A “silencer” doesn’t silence a weapon, it only suppresses the sound level of the firearm.
Most firearms enthusiasts would agree that suppressed firearms are some of the most fun and most desirable firearms toys you can play with.
In addition to the cool factor that comes with seeing James Bond, Jason Bourne, special operations units and other action heroes use them throughout the years, they have a tremendous amount of practical value for firearms enthusiasts in general and preparedness-minded people in particular.
Just to dispel any preconceived ideas that you might have, the vast majority of the benefits of suppressed weapons can be enjoyed without having to endure a “Mad Max” scenario.
Before we get into the benefits of suppressed weapons, let me give you some quick background.
(For additional easy-to-digest information, I encourage you to go through the short course that Advanced Armament offers at www.aaccanu.com (AAC Can University). It takes five to 10 minutes to complete. When you finish, they send you a diploma granting you a “Bachelor of Silence” degree.
To begin with, a “silencer” doesn’t silence a weapon, it only suppresses the sound level of the firearm, which is why there has been a shift from calling them “silencers” to calling them “suppressors.” When a firearm discharges, particularly a semi-automatic firearm, there are several sources of noise:
- The bolt/slide assembly going backwards, the spent round being extracted, and the next round being loaded.
- The muzzle blast.
- Bullets traveling faster than roughly 1,150 feet per second that break the sound barrier and cause a sonic boom.
- The sound of the mechanical percussion that ignites the round.
- The sound of the round hitting a target.
For the most part, suppressors suppress the sound of muzzle blasts and don’t affect the other four factors, but simply suppressing the muzzle blast can often mean the difference between needing to wear hearing protection to shoot and not needing to wear hearing protection.
Suppressors use the same noise suppression concept as automobile mufflers. In fact, they were developed at the same time and the words “silencer” and “muffler” are used interchangeably with both technologies in many parts of the world. Both allow the expansion of gases inside of a container rather than in the open air.
And just like there are several non-tactical benefits to using an automobile muffler, there are several non-tactical benefits to using a suppressor in addition to the tactical ones.
To begin with, it’s just polite. In England, New Zealand and several other “civilized” countries around the world that allow firearms of one type or another, people use silencers so that they can talk while shooting, hear after shooting, shoot while their friends and family sit and chat nearby, shoot near their pets without damaging their hearing, shoot without bothering the neighbors, and shoot at night without waking the neighbors and/or causing unnecessary calls to law enforcement.
With the benefit that suppressors have when shooting around animals, it would be ironic, but understandable if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals became a big proponent of the loosening of laws and expanded use of suppressors.
Expanding on that list, there are an increasing number of “suppressor only” firearms competitions where the non-competitors of all ages can comfortably have normal conversations without hearing protection just a few yards behind the line.
Many low-light training courses have had to be canceled in recent years because of neighbors complaining about the noise when they’re trying to relax for the evening or sleep. Suppressors are an obvious solution to this issue.
Also, nighttime is the best time to shoot one of America’s most costly animals: wild hogs. I said “shoot” instead of “hunt” because hogs are estimated to cause $200 to $800 in damage apiece per year and sows can deliver as many as 10 babies per year. As a result, hog control becomes a mix between hunting and eradication. What this means is that in addition to bothering the neighbors less when hunting with a suppressed weapon, it also can allow the shooter the opportunity to take more hogs per engagement. This is because the shooter will be able to see better and get back on target quicker and because the decrease in noise might allow for multiple shots before the herd scatters. Whether you can hunt hogs with a silencer depends on where you are. Eighteen States allow either varmint eradication and/or hunting with a silencer. In some States, you can use silencers, night vision and/or thermal vision. In Texas, you can even shoot hogs while hanging out of a helicopter.
Great Learning Tool
When you consider the fact that suppressors decrease sound levels, improve accuracy, reduce felt recoil and reduce muzzle flip, it quickly becomes evident that they are almost the perfect tool to use when introducing a new shooter to the sport — particularly young shooters and females who may be apprehensive of firearms in the first place.
They will be able to hear your range commands easier since they don’t have to wear ear protection. They won’t feel like they’re being yelled at since you will be able to use your normal voice. They won’t be as afraid of the blast and recoil as they might be. And the reduction of muzzle flip leads to a significant reduction in anticipatory flinch. (This is when you “push” the barrel down in anticipation of the round going off to try to counteract recoil. It is one of the most, if not the most common problem that shooters of all skill levels have.)
In a non-tactical survival situation, hunting with a suppressor also has the benefit of considerably shortening the radius within which other people could direction find you based on the report of your shot.
Even though tactical benefits won’t be nearly as useful to most people, there are some notable ones that I want to share with you.
- If you’re on a tactical team where everyone is using suppressed weapons, it will be very easy to differentiate friend from foe.
- If you’re not an audio blocker (some people’s ears mysteriously compensate for explosions and firearms noises in high stress situations — a phenomenon covered in David Grossman’s book On Combat), your hearing will probably be shot pretty quickly after you fire your first shot and you won’t be able to communicate as effectively with your team. If you and your teammates use suppressors, then at least your weapons won’t blow your hearing, even though your opponents’ weapons may.
- With most normal powder loads, suppressors contain most of the muzzle flash and allow shooters to maintain their night vision longer than with unsuppressed weapons.
