Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Caliber Selection – Part 3 – The Math and Science

Finally, after months of delay and by popular demand (not) by no one in particular, here is the nerdy math and science stuff for those who are interested. To those of you not interested in the nerdy stuff, you are welcome for not inflicting this upon you in part two as was the original plan. Now, do yourself a favor and read this anyway. You might learn something.

There are two basic concepts that get brought up anytime gun people start talking about a particular caliber: muzzle velocity and muzzle energy. We will talk about velocity first since it’s a necessary component in understanding energy (it’s also critical to understanding things like trajectory which is a subject for another time).

Velocity is a fairly simple concept. It’s basically just a measure of how much distance an object can cover in a given amount of time. The equation is equally straight forward: Velocity = distance divided by time. In mathematical notation, it’s V=d/t. You get a result that is rendered in miles per hour or feet per second or any other unit of distance and time. Gun people are generally interested in feet per second. So, that’s the way we will think about things going forward.

Now, for the really nerdy types, you can dust off your algebra skills (yay, math!) and run the math several different ways to get different results that might or might not be meaningful in a given situation. For instance, let’s say you want to know how long it will take a bullet to reach its intended target (this might actually be necessary to hit a moving target at longer range). If you know the muzzle velocity of your bullet and the distance to your target, you can solve the equation for time. For instance, let’s assume that your .357 magnum round traveling at 1300 feet per second needs to hit a moving target at 100 yards (3 feet per yard = 300 feet). The math works out as follows (ignoring the decrease in velocity due to drag, wind, etc. for the moment):

1300 feet per second = 300 feet

Now, multiply both sides of the equation by time because we need time to be in the left side of the equation. That gets us:

time x 1300 feet per second = 300 feet
(because the “time” cancels itself out on the right side of 300 feet times time / time)

Next, divide both sides of the equation by 1300 feet per second which looks like this:

Time x 1300 feet per second = 300 feet
1300 feet per second                 1300 feet per second

On the left side of the equation, that leaves us with just time (on our hands) after “1300 feet per second” cancels itself out. On the right side of the equation, “feet” cancels itself out leaving just the unit of time (seconds).

Time = 300                 = 0.230769 seconds
            1300 seconds

So, now you know that your bullet traveling at 1300 feet per second takes 0.231 seconds (give our take few 10,000ths after rounding) to reach its target 100 yards away. Chronographs work on the same basic principle by measuring how long it takes a bullet to pass over a set of sensors separated by a known distance and doing the math.

I kinda glossed over distance conversions in the middle of that discussion of the velocity equation, but it bears brief discussion on its own. You can convert any unit of distance and time into any other unit of distance and time by knowing how much of each unit is involved. For example, there are 5280 feet in a mile and 60 seconds in every minute, etc. So, how much is 70 miles per hour in feet per second? I’m so glad you asked.

First, convert miles into feet:

1 miles = 5280 feet


70 miles x 5280 feet = 369,600 feet

Next, convert hours to seconds:

1 hour = 60 minutes = 60 seconds times 60 minutes = 3600 seconds in 1 hour

369,600 feet = 102.67 feet per second.
3600 seconds

So, why does this matter? I dunno. Maybe you need to shoot out the tire of the bank robbery getaway car and it’s 100 yards away on a crossing street traveling at 70 miles an hour. How far do you need to lead the tire to hit it using your .357? That gets into some geometry and other voodoo that even I’m not going to tackle with you here (because I didn’t major in math or physics…I just think about them…a bit), but multiplying 0.231 seconds times 102.67 feet per second will get you in a rough ballpark of needing about 24 feet of lead

One last example before moving on: how does 900 feet per second covert into miles per hour?

900 feet           x          1 mile              x          3600 (60 sec/min/hour) = 613 miles per hour
1 second                      5280 feet        

But Daddy Hawk, why would a gun person want to convert feet per second into miles per hour? Short answer: subsonic vs. supersonic. Long answer: because this is fun with math day, and you’re  going to sit there and read this and like it. Just kidding. Sort of. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Sub vs. supersonic. The speed of sound is somewhere in the neighborhood of 761 miles per hour (or 1116 feet per second) at sea level. You should be aware that the speed of sound decreases as altitude increases due to the changes in the density of the atmosphere. It’s not a significant enough change to matter to most of us unless you have a cabin or outhouse sitting above 10,000 feet somewhere. So, what if you don’t have an outhouse on Mt. Everest that you want to protect from Yeti’s or wayward thrill seekers? Why should you care?

One word: Suppressors. Subsonic ammunition is easier to suppress than supersonic ammunition. You fat, slow and happy .45ACP is naturally suppressor friendly since  even the hottest +P rounds stay in the 1000 feet per second ballpark. You can still run a supersonic bullet through a can, and it will muffle some of the muzzle blast and noise from the hot gases escaping the end of the barrel. However, the suppressor will not do anything about the loud crack created by the bullet’s sonic boom as it breaks the sound barrier after it leaves the end of the suppressor.   

