Questioning the Combat Usefulness of a Muzzle Blast Enhancer

Domari Nolo and the SHM Loudener

Snake Hound Machine is building something called “The Loudener.” It’s a muzzle blast enhancer. Why—and this is not a rhetorical question—would anyone want a muzzle blast enhancer?

The Loudener is a heavy duty muzzle brake that generates a huge muzzle blast which, according to the company, feels like a .50 cal blast. They claim the Loudener has a legitimate combat application; maybe so, but at least at first glance it seems to be just a toy for people who want their weapons to be extra loud and scary.

The Loudener will be offered for 5.56 ARs, AKs and .308 caliber weapons ($75 for the 5.56 and AK versions, $85 for .308).

When I was in high school my dad took me to a machine gun shoot near San Antonio, Texas. All kinds of full autos, from .50 calibers to suppressed .22 caliberss, were available to shoot. I got to fire an AK and an MG42. I think I fell in love with the MG42.

But one of the things I remember most was an AR-15 that made a huge muzzle blast when fired. My dad had bought me an AR-15 the previous Christmas, so I knew what normal AR muzzle blast looked like. This weapon was so loud it was almost painful, even through hearing protection.

I asked a man working the firing line, “Why is that AR so loud?” “It’s got a muzzle blast enhancer,” he answered.

I was puzzled. What’s the point of making a weapon louder and easier to spot? He explained that filmmakers use the enhancer to get footage of weapons firing with giant fireballs coming from the muzzle.

At the time, when I was 17, the only reason I could see to make a weapon louder and brighter was for stupid Hollywood movies.

Then I joined the Marines, and served six years as an armorer and range coach in a USMC Reserve Recon unit. And was a National Guard tanker and scout. And served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I was a street cop for almost 20 years.

I learned a lot about firearms, went to a few shooting schools, fired thousands upon thousands of rounds from rifles, pistols, shotguns, machine guns and tank main guns, was in numerous armed, high-stress encounters, and was nearly shot and/or blown up a few times in combat. My perspective about weapons changed dramatically.

I still don’t see any legitimate combat-related reason to equip a weapon with a muzzle blast enhancer.

The Loudener

Snake Hound Machine is a professional outfit, making quality AKs and weapon accessories. I’ve only recently heard of them, but my impression of the company was immediately favorable.

My favorable view of Snake Hound is what’s causing my confusion about the Loudener. Snake Hound Machine has released a video on YouTube explaining and demonstrating it , and the device certainly seems to accomplish its intended goal. It makes a shortly AR’s muzzle blast look, and allegedly feel, like blast from a much larger weapon. I just don’t understand why.

According to Snake Hound’s designer Owen Martin, the Loudener has valid uses in combat. He mentions it in a brief interview for Recoil Magazine that “it exists because sometimes the demoralizing effect of live fire is important. . . Instead of a [muzzle blast] being directed in a cone, it creates noise in a full 180-degree pattern, so to anyone in that area it will sound like it is coming right at them.”

I’m not a Delta Force Recon SEAL Ranger, but on the rare occasions I shot at someone, I really wanted to kill them, not scare them. When the enemy was shooting at me, I wasn’t concerned with how loud their weapon was. Maybe if I was inside the same room with them I’d feel different, but in that case I’m pretty sure I’d be more focused on shooting them than asking them to turn down their muzzle blast.

I’ve wracked my brain trying to come up with military scenarios where I’d want my weapon to be louder and more visible, and I’ve yet to come up with any; especially since this is not a quick-detach muzzle brake. Whatever weapon it goes on would have to be dedicated to being much louder and easier to spot. I don’t think I’d be willing to give away my position every time I fired just so I could supposedly demoralize the enemy. Particularly considering the fact that I’ve seen an enemy take heavy machine gun, tank, mortar and anti-tank missile fire without becoming demoralized (not to mention air strikes).

Maybe there could be a situation where a platoon leader says: “Smith, move to the wall and fire that super loud weapon. Then while all the Taliban are shooting at you, the rest of us will escape.” And Smith would run to the wall, unsling his second long gun (since he’d have a different rifle or carbine as a primary), fire a few bursts and make every Taliban in the area think the good guys were shooting a Browning M2 at them, then run like hell. I guess it could happen.

Another possibility–and it’s just a possibility–is that a unit could fire a Loudener-modified weapon into the door or window of an enemy-occupied structure to scare them out, but that still doesn’t seem likely. At least not likely enough to justify dragging around an extra weapon or upper.

I could be wrong about this. It has happened before.

