View Full Version : Does a suppressor damage the bullet?

Darth AkSarBen
May 11, 2009, 08:18 PM
I and my wife are discussing forensics. I know that a suppressed firearm shoots a bullet while dispersing the gas in a more controlled manner than an instant burst of sound IE the "Bang". However, I think that most of the modern designs of suppressors do not do any damage to the rifling of the bullet, and pretty much do not even touch the bullet.

However, she has seen shows on television, not the CSI or the like, but forensic stuff like "Cold Case Files" and others that talk about the damage from a bullet from the silencer (suppressor) that made it nearly impossible for the detectives to determine the exact gun that the bullet was fired from.

Do suppressors AKA "silencers" (no gun is totally silenced), impart any damage to the fired bullet?

May 11, 2009, 10:42 PM
A lot of different designs. Not sure on the damage from silencer, but..

Most criminals realize they can jam a screw driver down a barrel and change the forensics left by the barrel. For a pistol the pistol will still remain accurate enough for crime. Any criminal smart enough to use a silencer for this purpose would certainly be able to change the ballistics in other ways.

I think they use the primer strike and print from the bolt face more successfully(when they retrieve brass)

David Hineline
May 11, 2009, 11:54 PM
Modern sportsman and military design would not typically touch the bullet in any way anymore.

But when needing a unit as small and as quiet as possible a design where shooting through some type of grease with self sealing wipes would be the smallest and quietest for a few shots. That type would touch the bullet and throw off accuracy more than it would mark the bullet.

Zak Smith
May 12, 2009, 12:15 AM

And any suppressor that touches the bullet isn't going to be accuracy past several arms-lengths.

May 12, 2009, 02:21 AM
Even a silencer with end wipes wouldn't "damage" the bullet. I seriously doubt it would even leave any noticeable marks on the bullet since the wipes are soft--rubber or plastic.

As pointed out, most modern silencers don't use wipes anyway.

May 12, 2009, 03:25 AM
And regarding the nifty CSI nonsense where they look at a casing to find the gun that did it, New York has been spending over a million a year for 8 years, and Maryland probably the same, building a database of hundreds of thousands of guns.

They've attempted something like 7000+ matches, had 2 (TWO) possible positives returned, and gotten 0 convictions.

But the thugs in Chitcago want to take the system national...

Darth AkSarBen
May 12, 2009, 05:34 AM
Yes, case marking might make some help in identification, but it's just some. All it does is put the possibility that this gun or a type like it was possibly at the scene. Since brass is mobile and anyone can throw down brass at a crime scene to cover tracts, it's a bit of a bit "IF".

We were not talking TV shows like C.S.I. or Law & Order, but real cases by real detectives ususlly involving shows like Unsolved Mysteries, and Cold Case Files, etc.

Prime wipes, and the brass idea is a very bad idea. For one, these things can be easily altered by a criminal. Firing pins can be sanded, or polished. The backstop where the brass contacts the slide, can be modified after such incidents, and with regards to revolvers, they leave behind NO brass anyway.

Are there any actual online cases that the bullet was identified even after fired through a gun that had a suppressor on it? Are there files that show that the forensics team had a hard time tracing a bullet because of the fact that the bullet was fired though a suppressor?

We are all gun enthusiasts, and shooters here, but it would be nice to get some input from someone that has been in or is in Law Enforcement that may have come across this either in actuallity, or in close tied investigatons. This would serve as a bit more "meat" into the credibility.

Many thanks for the replies!!

May 12, 2009, 09:52 AM
There has been a couple of shows on non network channels lately where the killer that was finally caught, had used a home made suppressor that supposedly was based on one in a "how to make your own suppressor book"
and it was full of chopped in half tennis balls to act as wipes that had to be shot through and steel wool. I remember it made some odd scratches on the bullet, but didnt make the rifling marks unidentifiable. With factory made suppressors there will be no difference in the marks on the bullet, as they never touch the bullet unless they are off center and it hits a baffle or endcap.
I have even owned a older factory Sionics suppressor that used urethane wipes that was only good for about 30 shots, back in the late 1970's when that was still the thing, and own current
tech suppressor as we speak....and yes, 21 years as a Peace officer/ NFA dealer and owner since 1983.

May 12, 2009, 11:16 AM
Some will round or shave the backs of bullets a little. If the supressor uses a wipe (layer of plastic or other degradeable material) for gas control, it may scuff the bullet or cause it to impact irregularly (keyhole).

A homemade device (using the proverbial cola bottle or other common items) would probably damage the bullet.

If someone hand loaded undersize bullets for the caliber of gun, or used an adapter (like shooting .22LR out of .223 rifles, or a .32 pistol cartridge in a large caliber rifle) it might also throw off a forensics expert to what make of weapon was used.

May 12, 2009, 11:18 AM
The clue would be lack of powder residue at the scene. If it was a close up execution style murder there would be no powder burn marks on the victim. The local investigators may not immediately figure out why but eventually they will conclude (perhaps with help from state/federal investigators) that a silencer of some sort was used. From there they will look closer at the bullet markings to determine a range of weapons that could have fired it.

For example, if it has polygonal rifle markings coupled with the fact there was no powder burns on the victim or residue left at the scene they may conclude it was possibly fired from a USP tactical with a factory silencer which just might clue them to look at the NFA database and see if any of their persons of interest has a legally registered silencer. And lucky them, their suspect does and the registered silencer just happens to be in the same caliber that killed the victim. Search warrant time.

You can see where this road is going...

Another big clue would be the victim has 8 holes in him and the neighbors didn't hear anything except someone hammering a nail around 3am.