Enough about the ins and outs of velocity and unit of measure conversions.  Let’s talk POWER!!! or at least muzzle energy. What we are talking about when we discuss muzzle energy is really kinetic energy of a moving object. In other words, the amount of energy a bullet carries as it leaves the barrel at a given velocity. The classical physics/math formula is: Kinetic Energy (K.E.) =  ½ mass times velocity squared.


KE = mass x velocity x velocity

In our case, mass is the bullet weight in grains divided by 7000 (which happens to be the number of grains in 1 pound [so, a 230 grain .45ACP weighs 0.03286 pounds])  times the rate of acceleration due to gravity (9.8 meters/sec. or about 32.1739 ft./sec. sq. depending on whose cheat sheet you use [and also noting that there are known variations in the figure due to altitude and latitude of about 0.5% {just roll with it, okay? <parentheticals inside parentheticals ROCK!!>}]). Velocity is measured in feet per second here in the US. The rest of the world will need to convert this mess to metric to make sense of it…you bunch of heathens.

ME (or KE) = 1 x bullet grains x velocity x velocity = bullet grains x velocity x velocity
                       2     7000 x 32.1739 ft. sec. sq.                        450435

So, for example, our .45 ACP load would have a ME calculation as follows:

230 x 900 x 900 = 186,300,000 = 413 ft. lbs.
450435                    450435

Bullet Area is just the simple calculation for the area of a circle which is the number Pi times the square of the bullet radius. Using our .45 again, the area is Pi (3.14andabunchofothernumbers) x .226 x .226 = 0.16046.

Another concept important to shooting is momentum which is just the relation between an object's mass and velocity. So, that fat, happy 230 grain .45ACP scooting along at 900 feet per second has a momentum of: 230 / 7000 x 900 = 29.57. So, what? Isaac Newton, that’s what. Old Isaac’s laws of motion tells that 1) if it’s moving, it’s not stopping unless acted upon by another force, 2) momentum is a thing, and 3) for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Bottomline, bigger, faster bullets carry more momentum which makes them harder to stop, and .25ACP bounces off cheap Hyundai doors.

If you poke into the dark recesses of the gunternet long enough, you will come across the “Taylor Knockout Factor”. It is, unsurprisingly, named after a guy who was a big game hunter who was not satisfied with just using muzzle energy as a predictor of how well a caliber would perform. To figure TKF, you take the mass of the bullet x velocity of the bullet x bullet diameter divided by 7000. Take a 230 grain .45ACP vs. a 147 grain 9mm for example:

230 x 900 x .452 / 7000 = 13.37 TKF

147 x 1100 x .356 / 7000 = 8.22 TKF

The Taylor Knockout Factor, which is essentially momentum adjusted with caliber diameter, favors bigger, slower bullets. Most modern students of the gun disregard TKF entirely as it disregards factors such as sectional density which factor into how well a bullet penetrates.

Sectional Density is the weight of bullet in grains divided by 7000 (number of grains in a pound) divided by the diameter of the bullet squared. So, my favorite .45ACP has a sectional density of: 230 / 7000 / .452 x .452 = 0.161. Let’s say that .357 at 1300 we discussed earlier was a 125 grain bullet. It would have an SD of 0.140. Again, why should you care? In short, long skinny bullets tend to penetrate better than short, fat bullets; however, short, fat and sufficiently heavy bullets can penetrate as well or better than lighter, longer, skinnier bullets. More or less. Your mileage may vary. Don’t piss off grizzlies with anything short of crew served weapons. Just saying.

Last subject of the night before I succumb to the siren song of my mattress: Recoil energy. The numbers in the table from part 1 come from a Chuck Hawks article on the subject, but you can follow this link to a free online calculator ( so you can tweak figures endlessly to your heart's content if you know the parameters involved. You will need to Google Fu for your load’s charge weight (that's the amount of gun powder stuffed into the casing) or dig out a reloading manual. If you are really into the math and physics of recoil, look up recoil on Wikipedia for more details.

Have fun. Ta ta for now. I hope you enjoyed this stimulating exercise in math and science. Don’t blame me, blame GunDiva. It’s her fault.  She asked for it. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Weapons of Romance

Don't panic. Despite the ominous title, we will be talking, literally, about weapons in romance novels - a personal journey.

                                                                THE BEGINNING:

 I started out writing for Bantam Books under my own name, Glenna McReynolds, and ended up writing 13 books for their "Loveswept" line of romance novels - and yes, that's Fabio on the cover.
Out of those 13 books, only one had a firearm in it, a shotgun. And not a lot happened with the shotgun.  Our hero would pull the trigger and it would go bang. Mostly, he threatened people with it. That's about all the info I had at my disposal. So here's proof positive that even with zero knowledge of actual firearms, our culture had at least imbued me with enough "gun sense" to give this bad boy a shotgun.

From there I branched out into an epic medieval fantasy trilogy, with plenty of romance thrown in.  The books were absolutely jam-packed with battles and weapons, all of the medieval variety - knives and swords and bows and arrows - all of which can be researched in the secure privacy of your own office with just you and a hundred or so books (Make that 180 books, to be exact.  Yes, I counted them.  They were my best friends for 6 years. )  

But after six years of "living" in medieval Wales (with all those books), I was ready for a break from the lyrically complex language, devilishly complex plotting, and the sheer weight of what is termed as "epic high-fantasy."  Which is how I stumbled into...