In the Youtube video, Owen Martin (by all accounts a great AK gunsmith) tells us that the Loudener is being tested by a Tier One unit although the name is redacted in the video. He does drop the hint that they’re going to use them on their short-barreled M240Bs. Maybe they have a plan for using the Loudener.

But here’s where I have to call shenanigans. If an SOF unit is testing your gear and it’s a secret, don’t mention it at all. If you put it out there on YouTube and “redact” it, either it’s not really secret or you’re making something up to sound cool. Most veterans immediately throw the BS flag when a civilian mentions that they were SOF, or worked for SOF, or as in this case have some secret connection to SOF that they can’t talk about.

Which doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Here’s another look from Domari Nolo.

It wasn’t necessary for Snake Hound Machine to drop that hint and get me all riled up. They’ve created a product that would be cool to shoot, although I wouldn’t want to be next to the guy shooting it. This product looks well made and seems to do exactly what they claim it does. I just wouldn’t buy one and expect it to be the least bit useful in combat.

Would you? Can you legitimately conceive of a reason this would be used in a combat scenario? Has any of the readership here been in a combat situation where this would have been a force multiplier? I will readily admit I might be missing something, and I’m certainly not slinging mud at Snake Hound Machine (I still want one of those AKs). As I said in the beginning, this isn’t a rhetorical question.

Why would anyone want a muzzle blast enhancer?

by Chris Hernandez

About the Author: Chris Hernandez is a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There he frequently worked with French elements of ISAF while working with Afghan personnel. He is also a veteran police officer, having spent a long (and eye-opening) deployment as part of a UN police mission in Kosovo. He is the author of White Flags and Dropped Rifles: the Truth About the French Army, the book Proof of Our Resolve and upcoming novel Line in the Valley. You can read more work in The Statesman and on his blog.

Chris Hernandez on his worst day in Afghanistan.


  • 14R

    Why not just swap the PWS brake off a SCAR 16 or 17? They are fully capable of screwing some eardrums up.

  • Rusty Shovel

    What I want to know is why spinner rims, an exhaust whistle, flip-flop paint, and underlighting aren’t available for my Stryker. Shock and AWESOME, boy-iiiee!!

    • straps

      ‘zactly. Like those guys who say “open pipes save lives.”

      Who also happen to be a_holes.

  • Joshua

    There is no combat application. You want to know what is really demoralizing? Hitting your target and if you miss snapping the rounds MM’s from their head… that is demoralizing. I doubt any “Tier One Unite” would use these, much less on a shorty 240. Sounds like the typical way to sell a product, hype it with hints of super secret military use even if its false.

    I guess when I had my suppressor on my M4A1 I was doing it wrong….

    This also would destroy someones hearing in that moment when you just do not have time to toss on some ear pro. It reminds of those guys who everyone hates, the ones that show up at a training class with this obnoxious muzzle break for the simple reason that is annoys people.

    You know what they say about a fool and his money. Mention “real military uses” and people eat that shit up.

    • Joshua

      BTW thanks for this, I plan to send it by one of my friends who may have more information on the so called group that is adopting this.

  • Bruce

    Totally agree, I’m wondering why more people are not debating the usefulness of this item. I understand the manufacturer may not want to discuss the pro’s and con’s of the loudener if there are not very many pro’s besides being a novelty. (quick detach seems much more feasible if it’s truly a tool)
    -However I’d like to purchase the shirt in one of the photos’, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” something like that.

  • Bob

    In the past few years, the conventional wisdom of “silence (suppression) is golden” during DA hit has come up for debate. The opposing school of thought teaches that the shock that accompanies a hefty amount of VoA provides a major advantage, and that going in loud with active ear protection is the best option when you cannot be 100% guaranteed to have the element of surprise.

    If that is the doctrine you subscribe to, I can see why this would be considered an advantage. If a dozen guys come in a house wearing Peltors, shooting weapons that each “sound and feel like .50 cal”, anyone who is in doubt about their willingness to die for their cause is going to hit the dirt. Anyone who is ready to do so won’t be able to remember what day it is or add more than 2 numbers together in a sequence before breaking their train of thought.

    Like anything else tactical, it’s situational, and works well when applied properly.

    PS- For the people out there that think Multicam is the end-all-be-all of camo patterns and those of you that spend six hours on the range and never stop using the thumb over grip, read and reread that last line repeatedly. Then read it again a few more times. Then set this as your homepage or background, and continue to read that line multiple times a day for several months.

    “You know what they say about a fool and his money. Mention ‘real military uses’ and people eat that **** up.”

