Once the territory of only the most dedicated gun nuts, suppressor use in the United States is on the rise among casual shooters and hunters alike.
“This year has seen the highest demand that we’ve ever seen, and we definitely expect to see an increase in demand around November,” said Knox Williams, president of the American Suppressor Association.
If you’ve considered jumping into the wonderful world of quiet shooting, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s why you should use a suppressor, what kind of suppressor to look for, how to purchase a suppressor, and why now is the time to get on the bandwagon.
Why Hunters Should Use Suppressors
Ever notice that the old-timers with the best hunting stories can’t hear you reply? There’s a reason for that. The report from a rifle round creates tremendous pressure, which damages the tiny hair cells that are responsible for our hearing.
“Exposure to noise greater than 140 decibels can permanently damage hearing. Almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140-dB level,” according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. “A small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB.”
Hunters are especially at risk since most don’t wear hearing protection in the field. But hunting with a suppressor can bring many calibers down to the 140-decibel range while also helping maintain situational awareness. And then there’s the obvious benefit of spooking less game when there’s a two-for-one or follow-up shot scenario.
The word “silencer” is a misnomer, because these devices certainly do not render a high-caliber rifle “silent.” They do, however, reduce the noise to safer levels. Suppressors are ubiquitous and even required for hunting in many countries across Europe and elsewhere because of their benefits for hunters’ ears.
Would you rather buy a suppressor now or hearing aids later? A suppressor is a lot more fun—trust me.
What to Look for in a Suppressor
Choosing a suppressor, like choosing a firearm, requires a clear sense of what you’ll be using it for. That’s what Jen M and Mike Bowes from Silencer Shop told me when I asked for suppressor recommendations. Even in the hunting world, different suppressors can fill different roles, just like different guns have different functions.
“On a long hike, for example, a few extra ounces can feel like an extra 15 pounds before too long. But if you’re hunting from a tree stand, you don’t have to worry as much about weight,” Jen said.
Silencer Shop is one of the largest online suppressor distributors in the country, and they’ve been helping Americans purchase suppressors since the company was founded in 2010. When considering which suppressor to purchase, Bowes mentioned a few principles to keep in mind.
First, different suppressors are designed for different calibers. Be sure to purchase a suppressor that can handle whatever caliber you plan to use it with. Second, wider and longer suppressors tend to suppress sound more effectively than shorter and thinner suppressors, but the former cost more than the latter. This stuff might seem obvious, but we assume if you’re reading this that you’re somewhat green to suppressors.
In terms of materials, the lightest suppressors are made of titanium, but they’re also the most expensive and can’t withstand high rates of fire. The most durable suppressors are constructed with steel or stellite alloy, but they’re heavier than titanium. Aluminum suppressors are often the least durable, but they’re lightweight and relatively inexpensive.
For the hunter who only plans to use a suppressor to pursue deer or elk a few times a year, Bowes said aluminum might be a nice option. But for the hog hunter looking to eradicate a nuisance herd, steel, stellite, or titanium is best.
Users can go with either a direct thread attachment system (screw the suppressor right onto the barrel) or a quick-detach system (screw a muzzle device onto the barrel and attach the suppressor to the muzzle device). Direct-thread systems are best for bolt-action guns. They also don’t require the purchase of a separate muzzle device and they don’t produce as much point-of-impact shift.
Quick-detach systems allow users to quickly and easily swap suppressors from one gun to another. If you go with a quick-detach system, Bowes recommends a non-locking taper mount system because these setups tend to align the suppressor more consistently than other quick-detach systems.
For lightweight hunting applications, Bowes specifically recommends the Dead Air Nomad-30, Griffin Sportsman Ultra Light, Q Trash Panda, SilencerCo Omega 300, GunWerks 6IX and 8IGHT, and “anything from Thunderbeast.” For a general-use, do-it-all suppressor, check out the SilencerCo Omega 36M.
How to Purchase a Suppressor
Purchasing a suppressor can seem intimidating, but the process is actually relatively simple. “There are a lot of steps, but none of the steps are inherently difficult,” Williams said.
Here’s the current, step-by-step process to purchase a suppressor as an individual:
- Figure out whether your state allows suppressor ownership and/or hunting with a suppressor. Right now, eight states ban suppressor ownership and ten states ban hunting with a suppressor. Click here to see a full list.
- Pick out your suppressor, whether at a dealer or online.
- Fill out an ATF Form 4.
- Get fingerprints
- Take a passport-style photo.
- Notify your Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO).
- Cut a check for $200.
- Bring Form 4, photo, fingerprints, and check to dealer.
- Wait times are usually between six months and a year. To make your wait time as short as possible, be sure there are no errors on your Form 4. If you have a common name, expect your Form 4 to be delayed (sorry, John and Jane Smith).
The ATF allows you to buy a suppressor as an individual or as part of a trust. Purchasing as part of a trust allows anyone on that trust to use the suppressor, while purchasing as an individual means that the suppressor owner must be present whenever that item is in use. However, everyone on the trust must submit paperwork and fingerprints each time anyone else on the trust purchases a suppressor.
Your dealer will be able to walk you through this process. And if they can’t, find a different dealer.
Silencer Shop kiosks have also simplified the suppressor-purchasing process. Kiosks are located at suppressor dealers around the country, and if you purchase a suppressor through them (along with the $200 tax stamp), you can submit fingerprints and the info you need for your Form 4 at the kiosk. They will pretty much handle the rest from there.
Why Now is the Time
Purchasing a suppressor has never been easier, but that might not always be the case. Bills to ban suppressor ownership nationwide make regular appearances in Washington, D.C., and the tide could turn after any given election year. The solution? Make suppressors common enough that people care about them, from gun nuts to casual plinkers to deer hunters.
You can also contact your congressperson to voice your support for the Hearing Protection Act—a bill that would put suppressors in the same category as regular firearms. You’d have to pass a background check, but you wouldn’t have to complete any additional paperwork or pay the $200 tax stamp.
“I think they view us as a niche within the industry, and kind of an easy target,” Williams said. “It’s imperative for people to go out and buy suppressors. Make them common use. Make them an issue people care about.”
Feature image via Wiki Commons.