I wanted to have some fun.  And what could be more fun than a "Breathtaking...phenomenal adventure!" on the Amazon River?  Truly, not much, but...
The great adventure includes a woman going up the river with a boatload of  guns.  She's ready to start a war to get what she's after - and to help her achieve her goal, I gave her a whopping 1000 rounds of ammo, the most ammo I could imagine anyone ever needing.  Ever.  For anything.  A thousand rounds.  To go up against a rogue army of gold miners and soldiers working on the wrong side of the law in the heart of the Amazon.  

Amazingly, not one single reader ever called me out on that pitiful number of cartridges.  It took quite a few years before I even knew that I'd made a mistake, let alone such a huge mistake.  And yes, I was standing in a gun shop when that epiphany hit me like a ton of...uh...ammo?  Fortunately, no one in the shop had read River of Eden.  Thank goodness they were reading my STEELE STREET books.  Neither my agent, my editor, or my publisher ever had a clue about my big mistake. Ahh, New York.


Note: the name change to Tara Janzen came about because a lot of  folks who read The Chalice and the Blade trilogy thought Glenna McReynolds was an actual Druid priestess, which I loved, but which confused them when River of Eden was published.  So for these much more hard-edged, fast-paced stories about Fast Cars, Hot Women, Big Guns, and Bad Boys, my publisher suggested a pseudonym.  I agreed.  And for you puzzle solvers out there, Tara Janzen is an anagram - Good Luck!

I love action movies, and after River of Eden, I wanted to write romance novels that raced along like action movies, but I didn't know anything about guns, and what's an action movie without a lot of guns?  I didn't want to be the one to answer that question.  I wanted full-on action, and that meant real firepower.  And unlike researching medieval fantasy weapons, to learn about guns, I knew I would have to "get out there in the real world, and actually TALK to people."  Why?  Because there's so much info about guns in books and online, much of it in the lovely slang of devoted acolytes, but without enough explanation to make it usable on the page.. I needed to start at square one.  Thankfully, I found it.

I pulled up in front of this sign and walked into a whole new world.  I had already written the first two Steele Street Books,  about an elite group of black ops soldiers, and had realized there had to be something someone with a pistol did besides "draw" and "pull the trigger."  But what in the world could it possibly be? Sounds ridiculous now, but that truly is all I had to work with.

When I got inside Colorado Gunworks, shockingly, the first person I talked with, the guy behind the counter, had read THE CHALICE AND THE BLADE, the whole fantasy trilogy, all 500,000 words, and so had his wife!   Then the owner came out and my journey into the gun world began.  

Within a half an hour, another gunfighter walked in.  A few days later, I met my first shooting partner, the Gun Diva.  

All of these people have been incredibly generous and welcoming - something I find they have in common with a lot of shooters.  The camaraderie, friendships, and an unending education about firearms, and education and training through many classes and an untold number of hours and days spent hanging around gun shops and gun ranges over the last thirteen years has enabled me to write rocket-fueled romantic suspense novels absolutely chock full of great guns with men and women who know how to use them.

Not every girl has a lot of gear.  I now have gear, range bags full of it, shelves full of ammo, a reloading bench and all the equipment that goes on it.  And I have firearms, my firearms, having long moved on from the point where some guy is picking out my guns (the subject of my next GunDiva blog post).  And the books I'm writing are better because of it. 

The key to my transformation from someone who had never even seen a handgun except on TV or in the movies, to someone who now owns 6 handguns and 3 incredibly fabulous rifles (truly fabulous),  was walking into that first gun shop.  But not any old gun shop will do. I got lucky that day. We have a lot of gun shops in town, and I've been in all of them many times, and I know if I'd walked into any one of  them other than Colorado Gunworks, I would have walked out with nothing more than a couple of  poorly advised suggestions for what gun I should buy, and no reason to ever go back.  Let me repeat that - NO REASON TO EVER GO BACK.  There would have been no welcome, no generosity, no one seeing me as potentially a great and happy shooter, because I couldn't "talk the talk." I would have been dismissed.  With that in mind, I'd like to recommend an article in the October/November 2018 NSSF SHOT BUSINESS magazine, page 38 "The Right Way" - an article about selling guns to women.  I especially recommend it if you own a gun shop or work in a gun shop. Coming across this article just a month after the Gun Diva filled 3 sections of a women's only Guns099 class  makes me feel like the tide has turned,  especially since not a single gun in the whole darn article was frickin' PINK!  

If you're not a gun shop owner and don't work in a gun shop, sure, go read the article, then, for a good time and some great guns, go read a STEELE STREET book.

Best guns and toughest girls in the series are in:
and in:
Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Reflections on Guns099

After a friend experienced a scare at her home, she asked me to put together gun class for a few of her friends. Well, an informal class for a few of her friends turned into something much more and I ended up scheduling three classes.

