The Perfect Storm for Silencer Sales: Legislation, Competition & an Election

Silencer

[Credit: Dead Air Armament]

The silencer market between pending legislation, the election, and new companies coming to the forefront is as volatile as the stock market. People are unsure whether to “BUY, BUY, BUY” or “WAIT, WAIT, WAIT.”


Legislation

At the moment, silencers are legal for purchase in 42 of 50 states. The last 8 states that have not legalized the sale of silencers may be extremely slow to do so. The list is pretty much what you would expect:

  • California, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island
silencer

[Credit: American Suppressor Association]

There has been both positive and negative legislation swirling around recently. The most imminent is the “NFA Loophole” that Obama is closing effective July 13th. In what he views as safeguarding against criminals getting silencers, all trustees and the trustor (owner of the trust), will be given a background check starting July 13th. Currently, only the trustor gets a background check when a silencer is sold.

Some more positive legislation that could make Obama’s “NFA Loophole” null and void is the Hearing Protection Act. What the Hearing Protection Act looks to do is de-regulate the sale of silencers. Basically, remove the $200 Tax Stamp and treat silencers like traditional firearms. No more 6 month wait, no more trusts. You buy a silencer and take it home the same day.

The “NFA Loophole” is temporarily driving up the sale of silencers before its enactment. People are purchasing silencers before more hoops are put in place to jump through. Once in place, the “NFA Loophole” will likely soften silencer sales as people are deterred from getting all their trustees fingerprinted and gathering up that extra information. On the flip side, if at any point the Hearing Protection Act passes, you would see a tremendous spike in sales. The two biggest deterrents to not buy a silencer now is the $200 Tax Stamp and the wait time. Both of those elements would be eliminated.

As certain legislative dominoes begin to fall in the coming months silencer sales could become quite interesting (keep your popcorn handy).


Competition 

It has been well documented that the silencer industry is growing by leaps and bounds. More and more companies are fabricating silencers and the quality as a whole is rising tremendously. Similar to how thousands of companies began making AR-15s in the last 5 years there has been an uptick of machine shops and arms makers producing silencers for the first time.

I, for one, think this is a great thing. Competition breeds excellence and the cream will always rise to the top. Some people wonder how the big dogs like Gemtech, SilencercoDead Air Armament, and others will survive with so much competition. Similar to how Daniel Defense, LWRC, and so many other AR companies found new competition in recent years, but are still at the top of their respective product category so will Gemtech, Silencerco, and Dead Air Armament. They are innovating like never before to stay alive. The cream always rises to the top. A lot of these machine shop outfits may not have staying power, but their presence is definitely felt.

silencer

[Credit: Dead Air Armament]

All of this competition, aside from the improvement in quality, is driving down the cost to a certain degree. When a handful of companies all offer the same product: similar quality, similar manufacturing processes, and similarly made in the USA, they need to find something to differentiate themselves from others. That can end up being price. Who can offer the best product at the best price. A lot of this correlates to the market and how the consumer is responding to it. There are many components that can drive the average consumer to want a silencer (price, future availability, legislation, etc). Silencers and firearms are unique because they are part of a leisure industry. Silencers are not like bread, milk, and toilet paper where we all need them. Some people may argue they do need a silencer, but I also believe I need a muscle car, but I digress. Jon Stokes from our sister blog, All Outdoor, touches upon many of the elements related to the market in a very well written blog HERE.


ELECTION

Finally, we can talk about the elephant in the room. It is indeed an election year. Just 2 weeks ago an assault weapons ban was proposed again and once again it was struck down. So we all know that our 2nd Amendment Rights, which existentially extend to silencers, are always under attack. So the closer and closer we get to November the more and more on edge everyone is going to be knowing that Hillary Clinton would enjoy nothing more than enacting anti-gun legislation at every turn. But enough about politics. We all understand how powerful a mere televised debate or a full blown election can be for silencer and firearm sales.


The Intangibles

One thing that floats under most people’s radars is the background check process we go through. What I am referring to is not how long, redundant, and tedious the system is, but more from a dealer standpoint. When you buy a firearm, your dealer has the option of calling in your background check (5-10 min), or if they are technologically savvy, they can complete it online (1-5 min). In either situation, it is pretty fast.

So you have to ask… Why is there not a similar system in place for silencer background checks? The ATF and NFA have been trying to roll-out an online check system for quite some time and keep failing to finish it. As a gun store owner and Class 3 dealer myself, I was informed that an e-check system would be in place for silencers by last December. That never happened…. Then, I was informed it is being pushed back to April 2016. That never happened… After falling short of that 2nd date I have not been told anything since.

