Revolvers Can’t Be Suppressed. Or Can They?

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No, I’m not announcing a partnership between Smith and Wesson and SilencerCo to make an integrally suppressed revolver. Although I would be first in line to buy one. I created the image above in the hopes of one day spurring a manufacturer to create a commercially available wheel gun that actually can be effectively suppressed. But the question remains, why don’t we see more revolvers wearing silencers?

As most of you already know, the gap between the cylinder and the barrel in a revolver is a source of hot burning gases; there is enough room there to create a powerful cutting torch just inches away from your hands. In fact, Mythbusters did an entire segment on the cylinder gap, destroying fake fingers in the process. If you’ve never seen the episode, it’s worth your time to check it out.

Besides being a destructive force, those escaping gases and burning powder are also a large source of noise and flash. So even with the best suppressor in the world, the amount of sound coming from the cylinder gap is enough to make a revolver a poor choice in hosts. Most revolvers, that is.

Enter the Nagant M1895, a Russian revolver based on the 7.62x38mmR (7.62 Nagant) cartridge. In the Nagant’s mechanical action, the cylinder moves forward as the hammer is cocked, sealing the space between the barrel and the chambered round. Presto: silenced revolver. You’ll just have to live with sourcing quality defensive 7.62x38mmR ammo.

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Credit: BradPierson26

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Credit: BradPierson26

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Credit: BradPierson26

 

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One of the orginal Suppressed M1895 Nagant Revolvers

To further quiet the Nagant, in the 1920’s designer Bratya Mitiny (of the Mitin Brothers) engineered the “Bramit Device” for use by Soviet exepeditionary forces. The revolver fired specialized cartridges with a sabot .22 caliber bullet. After firing, the “Bramit Device”, which was mounted on the muzzle, would catch the sabot and prevent the gasses from exiting quickly, further reducing noise.

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M1895 Nagant with “Bramit Device”

 

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M1895 Nagant with “Bramit Device”

Obviously there are other suppressed revolvers that have been developed in the past. About seven years ago TFB Big Boss, Steve Johnson, reported on a fully suppressed S&W 625 made for specialized teams within the German police forces. Notice the clamshell like device that basically encapsulates the cylinder.

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PSDR 3 is a fully suppressed .45 ACP Smith & Wesson Model 625

Even the iconic Knights Armament Corporation got into the silenced wheelgun game with a heavily modified Ruger Super Redhawk for the U.S. military. The requirements called for a quiet platform with repeat-shot capability, yet wouldn’t eject any spent casings.

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KAC Suppressed Ruger Super Redhawk

 

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Kevin Brittingham with the KAC Suppressed Ruger Super Redhawk. Credit: Mythic Armory

And although it’s a bullpup shotgun and not a handgun, the Crye Six12 uses a revolving cylinder with a gas seal tube to seal off the gap each time the trigger is pulled.

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Crye Six12 Shotgun cylinder.

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Crye Six12 Shotgun patent.

Each pull of the trigger rotates the cylinder to align next chamber with the barrel. It also engages gas-seal sleeve which slides rearward around the rear of the barrel, to seal the gap between the front of the cylinder chamber and barrel breech. Source: http://world.guns.ru/shotgun/usa/six12-e.html

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Crye Six12 Shotgun With SilencerCo Salvo suppressor

Of course, nothing is stopping shooters from suppressing standard revolvers, cylinder gap and all. Here’s a Freedom Arms Mini Revolver with a custom barrel and Huntertown Arms B suppressor.

 

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Heritage Single Action .22LR.

 

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Heritage Single Action .22LR.

The U.S Army also used some suppressed revolvers in confined-space operations.

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A suppressed revolver as part of a “Tunnel Rat” kit during the Vietnam War.


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Another suppressed revolver as part of a “Tunnel Rat” kit during the Vietnam War.

I’m challenging silencer manufacturers: build an integrally suppressed revolver and the customers will come. At least I would.



Pete

LE – Science – OSINT.
On a mission to make all of my guns as quiet as possible.
Pete.M@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • John

    KBP Ots-38 and AAI QSPR are other suppressed revolvers. KBP still makes their revolver and advertises it on their website and you can see video on youtube on it. KAC I thought also made the suppressed .50S&W punisher revolver for Punisher War Zone film.

