Adding a compensator to a semi-automatic handgun can be controversial for some applications, but it is the single most effective way to reduce recoil. Compensators attach to the end of a threaded barrel and reduce recoil and muzzle climb by venting hot propellant gases upwards and sideways as the bullet leaves the barrel. This acts like a jet thrusting down against the forward end of the pistol keeping the muzzle down. Those hot gases also push forward on baffles within the compensator to pull the pistol forward thus counteracting the recoil forces pushing rearward. Why would it be controversial? Because is adds weight and length to the end of the gun and because it vents hot gases upwards and out to the side of the muzzle. Many argue that this is a bad idea for a self defense weapon since if you have to fire the pistol while holding it very close to your body, those gases may be vented too close to the shooter’s face. Another concern can be reliability since a pistol is made more complicated when you add a compensator and other adjustments need to be made along with it. Semi-auto pistols almost always work on a delayed blowback system of operation where the recoil forces pushing back on the slide is what operates the action and ejects the spent casing and loads the new round from the magazine. If a compensator adds weight to the barrel and pulls forward on the barrel as the gun fires, this is working against the semi-automatic operation of the pistol. So if that is all you changed, the gun wouldn’t kick but it also might not function properly. In most cases, the only other change that needs to be made is to change the recoil spring to a lighter weight. This means that the rearward force does not need to be as great in order to operate the gun which enables it to work with the compensator on it. Thus, most of the time when you put a compensator on the gun, you will need to put a new recoil spring in it as well. You have to decide how you will be using your gun to know if a compensator is right for you. If you are shooting it on the range, plinking, competition, and even hunting, there should be no real drawbacks to using a compensator and it may help your shooting quite a bit. For use on a self defense firearm, you must determine if the improvement in your shooting is significant enough to warrant its use, you must train with it so you remain conscious of the venting gases and you must ensure that your firearm is completely reliable with the compensator.
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