    ^^^Bingo! And hint that SOF use it, and the idiots will pay double.

    In all seriousness, hopefully I helped shed light on why some might utilize it.

    • straps

      Well stated but I still don’t buy it.

      Loud guns aren’t gonna deter a committed adversary, and good tactics will neutralize an ambivalent one before he’s even finished weighing his options.

      Suppressors for FISHing allow two good guys who are actively engaging a threat in one room to conduct their business as good guys elsewhere in the same structure look for someone else to kill–I mean clear the rest of the building (or respond to the threat encountered by the initial TIC that doesn’t result in fratricide). Being able to hear is huge. Floorboards and doors creak, Muj guns rattle.

      Suppression is a win-win for real deal Operations, if for no other reason than denying a QRF (and yes, bad guys most definitely have QRF–and RPGs and mortars) the ability to locate the activity.

      Lastly, I’ve been on enclosed ranges and in shoothouse LFXs with unsuppressed SBRs and the sheer concussive force of the muzzle blast–EHP or not–is debilitating.

  • 14R

    Brakes are known for reducing recoil…with the current status of our military declining to a metrosexual/female dominant force, reduced recoil would have its place. Outside of that, I cannot see one situation that could be better addressed with this novelty than with another option already available. Flash bangs, 7.5″ SBRs and many other options available for instilling fear in the enemy…a solid thwack of impact works well too. May be a great product with quality craftsmanship but late never the less.

    • straps

      Recoil management/reduction isn’t for the gheys.

      Recoil management/reduction is for fast follow-through/follow-up to keep your muzzle on targets that (a) move and (b) shoot back.

      • 14R

        Straps…we are talking about a 5.56 with already minimal recoil. I understand the importance of follow up shots. I also have daughters that shoot better than the majority who did pass BRM back in 2002 and far better than all those who did not pass. And let us be realistic, if follow up shots and recoil was that important we would see more suppressors issued. To clarify though, since some took it serious, my original comment about metrosexuals and women was a joke. To further clarify, as some have noted, the sound of positive feedback of rounds on target make follow up shots, and the loudness associated with it, irrelevant. A suppressor is far more versatile and useful in such a situation.

  • Tom

    “like blast from a much larger weapon. I just don’t understand why”

    Because the world is full of mall ninjas who will pay for it.

  • moondawg

    It would be useful for deafening and disorienting your foxhole buddy or whoever was in a foxhole or position near to you.. In my limited experience in SE Asia, the most effective way to discombobulate or discomfort an enemy is to put a couple of rounds center of mass. Impressing him with your muzzle blast never entered into it. I am old fashioned.

  • SleepyDave

    You know that green stuff in your wallet? SHM would like some of it. And the best way to get it, is to get it with a unique product that no one has ever sold before. And the best way to market it, is to folk who value that something is in use by a “tier 1” organization.

    Also, bear in mind, remember the Luminox watches? You know, the official Navy SEAL watch? You know what actually happened? Luminox mailed a bunch to some team guys, unsolicited, and the guys either smashed ’em or trashed ’em once they realized they sucked.

  • steelcobra

    Simpsons did it.

  • bluewarrior

    it was common practice with Aussi SAS units in vietnam to cut down their FALs in order to enhance the sound and muzzle flash, this was also done with some SOG units with adding Grease gun and M2 Carbiine flash suppressor to their weapons. The reason they did this was to make the enemy believe that their small teams were much larger and had heaver weapons.

  • BillyWhat?

    All the retarded discovery channel shows like Family guns and that Red Jacket show constantly make the same stupid claims.
    O yes, we’re making this entirely useless “1000 Yard AK” because the secret squirel SF guys want us to build it.
    Yeah right, whatever.
    If you want to make some crap just because you can and you think it’s fun just say that.
    Theres enough people that will buy stuff for that reason, you dont have to lie about some SF or better yet Tier1 use of your little gizmo

  • Steven S

    Maybe it has a civilian application? Some burglars enter your house. You pop a few rounds that scare the shit out of them. It could probably scare a bear or some wild animal too.

    I am no expert though.

    • deweyed

      i was thinking the same thing. in a home invasion, might act as a flash bang while getting sights on target. ???

      • Joshua

        It will also destroy your ear drums. A M4A1 is loud enough in a building without ear pro, the last thing you want is a AR-15 that sounds like a 50 going off in rapid succession.

        Your hearing would almost certainly be gone after that.

  • JP2336EOD

    This is pointless. Zero Real-World application. Not much else to say.