    • Kovacs Jeno

      Silent cartridges are legal in USA, without tax stamp a paperwork. I don’t know why no one manufactures/sells something like that, that’s a viable market.

      • actually they are suppressor components since they seal in the gasses. only way you can make a hearing safe round is to naturally lower the amount of powder ala the quiet 22lr rounds.

        • Kovacs Jeno

          “For the purposes of the National Firearms Act the term Silencer is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(24)
          The term “Firearm Silencer” or “Firearm Muffler”
          means any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a
          portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or
          redesigned, and intended for the use in assembling or fabricating a
          firearm silencer or firearm muffler, any part intended only for use in
          such assembly or fabrication”

          An internally silent ammunition in a non-common caliber isn’t diminishing the report of an existing firearm. It was designed as a lownoise ammo itself.
          .22 Short from a long rifle barrel is practically noiseless, and it’s not an NFA item in itself.

          • and a piston fired ammo that seals the gases acts like a silencer hence why they are silencer components since they can turn any gun into a silenced gun. 22lr quiet ammo is a hearing safe round that doesn’t seal in the gases hence its legal while silent ammo which seals in gases is not legal for general civilian ownership.

      • iksnilol

        I heard someone say that captive piston ammo would count as a silencer for each cartridge.

        • Sianmink

          Each individual round would be a NFA item. They’d probably want a new form-1 every time you loaded it. I don’t think anyone has even tried because of this.

          • Kovacs Jeno

            is there a text of an actual law stating this?

          • Sianmink

            I don’t have that handy, but here’s the ATF definition of a silencer, which would easily be interpreted to cover individual captive piston rounds.

            “The term “Firearm Silencer” or “Firearm Muffler” means any device for
            silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm,
            including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended
            for the use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm
            muffler, any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.”

          • if they are legal then someone would have made them because knowing how to make them in mass quantities is not difficult. reason no maker does it is because they are silencer components.

  • William Johnson

    Don’t forget the OTs-38 silent revolver (Russia). I could see some of Emilio Ghisoni designs might be able to be suppressed as well.

    • Sianmink

      OTs-38 isn’t a silenced revolver though, it’s a revolver that fires a silent cartridge.

    • Giolli Joker

      Emilio Ghisoni’s design were never designed to be suppressed and AFAIK none of them eliminates cylinder gap, if anything the Rhino is one of the revolvers that if mishandled is more likely to teach a lesson about cylinder gap.

      • Pete M. – TFB Writer

        I even had a hard time Photoshopping one to be suppressed!

  • A.WChuck

    Tunnel Rats, bravest souls.

    • Swarf

      No kidding. Talk about terrifying.

    • randomswede

      I realize I can’t accurately assess how much courage I’d have to muster up to do that job. The claustrophobic nature of crawling into a hole just big enough for someone distinctly smaller than me ends that line of thinking.

      • Jim

        Plus the damn things were booby-trapped with Punji sticks, snakes, and other deadly things both mechanical and living! My suggestion would have been to stuff in a container of gasoline lightly sealed on the end facing the tunnel and set it off with a remote control. Let the gas go flaming through the tunnel and suck out the air.

        • randomswede

          They did on occasion use Acetylene gas for that exact purpose, but paper burns so that could kill any intel along with it’s defenders. The Viet Cong also had water locks that would nerf that approach to some degree.

          It would be interesting to see if technology exists today that defeats the Viet Cong style tunnels; ground penetrating radar, thermal cameras, scouting robots, etc.

  • David

    What is on top of that Model 10 in the last picture? At first I thought primitive weapon light, but I see the headlamp and bite switch. Any ideas?

  • Harry’s Holsters

    Great article! Loved seeing those suppressed revolvers. Best and only reason the buy a Nagant!

    • iksnilol

      You can also make a scary precise firearm out of them if you know how to tune them.

      • Harry’s Holsters

        I learn more everyday! Thank for the tip!

        • iksnilol

          Just be warned, that trigger takes some work.

  • gunsandrockets

    Ah, Mythbusters! How I miss them. So many excellent firearm related episodes too, like the revolver cylinder-gap myth.

