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How does a silencer work? thumbnail image

How does a silencer work?

80 Percent Arms   |   Mar 7th 2023

Suppressors are an incredibly useful tool for those looking to reduce noise pollution and hearing damage when shooting. While they are not completely silent, they do significantly reduce the sound of a gunshot and can make shooting much more enjoyable. It's important to remember that while suppressors are legal in many states, they are still highly regulated, and it's essential to follow all applicable laws and regulations.

If you're interested in using a suppressor, make sure to do your research and find one that meets your needs. There are many different types of suppressors available and it's important to find one that is compatible with your firearm and ammunition. Additionally, it's critical to wear hearing protection when shooting, even when using a suppressor, as hearing damage can still occur.

Overall, suppressors are an essential tool for those looking to shoot more comfortably and responsibly. With the right suppressor and a commitment to safe shooting practices, shooting can be an enjoyable and sustainable activity for years to come.

History of Gun Suppressors

Suppressors, also known as silencers, were first developed in the early 20th century as a way to reduce most noise produced by firearms. Suppressors were invented by  Hiram Percy Maxim in 1902 and was designed for use on his own firearms. In the early years, suppressors were primarily used by hunters and sportsmen who wanted to reduce rifle noise and avoid disturbing the game they were hunting.

During World War I, some suppressors began to be used by the military to reduce firearms noise and to help protect soldiers' hearing. However, use of suppressors in the military was not widespread until World War II, when they were used extensively by special operations forces such as British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the United States' Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

What is a Firearm Suppressor?

Huxwrx suppressor

Photo Source: Silencer Shop

A suppressor is a device that attaches to the end of a firearm's barrel and reduces noise and flash produced by the gun when it is fired. A suppressor is typically made up of a series of suppressor baffles or chambers that help to slow down and cool expanding gasses produced by gunpowder when shooting a firearm. This makes your firearm less detectable to other people and less harmful to a shooter's ears.

Science Behind a Firearm Suppressor

The science behind suppressors is based on acoustic princples. When a firearm is fired, a significant amount of noise is produced by expanding gasses that are released from the gun barrel. These gasses create a shockwave that travels through the air and produces loud, distinctive sounds that are associated with firearms. A suppressor works by slowing down and cooling these expanding gasses, which reduces sounds and flashes produced by the firearm.

Baffles are the key component of firearm suppressors. They are usually made of metal, such as aluminum or steel, and are designed to slow down and redirect the high-pressure gasses that are created when a firearm is fired. The baffles create a series of chambers that help to reduce the noise and flash generated by the firearm.

The effectiveness of a suppressor depends on various factors such as the caliber of the firearm, the length of the barrel, the type of ammunition used, and the design of the suppressor. When properly used, with subsonic ammunition (slower than 1100 FPS) a suppressor can reduce the sound of a fired weapon by 20-40 decibels, which can make a significant difference in the amount of noise generated by the firearm and the recoil felt by the shooter.

Different Types of Suppressors

There are several different types of suppressors, each with its own unique design and characteristics. Some of the most common types of suppressors include:

  • Rimfire Suppressors: Designed for use with small caliber firearms such as .22 LR, rimfire suppressors are typically lightweight and compact, making them easy to carry and use.
  • Centerfire Suppressors: Designed for use with larger caliber firearms such as rifles and handguns, centerfire suppressors are typically larger and heavier than rimfire suppressors.
  • Integral Suppressors: These are suppressors that are built directly into the firearm, typically as a permanent part of a shooter's gun. Integral suppressors are commonly found on bolt-action rifles and some handguns.
  • Monocore Suppressors: Monocore suppressors have a single solid core that runs through the entire suppressor. This design makes them more durable and easier to clean than other types of suppressors.
  • Modular Suppressors: Modular suppressors are designed to be taken apart and reconfigured for use with different firearms or calibers. This makes them a versatile option for shooters who own multiple firearms.

Baffle DesignsSuppressor internals

Photo Source: Gun Digest

In terms of suppressor design, there are multiple approaches that manufacturers take. Some manufacturers use a monolithic core design, which is a one-piece suppressor. Others use a modular design, which is typically found to have interchangeable baffles and end caps which allows the user to customize overall suppressor length.

One of the most important factors in suppressor design is the amount of baffles in the can and their shape. Baffles are the internal components of the suppressor that help reduce gunshot sounds. The most common baffle shapes are K-baffles, which have a shape similar to the letter K, and monocores, which are shaped like a cylinder.

Simply said, the more baffles you have the quieter yours can be. The can's thickness and length also contribute to how much noise reduction it offers the shooter.

Common Suppressor Mounts

Keymo mounting system

Photo Source: Dead Air Silencers

In order to attach a suppressor to a firearm, you need a mounting device. There are several different mounting styles available for rifles including:

  • Direct Thread Mount: This is the most common mounting style, and it involves screwing a suppressor directly onto the firearm barrel
  • Quick Detach Mount: This type of mount allows the shooter to quickly attach and detach a suppressor from the firearm.
  • Keymo Mount: The Keymo mounting system is a type of quick-detach mount that is designed for use with specific suppressors.

Let's take a quick look at one of the more unique mounting systems. Keymo Mounts.

