Good morning everyone and welcome back to another installment of TFB’s Silencer Saturday brought to you by Yankee Hill Machine, manufacturers of Turbo K and Resonator K line of suppressors. Last week we had the pleasure of going hands-on with the Innovative Arms integrally suppressed IASW rimfire AR15. Today I’d like to offer up some basic suppressor buying tips for beginners. Let’s help prospective silencer buyers get setup for success with a few pointers that will guide them on their journey to quiet shooting.
As with all of my reviews, editorials and Silencer Saturday posts, I don’t consider myself to be the end-all-be-all expert in any one topic. My suggestions on suppressor buying, maintenance and enjoyment are drawn from the age-old scientific process of learning from my mistakes and making adjustments. Please don’t take my words as gospel – seek out information from a broad range of resources.
SILENCER SATURDAY #126: 10 Suppressor Buying Tips For Beginners
Because of the highly regulated world that encompasses National Firearms Act (NFA) controlled items like suppressors, information on making good choices for individual shooters is filtered through a warped lens of different sources. Real world and hands on experience can take months to trickle down to actual customers. So instead of focusing on specific models, let’s use a broader approach to making good silencer choices.
1. Suppress the gun you shoot the most first.
Most people will suggest buying a rimfire suppressor before going after a centerfire model. And while it is generally accepted that, dollar-for-dollar, a .22LR silencer on the right host with the right ammunition will bring joy to even the most curmudgeonly shooters, it still may not be the best choice for you. If 90% of your shooting is done with an AR-15 or a precision rifle, it stands to reason that you should suppress that gun first. Take the gun you enjoy shooting the most and make it better, rather than trying to suppress something that will sit in the safe most of the time.
2. It’s not just about decibel reduction.
Everyone, myself included, loves hard data. So the tendency to find the quietest suppressor by-the-numbers is like a strong magnet, especially for new buyers. Set aside a moment the potential issues with manufacturers self reporting decibel numbers for generic hosts, the numbers rarely tell the whole story. Weight, length, mounting systems, modularity, and other features may actually be far more important than raw numbers.
3. A 7.62mm silencer will suppress 5.56mm well enough for most applications.
In terms of buying your first suppressor, there is a tendency to choose the best option for one specific host. That may or may not be a good idea. Since centerfire rifles with supersonic ammunition will always be “loud”, a larger bore for a smaller bullet will not make much difference in raw suppression. On the other hand, buying a 7.62mm suppressor will allow you to suppress a wider variety of hosts without buying (and waiting for) a new silencer right away.
4. Take gun shop silencer recommendations with a grain of salt.
Like me, many of you are blessed with knowledgeable dealers who are excellent resources for making firearm and silencer purchases. On the other hand, those buyers that are used to walking into a relatively unknown local gun shop to by a pistol once a year may not want to rely on that same shop to make silencer buying recommendations. Some stocking dealers may push certain manufacturers based on inventory on hand or distribution agreements. Or, NFA items like suppressors are an afterthought and the guys behind the counter may not have much in the way of practical advice for first time buyers. You may want to consider a dealer or distributor that has specific experience in suppressor sales over a random LGS.
5. The longer the barrel, the more important it is to consider the weight of a suppressor.
“Give me a lever long enough and I will move the world.” Or “a heavy suppressor on a longer barrel will wear you out faster.” A 20 ounce silencer on a 6.75″ barrel is not a big deal. However, that same suppressor on a 16″ or 18″ barrel is going to cause fatigue. Look closely at overall weights of each model and consider the added weights of mounting systems and muzzle devices. It all adds up fast.
6. Yes, you should still probably wear some form of hearing protection.
Unless you are shooting subsonic rimfire ammunition, you are still going to need to wear some form of hearing protection. Subsonic centerfire rounds in closed-action and/or longer barrels may be fine to shoot without plugs or muffs, but it’s difficult to make blanket suggestions when safety is involved. Protect your ears; hearing damage is irreversible.
7. Unless you own or plan or plan on owning a fully automatic host, full-auto rated is not that important.
Everyone wants that indestructible, end-of-the-world suppressor that will last you a lifetime. And there is a place for full-auto rated silencers. However, silencers made by reputable manufacturers when following the recommended guidelines will outlast most barrels and hosts. Full-auto ratings are important when you are shooting fully automatic guns.
8. Mounting options are an important part of the decision making process.
Simple direct thread mounting is the easiest and most secure way to attach a suppressor to a barrel. But unless you are wiling to dedicate that silencer to one particular host, it may not be the most practical. Take a look at the host(s) you plan on suppressing and their muzzles and have a plan of attack. Many rifle cans are now outfitted with an unofficial industry standard that will allow for the use of a wide variety of mounting systems across several manufacturers. Find what is best for your setup.
9. Ammunition selection is just as important as silencer feature selection.
Without the right loads, your silencer will not live up to its full potential. Obviously subsonic versus supersonic will be a big focus, but for some platforms supersonic rounds will be the only real option. Don’t forget about bullet stability – heavier bullets are often longer requiring a faster twist rate to maintain proper stability. A 1:10 twist that works well with lighter loads may cause instability with heavier loads, putting your silencer at risk for damage.
10. Set realistic expectations.
Whether it’s a lifetime of Hollywood movies or basic preconceived notions, there is a strong tendency to believe in magic when you spin on your first suppressor. A few host, ammunition and silencer combinations will indeed be magical. But for the most part, especially with supersonic ammunition, we need to be happy with no longer having our teeth rattle or our heads jarred when shooting. If you need help keeping perspective, take off that silencer for a few shots and be reminded of what life used to be like.
Do you have your own words of wisdom to share? Add your comment to the discussion below.
Thanks for reading TFB’s Silencer Saturday. Be safe, have fun and we’ll see you back here next week.
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