October 31, 2023
Radian Weapons first revealed their Afterburner and Ramjet — a micro-size compensator and match-grade barrel combo engineered for Glock 19s — in late November 2021. In July 2022, they started shipping to the public and shortly thereafter this combo became extremely scarce, described by some on gun forums as “an elusive unicorn.” But is the demand deserved? Is the end result a serious reduction in recoil, as advertised by Radian? Is the product worth its nearly $400 price tag? Let’s discuss.
HOW COMPENSATORS WORK
We all remember high school physics, right? Newton’s Third Law: “For every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The pressure from a bullet going forward means pressure is exerted reward. The rearward energy cycles the slide, and any remaining pressure is transferred to you. That’s recoil, and the more energy there is, the more you’ll feel it as the gun “kicks” with each shot. Too, that rearward recoil also causes the front of the gun to buck upward, what we describe as muzzle rise.
When a round is fired, the resulting energetic gases will follow the bullet out the front of the barrel, or else escape out of the back of the chamber has the pistol’s slide cycles. With a compensator, though, a portion of the escaping gas is redirected away from the barrel’s axis. In the case of Radian’s Afterburner, because the ports reside on the tip of the compensator, the pressure of exiting gas directs the muzzle downward, combating muzzle rise and creating a flatter shooting experience.
In the video below you can actually see the direction of the exiting gas in smoke form. You may also be able to recognize the difference in recoil with master-level competitive shooter Andrew Yoder shooting both a non-Radian-equipped G45 and a Radian-equipped G45. (The frame remains the same between both shoots. The slides are set up the same, as well, with iron sights being the only difference.)
Radian currently offers the Afterburner and Ramjet combo for Glock 19s Gen 3-5. Yes, you have to purchase both the compensator and barrel together as a package, as the compensator is not threaded and will only secure via a proprietary setup. But because of this arrangement (no threaded barrel involved), the kit avoids regulation of firearms with threaded barrels.
The compensator itself is constructed from hardened 17-4 stainless steel and measures just under 1/2 inch in length. When secured to the barrel, the Glock 19 slide assembly becomes the same length as that of a Glock 17, and should fit seamlessly into any holster built for the full-size 9mm Glock. The fluted match-grade barrel is formed from hardened 416R stainless steel and ensures a gas-sealed chamber when installed.
The barrel swap is simple, and follows the same disassembly/re-assembly process as when cleaning the pistol. Always make sure to follow proper gun safety, ensuring the firearm is unloaded: Drop the magazine to remove the source of ammunition and pull back the slide to verify the chamber is empty. Simply replace the stock Glock barrel with the Ramjet barrel. With the Radian barrel in place, I was able to slide the Afterburner compensator on the muzzle and secure the assembly via the included taper-lock screw (no Loctite) torqued to 15 inch-pounds. Easy enough.
Running my mostly stock Glock 19 with a Trijicon RMR (only changes to the handgun being an extended magazine release, an extended slide stop, and AMERIGLO GL-506 tall sights), with zero cleaning done to the new barrel, I worked through a few rounds of Remington 115-grain UMC 9mm from 10 yards. I immediately recognized the reduction in perceived recoil. Groups were tight, very tight.
I had a match that day, so after the first few rounds, I switched to a G34 for the Steel Challenge competition. After the event, having shot 150 rounds through my G34, I switched back for a bit more shooting with the Radian-equipped G19. It was like spending hours on a charter boat amid some chop then stepping foot again on solid land. I couldn’t believe the compact Glock was running smoother than my long-slide competition pistol.
To test recoil reduction, I set up a 12.5 x 18.5-inch target on cardboard. Above the target was approximately 12 inches of non-target cardboard space. From 8 yards, first using my G34 setup with Bushnell’s RXM-300, I placed my dot in the circle of the target and, with a firm grip, fired unsupported while paying attention to how high my dot rose on the target before settling back on the center bullseye. I did this four more times and noticed my dot rose, it seemed, a couple inches above the target, so approximately 11-12 inches above the bullseye from 8 yards during recoil.
I switched to the G19 with the Ramjet and Afterburner setup and, following the same steps of starting with my dot in center and monitoring during recoil, I fired five shots. As near as I could tell, my dot rose halfway up from the bullseye to the top edge of the paper target, so approximately 5 inches during recoil from 8 yards.
I’ll admit, my procedure was less than scientific, but the results seemed clear. It seemed as though I was experiencing more than a 50-percent reduction in dot travel during recoil.
THREE MONTHS & 1500 ROUNDS LATER
Call me “old fashioned,” but I really don’t believe in cleaning Glocks, at least not during testing. So, I haven’t touched the screw on the AFTERBURNER in order to run a rod through the barrel or any such thing. My round count has consisted of premium carry rounds to very-budget-buy offerings, including but not limited to: Barnes TAC-XPD (+P) JHP 115 grains; Sierra SportsMaster JHP 115 and 124 grains; Remington UMC FMJ 115 grains; Winchester White Box FMJ 115 grains; and Monarch FMJ 115 grains. Okay, minor confession: I did take a gun-oil wipe to the trigger internals a couple times, because some of that ammo was dirty with a capital “D.”
During my testing there has not been a single malfunction. I did notice +P rounds, with that bit of extra “go power,” seemed to help push the muzzle downward even more, creating a slightly flatter shooting experience. As for the carbon buildup inside the compensator, it’s not pretty but I haven’t noticed a change in performance.