    Knowledge of the cylinder-gap danger is so ingrained in me, I almost zoned out describing it when I was teaching a novice shooter, but I did remember. She was surprised and a little frightened when I described the nature of the hazard. Good thing that revolvers are so entrenched in the gun-culture. Modern liability practices would have strangled the revolver baby in the crib were revolvers invented today.

  • Richard

    I would also be in line for one of these, if not for anything else but the cool factor of having a suppressed revolver

    • Pete M. – TFB Writer

      Richard, that makes a handful of us.

    • I actually have a custom 7.62 mini silencer in the atf process to fit on a m1895 nagant. should be as quiet as the action of the gun.

  • spotr

    Too complex.. Go simple like this. I photo-shopped an M79 to a revolver with a built in suppressor. It opens like a trap/skeet over/under shotgun.

    • Richard

      That wouldn’t actually be a bad idea

    • Pete M. – TFB Writer

      I’m trying to think of a reason why that wouldn’t work, but I can’t.

      Very cool. Thanks.

      • Giolli Joker

        Photoshop it on a Schofield and the break open system is already there.
        Indeed the last time we discussed suppressed revolvers in the comment section we mentioned something very similar.

        • iksnilol

          Yup, I seem to remember that as well.

          For integrally suppressed revolvers break top is the way to go. That way you can shroud the cylinder whilst allowing all rounds to be extracted/loaded at once.

          And if you made it with one of those Medua M47 cylinders (preferably 8 shot) and firing from the bottom you’d pretty much have my dream revolver.

          • spotr

            I know medusa made guns that worked, but I am curious how they solved the “tapered vs. straight” issue between 9mm and .38/357? A standard 9mm will not fit into a .357 revolver cylinder because it has a (very slight) taper. Perhaps they just oversized the cylinder and let the .38/.357 cases expand.

          • James

            It causes the 9mm cases to distort. The flanges keep the rounds in the right area. I love doing my own Russian roulette with my medusa; a few 9mm, some 38 special, one 380 and one 357.

    • aka_mythos

      The only consideration would be to make sure cylinder is self contained enough that any fouling doesn’t end up in the wrong spots. It does limit the size of the cylinder so the tube would likely end up oversized. It would be a little heavy but likely much quieter than other integrally suppressed handguns of similar caliber. Design challenges aside its perfectly viable.

      I looks like something you’d see in a 1970-80’s scifi movie.

    • Anonymoose

      iirc hey used to make flare guns and riot launchers based on a chopped-up N-frame. They even had a stock attachment which could also go on an N-frame (of course this would make an N-frame pistol into an SBR).

      • spotr

        I seem to be in doodle mode today. Its Pete’s fault 🙂
        Here is a quick photo-shop of what the S&W N frame conversion might look like.
        The 37mm flare gun tube would not fit a standard revolver 6 shot (40mm) cylinder, but a 5 shot cylinder (33mm) would easily fit. The hammer was moved up since it was center-fire for the flare gun. I gave it a longer cylinder instead of a barrel. The rest of the area could be baffles. This was a quick alteration so I didn’t add any of the other internal mechanisms (ratchet, locks, center pin, baffles, extractor, etc.)

        • Pete M. – TFB Writer

          Yeah, top loader seems like a good idea. Faster loading than a gate for sure. Very nice.

      • Anomanom

        Yeah they did.

    • Anomanom

      You know, I fooled around with a design for a pistol type 40mm grenade launcher that looked a lot like that.

  • Pete M. – TFB Writer

    Awesome. Thank you.

    • TechnoTriticale

      “captive piston” ammo might turn up further info.

      The .410 revolvers would seem to be candidates for that sort of solution. What law and caselaw would apply to that is not known to me.

      • Pete M. – TFB Writer

        I stayed away from ammo specific suppression for this one. But thanks.

  • BryanS

    Ive been cut by that gap… No need for the Myth Busters…

    And ive got to say that a suppressed NAA 22, the only thing that comes to mind, is baffle strikes. Maybe even in the suppressor mounted on it. Maybe on another suppressor to the side or behind you.

    Ive never shot one that you knew where the round went, just that it didn’t hit anything.

  • Anonymoose

    I want a suppressed 625, but in .45 Colt so I can get into some nice, heavy subsonic loads.

