Suppressors Continue to Make Noise Among Shooters

Although buying and selling suppressors takes some extra effort, sales are booming.

Suppressors Continue to Make Noise Among Shooters

Suppressors still are a mystery to many people inside and outside of the shooting sports industry. Shooters and hunters see them as beneficial tools for noise and recoil suppression that should be easy to obtain, own and use. Anti-everything opponents have different views. Perception in the non-shooting public often is swayed by news media reports and entertainment media movies or television shows. Politicos generally don’t want to touch the subject, either keeping with party lines, ignoring it altogether or privately using suppressors as a bargaining chip.

Those who are pro-suppressor are caught in the murky middle. Obtaining a suppressor takes time, money and patience. Select the one (or more) that you want, fill out the forms, supply fingerprints and money, and then wait. And wait. And … unless things are uncharacteristically speeding along, you keep waiting. That’s one thing the pro-suppressor crowd is trying to eliminate or reduce via the help of Congress (see sidebar on legislative action). But it’s a waiting game, for the most part, with the payoff coming to those with patience.

That isn’t stopping companies from producing suppressors, which are sometimes known as silencers, cans, mufflers or sound moderators. The latter two descriptions are used across the Atlantic, where suppressors are required for hunting in several European countries. Companies here in the States are continuing to design and create suppressors for pistols, rifles and shotguns because demand is high. Despite the current political winds, sport and competitive shooters and hunters still seek suppressors. The producers are more than happy to comply to try to meet the demand.

Suppressors reduce the amount of noise when a bullet exits the muzzle by momentarily trapping the gasses and dispersing heat. Internal chambers, or baffles, do this job. Unlike in the movies or on television, suppressors do not make a gun completely silent. But the decibel level of the report is reduced, as is a bit of recoil. Tradeoffs include added weight at the end of the firearm, a small price to pay for less noise.

Reducing the sound of one round discharged under a metal-roofed target range can make a difference, whether from a bolt-action rifle, modern sporting rifle or pistol. One round, one loud crack at the right angle for someone without hearing protection, can damage someone’s hearing. Multiple impacts from this or someone ripping through a 10- or 20- or 30-round magazine, or spending much time at the range, creates cumulative damage. Add the normal sounds of life — music, lawnmowers or yard implements, power tools, other items — and our hearing takes a beating almost every day.

Ben Bachmeier, Senior Project Manager with Advanced Armament Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama, has seen this repeatedly. At the range and in the field, he has witnessed shooters and hunters wince and cringe from the impact of recoil from unsuppressed firearms. He’s seen others wonder what’s going on when they hear a suppressed rifle in action, and he is one of the subset that uses ample hearing protection — foam plugs and muffs — along with suppressors to protect his hearing. On an elk hunt last autumn in Colorado with his father and two other hunters, Bachmeier and a friend used suppressors. His father and other friend did not. Bachmeier’s father never heard his son’s rifle, “although we were maybe just a quarter mile away from them,” Bachmeier said.

It was helpful proof that suppressors are beneficial for myriad activities. Bachmeier is positive that things are moving in the right direction for suppressors, even with the current political climate in Washington. He said things are changing, with the ATF working on and beta testing an electronic E4 (form) system. A perfect form and process? Not to everyone’s liking, of course, but that’s routine for the government. Bachmeier said he believes more examiners are coming to help speed up the wait times, although that won’t immediately become a zippy-quick process.

“My opinion is I think wait times will come down, but it’s not going to be an immediate response,” he said. “And it’s not going to be a perfect fix. It is a good signal that the ATF is working on it and willing to improve its systems.” Bachmeier said other options are growing, such as “DIY silencers, and so you get all the components but you have to do a Form 1 before you drill the holes and do the process. There are options for people who don’t want to wait a long time.”

Bachmeier said shooters and hunters who a few months ago might have been shaking their heads from rifle recoil or time at the range are now exploring their options. They will be visiting stores, looking online and attending shows, where possible, to find out what is new or hear about ways to integrate suppressors into their kit.

“Right now, a lot of people still have on their brain that I shot a deer last season, my eardrums are bleeding and I wish I could do something about that,” he said. “People are getting ready for the competitive seasons, or they’re practicing for those events. I see taking care of your hearing, just like with your eyesight, the same as taking care of your equipment. If I get back from a trip and my tent or sleeping bag is wet, I’m going to clean and dry it. With suppressors, you’re saving your hearing, and you should start when you’re young before you get older and have to get hearing aids.”