My goal (and my friend's goal) was to make the ladies who attended far more comfortable with the idea of guns, and to learn to use them safely. I went to work putting together a curriculum that would put the students at ease and answer some of the questions I've heard over and over. I thought back to questions and concerns I'd heard during other classes and started with very basic knowledge: things that oftentimes instructors - even instructors who teach at what they think is the very basic level - assume that their students already know. This assumption of knowledge creates fear or frustration for students who have never seen, or handled, a gun in real life. My primary goal became to give these ladies that information so that they would feel comfortable and confident in attending a basic pistol course.

As a general rule, I'm not really a fan of segregating classes, but I also know that for a lot of women it can be intimidating to walk into a class of men, especially if they already feel intimidated by the course material. I thought back to everything I'd learned during my shooting career and tried to boil it down to exactly what these women would need to know.

My outline looked something like this:

  • animation of a semi-auto pistol (We want to know *why* something works. Sometimes, explaining it brings clarity, but seeing how it works in a safe manner - with a cut-away animation - usually explains things better than I can with words.)
  • auto vs. semi-auto (I found this important because the media can't seem to get it right. If I had the opportunity to straighten out a few misconceptions, by God, I was going to take it.)
  • pistol vs. revolver
  • long guns (single shot, bolt, semi-auto)
  • 4 rules of gun safety (We discussed, in depth, the why behind each rule and the reasons for the redundancy in the rules. I also explained that they would run into instructors who use different verbiage for the rules, but like the Golden Rule, the basis is the same.)
  • gun store etiquette
  • basic range commands
  • how to clear a gun (I tried to drill it into the students that *every* time they pick up or receive a gun, they needed to clear it for themselves.)
  • how to pass or receive a gun (and then clear it - "trust, but verify")
  • how to load a magazine (and the differences between a single stack and a double stack magazine)
  • how to load/unload a gun, using snap caps
  • basic grip
  • basic stance
  • basic trigger control
As you can see, what the outline contains are things that we, as shooters, take for granted, but at one some point we had to learn all of this. In fact, I found out from several women who had been "taught" to shoot by friends or family members that they didn't even learn these basics.

I used judge the fuck out of anyone who handed me a gun without clearing it first. 

I did. 

However, after teaching this class I realized that's a skill I picked up while working at the gun shop, it was never anything that was taught to me. That changed my attitude. If someone hands me a gun without clearing it, that gives me the opportunity to teach them how to do it safely. That said, if I teach someone to clear a gun before handing it to me and they get defensive or refuse to do it, that's someone I don't need to shoot with.

I believe in teaching in "baby steps" - I broke our hands-on portion down to small tasks that we spent time conquering before we added anything new. We started with clearing a gun, passing it, receiving it, and clearing it again. Once everyone was comfortable with that, we added loading magazines with snap-caps, then loading and unloading the gun using the same four steps we used to clear it (safety - magazine - chamber - safety). When the students were comfortable with that, we added in grip, stance, and trigger control.

By the time we went out to the range, we'd put it all together. I added range time simply so they could see how the steps fit together; they only shot a total of ten rounds - enough to give them some confidence, but not so much to fatigue them.

I considered the classes a success based on the smiles and confidence the women portrayed. Several of the women went on to take a basic pistol class and thanked me for what they learned in Guns099.

I believe Guns099 is an important course for *any* shooter, not just new women shooters. Instructors, maybe consider adding some of these basic steps into classes that you teach. You may find that your students respond positively.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Feeding the hungry

People may not realize it, but hunting is good for everybody. Not only do the hunters keep Heard populations down, they also feed their families, but so much of the deer that are taken in this country are donated to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries all over the country.

Sometimes hunters are viewed as only trophy hunting, meaning that they only want a deer with a big rack. Sadly sometimes this is true, but the majority of the time isn’t.  When it is the case majority of those hunters donate that venison to organizations that help the less fortunate.
I know a few processing places that donate meat to churches and other organizations that help feed those in need.
A few of the best organizations that are helping feed those less fortunate are Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (, Hunters For The Hungry (, and Hunters Sharing the Harvest ( Through the efforts of these organizations hundreds of thousands of tons of venison is donated to different charities all around the country.

Take Pennsylvania for example. Through the 2016 2017 hunting season a group called hunters sharing the harvest donated 2947 deer which equates to 120,551 pounds of fresh venison which then turns into 589,400 servings. And take a look at Maryland. Since 1997 hunters And formers have donated over 600 tons of venison. That comes out to over 4.8 million meals being served to the less fortunate. Since 2001 farmers and hunters feeding the hungry has donated 920,000 pounds of fresh venison. In Iowa last year hunters donated 3000 deer, which works out to over 600,000 meals.In Missouri in 2014, 3961 hunters donated over 212,443 pounds of venison.At one food bank in Indianapolis, Gleaners food bank,over 4800 pounds of deer was donated. These are just a few of the statistics that I have come across, but it tells me one thing, hunters are big hearted people that are helping others in need. They don’t do it for recognition, they do it to help their fellow man. It’s a shame that most of the non hunting community don’t know how much hunters really care abut their communities and the wildlife. We would be in a lot worse shape if hunters and farmers didn’t donate so much meat to those who can’t afford it.