  • Giolli Joker

    As far as I know KAC developed also a suppressed handgun based on a Ruger GP100. Both the rifle and the handgun were shooting sub caliber bullets (.223 in .357, .308 in .44) out of telescoped rounds that were designed to seal the cylinder gap upon firing.

    (Just wait for D. E. Watters to link, again, all relevant patents 😉 )

    • Correct, the rifle variant was based upon the Ruger Super Redhawk, and the GP100 variant was a handgun only.. The ammunition for the KAC suppressed revolvers used a captive sabot. The large caliber sabot stopped against the forcing cone of the small caliber barrel to seal the cylinder gap. The propellant gases were then left to flow into the suppressor.

      In articles that I’ve seen, the project was credited to Reed Knight and John Anderson. However, the cartridge concept is derived from an earlier design by Charles R. (Bob) Olsen. He saw it as the basis for a high velocity revolver cartridge without the need to use a bottlenecked case with its setback problems. He called it the Invicta. The models he showed to the shooting press back in the early/mid-80s were built on Dan Wesson revolvers. I suspect that no one wanted to market it due to the possibility that some idiot would slip a standard cartridge into the cylinder and try to shoot it out of the smaller diameter bore.

      Olsen’s US Patents can be seen online:

      http://www.google.com/patents/US4393782
      http://www.google.com/patents/US4457093

      • Giolli Joker

        I knew you were impressively reliable. 🙂

        Curiously the first time I read about CTA ammo my thought went to the potential for long range revolvers… it was thanks to you that I discovered somebody got the idea 30 years before.
        The issue you mention could be real, but with bespoke diameters of the “CTA” cartridge or particular geometries (a step inside the chamber?) the risk of loading conventional cartridges should be easily avoided.
        I still dream of a 6.5mm VLD out of a S&W X-frame…

  • I’ve often wondered why none of the major designers ever developed any models which adopted the Nagant concept of moving the cylinder forward as part of the cocking action; in addition to making a revolver dirt simple to suppress, it seems like it would lend itself to an invulnerably solid lockup by having a slot on the cylinder engage a tab on the frame.

    • well its a tad bit more then making the cylinder move forward its also forcing the round into a nose cone. each caliber you would have to do different r and d in order to make it seal.

  • Mystick

    Knowing now that first picture was fake makes me sad. ;(

  • Roy G Bunting

    Put bigger grips on that NAA, perfect “trail gun”,.

    • Pete M. – TFB Writer

      I was thinking the same thing. Looks fun for sure.

  • Southpaw89

    Now I really want a suppressed revolving carbine.

  • Iggy

    Reading the title, I was all set to break out my suppressed nagant pic collection, but you seem to have already found most of the good ones… except these one (which also happens to be the most elegant nagant suppressor in my opinion):

    • Pete M. – TFB Writer

      Very cool. Thanks.

  • Cymond

    I’ve met Mr Dockery a few times, and he is a bit of a character, but very knowledgeable.

  • MrEllis

    I enjoyed all the pics, thanks, Pete. Seems like a lot of trouble now days. Also…

  • Here is the Army’s evaluation of the QSPR:

    http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/864423.pdf

    And here is AAI’s project report on the QSPR:

    http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/524796.pdf

  • Eye Sore

    Yes, but can you silence this …
    What has been seen cannot be unseen!

  • Budogunner

    I’m not into revolvers but as a stamp collector I do own one. A threaded 1895 Nagant. I let people try it out just so they can have the privilege of saying they have fired a silenced revolver. It’s good PR for shooting sports.

  • Darren Hruska

    The QSPR was definitely an interesting piece. Pretty underpowered, perhaps, but tunnel rats really didn’t have access to really anything that’d give them considerable firepower.

    Now, if the Colt SCAMP project actually resulted in something…

  • Old Gringo

    They sell those Super Comanches in 45 Colt/410 for about $250 and for what they are, they are great…with a 45 Colt and supressor the already subsonic 255 grain bullets would seem ideal for shooting anything quietly within say 75 yards…and with a lazer or red dot it would be great for shooting varmints at night with very little light sourc needed….I am thinking hogs a varmints called in……not a revolver but just a cheap way to solve the problem…or course you would need to keep the 410 ammo away from it….