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|There is more information available on this subject at Muzzle brake on the English Wikipedia.|
Muzzle brakes and recoil compensators are devices that are fitted to the muzzle of a firearm or cannon to redirect propellant gases with the effect of countering both recoil of the gun and unwanted rising of the barrel during rapid fire. Muzzle brakes are very useful for combat and timed competition shooting, and are commonly found on rifles firing very large cartridges (often big-game rifles), as well as some artillery and tank guns. They are also commonly used on pistols for practical pistol competitions, and are usually called compensator in this context.