New Industry Standard for Measuring Suppressor Blowback to Be Introduced By ARDEC [NDIA 2017]

    The suppressor blowback testing arrangement developed by ARDEC. Note the air inlet mounted near the location where a shooter's face would be.

    At the 2017 National Defense Industry Association’s annual Armament Systems Forum in April, representatives of the US Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) presented a new method for measuring and quantifying gas blowback with suppressed firearms. The testing was conducted in the service of creating a new standard test procedure for gas blowback, for the Army, NATO, and the industry. Importantly, the test procedure involved mounting air inlets in locations corresponding to the shooter’s face when firing the rifle, which gives accurate measurements for what quantity of toxic gases reach the shooter’s face during operation.

    ARDEC’s suppressor blowback testing apparatus.


    Diagram of the test setup. Note the dual sensors connected to the air inlet.


    The testing seems to have revealed that the best combination for reducing gas blowback to the shooter was “Suppressor A” combined with “Charging Handle B”. Of course, in the interests of objectivity, the presentation does not reveal which suppressors or charging handles are described by which labels, so we are left to wonder. What is interesting about these results is that it does seem to prove that different suppressor designs of roughly similar size can give substantially different degrees of gas blowback. Also, the preliminary proof of concept testing from April of 2016 appears to prove that “gas busting” charging handle designs can considerably reduce the gas blowback perceived by the shooter. Perhaps most importantly, however, the testing suggests that the gas blowback problem with suppressed firearms can be solved through proper design of the suppressor and the charging handle, which is good news for military planners looking to move towards an all-suppressed rifle fleet in the future.

    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]