How To Install Flash Hiders Or Muzzle Brakes on the M1A or M14

One of the ongoing tinkering projects around here has been customization of a Springfield Armory M1A Standard, which we reviewed a while back. One of the first things done to this rifle was installation of a tritium sight post for low-light capability with the iron sights. We chose the Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight (TCCS) and mounted that front sight assembly on the standard front sight dovetail.

So far so good!

I need (OK, want) to mount the Smith Enterprise Vortex and Good Iron Muzzle Brake on a standard M1A, but there are a few steps to complete first...

I need (OK, want) to mount the Smith Enterprise Vortex and Good Iron Muzzle Brake on a standard M1A, but there are a few steps to complete first…

But now it’s time to get crazy with flash suppressors and muzzle brakes. Yeah, I know, those are contradictory things, but as this is a tinkering project, we’re going to try both at different times and report on the results. We’re going to compare the Smith Enterprise M1A / M14 Direct Connect Vortex and the Smith Enterprise Good Iron Muzzle Brake. Not to each other, but to a factory standard configuration. Stay tuned for separate articles on how well they control flash and compensate for recoil compared to the default setup.

But, like many of those Saturday honey-do projects, this one also has somewhat of a domino effect. If you remove the standard flash hider from an M1A or M14, you lose the front sight dovetail. As I really like having iron sights on this rifle, it’s time to figure out how to keep a front iron sight while being able to swap out the standard flash hider with other options.

Enter the Smith Enterprise Gas Lock Front Sight.

Smith Enterprise offers a couple different options that allow installation of a front sight on top of the gas lock instead on top of the standard bird cage flash hider. For flexibility, we’re going to install the Smith Enterprise GLFS-D-22, which is designed for standard 22″ barrels. It’s really more of a front sight platform as it features standard male dovetail. This allows you to reinstall the factory front sight on top of the gas lock or use an upgraded version like the Smith Enterprise TCCS or match sight models.

Let’s get busy:

Before we can do anything with aftermarket flash hiders and muzzle brakes, we need to relocate the front sight back to the gas lock. This assumes you want to keep iron sights. If you don’t, you can just remove the default flash hider and not worry about the gas lock.

An easily overlooked step is removal of the retaining screw which prevent the castle nut from moving!

An easily overlooked step is removal of the retaining screw which prevents the castle nut from moving!

You’re going to want to remove the barreled action from the stock to make things a bit easier. It also helps to put the barrel in a padded vise, as the castle nut can be tight. You’ll need a pair of castle nut pliers which you can get at Brownells for about $15.

Use the castle nut pliers to loosen the nut. Looking from the breech end, the nut will turn clockwise.

Use the castle nut pliers to loosen the nut. Looking from the breech end, the nut will turn clockwise.

Once the bond is broken loose with the castle nut pliers, loosed the nut a little bit. Then slide the flash hider forward. Then loosen the nut some more. Then slide forward. And so on. Eventually it will come off.

Once the bond is broken loose with the castle nut pliers, loosen the nut a little bit. Then slide the flash hider forward. Then loosen the nut some more. Then slide forward. And so on. Eventually it will come off.

Voila!

Voila!

Since I’m going to keep my front sights, I need to move the base to the gas lock. Loosen the gas plug and remove it. This should be fairly easy. Remember, this is a dry area, so don’t slop gun oil all over it!

When you remove the gas plug, you can clean it off, but keep it oil-free.

When you remove the gas plug, you can clean it off, but keep it oil-free.

Now it’s time to remove the gas lock. This should also be fairly easy. Just unscrew it until it slides off the barrel.

Just unscrew the existing gas lock and remove.

Just unscrew the existing gas lock and remove.

Now just screw the Smith Enterprise Gas Lock Front Sight dovetail into place.

Now just screw the Smith Enterprise Gas Lock Front Sight dovetail into place.

When the new GLFS is lined up correctly, reinstall the gas plug.

When the new GLFS is lined up correctly, reinstall the gas plug.

Now, just mount your front sight on the new GLFS dovetail.

Now, just mount your front sight on the new GLFS dovetail.

Since you’ve moved the front sight post to a new base, you’ll need to head to the range and re-zero your rifle. Bummer, time to go shooting!

Job completed!

Job completed!

After relocating the front sight to the Smith Enterprise Gas Lock Front Sight dovetail, I reinstalled the standard flash hider, but only because I want to try to get some nifty before and after muzzle blast photos when we go to the next step – installing the Smith Enterprise Vortex Flash Hider.

Comments

  1. Nice write up Tom. I had to perform the same modification on my M14 so I could mount a Windtalker sound suppressor. Not only does the DC Vortex hide your muzzle flash, the ribbed version pictured does make it easier to remove the suppressor after use.

    • Thanks! This turned out to be one of the easier projects recently. As long as you have, or can borrow, castle nut pliers the upgrade is a piece of cake. That and allen wrenches are all you need.

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