If you are a silencer geek/nerd/groupie, Gary Hughes and Mike Pappas of Dead Air Armament need no introduction. With decades of experience in the firearms industry between them, both Pappas and Hughes have built and sold some of the most popular modern suppressors in the United States. And with the announcement of the Wolverine PBS-1, the pair is about to open up a whole new slice of the Kalashnikov market. However, besides Dead Air, Hughes and Pappas own a virtually unknown (by design) company that builds and restores everything from specialized tools to military vehicles to AK47 patterned rifles. MOD Outfitters is where the pair create and unwind.
I was lucky enough to grab Hughes and Pappas for a few hours to talk about MOD (pronounced M-O-D) Outfitters, the unofficial think tank, idea incubator and laboratory division of Dead Air. “MOD is where we come to play with all of our toys. Where we work on all the fun things we don’t have time for while running Dead Air,” said Hughes. “Mostly we just like to build guns – AKs are our real passion. But you can usually find us kicking around an old surplus shop or salvage yard looking for vehicle parts or other starter-projects,” said Pappas.
It’s 2016, what is it about combloc rifles? “Honestly, unless it’s some sort of retro M16-type rifle, I’d be happy if I never had to build another AR as long as I live,” said Hughes. “Building an AK takes real mechanical skill – hydraulic presses, riveting, cutting and even woodwork. Plus they are just so much fun.” The Wolverine was born almost exclusively out if our love for the AK,” continued Hughes.
Although we were talking about MOD, I asked Hughes and Pappas about the upcoming Wolverine PBS-1 from Dead Air. Did you guys reverse engineer a real Russian silencer or is this a ground-up build? “Oh no, the internals of an authentic PBS-1 are basically 1980’s technology. Aesthetics are where the similarities between the Wolverine and the the original PBS-1 end,” Said Hughes. “We honestly engineered the Wolverine to be the best AK-based suppressor ever made.”
Hughes continued, “Most, if not all, suppressors built today are designed to be muzzle-centric – focused on reducing the noise and flash that comes from the muzzle of a rifle. The Wolverine concentrates mostly on reducing back pressure and, in turn, gas port and ejection port noises.”
But the partners explained that for an AK-patterned rifle silencer, muzzle noise shouldn’t be the shooters main concern. “Traditional suppressors on the AK reduce the muzzle blast to mid-130 dB’s while the ejection port noise can increase into the 150’s,” said Pappas. Because the AK is designed for ultimate reliability, the rifles are already severely over-gassed, even before adding a suppressor into the system.
For the Wolverine, the Dead Air team has focused on reducing back pressure rather than just reducing muzzle blast. “It only makes sense: the ejection port is only six inches from your face,” said Hughes.
Both Pappas and Hughes started their career in the firearms industry organically, working at gun shops and as reps for armor companies respectively. Although they are both down-to-earth gun lovers, they hide their years of firearms industry experience and knowledge of weapons design and engineering well, quitely building functional and historically accurate AKs as time permits.
This was a M77PS ‘neutered’ sporting rifles. We cut it up and rebuilt it on an M70 flat. [We] had to harvest the carrier rails from the old one to get an ejector that would work. Drilled and plug welded it back in. Then had to cut the magwell. That was a tough build.
Unfortunately, since MOD Outfitters is a small, two-man company, Hughes and Pappas can’t make AKs for just anyone who asks. “Right now we are limited to building rifles for friends or friends-of-friends,” said Hughes. With each build taking 20+ hours to complete and the pair’s demanding Dead Air schedule, they are only able to start and finish about 30 customer builds a year.
“We are only going to keep building while it’s fun,” said Hughes. “Once it starts being ‘work’ or something that we have to do, we will shut it down.” Although I don’t see that happening anytime soon – the two partners are enjoying the AK world way too much to quit. And the projects they develop and build at MOD Outfitters either directly or indirectly support product development at Dead Air.
We spent most of the interview laughing, joking around and talking about strictly fun stuff, but I did want to ask about the Dead Air – Silencer Shop history and (possible) future. If you don’t already know, Silencer Shop was once a distributor for Dead Air Armament products. “It was strictly a difference in the way both companies do business,” said Pappas. “We are still friends with all the guys at Silencer Shop and wish them nothing but the best.” The way it stands now, Pappas doesn’t see Dead Air products returning to Silencer Shop’s distribution network..
I also broached the subject about both of their past lives at SilencerCo, and while their tone was less pleasant than it was for the people Silencer Shop, they also didn’t seem to care what the company down the street was doing. “When Mike got “fired”, I left to go with the best in the business,” said Hughes. “We both share the same goals: to make the best suppressors and firearms possible, and have fun while doing it.”
Although the Wolverine PBS-1 has no official release date, it is still on track for a late-summer commercial debut. And even though I pushed hard for details on any other upcoming Dead Air products, both Pappas and Hughes held fast. “Right now we are concentrating on keeping up with demand,” said Pappas. “And we will need to do the same with the Wolverine.”
Pricing hasn’t been set yet for the AK-dedicated silencer, but MSRP estimates are in the $1000-$1200 range. “We focus on making the best silencers possible, not being the cheapest or having the most value,” said Hughes.
Come this fall, distributors and dealers will not be able to keep the Wolverine PBS-1 in stock. Bank on it.
So, what does M.O.D. stand for?
‘Manager On Duty’ – ‘Ministry Of Defense’ – ‘Masters Of Deception’ – ‘Method Of Destruction’?
You’ll just have to pick one; neither of these guys are talking.
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