  • Allwet

    MFDSENVDIDPIVD; Mark 1, Mod 0
    Maximum Force Debilitating Signature Enhancing Night Vision Defeating Individual Deafening Positional Indication Verification Device.

    DDB? Deaf, Dumb and Blinder?

  • Lance

    This is pointless and only hurts the operators hearing. Remember the horrible Bushmaster Mini Y Comps breaks ten years ago they hurt they shooters and spectators more than a bullet does LOL. No this is some gimmick to a guy who hates fellow shooter on a range.

  • bravo2

    Theoretically, it could give the enemy the impression that you’re a larger group than you are, i.e., ‘SOG’ back in the day relied on IA drills with overwhelming firepower to leave an impression and buy time, but there’s no tangible way to measure the effect of this enhancer on others (other than decibel levels and appointments w/ a ear doc or should I say ‘Otolaryngologist’).

  • Rodney

    If you really want to demoralize the enemy leave the 5.56 varmit rifle at home and bring the 7.62×51 (or a 6.5 Grendel). They can make even more noise, and actually kill what they connect with.

    • Joshua

      Funny how 1-2 COM hits with Mk262 and I never had issues with that so called varmint round….

  • Rick Carver

    Can I just kick you in the nuts instead? That has combat usefulness training applications, too.

  • Lwbclark

    While I don’t subscribe to the idea

  • Lwbclark

    While I don’t subscribe to the idea myself, I could see an argument that a deafening and blinding muzzle blast could significantly degrade the ability of follow-up targets to respond during a fight inside a structure (albeit not as well as a couple of well placed shots from your #2 man). All of this would assume a conditioned firer with good active ear pro. It’s weak but is something…

  • Greg

    I think a lot of us are neglecting the reality that a louder weapon is going to intimidate you more. Don’t think so, get shot at by a .22, chances are you will giggle and be more likely to return fire from bad cover or none at all. Same scenario but the gun sounds like a .50 beuawolf and chances are you will atleast wait till incoming fire ceases before even attempting to return fire or move.

    • 14R

      Intimidation is based off of what we either do not know or do know. A .22 in your foot can come out your ball sac doing mucho grande damage while most people cannot handle a .50, let alone afford one or an optic suitable for use with it. In the hands of someone trained, or at least experienced with either, intimidation is a nonissue as dead is dead. I am more intimidated by the idiot with a .22 who can afford ammo than I am the rich dude who bought a safe queen and bragging rights.

  • GreyGhost

    Side note, I run an ares effin comp on a 7.5″ pistol 556 and it is loud as hell. If you fire without ear pro your ear will hurt immediately, and I imagine anyone within 30 meters would too. This could disable any person without ear pro, your natural reaction would be to shield your ears and escape the immediate area of noise.

  • stefan s.

    Unwanted attention. If your louder than those around you you’ll end up getting some unwanted lead attention. Not too mention pissing off your mates in the stack! Dumbass idea!

  • Chuck Haggard

    I think it would be far better to give everybody a can and make our guns quieter. That way our guys have better situational awareness with less hearing damage long term, and the bad guys get shot and maybe never hear it coming.

    If we are going to get ridiculous, think of a scenario where you are in a fight with platoon sized Taliban element, the last guy alive on their side thinks he is winning because all the noise is coming from their side of the fight……

    “Blast enhancer” is nothing but clown shoes.

  • Zak

    To each his own.

    Magpul mags, BAD ASS lever, thumb over bore hold, free floated barrel, 1911, anything that Chris Costa uses-they all have fanboys. I have seen them in classes, at the range and when deployed, wearing their “kit,” calling themselves a “sheepdog.” The loudener is no different, if someone wants to buy it, its their money, not mine or anyone else’s to worry about.

    The firearms industry is like any other, full of people trying to sell you stuff you think you cannot live without.

  • Jeff

    We aren’t gonna say which Tier One unit, except that it rhymes with Shmelta or Shmeal Shmeam Shmix

  • Pablo

    I guess it can be a benefit for those who are competing with Mini-Rifle events during a Shoot fest Competition. My experienced is that Shooters at IPCS and PPSA Sanctions Mini-Rifles do not have a Loud Enhancer which in time during the competition or shoots at the target, the Range Officer’s Electronic Sound Pick up device in his hand, cannot pick up the sound of the blast from .22 Cal Mini Rifle. Since the RO cannot pick up the sound from the blast of the competitor’s Mini Rifle AR-15, the RO replace his handheld device, and re-do it again, but failed to pick-up the sound, so he just disqualified the shooter from not getting the right count on the RO’s hand held device. I guess this sound enhancer should be offered to those Shooters who compete at the Mini-Rifle Competition which may guarantee to pick up their blast by the RO’s handheld device during shooting competitions.

