Pentagon Naval Office Orders 349 Unmarked Silencers

A Navy office at the Pentagon secretly ordered 349 suppressors made without serial numbers, according to an investigation begun almost two years ago, reports the Washington Post:

The mysterious workings of a Pentagon office that oversees clandestine operations are unraveling in federal court, where a criminal investigation has exposed a secret weapons program entwined with allegations of a sweetheart contract, fake badges and trails of destroyed evidence.

Capping an investigation that began almost two years ago, separate trials are scheduled this month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., for a civilian Navy intelligence official and a hot-rod auto mechanic from California who prosecutors allege conspired to manufacture an untraceable batch of automatic-rifle silencers.

The exact purpose of the silencers remains hazy, but court filings and pretrial testimony suggest they were part of a top-secret operation that would help arm guerrillas or commandos overseas.

The silencers — 349 of them — were ordered by a little-known Navy intelligence office at the Pentagon known as the Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration, according to charging documents. The directorate is composed of fewer than 10 civilian employees, most of them retired military personnel.

Court records filed by prosecutors allege that the Navy paid the auto mechanic — the brother of the directorate’s boss — $1.6 million for the silencers, even though they cost only $10,000 in parts and labor to manufacture.

Much of the documentation in the investigation has been filed under seal on national security grounds. According to the records that have been made public, the crux of the case is whether the silencers were properly purchased for an authorized secret mission or were assembled for a rogue operation.

The article describes the unmarked devices as “silencers”, and while that’s not entirely incorrect, a more proper term to use would be “suppressors.” It’s very difficult to silence rifle calibers, and the crack of a supersonic rifle bullet cannot be attenuated; subsonic ammunition must be used. Given this, it’s more likely that the devices were intended to reduce or mask the sound of gunfire, not eliminate it.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • Ralphie

    I could of swore I read where these so called silencers were destroyed along with a lot of paper work. And who’s to say they were even built correct? I’ll just wait for the movie to come out.

  • jeff

    1.6 million for 349 silencers wtf no wonder the national debt is so high
    this makes me sick to my stomach to hear even though i know this stuff goes on all the time

    • Y-man

      “You think we pay one million dollars for a hammer? Or two million dollars for a toilet seat?”

      • Guest


        • Patrick R

          Why in the world does my post say it was a guest?

          • Cymond

            Did you try to delete it? Disqus doesn’t delete posts, only remove the OP’s name from them, labeling them as “guest” instead.
            Except when an Admin deletes a post, then it actually disappears.

          • Patrick R

            Yeah, I was having issues attaching the photo. I kept getting a red X instead of the picture. I wonder what attempt number actually made it.

          • Cymond

            You uploaded it directly from a file? Yeah, Disqus does that ‘red x’ thing to me, too. Idk why, but my theory is that it has uploaded the file, but not created the thumbnail version yet. It seems like even after I hit ‘submit’ my pictures still appear as red Xs sometimes, but they work if I click on the red X icon (opens a new tab or browser window). What’s weirder is that the pic will be fully-loaded and working if I come back a few minutes later.

          • Patrick R

            Same thing I was experiencing.

          • Mine doesn’t?

      • Patrick R

        Well plaid.

        • Cymond

          Well plaid …. well plaid indeed …

          • Patrick R

            Sure is.

      • Eddie_Baby

        I think of that line every time I read or hear about overpriced military hardware.

      • iksnilol

        The toilet seat one made sense. That was for some special aircraft so they had to be built specially for it and they made a limited number so the price was high due to tooling and the like.

        • Y-man

          Quote [Or close to it] was from Independence Day [Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Paxton 1994] where the president [I think] asked where the project had gotten so much funding to have built such a massive underground complex to house the base.

    • david

      No comment on a “auto mechanic” getting the order? never mind, that he is the brother of the department head???

  • ARL

    No, the proper term would be “silencers”. This is a legal case, and “silencer” is the legal definition, from 18 USC 921(a)(24). In contrast, “suppressor” is not defined.

    • Patrick R


      • SP mclaughlin

        Or lack thereof

    • From a legal perspective, yes, that’s correct.

      • Sadler

        It’s incorrect to say that you can’t do anything about the sonic boom from a supersonic body. Subsonic ammunition isn’t necessary, you just have to change the shape of the bullet.

        • Sadler, you’re absolutely correct. The NASA Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration program was related to this.

          However, that has not been applied to small arms so far.

          • Sadler

            That’s actually incorrect as well. It had been tested in small arms much earlier than the Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration (it had been researched in aviation as early as the 1950’s). A small arms weapons researcher by the name of Abraham Flatau owns a patent detailing a projectile that has a shape very similar to Busemann’s Biplane.

            I suggest you do some more research:


            There’s also a powerpoint floating around out there with some data regarding the tested round.

  • gggplaya

    no way 349 silencers only cost $10k in parts and labor. Thats $28 per silencer, no way.

    • Patrick R

      Seems like a bargan to me.

