Good day lead slingers and welcome back to the 90th edition of TFB’s Silencer Saturday. Over the last 18 months we’ve covered a broad range of topics – from Hollywood movie silencer depictions, to using a MILSTD decibel meter to rate the newest and most unique suppressors available on the American market. Rimfire, pistol, rifle and even shotgun silencers have found their way into our weekly discussions. Our topics have dug deep into AR15 gas blocks and gas regulation, 3D Printed suppressors and the best (and worst) outlooks, on NFA making and transfer application processing. And through all our deep dives and surface level overviews, the biggest question I get from week to week is “how quiet are silencers, actually?” So this week, without a meter or scientific equipment, we are going to take a look at the real world performance of pistol suppressors.
SILENCER SATURDAY #90: How Quiet Are Pistol Suppressors?
With the explosion of silencer popularity in the last ten years (thanks a lot inflation – /sarc), tens of thousands of new suppressor owners have joined our ranks. And I’m willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of new silencer owners have never pulled the trigger on a suppressed weapon, let alone the exact make, model and host they planning on running themselves. Purchasing advice comes from local gun shops, shooters at the range, manufacturer’s claims and internet lore. Most people will try on a pair of $80 pants that they will wear for six months and yet most silencer buyers will drop $800 on near lifetime purchase with only cursory web research and folding a colorful box.
I place the majority of the blame on the restrictive NFA transfer process, not the end level consumers who just want to own rimfire, rifle and pistol suppressors. However I also place some of the blame on manufacturers and firearm media. We should have an honest and standardized way to evaluate suppressor performance and rank makes and models in an understandable and realistic manner. Getting the industry to agree to a testing standard, training and processes is another manner all together.
Another issue is the amount of variables that go into how quiet a pistol suppressors will sound.
I’m not necessarily talking about the weather, although temperature, humidity and barometric pressure will all play a roll in how loud a pistol suppressor will sound. For this example, I’m talking about where someone will be shooting their. pistol suppressors. Standing in a field with no tree cover will be different from sitting at an outdoor range with an aluminum roof over your head. I often forget that a large portion of silencer owners shoot primarily at indoor ranges. Indoors. Surrounded by walls, dividers and other obstacles.
The type of firearm you planning to suppress is important to perceived sound attenuation, especially for pistol suppressors. Of course typical pistol action styles like a JMB tilting barrel (GLOCK) versus a static barrel delayed action (Beretta 92) will make a difference, but in this day and age, pistol suppressors also include pistol caliber carbine hosts and their variety of actions. While simple blowback actions (pistol caliber AR-style carbine) are generally poor suppressor hosts, delayed actions like the historic HK MP5 rollers and the new radial action from CMMG are more adaptable for silencer use. Of course a closed and locked action like a levergun will drastically help lower at-ear decibel levels.
I’ve talked at length about subsonic ammunition versus supersonic ammunition, so there’s no real need to beat that horse any longer. But the deeper issue is that not all subsonic ammunition is the same. A bullet traveling at 950fps may be identical out of several pistol suppressors, but powders and fillers may different amounts of experienced blowback and noise.
Everyone is different. What is quiet to me may be loud to you. Perhaps, because pistol suppressors are most often used with subsonic ammunition, this is the reason for the wide variety of informal variations in perceived quietness. Either way, it’s one of those “you don’t really know until you try” type of scenarios.
So, How Quiet Are Pistol Suppressors?
I’d place suppressing subsonic ammunition through pistol suppressors outside somewhere between a loud clap (closed action carbine), a crack of a baseball being hit with a bat (roller delayed action) and a pneumatic nailgun (a standard tilting barrel pistol host). A supersonic suppressed pistol round will likely sound like a standard firecracker across all platforms. Stand in a hallway, change ammunition or have sensitive ears and all bets are off.
Have a great weekend everyone. Be safe, have fun and we’ll see you next weekend for TFB’s Silencer Saturday.
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