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How To Reduce Recoil In AR-15s

Here are a few tips on reducing the recoil in your AR-15 to keep you on target.

How To Reduce Recoil In AR-15s

Alexander Arms 6.5 Grendel GDMR Arid Desert (Photo Courtesy of Alexander Arms)

The traditional method for reducing felt recoil and muzzle movement of rifles has been through the addition of a muzzlebrake. While certain designs can be quite effective, muzzlebrakes do have certain drawbacks. By their very nature, they enhance the rifle's flash signature, often raise the sound signature to objectionable levels, and the redirected muzzle blast can disclose a rifleman's position. Some feel their benefits outweigh their drawbacks, and muzzlebrakes have long been affixed to Russian combat rifles. I don't agree with that view.

Mako Defense
(Photo Courtesy of Mako Defense)

I would much rather have an effective flash suppressor and reduce felt recoil by other means. This is commonly accomplished through ammunition selection, gas port size and location, and adjusting the weight of the reciprocating parts. On the more extreme scale it can also be accomplished by lengthening the travel of the reciprocating parts, adding a weight that moves opposite of the bolt carrier assembly to "cancel out" felt recoil and by very complex design methods such as utilized on the Russian AN-94 Nikonov.

Silencer Central Banish Muzzle Brake
Some muzzle devices like the Silencer Central Banish 46 model shown here are designed to reduce recoil with a built-in QD silencer attachment. (Photo courtesy of Silencer Central)

When it comes to America's darling, the AR-15, it is now common to select a longer mid-length gas system over the traditional carbine length. Swapping to a heavier buffer, such as an H-2, can also help reduce felt recoil. But what if you wish to go a step beyond the norm? Well, there are two easily installed options that actually work: Mako Defense's GL-Shock stock and MGI's Rate and Recoil Reducing buffer.

I recently put both to the test on a 16-inch Alexander Arms AR in 6.5mm Grendel. While a fantastic general purpose carbine, I was interested to see if I could make it a bit more controllable. Initially I tried a muzzle brake, but after testing it in low-light conditions I quickly replaced it with AAC's fantastic Black Out flash suppressor.

After seeing the GL-Shock stock at a trade show, I decided to give it a try. Manufactured by FAB Defense in Israel it is a drop-in replacement for a standard collapsible M4 carbine-type stock, but with a twist. Unlike a conventional stock the GL-Shock has a built-in spring-powered shock absorber. This allows the receiver extension to recoil under spring tension approximately half an inch inside the stock.

In theory, this should both slow the recoil impulse and spread it out over a longer duration of time. The question I had was, would it actually work? Examining the GL-Shock I noted it is based upon Mako's successful GLR16 stock. Nicely made, it features a gasket-sealed, water-tight storage compartment beneath the nonslip tire tread pattern rubber buttpad and multiple sling attachment points. It is also available with a removable cheek riser as the model GL-ShockCP. One interesting design feature is it will fit both commercial and mil-spec receiver extensions.

MGI's Rate and Recoil Reducing buffer is not new but rather a well-proven design. When installed in a selective-fire rifle, it reliably reduces the cyclic rate a noticeable amount, more than 300 rounds per minute. A drop-in unit, the MGI buffer features tungsten weights and a spring-loaded shock absorber.

An interesting design, it does much more than you would initially suspect. Its heavier (7.1 ounces) weight causes a slight delay in bolt unlock timing that provides extra time for the swelled case to release its grip on the chamber wall. This aids extraction. The rearward movement of the bolt, carrier and buffer is also slowed due to the increased weight.

MGI Buffer Spring
(Photo Courtesy of MGI)

When the MGI buffer strikes the rear of the receiver extension, its mechanical plunger propels the internal tungsten weights forward. These contact the rearward-moving buffer body internally and cause a cancellation of the rearward movement just prior to bottoming out. The masses then come to a complete stop, eliminating much of the felt recoil that would otherwise be transmitted to the shooter.

When the recoil spring drives the buffer/carrier/bolt assembly forward, it is at a slower speed due to the greater mass. This provides additional time for the magazine to present the next cartridge. However, it has greater momentum due to the increased weight, which aids feeding. After the bolt locks, the MGI's internal tungsten weights provide a follow-up hit into the front end of the buffer, eliminating bolt bounce. What does all this accomplish? A cyclic rate reduction of 20 to 25 percent on full automatic, reduced recoil and improved control.

To find out how well these two items actually reduced felt recoil on a semiauto gun I put them to work from 7 to 100 yards. Please keep in mind felt recoil is subjective. I weigh 150 pounds and am small framed, and I moved around more than a larger, heavier individual. First, I tested the 16-inch 6.5mm Grendel with a standard buffer, Vltor E-Mod stock and Wolf 123-grain softpoints. I carefully measured each group during rapid-fire drills and noted how and where the rifle moved during recoil. Next, I swapped the stock out for Mako's GL-Shock stock. I immediately noticed an improvement in control with less muzzle movement. This provided faster follow-up shots. How much less movement did I note? Perhaps 40 percent.

Wolf Ammo 6.5 Grendel
(Photo Courtesy of Wolf Ammunition)

Next, I swapped in the MGI buffer. Like Mako's stock the MGI buffer also had a noticeable, perhaps equal effect. Running both of them together provided a significant reduction in muzzle movement and felt recoil. Initially I was worried about short-stroking or other reliability issues being introduced, but the rifle ran flawlessly throughout testing.


While I have not performed long-term testing on the Mako stock I have with the MGI buffer. I have approximately 8,000 rounds through one with zero issues. This includes firing 5,000 rounds of 5.56x45 over a period of seven days. Both the Mako stock and MGI buffer work well with standard 5.56x45 ARs. However, they really come into their own with larger calibers such as 6.5mm Grendel, 6.8 SPC, 7.62x39, .458 SOCOM and .50 Beowulf. I really like the combination of the Mako GL-Shock stock and MGI buffer and will be keeping them on this rifle.

Are they both perfect? No. The Mako GL-Shock stock is very nice, but skip the version with the adjustable cheekpiece. I found this uncomfortable and unnecessary. Basically just extra clutter. I wish the Mako was a bit wider along the lines of a SOPMOD stock, but those are my only complaints. Both the Mako GL-Shok stock and MGI buffer are unique pieces that actually do what they claim and deserve a look.

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