A Day at Silencerco

Dec 17th, 2010 | By | Category: Equipment, Military/LE, Psychological, Tactics


Mention suppressors and often a barrage of misinformation will come your way: they’re illegal, they’re “silencers” and go “pfft!” Even in the military and law enforcement you can get those types of responses thanks to the inundation of firearms-related inaccuracies in Hollywood films.    

We can thank Hiram Percy Maxim, son of the inventor of the Maxim Machine Gun, for the invention of the “Maxim Silencer” patented in 1909 and introduction of the misnomer, “silencer”, to firearms terminology.    

It’s this name that has led to the public interpretation of a suppressor actually completely silencing a firearm, or at least giving it that that “pfft!” in the movies. It’s for accuracy’s sake that it has become more appropriate to call the sound-deadening tool a “suppressor”.    

The actual sound given off by a suppressed gun is often surprising to a first-time user, and brings about the question: what causes the loud “bang!” in unsuppressed firearm, and what really does a suppressor do?    

Hot gases expanding and then escaping from the muzzle cause the sound of a firearm. Also, if the bullet is traveling faster than the speed of the sound, there’s the sonic crack. What the suppressor does is offer a chamber for the gasses to expand, removed from the outside environment. As such, the sound wave that signals a shot is smaller, and more importantly the shooters position is harder to detect. It’s almost exactly the same process as occurs with an automobile’s muffler. If you’ve heard the earsplitting sound of an unmuffled vehicle you know exactly what I’m talking about.    

Silencing vs. Suppression

At the Range

So, if a suppressor doesn’t really silence a weapon, what’s the point?    

A good suppressor does two things: it makes it harder to recognize a gunshot as a gunshot, locate where the shot was taken, and it draws the report levels down enough to lessen the chance of hearing loss.    

At the range, it means that firing a pistol without hearing protection doesn’t necessarily mean hearing loss. Any good suppressors should be able muffle the blast of a pistol to decibel (db) levels low enough that you can shoot without earplugs or earphones for a short amount of time—there is still enough noise (above 140db)  in most suppressed large caliber pistols that hearing protection is needed for extended shooting times.    

Improved shooting technique is also the result of a good suppressor. Most flinching is a reaction more to the sound of a firearm than actual felt recoil.     

Field Work

In the field, it means you can initiate contact; yet retain a longer element of surprise. As we all know, gunshots are easily recognized. And those who begin the attack always start out with the advantage. When you can extend that element of surprise, increasing the level of confusion, you improve the likeliness of success.    

Efficiently designed suppressors enable this by camouflaging the report of a firearm enough for misinterpretation: door being closed, a chair leg hitting a floor, a distant backfire of an engine. If there’s a normal moment of hesitance during an actual and immediately recognized ambush, imagine how a suppressed weapon can be used to remove the rear guard on a patrol, or a sentry at a base, which causes the bad guys to second guess and be slower to react?    

Presently, law enforcement uses suppressed weapons to stealthily take out guard dogs before entering drug and gang dens. Special forces operators use them on handguns loaded with subsonic ammunition to take out sentries. And, wildlife departments use them to cull animals in urban and suburban areas requiring discretion—scoped and suppressed .22 rifle can make a phenomenal animal control tool at close range, even on a moose.    

What makes a great suppressor? A small list that anyone can add to: ease of mounting, speed of withdrawal and reinsert of pistol into holster, improved sight picture and accuracy, good balance.    

DB Comparisons

An average suppressed .45 ACP pistol shooting dry is around 135-140 db near the muzzle. An unsuppressed .45 is ringing at 163 db. A car door slamming is about 74db. A jet engine taking off is at 150db.    

From a distance of 100 feet, a suppressed .45 runs at 74db.    

Silencerco’s Middle Name

Proactive Innovation runs through the offices of Silencerco. Part of the reason is that when they began as a company, they came in with focus on product manufacturing independence. As you can imagine, paying a variety of third parties to accomplish design and production objectives have in the past prevented trial and error, and cut short what could have been some amazing improvements.    