If you do hunt and realize that you have more than you can use, ask your processor if they donate and where they donate,And donated a little bit to those in need. You’ll still be out there hunting and feeding your family, but you will also be helping somebody else. To those nonhunters don’t just judge us by what you hear and see on TV, or from people who don’t know anything about hunting,Know that we are feeding our family and helping those who are in need,with lean organic meat. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Why A "Women's Only" Class?

That was my question when the GunDiva asked me to assist her in teaching a Women's Only class.  All my classes had been with guys, with sometimes a woman or two sprinkled in.  Hence, my shooting philosophy evolved into: "Chances are, if I'm ever in a real self-defense situation, I'll be up against a guy. So it's a good idea to be shooting with guys." 

For example: If you look closely,  maybe you can see the tip of my boot about halfway down this line of guys.  We're blasting away in a CQB - Close Quarters Battle - scenario.  For the record, there is another woman at the end of  this line, the instructor's wife.  (I  have a strongly held belief about shooting with husbands and boyfriends, and it's DON'T - but that's a different blog post.)

Back to the Women's Only class - I, of course, said Yes to the class, because it was the GunDiva asking - a great opportunity for me to learn something, too.

So off I went to the first class with my preconceived notions about "Women's Only" classes firmly intact - e.g. Are we catering to the idea that women can't hold their own in a class with guys?  Is it true that women are intimidated by men, and therefore we're going to "coddle" them into being good shooters?

Three classes later, this is what I observed:  Yes, it is true that some women, especially those who are new to shooting, don't want to start out shooting with men.  But it's not because they are intimidated by men.  It's because they know these three things:

1.Women who sign up for a shooting class know they don't know everything about shooting.

Please read Robbie's "Where Are the Lady Hunters" post from September 17, 2018, paragraph 4.  To paraphrase - Women are better "students of shooting" than men. (I have heard this many times from other male instructors.)  They keep an open mind.and are open to suggestions.  Men can fall prey to the idea that they already know everything about shooting.

The women in the Women's Only classes did not interrupt the instructor to highlight something they knew that the rest of the class was just learning. They did not ask questions"above the level of the class" to prove how much they knew, or thought they knew,  which can  be a disservice to the other students, especially if the instructor gets sidetracked without finishing up the original idea.

The women in all three classes cooperated with the instructor, letting her be their guide, helping to create a very positive learning environment and a very positive experience.

2. The women knew they were in the class to learn.  They were not there to compete with each other.  They weren't there to prove anything, except perhaps to themselves.   

3.  Many of them knew what it was like to go shooting with their husband or boyfriend.  And at best, they shot a gun and learned a little, enough to whet their appetite for more knowledge.  At worst, a woman shooting with her husband or boyfriend will have a miserable experience and learn nothing, because husbands and boyfriends are rarely qualified shooting instructors, very , extremely  rarely.  One exception is the husband of the woman you can't see at the end of the line in the photo at the beginning of this post.  Her highly qualified shooting instructor husband treated her like everyone else.  She held her own, kicked butt for two days, and did a great job of shooting.

One of the things that most impressed me about all the women who came out to take the Women's Only class, was that they came out to take the class.  They found a qualified instructor, paid their money, and spent the time to learn more about shooting.  And all of them left the class wanting to learn more - with good reason:

The class was AWESOME!

All I can say is, I've been shooting for more than a decade, and I wish I'd had this class before I ever picked up a gun.  What I learned from the class is that what intimidates women about guns are the mechanics, the literal, physical mechanics of the guns, not other shooters who may or may not be men.  Guns are powerful tools, "power tools," and most women don't spend their lives working with power tools.

So GunDiva broke it all down for us, starting with a cutaway animation on "How Guns Work" - everyone loved it.  You could see the "lightbulbs" going on all around the table.  I've never had another instructor understand how important that one simple bit of teaching could be.  GunDiva also explained the different kinds of guns and had pictures - and through it all, she was giving us the language of guns, the language of shooters in the simplest of terms, stuff it took me far too long to sort through, because in most "Beginning Classes" this is all presumed knowledge.  The same with "What is a Safe Direction In a Gun Shop?"   That generated a lot of great questions, and GunDiva had well-formed answers that increased the confidence of each one of the beginning shooters.  She made them feel safer about handling guns.  More than that, she actually made them safer gun handlers.

During the hands-on part of the class, the students had the opportunity to load magazines and rack the slides on the pistols we were using.  These can be initially awkward and/or difficult moves.  But we took the time to get it right.  Took the time for the students to feel comfortable with those mechanical manipulations of the weapons, before we went out to the range. 

And even though this wasn't a marksmanship class, everyone shot pretty darn well, and a few were excellent!

In truth, I know men who aren't mechanical, don't work with tools, and don't have a clue how a gun works.  They probably need their own class, too.  Maybe a "'Men Who Can't Run A Power Tool' Only Class."  And I can't help but wonder:  Will they be intimidated by women shooters?

