The “Loudener”

15Aug13

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.

http://kitup.military.com/2013/08/loudener-muzzle-device.html#more-25522

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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?

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22 Responses to “The “Loudener””

  1. No combat soldier wants a “shoot me here,” banner attached to their rifle, which is what this is. There is a reason that almost all Special Operations are issued suppressors with their long guns and carbines.
    This product is a range toy. If you really want to damage your hearing, annoy those next to you on the line, and exasperate passers-by. Save the money and buy ammo…

    • Shepherd,

      I went to a LE carbine training course a few years back. One of the guys had a post-ban AR with no muzzle brake. I was next to the guy, and his weapon hurt every time he fired. As far as practical application goes, I just don’t see it. But if it’s just you, and you feel like making noise, why not? Tannerite targets aren’t practical either, but they’re damn fun to shoot. 🙂

  2. 3 Mike_C

    I think it’s the same impulse that makes people want a louder exhaust on their car or motorcycle*, or those never-to-be-sufficiently-damned boom-boom car sound systems that announce to one and all “an attention seeking immature jerk is driving this vehicle!” As if the deeply tinted windows and oversized aftermarket spoiler that make the car look like a giant dustbuster weren’t enough of a hint.

    *I aware of the “loud pipes save lives” assertion, to which I respond: They may save lives, but also they make people want to kill you.

    I still don’t see any legitimate reason to own a muzzle blast enhancer
    Apologies in advance for playing the semantics Nazi, but that “legitimate” makes me a little nervous. The muzzle blast enhancer sounds like a silly toy to me, but I reluctantly support people’s right to have one (and my right to ask people not to use one near me, but I digress as usual) even if using one makes them look like a doofus. I agree that I can see no intelligent or rational reason to own one, but no one needs a “legitimate” reason to own something. It all smacks too much of the “No one has a legitimate need for an EBR” assertion to me — even if it is more logical.

    • Mike,

      Understood, and I meant “legitimate” in the sense of “useful in combat”, not in the legal sense. I don’t think I put anything in the article that suggests they should be illegal. I should have used the term “legitimate combat application”.

  3. 5 Reserve Corporal

    I totaly agree with Mike on this one,
    This loudener should be call the “medal maker” each time someone uses it : he gets a purple heart or his widow got his bronze star…
    Don t get me wrong if PVT. Smith Saves his all squad, god bless him.
    But i’m pretty sure he could do the samething without carrying a second carbine.
    So if someone wants to make a lot of noise in is own firing range with no one close to him, this loudener is a great gimmick, but close to someone else or worse in combat no way!

  4. 7 slobyskya rotchikokov

    Although as I have mentioned, I was not accepted by any branch for service in Nam, due to some specific health issues, I did assist friends who were going over by sharing with them the long-distance shooting, hunting and stalking tips that I had learned through my Dad, Uncle and Great-Uncle. Granted, we were not trying to practice live-fire, force on force full out assault scenarios, but along with accuracy in fire, breathing discipline and camouflage, we also worked a lot on stealth… to the point of making a game of seeing who could go farthest through a really heavily overgrown brush area without cracking a twig or a dry leaf. So like you say, maybe if it was an out and out balls to the wall firefight, then maybe… but any other case, I would want to be as silent as a well oiled snake moving through a glass-smooth groove, unheard, unnoticed and unlocatable until after I had taken my shots and planned my next move.

    • Agreed on that one. Heck, even the French snipers put suppressors on their .50 cals (which made them only as loud, maybe, as a 7.62, still freakin’ loud). The entire point is stealth and surprise. One commenter on KitUp said the shock from Loudeners inside a house would add to the violence of action and stun the enemy. But then you’re just as likely to stun your own teammates if they’re in the room with you. It just doesn’t sound feasible.

  5. 9 Don Davis

    No, none, nada, under any circumstance.

  6. Maybe in a Fort Zinderneuf situation where you wanted the bad guys to think there were more defenders than were actually on the walls….

    Of course massed infantry attacks on stationary high walled forts are such a staple of modern combat operations. 😉

    • Randy,

      Even that wouldn’t work. The Loudener doesn’t sound like multiple weapons, it sounds like one weapon that’s real loud. So it wouldn’t make it seem like Fort Zinderneuf had more defenders. It would just make it seem like those defenders had larger weapons.