If, and its a big IF, they could institute an online check system and get same day results, even with a $200 Tax Stamp and Obama’s NFA Loophole law going through July 13th, you would see a significant increase in sales because the wait time would be gone. Gun folks like instant satisfaction. A lot of us are extremely impulsive buyers. And if we can stroll through our local gun shop, spot a silencer we gotta have, and take it home the same day, you bet sales are going to go up.


So when you roll pending legislation, growing competition, and an imminent election all into one, we truly have a perfect storm for the silencer market. The only thing we are missing from this jambalaya of chaos is a cameo from Mark Walhberg and George Clooney. But do we really want the input of two Hollywood celebrities on silencers?… Probably not.



Hello everyone! The outdoors, Crossfit, and anything firearm related have always been my passions. I’ve been a guest writer for Sierra Bullets, am a Smith & Wesson Armorer, reloader, and have an addiction to classic S&W and Colt revolvers. Be sure to visit TFB frequently and keep your magazines full, my friends!


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  • Pete – TFB Writer

    Free the hollow tubes with cones!

    • PK

      Or disks. Or whatever.

  • KestrelBike

    Honestly, I think it’s pretty much a 50-50 bet that cankles wins the election. From there, she’d get advisors to give her a laundry list of everything she could possibly do to screw over gun enthusiasts.

    What if all she has to do is have her “new” DOJ instruct the ATF to assign one employee to process NFA forms, but only one day a week or something similarly ridiculous. It’d be a de facto ban. I could be totally wrong, but unlike the 3 day catch and release limit for delayed NICS bgc’s, is there any actual legislation detailing the timeliness of approving/releasing NFA applications?

    If she wins and splits the supreme court, and God forbid gets to appoint 2+ more justices, she can have her way with any of the 2nd Amendment details in much the same way that states like CA, MA, NY, etc have.

    • iowaclass

      You won’t get something in exchange for nothing.

      Congress isn’t going to put silencers in a category that would let you resell a silencer to a stranger in a parking lot with no background check.

      If you want the silencers outside of the NFA regime, you are going to have to run background checks on all sales. Quid pro quo. That’s how reality works.

      • Roy G Bunting

        Everyone wants the quo without putting up a quid. When we (the gun community) out of hand fight things like the Lautenberg Amendment, $5 taxes and a NICS check for every transfer, we lose all leverage to have good things like the Hearing Protection Act.

        I know, Nazis boiling frogs while slicing salamis and we want our cake back. “Shall not be infringed,” and all that.

        But when we don’t come to the kitchen we lose the ability to decide what’s cooking. And that’s doom for our whole culture.

        • BattleshipGrey

          I’ve heard it said that universal background checks can only be enforced by registration. If that’s the case, then it’s not worth easier access to suppressors IMO. I can afford ear plugs.

          If there were background checks on transfers of suppressors only, which is only caliber specific, then I could probably get behind that. But UBCs on all firearm transfers aren’t the way and it won’t stop people that won’t abide by it anyway.

          • Roy G Bunting

            There are many states that use NICS and don’t have registration.

            Silencers (suppressors) already are registered, as are all other NFA firearms. I’m unaware of any significant seizure of NFA arms due to their registry. California has registration for handguns going back decades, again, no massive confiscation. Maybe there has been one I’m unaware of, but the fear of widespread confiscation seems unwarranted.

            Having all firearms transfers go through NICS (as opposed to just guns you buy at your FFL) is pretty reasonable IMHO. As law abiding gun owners, we don’t want to be “that guy” who sells a spare pistol to a felon or other prohibited person. It’d be a pretty minor hassle (go to FFL, pay NICS fee, get OK to sell, transfer) in exchange for being able to say we are doing everything reasonably possible to keep guns from criminals without undue burden on the law abiding.

            Registration is a separate issue, and does require some safeguards for us to be reasonable.

          • Devil_Doc

            The problem with that, is when have the antis ever held to their end of the compromise? I’m perfectly ok with UBCs, but they should be free for p2p transfers, with ironclad legislation preventing registration at any level. This would include my home states pistol database. But, I don’t trust any of them not to crawfish, so no deal.

          • Roy G Bunting

            Perfect is the enemy of good. Holding the opposition to their bargain is something we can only do if we are willing to come to the table.

            There’s risk in offering anything. We can give an inch and they could take the mile. But they *will* take the mile if we aren’t willing to even entertain the idea of giving an inch.

          • BattleshipGrey

            When does it stop though? There will be a point where a line must be drawn. Because they aren’t going to stop once UBCs are in place or “military style” guns are restricted like the NFA.