Oh, hell, yeah!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Silencers and Suppressors, Oh My!

You are wondering what’s the deal with silencers?  OK, let me tell you what I know.

First up, some language issues must be addressed. 

You probably hear people speak about silencers, then some yahoo chimes in and screams “it’s not a silencer, it’s a suppressor”.  Here are the facts;

Silencer:  The term used when the original patent was filed over 100 years ago. (Yes, the technology has been around for a very long time).

Suppressor:  A term that more accurately describes what a silencer does.

Bottom line is they are two terms that describe the exact same object.  Yes, the terms are interchangeable. 
So no need to get bent out of shape over which term is correct.  They both are.  So stop the petty squabbling and move on.

What does a Silencer actually do?

A silencer is a device you attach to the end of your firearm that slows the expanding gasses as they exit the barrel thus muffling the sound the operator hears.  That’s it.  A silencer is just a muffler for a gun. 
Let me use an analogy.  The muffler on your car is technically a silencer, just optimized for a car engine.  In fact, a car muffler and a firearm silencer utilize the exact same technology.  Just optimized for each application. 

Is your car silent?  Nope!  Just muffled, a lot.  If you want an idea of what a car sounds like without a muffler, go to a monster truck rally or a top fuel drag race.  They often run without mufflers.  And you will see many audience members wearing hearing protection.

Being a muffler, this makes a silencer a safety device.  A safety device that muffles but does not silence your firearm. 

For you techno-geeks out there, here are some hard numbers to play with. 
A gunshot is approximately 150-160 dB (decibels).  This is loud enough to cause instant and permanent hearing loss especially if done next to your ears.  (Think of standing next to a jet engine on full power.  Without hearing protection, you are going deaf)

A silencer muffles that noise down to 130-140 dB.  (Think of a jackhammer or loud rock concert such as AC/DC)  This is what is considered the beginnings of “hearing safe” levels according to the safety weenies at OSHA. 
You can further muffle the sound by using sub-sonic ammunition, which will bring you down into the 120’s range, maybe a little more.  (Think of your spouse chastising you for not taking out the garbage). 
Further attenuation is possible, but you are now down to experimenting and optimizing the caliber, powder used, burn rate, barrel length, etc. etc.  Not worth the time and effort unless you really want to geek out. 

What's inside?
AAC Tyrant 45M Silencer taken apart

How do you purchase a silencer?

A lot of people think it is hard to buy a silencer.  It isn’t that difficult, but there are some fire-hoops to jump through.  The anti-gunners and lame stream news just make it appear difficult.  In fact, silencers are legal at the federal level and in over 40 states.  (check your state and local laws).
Here is the process:

1.    Find a dealer who sells Class 3 items.  Not all gun dealers can sell silencers.  Silencers fall into a special category called “Destructive Devices” and requires a special license to manufacture, sell (as a retailer) and to possess.  Yes, a safety device is in the same category as Machine Guns and various explosives such as grenades.  Stupid, yes!  But we are dealing with the government OK.  Just roll with it.
2.    Purchase your silencer from said dealer.  (This is the easy part)
a.    This is the first step, as the dealer needs the serial number on the silencer to put on the application paperwork. 
3.    Fill out the ATF application form and transfer forms in duplicate.
4.    Provide two passport photos.
5.    Provide two sets of fingerprint cards.
6.    Pay your $200 tax.
7.    Pay money for your background check.
8.    Your dealer sends in all the paperwork.
9.    Wait 6-12 months for the ATF to complete the paperwork and return your tax stamp.  (The sucky part)
a.    No, you cannot take your silencer home until the paperwork is approved and returned to the dealer.  Your silencer remains in, what we call “ATF Jail” until the paperwork is done.  (Sad face)
b.    As much as we all love to beat up government agencies, the ATF does a decent job given their budget and current political climate.  Be patient. 
10. When your tax stamp comes back, go through the regular 4473 form and background check as would when buying any firearm.
a.    Yes, the ATF already did a background check on you.  Remember, it’s the government, it doesn’t make sense.  It is what it is.   

The above must be repeated for each silencer you buy.  Even if you buy multiple silencers at the same time, you must provide everything for each silencer you purchase. Once again, it’s the government.  You actually expect them to be efficient about this? 

Some of you may be confused about what I am calling a “Tax Stamp”.  Well the federal government does not have the constitutional authority (if we followed the constitution) to actually make things like silencers and machine guns illegal.  But they can tax things.  This is how they got around that pesky second amendment and its “shall not be infringed” part.  They claim it is not a license but instead a tax.  Well, BULLSHIT!  It’s a fucking license.  A tax is something I pay extra at the cash register.  I don’t need fingerprint cards or photos or anything else.  I pay the tax and I go home with my purchase. 
Again, like a broken record, government rules. 

Some final comments on purchasing:
As the silencer is a registered and licensed item to you, DO NOT LOAN OUT YOUR SILENCER TO ANYONE.  It is registered to YOU.  Therefore, the silencer, the tax stamp and you must all travel together.  Yep, more bullshit rules!  The government considers a safety device, your silencer, deadlier than your single-shot hunting rifle.
Make sure you have a copy of your Tax Stamp with your silencer when you go to the range.  What a lot of guys do is immediately photocopy their tax stamps.  The original goes into the safe, the copy goes into the range bag so it is there at all times.