  • Not Me

    This definitely has a legitimate combat use; right next to the rape whistles the female soldiers will be carrying to make noise with, in case they get scared.

  • stefan s.

    Remember when a large dose of extreme prejudice on the battlefield was enough to deter aggression? Oh I miss the cold war days!

  • Michael

    LOL A .22 in a closed room in the dead of night sounds like a freakin cannon!!!!

  • Sarge

    Thought being down range from any weapons fire was scary, even the .22 LR sounded loud. Been down range from an .30-06, not only did it sound like a cannon, it hurt like hell when it hit and it was just a grazing hit in the leg. I’m pretty sure the drunk SOB that shoot me thought he had opene3d the gates of hell when I returned fire with my little .30cal M-1 Carbine. Being down range from a bunch of guys out to do you harm any weapon they use is loud enough, no matter the situation.

  • Big Daddy

    Perfect for the new US Army, the idea is to just piss off your enemy fits perfectly into the new army order of battle. In civilian life again it’s perfect, how can I chase everybody off the range so I can have it all for myself?

    • shawn1999

      Ooh- good idea! “I told you kids get off my lawn!” BLAM!- doesn’t have to hit anything
      Of course, you’ll be cleaning soiled pants from your lawn for a week after, but hey, it’s still effective

  • Charlie W.

    If it doesn’t enhance accuracy and/or reliability it’s just dead weight. stefan s. has a point about unwanted
    attention. Who gets targeted first, the guy with a rifle or the machine gun ? Even if it only sounds more dangerous its going to bring a ____ storm your way.

  • Alpha 1 Whiskey

    There are two practical purposes for this device that I can think of right off the bat, though as always situation and mission dictate. The first is fire superiority, if you can make it sound like you have two M2s instead of two M240s, it’s more likely your enemy will have their heads down when your support by fire element initiates contact, thus ensuring freedom of movement for the assaulting team. The other practical purpose is to make an element appear larger than it is, if there are 50s, then the size the element would appear to be is at a platoon or above, when in reality it’s a squad with a gun team attached. In more conventional warfare, which is a bit out the window these days, you could guess the size of your foe by what’s coming at you. SAW = squad, 240 = platoon, Mortars = Company etc. there are missions out there where a suppressed short barreled m4 isn’t what’s needed to accomplish the mission, you use the tool for the job, as a side note, if you’re a tier one unit, you’ve got that government credit card so you can fill your toolbox up with whatever you want, it doesn’t mean you’ll use it every time, but when you need it, it’s right there in the toolbox.

  • shawn1999

    Lots of comments, and probably been said before, but basically:
    This is a product to stoke the testosterone of those who like to shoot guns but can’t afford the really big ones.
    Not saying its not fun, but its a toy, not a tool. The comments to teh contrary by the sales guy in the video are ways for husbands to justify the expense to their wives. Still not saying it isn’t cool, and is probably cheaper to buy an AR/Loudener than a full blown 50 cal… but its still just a toy (OK, I’ll say it: a really KICK-@$$ toy!! But still a toy…. I WANT ONE!)

    As for demoralizing, I can’t think of anything worse than hearing the wind whip, your buddy fall over, and not know where the HELL that round came from…depending on the circumstances, I would imagine more enemies standing up and surrendering to the thin air when they have no idea even the general direction where they could possibly shoot to try to save their @$$es.

    I guess it might be useful as a decoy to cover a flanking maneuver, but then again, so would a lit cigarette, book of matches and a bunch of firecrackers… they weigh and cost less too.

  • Jim

    During the forgotten War, During the hours of darkness, we were trained to fire at the muzzle flashes. In this case, the bigger the better target.

    • Bob Rowe

      Makes ya want to walk the SKY-LIGHT or IN AN OPEN ! ! SCARES ME ALL READEY !!

  • hrmlss

    Maybe to “allow” some to fall into the hands of the Taliban, who will think they are some great new secret weapon.

  • Munk

    It is far scarier to not be able to see or hear where you are getting shot from. That is why snipers are so hated upon any battlefield

  • Grey Wolf

    “The Loudener” is a joke that will make someone deaf and good people killed. Taliban (or any other bad guy) don’t run from noise, they run from accurate fire putting their comrades down.

    Just something else to try and fleece hard earned money from the military.

    A fool and his money are soon parted which ,earns the Pentagons bean counters will probably buy it.