8 years ago, the number of civilian-owned suppressors in the United States was about 400,000. Now, almost 2 million suppressors are privately owned in America. Despite increased awareness and ownership, there still are a lot of misconceptions and confusion about suppressors (aka: Silencers). Unfortunately, most of these misconceptions are propagated by media, and of course Hollywood. Let’s look at some of these perceptions and separate myth from fact:
- Civilians are unable to buy or possess suppressors
- A suppressor completely silences a firearm
- Suppressors are only used by assassins and military as offensive tools
- All Suppressors are hearing safe
- Suppressors make firearms less accurate
“Civilians are unable to buy or possess suppressors” – FALSE
I’m frequently questioned about this in conversations with students and customers. Many people are surprised when I tell them that suppressors are currently legal in 42 states. Suppressors are NRA (National Firearms Act) items and require special registration, however they are relatively easy to purchase. One must follow a series of steps including submitting an BATFE form 4. The biggest complaint is not the process, but the waiting period These are the basic steps for purchasing a suppressor in Florida:
- Choose suppressor at a dealer
- Pay for the suppressor
- Fill out ATF form 4
- $200 tax stamp
- Fingerprint cards (x2)
- Passport size photo (x2)
- Suppressor remains in storage at dealer until the form is approved
- Once approved you can take possession of the suppressor
** You will have a choice of buying the suppressor as an individual or as part of a trust. In the case of a trust, you will have to set the trust up with a lawyer and there will be additional steps for the beneficiaries of the trust.
“A suppressor completely silences a firearm”- FALSE
As with 99% of Hollywood depictions involving firearms, ballistics, safe gun handling, and firearms manipulation, suppressors also suffer gross inaccuracies at the hands of the film industry. We’ve all seen films where silencers, usually in the hands of criminals and antagonists, make a hushed “whoosh” sound, allowing complete stealth. In fact, there are a few factors that determine how much sound is reduced by a suppressor. Depending on bullet velocity, a gunshot is comprised of two sounds, the ignition of the cartridge and a sonic crack if the bullet is traveling over the speed of sound (plus or minus 1124 f/s). The suppressor only addresses the sound of the ignition, not the sonic crack. For example, a 230 grain .45 caliber bullet travels under the speed of sound (850-950 f/s) and has no sonic crack, therefore a suppressed .45 is much quieter than say a suppressed 115 grain 9mm round, which travels around 1150 f/s. In the case of most rifle rounds, the bullet is traveling well into the supersonic range. A suppressor may reduce the overall sound, but it may not be hearing safe (meaning one still has to wear hearing protection). Many people who run suppressors choose heavier grain weight bullets for the purposes of making the suppressor more effective because a heavier bullets travels slower. For example, in the case of 9mm, someone running a suppressor might choose 147 grain ammo, which travels 950-1000 f/s instead of 115 grain with a velocity of 1150 f/s. The reduction in sound between the two grain weights would be noticeable. Even then, they are not completely silent as Hollywood would have us think. FYI: Some of the quietest cali
“Suppressors are only used for offensive purposes” – FALSE
Here again, Hollywood has ingrained in our minds that suppressors are used for ill as assassin’s tools, or in military special ops missions. The fact is that suppressors are used worldwide for recreational shooting, home defense, and hunting. In some European countries it is considered rude to hunt without a suppressor. In the United States, suppressors are often used to reduce noise when shooting recreationally or for home defense. Hunters in the US are increasingly using them for hunting and pest control in more populated areas.
“A suppressor makes a firearm less accurate” – PARTIALLY TRUE
For clarification, let’s differentiate between accuracy issues and shifting point of impact. I usually associate inaccuracy with inconsistency influencing either/or windage and elevation. A shift in point of impact, however, is something that is usually associated with elevation and is something that can be adjusted for. In the case of suppressors, at close to moderate range, the shooter will experience a shift in point of impact. Because of effects a suppressor can have on gases generated from the discharge of a firearm, velocity can be reduced, hence causing the round to impact lower than it would without a suppressor. That shift in elevation will be consistent and allows the shooter to adjust point of aim. That beings said, the influence of velocity caused by a suppressor will shorten the effective range of the firearm. Once the velocity drops to a certain point, accuracy is affected, hence the remark, “partially true”.