Now lets say you have family who you want to allow use of your silencer, or even friends.  You can do this by forming a corporate Trust and have the Trust “own” the silencer.  Then anyone listed on the Trust can take possession of the silencer.  This is advantageous if you have a spouse and children who might inherit your property.  A Trust makes the transfer much easier. 
The bad news is, each person listed on the trust must go through the exact same process as listed above.  This is the 41P ruling that came out a few years ago.  Which pretty much eliminated the value of the Trust except for inheritance rights. 
Apparently gang-bangers were employing lawyers to form Trusts and buying guns and silencers without background checks.  The horrors!  Yeah, I don’t believe that story either, but this is what the anti-gun politicians sold to the lame stream media. 

So that’s it for purchasing.  Not too ominous.  If you have more questions consult your dealer.  For questions about Trusts, contact a lawyer who specializes in gun Trusts.  There are gun friendly lawyers who can walk you through the process. 

Why do silencers cost so much?  It’s just a tube and sheet metal baffles.

Yeah, I hear lots of people moan about the cost of silencers. They do cost as much as any firearm.  They start around $300 and go upwards of $1500.  Plus add the $200 Tax Stamp.  No they are not cheap.  Here’s why.

Government Regulation!

That’s it.  If manufacturers could produce silencers without all the red tape they could produce in high enough volumes to bring the prices down.  Under current rules, the manufacturers cannot build a single silencer without government approval PRIOR to start of manufacture.  So the manufacturer must first apply for a set of serial numbers from the ATF.  And the ATF only issues a certain quanity of serial numbers at one time.  (Say 50-100 serial numbers at a time)  Then and only then can the manufacturer start to build a silencer.  Thus the supply is artificially limited.  Simple supply and demand.  
Also, without the Tax Stamp, you would knock $200 dollars off as well.

There are other factors such as accuracy, repeatability, decibel reduction, quality, durability, reliability, etc.  But I doubt these factors outweigh the cost of government regulation.  All these factors become relatively cheap when produced in high enough volumes.  I think it is the artificial scarcity that really drives prices up. 

The good and bad about silencer ownership.

The good:
1.    Much more pleasant to shoot with a silencer.  Once you try it, you don’t want to go back.  And you become a snob when someone next to you doesn’t have one.
2.    Can help increase accuracy.  Not always, but it can.  On my precision rifles it does.  I do shoot slightly smaller groups.
a.    Silencer technology has greatly improved the past 20 years.  The quality, repeatability and accuracy is vastly superior to what was available in the past.   
3.    You can pick up a little bit of velocity if that matters to you.  The silencers effectively lengthen the barrel.
4.    Less likely to scare the game away while hunting. 
a.    Silencers are now legal to hunt with in over 40 states.  Imagine no more short-circuited hunts because someone shoots and the rifle report echoes through the valley scaring the game away.  Silencers will help with this.  Not eliminate it, but help. 
5.    In a zombie apocalypse, you won’t attract as many zombies when you shoot one. 

The bad:
1.    Cost and paperwork hassle.
2.    Adds length and weight to your firearm. 
a.    Not a big deal on a rifle or shotgun (Yes, they do make shotgun silencers) as these are typically two handed weapons.  A little nose heavy, but just hit the gym and you’ll be fine.   
b.    Kind of a drag on pistols. 
                                               i.     Because of the extra length there are no holsters readily made to accommodate a silencer.
                                             ii.     Concealed carry with a silencer attached is basically a no go do to size. 
3.    It is a registered and licensed item.  The government now knows who you are and what’s in your house (The silencer).  It’s a drag, but I think the benefits are worth the hassle.   

Glock model 19 with AAC Tyrant 45M silencer (top)
Ruger 22/45 Lite with Thunderbeast .22 silencer (bottom)
12 inch ruler above Glock
Silencers do add length to your firearm

Now for some politics:

Unfortunately, we must talk a bit of politics when it comes to silencers.  Silencers in essence are safety devices, yet they are regulated as a “Destructive Device”.  As if they are somehow magically more dangerous than a rifle, shotgun or handgun.  This is simply not true, a tube with baffles cannot harm you. 
The regulations came out of the era of Prohibition when the Mafia gangs used extreme violence to control the flow of alcohol.  So in 1934, when the regulations were put in place, sport shooters and hunters thought nothing of it because, back then, silencers were not as good as they are today and often times negatively affected accuracy.  So, silencers were allowed to be over regulated because only the criminals were using them on a regular basis and the at the time the average gun owner did not understand the benefits.  A bit of freedom was lost.

But times have changed.  The quality is now excellent.  Silencers can actually enhance accuracy today and are now a great benefit to everyone who shoots firearms.  Why must we jump through fire-hoops to protect our hearing?
It is time to change the laws to allow silencers to be purchased over the counter without regulation.  Why should a safety device be regulated more than a deadly weapon?  It shouldn’t! 