    • wetcorps

      That’s what the cheapest 22lr suppressors cost here in France where they are less regulated (that is, not more regulated than firearms). After all a basic silencer is just a metal tube with some metal bits in it, nothing expensive about it. Hell, you can build one yourself with with steel whool or bottle caps.
      I think you guys pay hundreds for them because the tax stamp make them expensive anyway, so compagnies know you won’t mind spending a few hundreds and build them out of mithril and unobtainium.

  • Patrick R

    Bordering on political with this one, don’t cha think?

    • OK.

      • MANG

        At least this post isn’t directly soliciting donations for a longshot court challenge to federal law, which while OK by me, is explicitly political.

        • Patrick R

          I can’t say I don’t agree with you. I think Alex C.’s heart was in the right place with that one, but yes it was a politically charged post. Now the tin foil patrol post? Not so much.

          • Just reporting the news, man.

          • Patrick R

            Chill out Gimli, I was far more annoyed by the entire paragraph where you harped on the original author for using a non PC term when referring to the suppressor than the article itself.

          • I really intended that in a technical sense only, not because I think “silencer” is a bad term for a can.

          • Patrick R

            Technically wouldn’t “silencer” be the correct term? I understand that it only muffles the gunshot, but that is the legal term for the device.

        • Dan

          How is a court case political? Fighting for rights isn’t a political action it’s American

          • MANG

            @Dan c’mon, how is it *not* political? I really, really appreciate TFB as a place where I can get my gun news fix and mostly avoid partisan politics. I can go to any other gun blog and read opinions on medicare, feminism, liberals, and whichever president is currently in office. But the thing is, I don’t read gun blogs for political editorials. It’s nice to have one blog with great content where people police themselves against mouthing off too badly.

            That’s why it dismayed me to see a staff writer straight-up asking for donations to change federal law – appropriate on a gun blog, sure, but not this one.

            I’m OK with this post because I’m interested in clandestine gov’t use of arms – historically and in the present day, by the US, Syria, Russia etc. The article didn’t seem to have a partisan tone.

  • echelon

    And is anybody surprised by this? You give a gigantic organization carte blanche to do whatever they want with the money they forcibly take from you with no oversight…what do you expect to happen?

  • nature223

    illegal for us.. but fine for them…
    when it comes to the point of where WE can’t do something they can…. that is TYRANNY

  • hami

    Illegal, untraceable government suppressors? The omnious sounding “Directorate
    for Plans, Policy, Oversight, and Integration” arming guerrilla fighters? Hot rod mechanics?

    This should be the new season of Homeland!

    • mikewest007


  • Ed

    Probably either to be given to Iraqi commandos to fight ISIS or US commandos to fight ISIS with no US markings to ID them.

    • matt

      well, all those weapons have been given to iraqis as a more or less open process (all those Humvee…even if their serial has been removed is stil an humvee….).

      and a suppressor doesn’t look to need that secrecy….

  • migueladobe

    I feel this blog post was written to sensationalize the story without much of the information around the case, I personally the whole thing reads like a scam to get contract money from Uncle Sam. I don’t think their is any black-ops stuff going on here just a few guys trying to defraud the DOD.

    • No, it was written to sensationalize the “silencer” vs. “suppressor” issue. 😉

  • Cymond

    This post would have made more sense before the “gets weirder” update post from last week.

    Also, is anyone else getting full-page pop-over ads for Tracking Point?

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Super annoyed with full page ads.

    • Thank you for pointing out the previous coverage. We try to avoid repeat posts, but we’re only human.

  • Quach

    Maxim’s patent says silencer….

  • Dan

    Silencers without serial numbers? Obviously their intended use is against U.S. citizens. As if ISIS has the capability to trace them or cares too. This is it boys and girls the government is turning against us! Oh crap my tin foil hat blew off brb.

  • Liberty_First

    Next, we’ll hear why we ought not call tissues “Kleenex” because they don’t really clean anything.

    Or, we could recognize that “silencer,” like “kleenex” is a trade name that was so successful as to become synonymous with the whole class of product. Also, “suppressor” has the dubious distinction of being both boring as hell and ambiguous, since the much more common type of firearm suppressor is a flash suppressor.

    I think I will stick with “silencer.” I don’t mind giving a nod to Hiram Percy Maxim.

    • I typically use “silencer”. In this case, however, I felt it was worthwhile to point out that rifles are difficult to silence.

  • Man pippy

    If they want untraceable just buy them from Norinco and check the untraceable box.

  • Secundius

    The way I heard it is, one of the Civilian Employee’s went “rouge” and diverted funds without authorization and has no purchasing power in the department. Said Silencers were for himself, and not a for department “black ops” projects. Said person thought of it as “pay back” for hard work and being under appreciated.

  • Secundius

    Cheaper to ge an “Oil Filter” conversion, no serial number there either.

  • sar

    those who fight for real democracy and freedom will be murdered?
    or the US want to kill some dictator?

  • Dual Sport

    1. I can’t believe the silencer vs. suppressor and other areas are trill being debated;
    2. I can’t believe some of that 1.6 million did not make its way back to those writing the checks.