            Maybe the current batch of anti’s will stop. Maybe they’ll never do use our registered info against us. But what about the next generation? What will they do with it? Another generation or two later may be cursing ours because we gave up freedoms just like we curse those in 1934. I bet no one actually thought the IRS would target conservative and religious organizations, yet it happened.

            Trust must be earned, and our government has a poor track record. Even 200 years ago they were going back on their word to the Native Americans.

          • Cymond

            “Good” hasn’t been an option since FOPA 1986, and all of those protections have been eroded terribly, while the Hughes amendment stands firm.

            We can’t even begin “Holding the opposition to their bargain” because they aren’t interested in bargaining, either.

          • KestrelBike

            They’ve taken miles at every step and you’re a fool if you believe for a second that civilian gun ownership wouldn’t be long gone already if not for momentous battles won not to restore lost rights but simply to keep the status quo.

            Your cliche ideas and “Listen to them because they want to play fair” are insidious and contemptuous. I’ve no doubt you’ve been posting while wearing pajamas and sipping cocoa. I spit at your calls to negotiate with tyrants who ceaselessly try to turn Americans into their subjects.

          • ARCNA442

            FOPA. We came to the table and bargained. We got some stuff that was worth fighting for, we also lost new machine-guns. And the stuff like no registration and instate travel is routinely violated by the federal and state governments despite being law.

          • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

            California confiscated SKS’s back in the 90’s, and they are currently using funds illegally that are payed for by gun owners (the CA DROS system fees) to find people in the system that have purchased firearms lawfully in the past but have become prohibited and going to them and their family to confiscate the firearms, even if they have transferred them lawfully to family members upon becoming prohibited.

            So yeah.. California has confiscated guns, and is currently confiscating guns and will CONTINUE to confiscate guns.

            If I recall, NY or NYC was also doing the same just a couple years ago around when they passed the SAFE act. I do not remember what happened to that though.

            Registration DOES lead to confiscation. Period. This is not a slippery slope argument or logical fallacy. This is real, it has happened and it is currently happening.

            Why do you think so many people are obsessed with 80% firearms?

          • Roy G Bunting

            Going after prohibited persons isn’t really going to affect the larger, law abiding gun community. I’m not going to spend political capital defending those that have illegally retained firearms in the face of state and federal law.

            As for the SKSs, I recall when they were added to the 1999 AWB, but not when rifle registration was used to confinscate them. Was this part of the “grenade launcher” debacle? Citation?

          • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

            Did you miss the part where I said California was confiscating the firearms from people who had the firearms lawfully transferred to them from the prohibited people? Or did you just ignore it because it doesn’t fit your “registration does not lead to confiscation” narrative?

            The SKS’s were a special type, the “sporter”. It was an SKS that could accept AK mags with a normal open magwell. The state banned them and then instead of allowing registration like with AW’s, enforced a mandatory buyback. FFL’s at the time reported that the DOJ was looking through sales records/4473’s to “clean up” ones that weren’t sold back to the state.

          • Cymond

            Ok, question. Let’s say I’m in a state that has UBCs but not registration. I sell a gun to Joe Smith. How can I prove that I really did a UBC? How could the police ever prove that I didn’t?

            How can you have UBCs without a paper trail? How is a paper trail not a de facto registration?

            If all transfers are on 4473s, and all 4473s eventually go to the ATF, then we have a complete registry, just with a lot of lag.

          • Roy G Bunting

            NICS background checks are currently at point of purchase. They don’t require proof. However If you wanted to prove you passed a background check a simple receipt would do.

          • Cymond

            Hmm, yeah. The seller could be given a receipt showing the details of the gun sold (make, model, serial) and saying that a background check was done, without the buyer’s identifying info.

            That way, if ever questioned, the seller could prove due diligence, yet there wouldn’t be anything that could be advised to create a registry.

            Now if they would make a phone app, we’d have something with very few drawbacks. (It does suck driving to an FFL when there isn’t a local shop.)

          • valorius

            The Feds could let anyone do a nics check of any one else at any time, but they won’t.

            So the biggest impediment to F2F background checks is the US govt.

          • Devil_Doc

            Why does there have to be any identification of the firearm transferred? Why can’t it be as simple as “FFL documents transfer of a firearm from person A to person B”. If someone is going to skirt the law, they’ll continue to do so, regardless of legality. For P2P transfers, you show up to an FFL and call NICS in front of the FFL. NICS says yes or no, and the FFL documents that a transfer happened in front of him, and he certifies that all legal boxes were checked. He can then record “Joe Schmoe sold a firearm to John Dingleberry in accordance with the law. I certify that a background check was performed, and the transferee was not a prohibited person.”

