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Old October 13, 2013, 05:03 PM   #1
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Join Date: April 19, 2012
Location: Western PA
Posts: 3,780
Common Silencer Myths Debunked

Here are the most common silencer myths I hear on a regular basis:

(1) Silencers are illegal.
Silencers have always been legal in the US ever since they were invented in the early 1900s. However, in 1934 the National Firearms Act required silencers to be registered and levied a $200 tax on every silencer purchase or transfer. On the state level there are a handful of them that ban silencers, but they're legal in most states.

(2) It's not a "silencer", it's a "suppressor".
It's both. Sure, they don't truly silence the firearm, but the original inventor called them "silencers", the BATFE calls them "silencers", most manufacturers refer to them as both "silencers" and "suppressors", and enthusiasts and people in the industry use the terms "suppressor", "can", or "silencer" interchangeably.

(3) Silencers slow the bullet down.
Some older silencer designs used steel wool, leather, or some other material that the bullet passed through. Or the suppressor was built around a barrel that had holes drilled in it to slow the bullet's acceleration and start the suppression process. These designs often negatively affected the bullet's velocity and accuracy. Now, most silencers are detachable and have baffles that never come into contact with the bullet. With most modern suppressors, accuracy is often increased and bullet velocity can be boosted a tiny amount due to the pressure waves inside the silencer.

(4) You need a "Class 3 License" to own a silencer.
You need to register each silencer with the BATFE and receive a tax stamp; there are no licenses involved. You get this tax stamp by first filling out some simple BATFE paperwork. You then get fingerprinted, photographed, and signed off by your chief law enforcement officer (or you can bypass the fingerprint/photograph/sign-off process by purchasing the silencer through a corporation or a revocable living trust). Then your paperwork is sent to the BATFE along with a $200 check for the transfer tax. Then you wait for them to process your paperwork and send it back with the tax stamp affixed. The BATFE is currently taking about 9 months to process this paperwork (and it's going to be even longer now with the government shutdown and some possible pending changes to the trust rules). You need to do this process for each suppressor you buy; each time it's $200 and each time you have to wait for them to process it.

(5) If you own a silencer the BATFE can search your house whenever they want.
The BATFE has your address on file, if they wanted to they could pay you a visit. But normal Fourth Amendment rules still apply; they can only come in your house if you invite them in or if they have a search warrant. But more importantly, they don't make a habit of knocking on people's doors unless they have a good reason; I've never known anyone who has had the BATFE knock on their door just because they own a few NFA items.

(6) You need to use subsonic ammo with a silencer.
Sure, the only way to get close to the Hollywood silencer sound is by using subsonic ammo in order to remove the supersonic crack of the bullet. With most handgun rounds that's just a case of increasing the bullet weight a little bit so the velocity is lower. But if you try to make high-velocity rounds subsonic it often doesn't work well; the round loses most of its effectiveness and the action won't cycle if it's a semi-auto. Most rifle rounds are like this. For example: subsonic .223 ammo offers terrible performance and therefore almost nobody uses it. If you're shooting a .223 with a suppressor the bullet is still going supersonic and is making a loud crack; so a silenced .223 sounds sort of like a nail gun. But the loud muzzle blast of the .223 is greatly reduced; a suppressed .223 is quieter than an unsuppressed .22LR. This is why one of my favorite guns to suppress is an AR-15, even though I'm still using supersonic ammo.

(7) You need a silencer that can be disassembled.
Not necessarily. Centerfire rifle silencers work best when they're sealed and can't be taken apart; they're stronger this way. You don't need to clean the internals of a rifle suppressor; when you shoot the heat and pressure is so great that almost all the fouling is blown out of it and the thin layer that remains helps protect the internals from erosion. And this thin layer won't build up because the high pressure and heat keeps the carbon from getting too thick.

Centerfire pistol suppressors can go either way. As long as you're not shooting un-jacketed lead bullets or .22 through it, it's not really that important to have a user-serviceable pistol can. If carbon builds up too much inside it you might need to soak the whole thing in solvent once in a while to clean it out. That said, most people (including myself) prefer their pistol suppressors to be user-serviceable just to make cleaning that much easier, and most manufacturers these days recognize this and design their suppressors accordingly.

In my opinion, .22 suppressors are what really need to be user-serviceable. There is an amazing amount of lead and carbon that builds up every time you shoot, even if you're using copper-plated ammo. Carbon by itself is fairly easy to get out of a sealed silencer, but lead is a different story; it's very difficult (or even impossible) to remove if you can't take the silencer apart. Eventually that fouling will build up and the silencer will be noticeably heavier and louder; at this point the only good option for cleaning is to send it in to the manufacturer.

(8) Only criminals and assassins need silencers.
Outside of Hollywood, you don't hear of criminals using silencers very often. But, more importantly, there are so many practical uses for a suppressor:

-Hearing protection. There are a lot of situations where wearing hearing protection is impractical (hunting, for example). Or, where the firearm is loud enough that even with hearing protection there can still be hearing loss (like shooting a rifle at an indoor range). Silencers protect people's hearing.

-Training. Silencers reduce recoil and greatly reduce muzzle blast and sound. They're perfect for introducing newer shooters to shooting.

-Noise pollution. How many outdoor ranges around the country are constantly under the threat of shutdown because residential neighbors can't stand the sound? Or out in rural areas where people shoot on their own property and disturb the neighbors? Silencers greatly reduce noise pollution.

-And most importantly, they're just plain fun!

Those are the main silencer myths I wanted to address. Feel free to add any comments or criticism, and if you think I missed an obvious myth let me know; I'll add it to my list.
0331: "Accuracy by volume."

Last edited by Theohazard; October 17, 2013 at 12:29 AM.
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