The KeyMo mount is a popular mounting system designed by Dead Air Armament. It allows for quick and easy attachment and detachment of the suppressor from the firearm. Many suppressor manufacturers have adopted this mounting system, including:

  1. Dead Air Armament: Of course, the original creator of the KeyMo mount uses this system on all of their suppressors. Dead Air's Nomad and Sandman series suppressors are some of the most popular suppressors that use the KeyMo mount.
  2. Energetic Armament: Energetic Armament makes the Vox S suppressor, which uses the KeyMo mount. The Vox S is a lightweight suppressor that provides excellent sound reduction.
  3. Q: The Q Full Nelson and Half Nelson suppressors both use the KeyMo mount. These suppressors are known for their excellent sound reduction and durability.
  4. SilencerCo: SilencerCo's Omega 36M and Chimera 300 suppressors both use the KeyMo mount. The Omega 36M is a versatile suppressor that can handle a variety of calibers, while the Chimera 300 is designed specifically for use with 300 Blackout.
  5. SureFire: The SureFire SOCOM300-SPS and SOCOM 556-RC2 suppressors both use the KeyMo mount. These suppressors are known for their durability and excellent sound reduction.

Most Common Calibers for Suppressors

Calibers that commonly use suppressors are 9mm, .223/5.56, .308/7.62, and .300 Blackout. Subsonic ammunition is typically used when shooting suppressed, as it reduces the sound even more. To achieve subsonic speeds, ammunition needs to travel slower than 1,126 feet per second, which is the speed of sound. In general, subsonic ammunition will produce less noise and recoil than supersonic ammunition.

.300 Blackout has become a popular caliber for use with suppressors due to its subsonic capabilities. It was designed for use in the AR-15 platform and its subsonic capabilities make it a great option for suppressor enthusiasts. With a suppressor, .300 Blackout can be extremely quiet and a great option for hunting or shooting in confined spaces.

Special Forces Units and Suppressors

Dope AR15 build with a SureFire Suppressor

Photo Source: Scott Szarapka via Unsplash

Suppressors are used extensively by special forces units worldwide. The exact suppressors used by these units are often classified, but there are several popular suppressors that are widely used. SureFire suppressor and OSS suppressor are both popular options, known for their durability and effectiveness.

SureFire suppressors are a great option for those looking for a durable suppressor. It's constructed from high-strength materials and has a stainless-steel body, making it incredibly rugged. SureFire suppressors are also known for its effectiveness in reducing gunshot sounds. It has been used by several special forces units worldwide, including the United States Navy SEALs.

OSS suppressors are another popular option for special forces units. It has a unique flow-through design, which allows gasses to escape from the front of the suppressor, reducing back-pressure and increasing a shooter's suppressor's overall lifespan. OSS suppressors are also known for its sound reduction capabilities and have been used religiously by the United States Army Rangers.

What's a solvent trap?

Despite all the good suppressors do for the shooter, the ATF and media in general have been in a tizzy about purchased suppressors, and what some individuals are doing with Solvent traps. A solvent trap is a device that is designed to catch solvents and other cleaning fluids that are used to clean firearms. It is typically a tube or cylinder that is threaded to attach to the end of a firearm's barrel and has an attachment point for a cleaning rod or bore snake. It keeps you and your floor/ workbench clean as you get your gun clean.

Where the issue comes in with these, is how some crafty owners of these devices change them from their intended use case. This is because the design of the solvent trap is similar to that of a suppressor, with a baffle system used for catching solvent and cleaning material from a firearm. However, with some modifications, it can be converted into a suppressor.

It should be of no surprise that this is incredibly illegal. Despite your standing on suppressors, to enjoy shooting with them you should be doing so in a far more comfortable manner. Steps do need to be taken to have a true suppressor of your own. Unless you want the ATF kicking in your door, below is the walkthrough on getting one for your firearms.

How do I get a suppressor?

The process of obtaining a suppressor varies depending on your location, as regulations may differ between states. However, here are the general steps you need to take in the United States to legally purchase a suppressor:

  1. Verify that you can legally own a suppressor: The ownership of suppressors is regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, which requires that individuals must be at least 21 years old, pass a background check, and not have any felony convictions or domestic violence convictions.
  2. Purchase the suppressor: You must purchase the suppressor from a licensed dealer who is authorized to sell NFA items. You will need to fill out a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Form 4, which includes a transfer tax of $200. You will also need to provide fingerprints, a passport photo, and information about the firearm on which the suppressor will be used.
  3. Wait for approval: After submitting the Form 4 and payment, you will need to wait for approval from the ATF. The wait time can vary but usually takes several months.
  4. Pick up your suppressor: Once your application has been approved, you can pick up your suppressor from the dealer.

ATF forms

When getting yourself a suppressor there is really only one form that matters. The ATF form 4 is in a sense a transfer form. You are asking the government to be able to transfer ownership of the suppressor from the accredited business to you, the gun owner. This form 4 covers a wide range of ownership transfers of National Firearms Act (NFA) items, such as a suppressor, short-barreled rifle (SBR), or machine gun.

The form includes detailed information about the firearm on which the suppressor will be used, as well as your personal information, such as your name, address, and fingerprints. You will also need to pay a transfer tax of $200, which is required for each NFA item transferred. After going through this entire process there is still a rather long waiting period which can take up to 10 months for your NFA item approval.

Form 4 is the most annoying of all the forms you must fill out when buying anything 2A. The most common form you have more than likely all seen is Form 4473, also known as a Firearms Transaction Record. This is your general background check and once filled out it is put into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) system. This process takes minutes and once it gives the seller the OK you are all good to buy your firearm and be on your merry way.

Upgrade your shooting experience

Suppressors are not just for covert operations or Hollywood movies - they are actually an incredibly useful accessory for any gun owner who wants to protect their hearing and enjoy a more comfortable shooting experience. By reducing the sound of the shot, suppressors make shooting more pleasant, particularly for those who spend a lot of time at the range or use firearms for hunting. They also help reduce recoil and muzzle flash, which can improve accuracy and make shooting more enjoyable overall. Follow the proper steps, upgrade your shooting experience and protect your hearing. Your ears (and your shooting buddies) will thank you!