          • Cymond

            There needs to be some kind of specific information to prove some part of the seller’s “story” (for lack of a better word). I’m far more concerned with protecting Mr Dingleberry’s privacy than with the identification of a firearm.

            Hypothetically, let’s say I sell a Glock and do the UBC. Later, somehow, I’m accused of selling the Glock without a UBC. (For example, it shows up at a crime scene, is traced through manufacturer, wholesaler, and dealer to me.) If the receipt just says “Cymond sold a gun to somebody who passed a background check”, then that could be anything. It doesn’t prove that I did a UBC on any specific case. I could have done 1 UBC for 1 customer, and used that receipt as carte blanche coverage for other private guns sales off book.

            If the receipt identified the buyer, then that buyer is now a known gun owner, subject to confiscation at a hypothetical future date, and if he claims he sold it, then he’ll also have a UBC showing the buyer. On the other hand, if the receipt only identifies the gun, not the buyer, them it proves I followed proper procedure while also being useless to create any kind of registry of who owns guns.

          • Devil_Doc

            Yeah, that might work. Regardless, it just shows that 2 ordinary people managed to figure out UBCs without registration, in all of 5 minutes. The fact that the govt can’t seem to do the same just shows that registration is part of what they want.

          • valorius

            If you decouple NICS with the specific firearm, you could still do background checks without any form of registration at all.

            “Customer wants to buy a gun”
            “OK, let me run the background check”

          • Aaron

            Got to love it. When anti’s push added restrictions, expenses, time and trouble in exercising a right because of a potential harm it’s justified. Yet if that same standard of potential harm is used when considering increased powers of the system your called paranoid, a nut etc. By your logic, no-one is justified objecting until confiscation happens.

        • Cymond

          As you said, “Everyone wants the quo without putting up a quid.”

          The cuts both ways. Some of us feel we’ve put up enough quid, and they never offer any quo.

          • Roy G Bunting

            In their minds, the 30K+ dead a year and 700+K injured a year by firearms is the “quid”. They look to stop the bleeding and we say “Sorry not my problem,” and won’t even lift a finger to help.

            I know that the gun community here is not the people doing the damage. That we chafe at the idea of being punished for the crimes of others. But our community is *not* the one doing the dying. The price paid for our right to keep and bear arms is borne by those who don’t exercise it. And from the outside it looks like we don’t care about the deaths of others. The more we stonewall every little thing, the worse we look, the less capital we have to work with.

            But sure, having a background check is “too much” to give. The hardline intransigence of our community will be our undoing.

          • valorius

            I dont care what their deluded viewpoint is.

            Is that clear enough?

          • Aaron

            Ah the ‘you must compromise’ bit. A bully comes to you and demands all your lunch money. You of course say no. “But your not compromising. Just give me some of it and i’ll go away, for now” This is not a negotiation where A has things B wants and B has things A would like and a trade is worked out.

            The gun control sort of compromise, from my view, is giving up what they have no power to take.

        • valorius

          Sorry roy, i wont give up any rights voluntarily.

      • valorius

        In much of enlightened europe silencers are not regulated at all.

        • iowaclass

          None of those countries make the firearms themselves as accessible as the U.S.

          If you want to make a deal where firearms and silencers are regulated in America the same way that firearms and silencers are regulated in some continental European country, the gang over at the Brady Campaign would take you up on it in a half of a heartbeat.

          • valorius

            I guess I really would have no problems getting a standard nics form to get a silencer.

  • valorius

    My ‘silencer’ is a browning BL-22 lever action loaded with 20x .22 shorts. Very, very quiet, and the lever gun cycles em just fine.

    I would love a real suppressed gun, but i dont feel like dealing with the fed hassle.

    • Cymond

      Aguila Super Colibri is extremely quiet in a 24″ barrel. Like, BB gun quiet. My stepfather was mocking the poor ballistics (20 grains, about 700 fps), so to prove a point, I went into the next room and fired a round into a phone book while he was watching TV. I came back and ejected the still-smoking shell. The look on his face was priceless. (Penetration into the phonebook was an inch or two.)

      I’ve also fired Colibri from an AR-15 pistol with a 10.5″ barrel. The hammer falling made most of the noise.

      • valorius

        .22 shorts (not cb’s) are a bit more potent, and yet are still very quiet. But i like the super calibris too. 🙂

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Buy a rimfire suppressor, do the paperwork and forget about it. You’ll thank us later.

      • valorius

        Nope.

        • Pete – TFB Writer

          I support your decision to do as you wish, but I don’t understand it.

