This article was published yesterday on KitUp.military.com. The editor changed it up quite a bit, but I like my version better (doesn’t every writer feel that way?), so I’ve published the original version below. With one addition; I decided to include the question at the end.
This article isn’t exactly “gun porn”, as it’s more about tactics and my wartime experience than about weapons. Hope you guys enjoy it.
When I was in high school my dad took me to a machine gun shoot near San Antonio. All kinds of full autos, from .50 cals to suppressed .22s, were available to shoot. I got to fire an AK and an MG42. I think I fell in love with the 42.
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 (because nothing says peace and love like a Colt AR-15), 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.”
I was puzzled. What’s the point of making a weapon to be louder and easier to spot? I asked the man, “Why would anyone want a muzzle blast enhancer?”
“It’s for movies. Some filmmakers want to get footage of weapons firing with giant fireballs coming from the muzzle.”
“Oh,” I said. “That makes sense.” At the time, when I was seventeen, 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 reserve Recon unit. And was a National Guard tanker and scout. And served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And was a street cop for almost twenty 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 tons of armed, high-stress encounters, and was nearly shot and/or blown up a few times in combat. My perspective about weapons changed dramatically.
And I still don’t see any legitimate reason to own a muzzle blast enhancer.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good gimmick. Try as I might, I just can’t see the new “Loudener”, from New Hampshire-based Snake Hound Machine, as anything but a gimmick. 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 first glance it seems to be 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).
Snake Hound Machine (http://snakehoundmachine.com) 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. I’d love to get my hands on one of their Kalashnikov builds.
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 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-gE89u3Phw), 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 get why.
According to Snake Hound’s designer Owen Martin, the Loudener has valid uses in combat. He mentions in a brief interview for Recoil Magazine (http://www.recoilweb.com/snake-hound-machines-loudener-29099.html) that “It exists because sometimes the demoralizing effect of live fire is important. . . Instead of it [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 no 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 real 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 racked my brain trying to come up with military scenarios where I’d want my weapon to be louder and more visible, and I haven’t come up with any so far. 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 our enemy take heavy machine gun, tank, mortar and anti-tank missile fire without getting demoralized. Not to mention air strikes.
Maybe there could be a situation where a platoon leader says, “Smith, go to that wall and fire the 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.
On the Youtube video, Owen Martin tells us that the Loudener is being tested by [censoredcensoredcensoredcensored]. And don’t try to lip read what he says, because a black “redacted” banner is displayed over Martin’s mouth when he almost tells us which super awesome Tier One unit it is. He does drop the hint that they’re going to use them on their short-barreled M240Bs, which suggests it’s a one of the units I would be killed for even mentioning. Maybe they have a plan for using the Loudener. If so, they’re not going to tell me about it.
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 then “redact” it, and drop hints, either it’s not really secret or you’re making something up to sound cool. Most of us veterans immediately throw the BS flag when a civilian mentions that they were SOF, or worked for SOF, or have some secret connection to SOF that they can’t talk about.
And 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. If Steven Spielberg called me, said “I’ve got to make your novel into a movie! Here’s fifty million dollars for the rights!”, you can bet I’d buy a bunch of Snake Hound AKs and a few Loudeners to go along with them, just for the hell of it. But I 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). This isn’t a rhetorical question.
Why would anyone want a muzzle blast enhancer?
Filed under: Afghanistan, Gear reviews, Iraq | 20 Comments
Tags: loudener, snake hound machine