I’d argue the accuracy out of the Radian’s Ramjet match-grade barrel surpasses that of a Glock 34’s longer, competition-focused factory barrel. My groups are tighter and more consistent when running the Radian setup versus any other of my Glock stock models (specifically 17 and 34). It could be partially mental too, as less perceived recoil might potentially lower or delay that introduction of adrenaline, which, because adrenaline and accuracy are generally inversely related, could lead to a higher level of precision. Put plainly: 1-inch groups from 10 yards were obtainable even with sub-par factory ammo.
NOISE & GAS
One of the biggest complaints regarding compensators is they make the gun loud. Without investing any sound-level meter to measure decibels, I cannot verifiably share distinct data here. However, in my experience shooting similar handguns with and without the comp, and using the same ammunition, the sound level seems comparable, at least at an outdoor range. To the person standing next to you, especially indoors, that may not be the case. Double up on ear protection for all concerned parties, is my recommendation.
Another knock when it comes to both compensators and muzzle brakes is the exiting gas can waft into your face, causing you to gas, flinch or tear up. This wasn’t an issue for me when using the Afterburner, even when shooting from retention.
MUZZLE FLASH IN LOW LIGHT
This is a point to consider, and one I was not able to test. Muzzle flash occurs if propellant is still burning as gases exit. With factory ammo, my experience has been the frequency and amount of muzzle flash will vary from round to round. Hotter rounds may indeed produce a larger muzzle flash.
Flash hiders on rifles help reduce muzzle flash because they disperse exiting gas in multiple directions. With the Radian Afterburner, because exiting gases are directed upward, we have to be aware there is the possibility, depending on ammo selection, that a muzzle flash, in the dark, may obstruct your sights. It could also distort your low-light vision overall. Why am I bringing this up? Onto my next point.
VIABLE FOR SELF DEFENSE?
Short answer: It wouldn’t be in my waistband holster right now if I didn’t think so. “Fast is fine, but accuracy is final.” While I may enjoy ripping a trigger at the range to just see how low I can get my splits, the reality is I can only shoot as fast as I can get my sights on target. For the same reason GSSF and IDPA have such high time penalties for misses, accuracy is paramount in a gun fight, and you’re responsible for every bullet you fire. Less upward dot travel means I am fractions of a second quicker with a follow-up shots.
Yes, muzzle flash at night would be a concern, but I weigh the real improvement in shooting performance favorably against the theoretical impairment from muzzle flash.
No, debris does not enter the barrel inhibiting function. This gun has rotated between my waistband and home safe daily for the past three months. In that time I’ve cleaned dust and lint off my RMR a few times but not touched the Radian combo while visiting the range to make brass. It shoots, and it shoots accurately and reliably.
For the argument that an attacker would more easily identify me due to a louder gun and potentially larger visual signature, my response would be: Name a handgun I can carry that doesn’t make a loud boom and spit fire. It doesn’t matter to what level these signatures exist, a perpetrator within handgunning distance is going to know I am there.
COMPRESSOR ROD & SPRING?
In terms of Glock components, Radian also offers a guide rod and recoil spring assembly. It would make sense to wonder if the addition part is required. Short answer: No. I conducted my testing or more than 1,500 rounds without the Compressor Guide Rod (so stock Glock 19 rod). However, Radian did send me one to test right before submitting this article. I shot 50 rounds of Monarch 115-grains using the 15-pound spring on their guide rod. If the Ramjet and Afterburner offer the difference of “sea legs to land legs,” the Compressor Guide Rod is Dr. Scholls for your land-leg shoes. It is not as big of a difference as the compensator setup, but it is noticeable, and I even felt like the trigger reset smoother as a result.
At writing, however, I do not have enough testing with the Compressor Rod Guide to speak to its reliability and longevity.
Ahead of writing this article, I reached out to Ryan Johnson, marketing manager at Radian, for context regarding the new components and to find out what the company hoped to achieve with the Ramjet and Afterburner. He shared six goals, which I’ve listed below. Next to each goal, I provided my opinion as to whether they achieved these goals.
- Size addition to take a G19 to G17 length. Yes.
- Reliable cycling with stock spring weight. True, so far, at 1,500 rounds and counting.
- Ability to quickly remove comp for cleaning. People actually clean Glocks? Yes, easy to remove, have a torque wrench.
- Mounting system that’s 100 percent secure without threadlocker. So far, so good.
- Legal for sale in all 50 states. I’m not a lawyer, but this seems accurate.
- Industry leading recoil reduction. More on that below.
There are many in the gun industry that will tout this as the best pistol compensator on the market. I have not shot every compensator and I wonder if all those saying so actually have. Regardless, I have experience with other compensators which left me wondering if the perceived recoil reduction was reality or simply the power of suggestion. No different than a blindfold taste test of light beer — was there really a difference, or just marketing? With the Radian, I will give them credit for how they marketed the Ramjet and Afterburner to generate impassioned interest. I will also say the demand is warranted. There is a distinct difference between shooting with the comp and without.
So, is it worth the $389.95 price tag? The answer will vary by person. At that price, you are basically one Benjamin Franklin away from the cost of another stock Glock. Some folks will drop comparable money for a custom slide with cuts to mitigate recoil but also add “style.” Others will spend $3,000-plus on a Staccato or similar custom, or semi-custom, handgun for range and defensive use. If you’re looking at the investment from a serious competition point of view, you must consider that the G19 is not a traditional match platform, for starters, and understand that running a comp in sanctioned matches puts you in the unlimited division, head-to-head with the most expensive and most “tricked out” rigs.
Did I pay for it? Yes. Do I think it’s worth it? Yes. Adding the Radian barrel and comp has increased my capabilities with my everyday carry gun and that improvement as increased my confidence with the same. I’d say that’s a worthwhile investment.
Questions or thoughts? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org using "Sound Off" in the subject line, or reach out to the author on Instagram: @WildGameJack
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