Silencerco circumvented this by purchasing and keeping in-house all their design and production, making a much more expensive investment in the initial stages that has saved them a lot of money in the long run, and abated a number of fears related to testing. They can within a day of new design, mill a suppressor with only a slight modification, say of the baffle system or wall, and test its effectiveness by that afternoon or evening.    

Because of this, they’ve not been as timid in implementing design modifications. The results have been impressive, especially when you see the slight angle differences in the baffles that have cumulatively led to such effective sound suppression. They were the first suppressor company to release a .45 ACP suppressor that was hearing safe: under 140db all the time.    

This might not mean that much to anyone not in the military, but those in the military, especially those who are trying to reduce litigation and medical expenses due to long-term hearing loss (if you ever had to repeat yourself to your WWII or Korean War veteran grandfather, whose idea of hearing protection was stuffing balls of cotton in their ears during battle, if they even had balls of cotton, you know what we’re talking about), suppressors that not only enable ease of maneuvering, but drop the decibels considerably, are a boon!    

Thinking ahead, Silencerco also saves its retail market time and money by placing the tax stamp on the part least likely to be effected by a baffle strike or some other breakage. This is the stamp attributed to the owner at ATF during the application process. Applying for a new one can be a real headache…    


Cylindrical vs. Flat

There have been a number of attempts to create a non-cylindrical suppressor, flat-topped for added sighting. Every one of them came up short: bulging of the walls, rupturing of the baffling systems topping the list.    

Part of the problem is that unlike symmetrical, cylindrical suppressor, an eccentric suppressor can be off index, depending on when the barrel’s threading starts and ends in relation to mounting the suppressor on the barrel. You could stop turning, but your asymmetrical, eccentric suppressor could be askew to the length of the barrel.    

Silencerco prides itself on listening and responding to suggestions and requests  from those who actually use their products day in and day out. They came up with the locking cam lever system when special operations operators requested the ability to always be able to align the Osprey with the pistol. A non-aligned suppressor can catch on a holster or even prevent reholstering—the confusion can result in hesitance, and slow equals dead…    

With the patent pending cam lever system, you simply screw the suppressor onto the threaded muzzle, unlock the cam, align the top of the Osprey with the top of the pistol, and then flip the cam lever back to lock the suppressor in alignment.    

From then on, every time the Osprey is mounted on that specific weapon it’s always aligned.    


.22 Sparrow

Designed for the small rifle and pistol, this suppressor does neat work mounted on the end of a .22 Long Rifle, ..22 Magnum, .17HMR, and 5.7X28FN. Milled from alloy steel, it has the most innovative design for anyone who recognizes the detracting effect of lead cast .22 bullets on suppressors, filling it up with lead that’s almost impossible to remove from the average single-walled, cylindrical suppressor.    

Within the outer cylincer, Silencerco incorporated a removable inner-wall, made of two halves of a cylinder. This enables removable for brushing off, or immersing the lead coated inside in a chemical bath to remove the  caked up lead. That in itself, cuts down on a lot of wasted time, money and expense.    

Check out our sister publication (www.corksoutdoors.com) next week for a more in-depth look at Silencerco’s .22 Sparrow, and the benefits to hunting, and wildlife management and conservation.    

Looking Forward

Silencerco has received enough requests to take their style of design to suppressors designed for high-power rifle systems. You can look to them bringing some new innovations by the summer of 2011.    

NEWS: Myth Busters on the Discovery Channel!

Today, Silencerco was involved in a production at Myth Busters.  The episode should be coming out by this fall…stay tuned!  

For more information on news at Silencerco, and information on owning your own suppresors, such as the application process and whether you can even legally own suppressors in your state of residence, visit www.silencerco.com    

View here the episode of GCT TV!

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