In fact, the united states Marines are nowexperimenting with silencers.  (Integrated suppressors, stealth infantry  They are doing trials and so far the first results are highly favorable.  It will be a huge win for us if the military adopts silencers across the board.  If the military is finally realizing the benefits why shouldn’t the general public realize the benefits as well?

We almost had the Hearing Protection Act passed earlier this year, but then Parkland happened and the legislation was tabled.  This legislation would have removed silencers from the NFA (National Firearms Act) List and allowed them to be purchased as you would purchase any firearm.  Simple 4473 form and background check and you are done.  Hell even if the $200 tax was left in, it would have been a step forward.  But no, Republicans have no fortitude to finish the fight and they folded.  It had a good chance of passing.

So, please don’t wait to buy a silencer.  Help drive demand for them.  This will show congress silencers are wanted and desired by the public and that the red tape needs to be eliminated. 
Contact your congress critters and tell them to support the Hearing Protection Act and other pro-gun bills. 

Miscellaneous thoughts:

If you don’t know where to start, try   The sell a wide variety of manufacturers.  They can answer questions you may have. They can even help you with a Trust if that is the path you want to take.  SilencerShop is a good place to start your research.

If you don’t know what to buy.  First, slow down, you do not need a dedicated silencer for each firearm you own.  If you are unsure what to buy I recommend buying a dedicated .22 silencer for your .22 rifle and pistols.  A silencer for your pistol and then one for your rifles.  A total of three to start. 
If you buy a pistol silencer for .45 caliber it will also work on all calibers smaller than .45.  You just need to purchase the adaptor.  So your one silencer will work on your .45, your .40 and your 9mm.  Same with your rifles.  If you buy a .30 caliber silencer, it will also work with your 6.5mm and your .223 calibers rifles as well.  Though you do lose 2-4 dB of attenuation.  But no big deal.
So, don’t go wild and buy a bunch of silencers.  Start with one or two and see how it works. 

And chose your silencers carefully and wisely.  If you change your mind, they are a pain to sell due to government regulations. 

When considering a silencer, do remember you will need a threaded barrel to attach them.  For pistols, many models have aftermarket drop in barrels readily available.
For rifles and shotguns you may need a gunsmith to thread your barrel.  The good news is, if you are buying a new rifle, many manufacturers have models with factory-threaded barrels, especially on their target models.  This is forward thinking, as silencers are the future, though they were invented in the past. (Weird huh?)

Silencers do get very hot.  So be careful.  Let them cool down before trying to unthread them or placing them into your carrying case.  Throwing an oven mitt into the range bag is useful. 
You probably want to buy a thermal cover, as they produce a large amount of mirage once they heat up.  The long-range shooters will understand what I mean.  A thermal cover is almost mandatory.

On semi-automatic firearms, silencers create more back pressure and blow extra fouling back into the action.  You will need to clean your firearm more frequently. 

Buy quality.  Don’t buy the bargain basement models.  They are not as durable or repeatable as bigger, well known brands. 

Silencers are legal at the Federal level.  And legal in most states now.  Check your local laws.  But mostly legal across the nation, you just need some additional paperwork.

If you double up on hearing protection (20-30 dB), silencer plus ear protection (18-25 dB), you bring your exposure down to approximately 120 decibels or less.  Now you are down to normal everyday background noise levels, which are very safe noise levels.  Makes shooting very pleasant. 

Silencers are very useful for shooters who may not enjoy the muzzle blast and giant flame coming out of the muzzle.  Silencers will contain a large portion of the muzzle blast, making shooting more pleasant.  A side benefit with less noise and less muzzle blast, the brain is tricked into thinking there is less recoil.  You cannot eliminate recoil but your brain thinks there is less recoil therefore there is less recoil (again, it’s just a trick of the mind) the end result is a more pleasant shooting experience.  A good thing, especially for new shooters who may not be accustom to the muzzle blast of a firearm. 

Remington 700 in KRG Chassis
Thunderbeast Ultra 7 Silencer with Armageddon Gear thermal cover
(20 inch barrel, silencer is 7 inches)

 AR-15 with Silencer Co Silencer.
(16 inch barrel. Silencer is 6 inches)

There is even an educational group called the American Suppressor Association.

Final Thoughts:

Many people ask why do I want a silencer?  Why bother with the paper work hassle?  These are wrong questions!  Wrong questions get wrong answers.  Proper questions are, why do you not want a silencer?  Don’t you care about your hearing?  Don’t you care about the hearing of others and not disturbing your neighbors or wildlife? 
Sure, a $30 pair of ear muffs, or $1 set of foam ear plugs is good enough.  But why settle for good enough?

Silencers are a valuable safety device that can enhance accuracy and enjoyment of the shooting sports.  Why not use them?  Why are they not readily available cash and carry just like any other safety device? 
I encourage you to take the plunge.  Do not be intimidated by the paperwork.  It is worth it in the end.  Silencers will help protect your hearing and of those around you.  And by purchasing you help drive demand that shows congress, we the shooting community, do want these devices.

Silence is golden!

By:  Mez