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


1 comment:

Daddy Hawk said...

Excellent article. I’m looking at dipping my toes in the water early next year with a Q Erector for my .22s. I will eventually add .45 and .30 cal cans to cover the rest of the bases. Can’t wait.