Gun Silencers / Suppressors
Over Christmas break I did a little deer hunting. Pretty simple since I have a relative who has a feeder near the back of his property and has built a blind nearby. We trudged out there several mornings and even one afternoon to see if Bambi would show up. All a matter of timing as the game camera was recording deer around the feeder but between shopping, home repairs and other chores, we just weren’t in the blind when Bambi was munching on (or mooching off) the free corn liberally provided by the feeder on a timer.
So my hunting partner had a suppressed rifle and I was surprised and pleased to learn that suppressor ownership has been legalized in 42 states and can be used for hunting in 39 (you can probably guess the usual suspects of states that do not permit individuals to own suppressors: CA, HI, IL, NY, MA are easy to guess, the other three are DE, NJ, and RI as of this writing).
So I started thinking about how and why Preppers should be incorporating gun suppressors into their prepping plan.
First of all - some fun facts: the suppressor was invented by the same guy that invented the car muffler in the early 1900s and uses pretty much the same approach to reducing the noise. Before the BATF got involved in regulating suppressors, it was considered polite to not disturb your neighbors when blasting or plinking away in the back yard. And frankly it is still polite not to disturb your neighbors….
There are two components to the noise made by a firearm – the expansion of the gas (= explosion of the powder in the cartridge) and the crack of the projectile breaking the sound barrier (like a sonic boom for bullets). The suppressor muffles (but does not silence) the expansion of the gas. I should mention a third component which is the operation of the weapon cycling if you are using a semi-automatic. This is normally so much lower than the other two that in most cases you can disregard it and if you are using a bolt action, pump or revolver there is almost no sound produced by the weapon other than the drop of the hammer hitting the firing pin.
Early silencer designs also reduced bullet velocity by having the bullet push through some of the baffling usually made of a soft material (although this meant that silencers would wear out and eventually be less effective in reducing noise, some were only good for a few rounds before they essentially non-functional). A slower round exiting the weapon also affects the trajectory of the round and the point of impact versus point of aim. Some suppressed weapons used sub sonic ammunition to avoid the crack and thus make the operation of the weapon even more “silent”. Never mind that having the round push through material meant the bullet was losing energy, so the range of the weapon was reduced.
Newer designs avoid contact with the bullet / projectile so you can fire super sonic rounds (but remember, in this case you will still hear the crack of the round as it breaks the sound barrier) and it may even increase the muzzle velocity as the round continues to accelerate while the gas continues to expand beyond the end of the barrel and through the suppressor’s baffles. But you might see some “rubbing” of the inside of the baffles by the bullet in a cold barrel until the barrel and suppressor heats up and expands a little.
Ok, so what’s the benefit of having a suppressor if it doesn’t make your weapon completely silent? Well, first off it protects your hearing and reduces the ambient noise of your shots which your neighbors may appreciate. For a prepper, it may reduce (but not eliminate) someone’s ability to detect you hunting – it helps avoid unwanted attention. It can possibly improve your accuracy as the firer has less startle from the sound of a shot. Additionally, if you are hunting, you might not scare off other nearby birds or animals so you can kill Bambi and his buddies. (Hey! Remember after the SHTF, there is no longer a supermarket where you can go pick up ground beef).
What are the disadvantages of a suppressor? Well, they can be expensive, you will have to fill out some paperwork to purchase one (assuming it is legal in your state), your suppressor has to be designed for your weapon (you need a manner of attaching the suppressor to the end of the barrel) and they add weight to your weapon system. If you are foot mobile, you will be surprised at how an extra pound or two can ruin your whole day. Including a suppressor may mean you need to forego some other piece of equipment. And since it also makes the muzzle heavier it can make an unsupported shot more difficult. They also increase the length of your weapon which can be a factor moving through brush or in confined spaces. You can compensate by reducing the rifle stock. Otherwise it just takes some getting used to.
What are your alternatives? You can augment your prep with bow and arrow or cross bows to avoid the sounds of rifle shots completely. But a bow and arrow takes practice and your ranges are much less than a rifle. Crossbows take longer to load. You can switch to smaller calibers to reduce the sounds of your rifle shots. But smaller calibers again reduce your range and may prevent you from bringing down big game since the smaller round lacks the stopping power. You could incorporate air rifles into your mix of weapons to avoid the sounds of shots altogether but again, you are now pretty much limited to small game and birds at much closer ranges.
I don’t think I will be looking at suppressing a pistol at this point. But all in all, my personal take away is that I want to start equipping all my primary weapon systems with suppressors as part of my prepping plan. You might want to consider it too.
De Oppresso Liber