AAC is making a resurgence after being sold off during the Remington bankruptcy proceedings of 2020. The 27-year-old company remains in Huntsville, which is Alabama’s largest city. Bachmeier is helping steer the revival with several old ACC hands and a renewed outlook on products, marketing, dealer relationships and customer service. AAC is owned by JJC Capital Holdings. Product focus will be “Hard Use” for battle situations, Precision, Hunting, Pistol and Rimfire, including the Jaeger 30, Halcyon and Ti-RANT 9MHD. Things could shift, of course, as Bachmeier and his team continue to make changes.


Military Influences

Military contracts and other related businesses continue to influence the suppressor industry.Sig Sauer’s new SLX and SLH series of suppressors are a result of current military requirements as part of the company’s focus on the Next Generation Squad Weapons proposals requested by the U.S. military. The SLX and SLH suppressors are created via a Direct Metal Laser Sintering process.

“The commercial launch of the SLX and SLH suppressors has been highly anticipated due to the fact that these are the suppressors we developed exclusively for our Next Generation Squad Weapons program submission,” said Tom Taylor, Sig Sauer’s Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President, Commercial Sales. “The DMLS manufacturing process of the SLX and SLH suppressors eliminates the drawbacks of welded baffles that historically presents design limitations for sound, flash and the reduction of toxic fumes. Alternatively, the SLX and SLH suppressors are designed not only to withstand the rigors of the battlefield through its innovative monolithic design, but they also are each optimized to dramatically reduce harmful toxic fumes and sound because of patented design features that can only be achieved through the non-traditional manufacturing processes.”

Sig’s SLX series is available for 5.56 and 7.62 NATO calibers, and they help reduce sound and toxic fume inhalation by the shooter. According to the company, the SLX suppressors feature a monolithic core construction in Inconel, an internal multi-flow path to exhaust gases at a higher rate, resulting in lower toxic fume inhalation, a sound-reducing baffle design and a flash-reducing end cap, and they are available with either direct thread or the new Clutch-Lock QD mounting system for easy install and removal that offers an intuitive tactile locking ring with infinite radial locking positions. The SLH series is designed for optimal sound reduction in supersonic and subsonic ammunition and is available for 7.62 NATO and 300BLK calibers. These have a monolithic core construction in either Inconel or titanium.

SilencerCo is adding a big-bore suppressor this year, the Hybrid 46M. SilencerCo says this is “the world’s first modular large-bore suppressor,” designed for use in short or long configuration for 9mm to 10mm and 5.56 NATO to .458 SOCOM. The company says it is compatible with virtually every centerfire firearm platform due to its wide range of available attachment accessories.

“The Hybrid 46M is the perfect tool for shooters hoping to suppress a variety of calibers on both pistols and rifles with only one suppressor,” said Dewie Vieira, SilencerCo’s Senior Product Development Specialist. “It’s the first modular big-bore suppressor ever; it’s the answer for those who want to suppress every small- and large-bore caliber.”

With the Hybrid 46M, shooters can remove the front module, providing a shorter and lighter option for handguns. SilencerCo’s Omega 36M remains the best modular option for .30 caliber pistols, but the Hybrid 46M offers suppression for large calibers such as 45 Auto and 10mm.

Bachmeier said more products will come out as companies get ready for spring and summer buying seasons. Buying never stops for suppressors, of course, but warmer months are when most folks are thinking about shooting, prepping for competitions or self-defense, or getting ready for hunting season. He said retailers and consumers should continue to look out for new, innovative products as companies try different designs, materials and ideas.

“I think we will start to see more 3D printed cans, DMOS, 3D metal, printed options and things like that,” he said. “Companies definitely play around with different materials. If you’re an engineer or supernerd or material guy, I could say we use Iconel 7-18, a nickel-chromium alloy. You say that, but a lot of people just want to know, What does that do to help me kill a deer? What does it do to help me shoot better? What is the value to the customer? For an engineer or supernerd, we could give an engineering answer. To the consumer, I can tell you that the product has great lubricity and this or that. But the consumer wants to hear, ‘It won’t rust. You don’t have to clean it. You don’t have to oil it. It’s super lightweight.’ Anything like that is something the consumer puts value in and wants to know about.”

So we’ll continue to see suppressors composed of aluminum and a little stainless or titanium, with some specific coatings. Engineers will continue to tweak baffle designs to trap gasses, reduce recoil and disperse heat. Suppressors are legal for ownership in 42 states, and many of those for hunting. When your customers come in this year asking about suppressors, be ready to help them.


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