Give me a break!
In the Midwest, many states have expanded what were previously “shotgun” only zones for firearm deer hunting, to allow for some centerfire rifle cartridges. My home state of Michigan is one of them. In the southern half of the lower peninsula, which used to be a “shotgun zone” and allowed for some pistol cartridges, it is now legal to use centerfire rifle cartridges with straight case walls, not exceeding 1.8” in case length. I would expect, and hope, that this leads to the development of some neat new cartridge choices for hunters that hunt in these restricted areas. One of the new-ish cartridges that fits the category, and which has exploded in terms of popularity is the .450 Bushmaster. Originally designed for AR-15 platforms, it’s readily available and works great for whitetails with great accuracy out to 300 yards. I’ve written about the Bushmaster before and have had great success with it in my TC Encore platform.
As much I as like the .450 BM, there are two downsides that go along with its great utility and performance. They are, in order of importance, muzzle blast and recoil. With a new Ruger American Ranch bolt action, in .450 Bushmaster, I was excited to dial it in for gun hunting in southern Michigan. My new Ruger 450 came with the Ruger factory muzzle brake which was purported to reduce recoil to the level of a 20 gauge shotgun.
With a 16” barrel the Ruger promised to be a light handy “brush gun” which is what I wanted, but it also promised to be loud! At the range I used earplugs AND muffs. Recoil was pretty manageable with the Ruger brake, which looks like it was borrowed from an Abrams tank. The Ruger brake worked fine to tame recoil but my God, the muzzle blast was fierce. To the point that after that first day at the range with the Ruger, I was a little perplexed about how to deal with the noise while hunting. Wearing earplugs in the woods isn’t practical for hunting. Even noise canceling headphones, with amplification for subtle sounds, haven’t worked well for me, (though I understand that there are some brands to do work well). I would have to carry some type of hearing protection, and hope that I had time to get them in place before I took a shot…which was improbable in the tight brushy woods in which I’d be using this gun.
As fate would have it, shortly after that first range day, I happened upon a small ad in the back of one of my shooting magazines that read “ The quiet muzzle brake from Gentry”. Intrigued, I put a call into Gentry Custom LLC ( www.gentrycustom.com ), to learn more. After a brief chat, a new brake for my Ruger was on the way.
Upon receiving the Gentry brake, I headed out to the range to try it out. I planned to try the gun with the factory brake, the Gentry brake and with no brake at all.
Bear in mind that my “tests” weren’t highly scientific, but were real world simulations, because real world use is what matters. I started out using the factory brake, and no surprise, muzzle blast was stout! Next I shot without any brake, and again no surprise, more recoil, but far less perceived blast, but that is also relative. A 16” barrel with this big round is loud no matter what. Next I tried the Gentry “quiet brake”. Recoil was very tame and felt pretty similar to the effective factory brake. Muzzle blast seemed far less severe than the factory brake and seemed pretty close to the noise level of the gun with no brake. It was still loud but definitely less brutal than the factory brake. It just so happened that the guy at the bench next to me was also shooting a Ruger American in 450 BM. His was outfitted with the factory brake, and every time he shot, I was assaulted by his muzzle blast. We got to talking and he had taken note of the variation in muzzle blast that he was receiving from my shooting. To his ear, from his position next to me, the Gentry “quiet” brake was the least offensive, and was the only set-up that didn’t produce a huge fireball with each shot, an effect that I also noted from his gun, with his every shot. I switched back and forth a few times to ascertain, for sure, which option produced the best results, which I based on recoil and perceived noise reduction. Hands down, the Gentry “quiet” brake won the decision. The factory brake directs the blast to the sides and back, while the Gentry brake directs blast down range, while somehow still reducing the felt rearward “push” of recoil and taming muzzle jump. Accuracy was good with all three options though not surprisingly, there was a slight change in point of impact between all three. Upon settling on the Gentry brake, my crosshairs were adjusted and sub-MOA groups were easy to accomplish at 100 yds. Surprisingly, with a 100 yd zero, shots at 50 and 25 yds were within an inch of the 100 yd group, meaning that a dead on hold at any range from 25 to 100 would do the trick. With a Leupold scope boasting a CDS drop compensating dial made for this gun, with hash marks out to 525 yards, I was ready for anything that the season would throw at me.
Well since writing this assessment, I haven’t had the opportunity to drop the hammer on a deer and with only 5 more days left in our “rifle” season, time is running out for the Bushmaster. There have been plenty of opportunities during our gun season, and during the month and a half prior to its start during bow season, and there will be a lot more time during our muzzle-loader and “late” archery seasons, but so far this deer season has been difficult and without any big mature bucks of the type that I hold out for. I’ve seen many forks, six points and small eight points, but nothing mature with big head gear yet.
Two hours prior to writing this, I did take a coyote with the Bushmaster. Two of my hunting spots have been plagued with coyotes and just as I was starting to pack up for the morning, to head back to the house, I caught a quick glimpse of a form moving through the thick alders that surround my morning stand. Just before it got to one of my shooting lanes, I identified it as a coyote and brought the Ruger up to the ready. As soon as the Coyote hit the lane, I whistled, stopping it perfectly broadside in the lane. My crosshairs settled, and one coyote was flattened,…. like it was hit by a truck! I didn’t have time to insert ear plugs….and I paid for it. No muzzle brakes are truly quiet and you should always use hearing protection if possible, but some brakes are less severe than others for sure. I’m certain that if I’d been using the factory brake, I would have ringing ears still, as I write this. The Gentry brake is a good choice to replace the Ruger factory brake on .450 Bushmasters….for sure, and while my ears aren’t ringing, I hope I have time to get hearing protection in place before the next shot with the .450, AND, I’m hoping I didn’t do any damage to my ears today! I’m also hoping that suppressors become legal for hunting sometime soon. In the meantime, I’ll be using the Gentry “Quiet” brake on my .450 Bushmaster. It’s the best option for my purposes and seems to be a big improvement over the factory brake in terms of noise and is much better than using no brake for recoil reduction.
Gentry Custom LLC. ph. 406-388-4867 314 N. Hoffman Belgrade, MT. 59714
Brandon Vaughan has over 40 years of personal and professional experience in a broad array of hunting and fishing disciplines, from Alaska to Belize. Past professional experience includes working as a professional guide in Alaska and around the Great Lakes region. In addition to hunting and fishing throughout the lower 48, Canada and Central America, Brandon has been an Orvis Endorsed Fly-fishing guide, a fly-fishing and fly-tying instructor, a hunting guide and shooting instructor.