- Suppressors can significantly increase muzzle velocity and terminal ballistics of a short barreled rifle.
- Suppressed light and noise and the alteration of the frequency of the muzzle blast make direction finding much more difficult than with non-suppressed weapons.
- Some SWAT teams keep suppressed .22s on hand for shooting out lights during high risk raids. Since everything that goes up must come down and since they are responsible for every round that leaves their weapons, this is not incredibly common.
Who Can Own A Silencer?
If you’re a legal U.S. resident aged 21 or older, a non-felon, and live in Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia or Wyoming, you can own a silencer. You just have to buy it from a firearms dealer who has a Class III license and pay a $200 tax for each suppressor. Right now, the wait is about six months for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to approve your application.
If you don’t live in one of these States, you can still buy sub-caliber inserts. See the editor’s note.
As a note, firearms dealers are required to have a Class III license to sell silencers. Silencers are technically called “Title II” items. Another way of saying it is that a dealer has to have a Class III license to sell Title II items. More on Title II items in a few paragraphs.
In other countries where suppressors are legal, they are generally less expensive and easier to obtain.
Unfortunately, in addition to making it unnecessarily cumbersome for law abiding citizens to legally obtain a silencer, it’s also very easy to mess up once you own one.
Technically, if you buy a silencer in your name, you are the only person who can use it or have access to or control of it without committing a felony. That means that if you own a safe and keep your suppressors in your safe, nobody — including your spouse — can have the combination.
If you’re at the range, you can’t legally let anyone else fire your suppressed weapon or handle your suppressor.
This can be interpreted to apply to both civilians and law enforcement and is an especially big tripping point for law enforcement who personally own short barreled rifles or suppressors and who think that the law doesn’t apply to them and their families.
Fortunately, there’s a solution: the National Firearms Act Gun Trust. A properly done NFA Gun Trust will allow you to bypass some of the more onerous aspects of the process to buying and using a suppressor. If you’re going to have any suppressors or other NFA Title II items (fully automatic weapons, short barreled rifles, suppressors, destructive devices, etc.), you really want to have a properly done NFA Gun Trust.
I said “properly done” twice because there are several attorneys and gun stores who are giving or selling people defective NFA Gun Trusts. In some cases, it has meant that when people who had several Title II items in a defective trust went to buy another Title II item, it lead to the ATF confiscating all of their Title II items.
I don’t agree with the need for an NFA Gun Trust. I would like to see the items simply covered under the 2nd Amendment, the tax stamp requirement abolished and for the need for the trust eliminated. Unfortunately, that’s not reality, and reality has convinced me of the need to do everything according to the laws on the books and have an NFA Gun Trust to protect myself, my family and our firearms.
What I did was go to the granddaddy of NFA Gun Trusts, David Goldman. Title II owners across the country owe Goldman a huge debt of gratitude for deciding to focus on NFA Gun Trusts and figure out all of the tweaks and changes that needed to be made to make the process of buying, storing, using and transferring Title II items as legal and painless as possible for law-abiding people who just want to stay out of trouble.
Goldman has done thousands of these trusts. If you want one, contact his office at www.guntrustlawyer.com and provide your information. (His site is a treasure chest of good solid information on Title II weapons.) His office will do the majority of the trust and then forward it to an attorney in your State who will do the final customizations to make the trust legal in your State. When I went through the process, it was painless and informative. I strongly encourage you to contact him if you have any interest in getting Title II items. He offered to discount his fees for my readers; so if you want to save some money, tell him I referred you.
Goldman includes a guide with his trusts that explains how to buy items, how to set up banking correctly so you don’t make the trust defective, how to fill out the forms correctly and what you must include and shouldn’t include with your application. I can tell you from personal experience that this is incredibly valuable, as is the ability to call the office (sometimes multiple times) while you’re in the process of buying your Title II items to make sure you’re doing everything correctly. The guide also includes instructions how to legally buy private party, travel with Title II items, move from State to State and more.
Also, if you currently have a NFA Gun Trust, you may want to have Goldman review it to make sure that it’s not a defective trust that could expose you to considerable unnecessary liability.
As a note, we all know how much the Administration of President Barack Obama wants to limit the rights of gun owners. It’s a fair guess that the sale of Title II items would be an easy early target. That’s why I buy suppressors whenever I can. They’re kind of pricy, so it’s not something I get every week or even every month, but it’s something that I’m making progress on.
Do you have any experience with suppressors? Do you intend to buy any in the future? If you had a choice, would you rather have a fully automatic weapon, a suppressed weapon or a short barreled rifle? Share your thoughts by commenting below.
Editor’s note: Sportsman’s Guide has some very neat tools that will let you shoot .32 ACP ammo through bolt action .308s (and a few other .30 caliber rifles).
They are called “sub caliber sleeves” or “rifle chamber inserts.” I have a handful of these little treasures, and they have a few important uses for preppers.
To begin with, when you shoot a .32 ACP through a .308 barrel, the report is much quieter than with a .308. It’s almost like using a silencer. Next, if you’re training someone to shoot a high powered rifle, it’s less expensive to shoot .32 ACP than .308, and there’s almost no recoil. Lastly, if you shoot small game with a .32 ACP, there will be a lot less meat destroyed than if you make the same shot with a .308.