Vortex Flash Eliminator
Report Says Flash Hider Passes All the Tests
By Tom Murphy
A flash suppressor, also known as a flash eliminator, is a device attached to the muzzle of a firearm that reduces or eliminates the muzzle flash by cooling or dispersing the burning gases generated when firing the gun. The flash suppressor both reduces the possibility that a shooter would be blinded by the flash and lessens the chance that the shooter will be visible to the enemy. A flash suppressor differs from a muzzle brake in that the muzzle brake is designed to reduce felt recoil and provides little, if any, flash suppression.
Prior to World War I, rifles tended to have longer barrels than modern military arms. The long barrel insured that all the gunpowder in the cartridge would be burned before the bullet left the barrel. A side effect of the longer barrel was that with all the propellant being consumed within the barrel, only a cloud of smoke appeared from the muzzle.
When barrel lengths decreased with the introduction of shorter-barreled carbines like the M4 Carbine and SIG SAUER 552 Commando, flash suppression became a serious problem. Limiting the amount of powder to what can be burned in a short barrel is one solution. However, a reduced powder load produces a lower projectile velocity and so do fast-burning powders that begin to cool before they leave the barrel, so neither of these is a viable solution to reducing muzzle flash.
Smith Enterprises’ Report
The Vortex Flash Eliminator is a design developed in 1984, with a patent secured in 1995. It is somewhat similar to the original three-pronged flash hider installed on the Vietnam-era M-16. The Vortex is more robust and uses four solid tines that are evenly spaced and angled six degrees from the centerline, with the slots of the body forming a 5-, 10- and 15-degree twisted helix design, which eliminates almost all visible light from the muzzle flash by having the flash break up at multiple locations and different angles.
In 2018, Smith Enterprises, manufacturer of Vortex Flash Eliminators, issued a report in the form of a letter to the U.S. Army, with the subject “Existing compensator does not meet the standard–recommend new flash hider for the M4 Carbine, M249, M14, M2 and other weapons systems.”
Smith Enterprises stated that the existing compensator does a horrible job of blocking much of the flash at night and gets brighter as more rounds are fired through the weapon’s system as the barrel heats up. They went on to say that our troops are sitting ducks at night because the bright flash gives away their position.
The report went on to state that the Aberdeen Proving Ground–a U.S. Army weapons testing facility near Aberdeen, Maryland–had tested the M4 Carbine compensator and found it to be substandard and did not block the flash at night. It specifically said that the bird cage GI compensator to be the worst out of all flash hiders tested.
The Smith Enterprises Vortex Flash Hider was identified as the best hider tested. Aberdeen stated, “The best flash hider that shows minimum to no flashes has helical twisting prongs that help prevent the mixing of the escaping gasses by allowing the temperature and velocity of the gasses to reduce before mixing with the atmosphere.”
In a different test, the .50 caliber Vortex Flash Hider was tested by the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Division and was selected to be the flash hider for the .50 cal. machine gun. These tests included corrosion control, thermal mitigation, drop test, low temperature test, high temperature test, humidity, salt fog, dust and sand, vibration, icing and several others. As expected, the Vortex Flash Eliminator passed all the tests and is now in service with Special Operations Command.
It is to be noted that Vortex has a quick-disconnect flash eliminator for the .50 cal. that will not loosen under sustained fire. It can be retrofitted to older weapons and actually improves accuracy.
Smith Enterprises manufactures the Vortex Flash Eliminator for 5.56mm, 6.8/6.5mm, 7.62/.30 cal. and .50 BMG firearms. They also have a heavy M249 NATO flash eliminator for the M249 weapons family. Their quick-detachable Wind Talker series of sound suppressors can be mounted on all their flash eliminators.