      I still don’t think the noise would make a difference. In the worst fight I was in, there was a constant roar of gunfire and explosions. Mk19s, .50s, 240s, PKMs, RPKs, AKs, RPGs, 203s, tanks and an 122mm artillery gun firing from the outpost, air strikes, everything. I wound up just tuning it out; if nothing was hitting near me, I had cover, the guys around me had cover, the noise wasn’t going to kill me. Granted, my experience wasn’t the end all of combat experience, and other vets might feel differently. But I’d bet that unless a Loudener-equipped weapon was in the same room with you, the noise just isn’t going to make much difference.

      And gosh darn it, I’ve lost count of the times I was in massed infantry assaults against walled forts. 🙂

  7. 13 BobF

    I can’t think of a practical use either, so it will be interesting to hear of actual use scenarios in the future.

    Beyond that, my first impulse is to hope the range I go to restricts, but not bans, them, but then I think of that .50 next door and I just live with it (admittedly somewhat envious) with the knowledge that at least he can’t shoot that .50 a lot due to ammo cost.

    I suppose I am left with the hope that the Loudener shooter is considerate of fellow shooters while he is enjoying his toy. And let’s face it — we’ve all got toys.

    • Bob,

      I was at the range one day and another shooter had a (I think) Ruger 44 Magnum with what sounded like really hot loads. He also had a Hi-Point and some other piece of crap. Every time he fired the Ruger, he got the attention of every shooter near him. And every time he fired, he’d stop and look around at everyone with a “Yeah, check me out” look on his face. I looked at him twice, then deliberately ignored him. I didn’t want him to think I was impressed. And I really didn’t want him shooting near me.

      I could see a restriction on this at ranges.

  8. It might help dissuade the uncommitted in a Cairo riot, but otherwise quieter is better, and only hits count.

    The whole reason they taught -60 gunners to fire short bursts was because a sustained burst from the Loud Machine in a firefight just gets all the green tracers concentrated on your position quicker.

    It’s strictly a combination CDI/Purple Heart Maker piece of gear.

    • Aesop,

      I remember an article I read back when I was in high school. A VN vet was interviewed, and talked about when he started carrying a shortened AR-15. I don’t think it was a CAR-15, if I recall correctly it was shorter than that. One line from that article I still remember, the VN vet said that every time he fired the weapon every NVA in the area started shooting at him, and he began “questioning the wisdom of carrying the truncated little beast.”

      So yeah, I don’t like the idea of using one in a firefight. Seems like a “shoot me first” sign to me.

  9. Maybe if you are an entry team with a Kitty Kat DPMS and a Loudener… you could be the flash bang man.

    If he has to discharge the weapon everyone in the room without ears will be instantly demoralized, deafened, blinded, and suffer from severe sinus headaches.

    Perfect.

  10. 19 Dave L.

    If it actually works as a compensator – meaning it reduces the amount of felt recoil and muzzle jump when you fire – it might be useful. I shoot in 3-gun competitions, where being able to place rapid, accurate shots (at targets that don’t shoot back) is the key to winning (except on shotgun stages – then it’s being able to reload fast), and everyone has a muzzle comp of some sort on their rifle. And all of them make the rifle a good bit louder.

    (Word of advice – stand well behind the guy with the compensated AR-10.)

    But in combat, I would much rather have less muzzle blast, although to me it would be more about kicking up less of a dust cloud moreso than how loud it was.

    • Dave,

      Agreed, IF it actually reduces felt recoil it could be useful in peacetime shooting matches. In combat, I’m not sold.

      I’d still like to shoot one though, just to say I did.

  11. I found this record of a pursuit/firefight where the noise level of a police officers rifle may have played a part in causing the criminals to change plans. http://www.rcdsa.org/norcorobbery/robbery.html The quote I’m referencing is “‘When the suspects hear the rifle, they realize their firepower is now being matched.” The four gunmen decided not to shoot it out at this time.” This occurs towards the end of the shootout being reported here and while maybe the criminals were ready to disengage already at that moment perhaps hearing that they were being engaged by something other than pistols and shotguns changed their minds. Now this was not a wartime combat situation and I agree with you that this device has no value there. It probably has no value for police work either because so many officers have access to rifles now. In this occasion only one officer brought a rifle and that is the lesson to be learned here, not the loudness of the rifle. I just thought you might find this enteresting.

    • Josiah,

      I can believe that. There’s no question the presence of a rifle changes things. I’ve seen it myself, when a suspect was facing two officers’ pistols and yelling “I don’t care, shoot me!” but immediately complied when he saw me with a carbine. I can see some possible value in the Londoner in combat, but only if it had a quick-detach mechanism. I can’t see the added value being so great that it’s worth carrying an extra rifle or upper.

      Thanks for the link, and thanks for commenting.


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