isn't just for door kickers, a lot of guys do most of their work in and out of vehicles. For them, a carbine makes a lot of sense.

But even for humps in the field with 20" barrels, sound suppression and flash obfuscation would be an advantage.

Unless the new muzzle design slows the bullet, I don't see a downside in pursuing this technology–especially if private enterprise can solve it without a bloated R&D contract.

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Brandon February 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm

OIF showed us that we have to a more mobile force and that means vehicles. Full length M16s are just too problematic for mounted operations and the 14.5" length of the M4 is the ideal balance between being compact but also generating enough velocity for the ammo. That said, adding cans to the mix would be interesting.

Perhaps this is something to consider for a next generation platform? Who's to say we can't have a modular bullpup assault rifle with an integral suppressor?

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nraddin February 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm

This is such a no duh that I don't understand why it's taken so long to get it onto the list of important things to do. I have said for years that build in sound and flash suppression should be on the list of 'must haves' for new battle rifles.

Suppressing the sound of weapons in action not only making the harder for the enemy to locate but also mean less hearing issue for the users (or no need for ear pro). Ammo changes or Barrel length changes can reduce flash dramatically, but so can a quick change of flash suppressor which I think is a wise 'right now' fix.

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Specialist February 8, 2011 at 5:44 am

"a lot of R&D work has to be done on a flash hider to make it universal so that it can allow the Army bayonet .."
I am curious about the experiences of other soldiers here. Have you ever used a bayonet on your weapon in combat operations?

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DonM2 February 9, 2011 at 5:26 am

It can change the vibration characteristics of the rifle/barrel, increasing accuracy. An alternative to the bayonet would be a sharp assymetrical muzzle/compensator.

Since the 2001 Afghan campaign against the Taliban began with airstrikes and a cavalry charge, repelling an enemy cavalry charge with the bayonet is right around the corner.

I understand the Marines in Iraq have fixed bayonets and advanced in response to an organized riot thrown to facilitate the escape of some terrorists. The rioters seemed to find somewhere else they would rather be, other than in front of Marine bayonets.

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victor615 February 8, 2011 at 9:24 am

What does the addition of a suppressor do to flash suppression? In an urban environment, suppressors make a great deal of sense.

Bayonet mounts? I didn't know they were used like that anymore.

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Lance February 8, 2011 at 10:52 am

Actually the M-16s in Afghanistan proved more suitable for open combat than the M-4 hence the USMC and Navy using M-16A3 and A4s and have far less problems with them.

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Lance February 8, 2011 at 10:55 am

Im with moondog Carbines in open combat are over rated.

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DonM2 February 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm

A bullpup rifle would be shorter overall, with a longer barrel for less muzzle flash. Shooting a .45 ACP with a suppressor would be a very quiet subsonic rifle, effective out to 400 meters.

Patent 6,079.138 would permit a very short rifle (28 inches) with a 24 inch barrel. Bloated defense contracts feed my family, so I will see if I can develop a new answer on how to cut down muzzle flash, because that is just how I roll.

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CSM February 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Many, amybe most Soldeirs being deployed aren't even issued bayonets. I have yet to see a Soldieer who is issued one carry it on mission.

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RustyShovel February 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm

"Shooting a .45 ACP with a suppressor would be a very quiet subsonic rifle, effective out to 400 meters."

.45 ACP out to 400 Meters? Are you joking? I love the .45, but past 50 yards it gets pretty sketchy. At 400 meters the thing would have a 5 yard drop and the velocity of a Prius.

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nraddin February 11, 2011 at 6:37 am

I can regulatory (1 in 4) hit a spinner at 200m with my 3.5" Barrel XD in .45 ACP. It really is much less about the gun you are shooting than how well the gun is pointed. Look up "Glock 27 at Long Range (230 yards)" on youtube if you don't buy it. Not me but proves the point. Having said that 400m is starting to get a little crazy.

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nraddin February 11, 2011 at 6:43 am

Barrel length is only one factor in the flash you see. It would be easy to build out a cartage that will burn it's charge faster in a shorter barrel. The faster charge puts more wear on the weapon but produces less flash. May of the newer carbines using specialty ammo are designed exactly like that. Short barrels are not equal to less flash and greater accuracy. They are related, really there are more important factors going on here.

Also anyone that has ever done any CQB knows that a short weapon is a faster weapon (Simple geometry really), Accuracy is less of a problem as your targets are almost always sub 150m, but sound is a huge factor.

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GHL February 15, 2011 at 5:06 am

I'm sure the problem is less whether or not they are used, as much as it is that the spec package lists it as a requirement. It is much easier to find a compliant flash suppressor than it is to change the existing spec package on the weapon system.

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GHL February 15, 2011 at 5:19 am

I think a valid point is being missed; even if you can hit the target (which you note at only a 25% hit rate), the terminal ballistics on the target are not taken into account. Even if you could hit the target 90% of the time, at 200 yrds + a .45 ACP will be anemic to say the very least.

The M4 is the choosen platform for a reason, and despite its shortcomings, as those who above who have carried them in combat noted, they are a more sutible platform than the M16. There can always be a better option, but currently a markably better system (when taken every aspect into account) has not presented itself.

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DonM September 5, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I regularly hit steel targets at 400 m with a .45 colt Carbine (Marlin). Cowboy action loads are even more anemic than .45 ACP. Sure, the trajectory is a bit of a rainbow, but with a laser range finder, that isn't much of a problem, a proper sight can use the laser to calculate a super-elevation automatically. .45 ACP at 400 meters won't penetrate body armor, but the Taliban doesn't normally use body armor.

And the point is, the first notification the enemy would get is people being smacked down. The De Lisle carbine was used in WWII effectively.

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