          The firearms community needs good suppressor owners. Hold your nose an fill out two pieces of paper, prints and photos.

          It’s painful to see someone say they would “love a suppressor” but won’t go through a process thats worst part is the wait.

          (I’m done, I promise)

          • valorius

            My practical needs for a suppressed weapon are satisfied with my lever action .22 caliber rifle, which is orders of magnitude quieter than most suppressed firearms are anyway.

            Any desires i have to own a center-fire suppressed weapon are merely to fulfill my desire to have more neat-o toys.

            I wouldn’t keep a muscle or sports car either if doing so meant the govt got to climb up my nether regions with a microscope. Just not worth the hassle to me.

            I do fully welcome any law that reduces govt regulation in this (and most other) issue(s).

      • valorius

        Uncle sam has enough insight to my life already, he doesnt need another avenue into my business.

        • Pete – TFB Writer

          Amazon, Apple, Walmart, Ford, Google and any website you visit have way better information on you than any Gov agency.

          (And all those companies are sharing with each other)

          • valorius

            None of them have armies of SWAT teams that can put me in prison for the rest of my natural life over bureaucratic technicalities.

          • iksnilol

            They… they kinda do. They got better access to the govt than you think.

        • Ambassador Vader

          Lol why wouldn’t you want the government to know everything about you? the government has never ever abused it’s power or privilege, and I certainly can not think of a scenario in which they use those against people who have items the general public view as ungodly dangerous thanks to hollywood *complete sarcasm* but I think you might be right in all honesty.

          • valorius

            Exactamundo.

          • Ambassador Vader

            Yea far too often you see people say “well that’s just the price you pay to be able to play with these”, I would rather just rent one from a range then go on 30 lists.

  • G B

    The HPA will only make 41F “null and void” for silencers. SBR’s, MG’s, etc will all still be subject to the same BS regulations.

    • ARCNA442

      One step at a time. We shouldn’t compromise, but we also shouldn’t expect huge advances all at once.

      Look at how the liberals have managed their pet causes – slowly making small gains has led to massive changes over decades. We should look at copying their methods.

    • iksnilol

      If silencers are removed from the 41F many people would avoid SBRs by just using short barrels with a sleeve (like those 10/22 barrels). Or by integrally suppressing/pinning suppressors.

  • TheUnspoken

    If by chance following Obama we had a president other than HRC, either Trump or even pick anyone you like, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Carson… Would such a president in 2017 change or rollback 41F, or would it stay as is? I know at the time there was a lot of “when I am elected, boom, that’s gone” talk but I know if the atf would have to start over with new comments period and rule making. Part of 41F is actually good, changing cleo sign off to notify. I am sure the police chiefs have already gotten a shiny new trashcan…I mean filing box to store the forms in. Even if rolled back I don’t think we really want to go to back to individual cleo sign offs.

    Anyway, I wonder if anyone would bother to change it once it is already in force. Even second amendment supporting politicians seem to stall on new regs but rarely fight to undo established ones.

  • Devil_Doc

    You do realize that the people you’re talking to are on your side, right?

  • BearSlayer338

    I’ll buy one if they ever get less regulated(no NFA) but if they don’t they aren’t worth the NFA and ATF BS,IMO.

  • Longhaired Redneck

    With regard to beating the deadline, as was recently pointed out to me, demand may actually increase, and possibly by a significant margin. Most folks are only looking at how the new rules affect trusts and their members.

    One little-discussed portion of the new rules involving personal purchases removes the requirement that CLEO approval and signature accompany the paperwork submitted for the transfer, with simply a notification submitted to the CLEO.

    I’m certain that there are many jurisdictions where the CLEO as a standard policy denies any and all NFA applications. In such situations, I would think that there is a large, unsatisfied demand for silencers and I see the potential for a huge backlog accumulating after July 13th.

    I have personally taken a couple of steps to avoid getting caught up in that backlog!

  • Old Gringo

    Suppressors on rifles that are supersonic are still very, very loud. My guess is you could hear one a mile away and still know it was a gun shot. On 22 rimfire it is totally different, on a 10/22 if there is a breeze you may not hear it at all 100 feet away. So, if you already have damaged hearing like most vets and long time shooters, buy a rimfire asap, before July 13th, and put it in a trust and name all your kids and grandkids as trustees. Once they become of age they can possess it and it will stay in the family forever…FWIW

  • SteveK

    God only knows what the wait time will be with the last minute submissions. 12 months?

  • BDUB

    They already tax taxes out of my paycheck. I refuse to submit to the tyranny of the NFA. I will not buy a silencer until the Hearing protection act is passed, if ever.