May 12, 2009, 12:06 PM
*as they say, if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

Darth AkSarBen
May 12, 2009, 01:08 PM
Thank you all very much, and I especially thank p99guy for his views as experience is the best teacher. I also have to add that I did find some statistics regarding suppressors, and in a PDF file. Fascinating read I might add. Link is here: http://wcr.sonoma.edu/v08n2/44.clark/clark.pdf Pay attention to page 52 (their page) but the actual document listed is only 14 pages in length, so not that large to download. Page 9/of 14, is the same as page 52. From Federal court cases depicting murder from the years 1995 to 2005, a 10 year span only 2 people were killed with a firearm that had a suppressor on it. There are a few instances where a "silenced" firearms were used in commission of a felony, but they were never fired. From what I gathered from this piece, the consensus is that the suppressed noise is more of a "fear hype" to unknowing legislators, and that there is little evidence to support even having a suppressor listed as a special permit tax item. They are actually useful at gun ranges to reduce nose, and in police use where they need to have hearing available with each other in confined spaces without doing permanent damage to their hearing. Lot more uses, but the basic crux was that it was thought that only organized crime and poacher were the main users of suppressed weapons. Data simply does not support this.
BTW, I was a Deputy Sheriff in Nebraska for a number of years, and the only 2 victims I photographed as a forensic photographer were suicides. One with a 30-06 under the chin, he was 22 years old, and the other an older man who had found out he had terminal cancer and did not want to burden the family with large medical expenses.. etc etc.. and used a shotgun for suicide.

Darth AkSarBen
May 12, 2009, 01:17 PM
newkahr said: "If someone hand loaded undersize bullets for the caliber of gun, or used an adapter (like shooting .22LR out of .223 rifles, or a .32 pistol cartridge in a large caliber rifle) it might also throw off a forensics expert to what make of weapon was used."

I hate to dissapoint you, but I just checked the diam of my .22 bullet with a dial caliper (goes to 0.0005") and the .22 bullet micked at 0.223" diameter, and would probalby have rifling lands and grooves on it if shot from a .223 centerfire rifle. In essence, a Ruger 10/22 IS a .223 rifle, but shoots the bullet caliber from a rimfire case.:)
Most auto pistols like .45 and so forth headspace off the case mouth and would be prone to be quite dangerous if they were shot in some hybrid modified wildcat fashion out of a firearm.

May 12, 2009, 05:38 PM
I agree that the only silencers that are going to make any marks on a bullet are those with wipes or mesh, and these might not do much at all, except to cast lead bullets.

On another note, many legal silencers are "homemade". Homemade does not mean low quality. I make my own silencers in my garage on a lathe. They are the modern baffle type and nearly as effective as the ones made by the well known manufacturers.


May 12, 2009, 05:58 PM
I really wish the TV shows and movies would stop their ridiculous persecution of silencers.

Darth AkSarBen
May 12, 2009, 06:20 PM
Pam concedes that modern made suppressors may have little impart to the bullets, but she was wondering about home made one? The Forensic Files program that she watches are in tune to an earlier era, say some 20 years ago. Did the home made silencers, the more crude ones disfigure the rifling to a point that they bullet could no longer be matched to the gun?

May 12, 2009, 06:29 PM
Well that is a really broad question, as something made at home is limited only by the maker, and thier abilitys, and whether they are just making something they think might work or using a how to book, etc.

folks have used potatos stuck on the muzzle as one shot suppressor, 2 litre plastic jugs etc, the bullet has to shoot through those and make their own hole. So yes, things like that can leave its mark on say a, soft lead bullet.

I have even seen somebody try to use a lawn mower muffler.

but for the bullet to hit the "suppressor" so hard as to destroy the rifling marks, you can bet there will be peices of that suppressor all over the place at the scene.

May 12, 2009, 06:31 PM
Did the home made silencers, the more crude ones disfigure the rifling to a point that they bullet could no longer be matched to the gun?

Any suppressor internals that touched the bullet with enough force to alter the rifling is going to deflect the bullet. No telling where the bullet would strike. It might even come out the side of the suppressor through a new hole.

May 19, 2009, 08:08 PM
Properly fitted sound suppresors dont contact bullits or efect poitn of impact.

Ps. What is your conection to Nebraska...Aksarben?

May 19, 2009, 08:17 PM
Since brass is mobile and anyone can throw down brass at a crime scene to cover tracts, it's a bit of a bit "IF"
I knew about dropping pubes from public toilets at crime scenes, but never heard about brass before... Interesting.

Darth AkSarBen
May 19, 2009, 08:23 PM
Thanks for all the replies, very helpful.
Born in Scottsbluff NE when the hospital was downtown. Raised in NW Nebraska SW of Crawford on a ranch/farm. Graduated from G.C.H.S. in Oshkosh in 1971. Was a part time Police Officer in Crawford, NE before moving to Lewellen NE to take the position of Deputy Sheriff of Garden County. Crawford, Nebraska sent me to Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island in 1984 (circa) in the spring to receive my Law Enforcement Officer Certification of Nebraska. Graduated in top 10 of the class. Have many relatives and friends in and around Garden County and Sidney NE. Worked for a while at Cabela's as an Auditor in their returns dept, Oshkosh, Division. I follow this present legislation on the new bills for Concealed Carry in Nebraska and hope that they soon have reciprocity with other states.. like Michigan.

I also know a N.F.A FFL class III dealer/manufacture there at Elsie Nebraska by the name of Todd Hatcher. Hatcher Guns (http://www.hatchergun.com/) I could have just called him, but of late he is a rather busy man and I hate to bother him when he is trying to earn a living farming and smithing. :D