Among the many things that I can’t adjust to is the redefinition of Manly Behavior. (I am told that Bill Heavey is exploring this very subject here. Read it for entertainment if you will, but trust me, if Bill had wandered into elk camp 50 years ago, he would have been beaten to death on general principle.) In the 1950s, when my brain hardened into its present shape, men did not wear earrings, cry, or help with the housework. Or use muzzle brakes. But that is all gone now, and while I can’t explain any of the other stuff, I can at least tell you why lots of more or less manly shooters are saying no to recoil.
It’s basic science: Powder gas travels straight down the barrel, directly away from the shooter. The force created by the gas to propel the bullet forward creates an equal amount of rearward force, which sends the rifle into your quivering shoulder and your throbbing head. Muzzle brakes redirect the gas, sort of like lifting one buttock while sitting on a hard chair in school assembly. If you send the gas upward, muzzle jump is reduced. If you send it to the side, rearward recoil is reduced.
A muzzle brake is nothing more than a steel tube, slightly larger in diameter than the barrel. It either screws onto the muzzle or is a permanent part of the barrel. In the tube are rows of small holes that let the gas pass. Sometimes the brakes are made in the shape of a clamshell with slots instead of holes. These are most commonly seen on rifles chambered for the .50 BMG.