We refer to firearms suppressors as “NFA Items”, meaning the government regulates them under the NFA, or National Firearms Act, signed into law in 1934, updated in 1968 and again in 1986. The NFA doesn’t ban suppressors. Instead, it regulates your possession of a suppressor by requiring you to complete a Form 4, pay a $200 tax, and wait potentially 8-10 months before you can actually take possession of your suppressor. During those 8-10 months, you have to make “conjugal visits” to the range to use your suppressor, but you can’t take it home. I digress, but that is literally the definition of “infringement”, and a suppressor isn’t even a firearm! It’s an accessory, and a very valuable one at that.
Five Benefits of Suppressors
We’ll leave the NFA for another day and time. Here, my goal is to educate as many people as possible on the functional benefits of firearm suppressors. There are (at least) five benefits to using suppressors when firing a gun.
Let’s address what should be the most obvious benefit first: sound reduction. In a previous article, we offered the decibel level data that clearly demonstrates why we don’t call these accessories “silencers.” The gun is not silenced, but rather reduced by up to 45dB. Practically speaking, that means it’s being reduced from a massive BANG down to a lawn mower sized noise. Hearing protection is still absolutely recommended – required on our range – but no gun is truly silent with even the very best of suppressors attached.
Shooters, spectators, and even wild game (as well as hunting dogs) share the benefit of noise reduction. For shooters, suppressors reduce the potential damage to their hearing significantly, especially when combined with proper ear protection. Suppressors can help end-users to perform at the highest level, while dramatically increasing their protection from hearing loss. It should be noted here that just slapping a suppressor on any gun won’t solve the issue. Not every combination of firearm, ammo, and suppressor is automatically hearing safe.
For spectators, those watching competitive shooting, the same benefit applies, and they can actually enjoy the competition, rather than focusing on how they can protect their ears.
Most people don’t think how a suppressor is a benefit to wild game; however, consider how the noise and concussion from a .308 rifle would scare a group of deer, when only one of them is the target. An interesting side note here: several European nations (Norway, France, Italy, & Poland, for example) require suppressors for hunting, and they sell them over the counter to licensed hunters.
For accuracy, we’re more addressing a concern than sharing a benefit here. If you properly zero your gun and you shoot it accurately, that shouldn’t change with a suppressor attached. Many shooters question whether or not their pistol or rifle will be as accurate with a suppressor as without. It will, and your gun could potentially be more accurate, depending on the barrel harmonics, but that’s a discussion for another day.
High quality suppressors provide a minimal and repeatable POI (Point of Impact) shift, minimal runout from the bore diameter, and allow every projectile fired to have an even dispersion of pressure as it travels through the bore of the suppressor. That’s a bunch of technical speak for “the suppressor will not affect the trajectory of the bullet.”
Suppressors Reduce Flash
“Flash” is the ball of fire that comes out the business end of your gun when you fire a round. Producing the lowest possible flash signature benefits everyone around the shooter, including the shooter. In a range setting, if your firearm creates a large flash (what we call a “fireball”), it’s very distracting to the next shooters down the line, and decreases your own speed of target re-acquisition. In low light, a large flash will also reduce your natural night vision for up to 30 minutes. A quality suppressor can reduce or eliminate flash, depending on your firearm configuration. Reducing the flash, and in some cases eliminating it, means your next shot comes quicker and everyone around you can focus on their own practice rather than your boom-stick.
Suppressors Reduce Recoil
Any firearms instructor or professional shooter will tell you that you want your gun to “shoot flat”, meaning the barrel of the gun doesn’t pop up every time you fire a round. The reason we want our gun to shoot flat is so we can maintain a proper sight picture of our target. When there’s big recoil, we have to re-acquire the target in our sights – iron or red dot – before we can fire again. When the gun shoots flat, we can repeat fire much more rapidly. A quality suppressor offers any shooter the ability to reduce recoil regardless of weapon system’s caliber or configuration. The suppressor reduces recoil by redirecting the weapon’s system back pressure gases.
Suppressors Reduce Concussion
Finally, suppressors reduce concussion. What does that mean? Well, have you ever been in an indoor range beside someone using a short barreled 5.56 or .308 rifle or large caliber hunting rifle? You can actually feel it every time they fire a round. That’s the concussion. It’s the energy moving away from the explosion that happens from the barrel of that gun. That energy pressure, right beside the shooter’s head for thousands of rounds, has concussive impact on the brain. A quality suppressor will reduce that sound pressure and thereby reduce concussion impact. Suppressors make shooting safer for the shooter and everyone around them.
The Sound of Silence
Had to work in a music reference here somewhere, and that was low hanging fruit. The point is, suppressors – not “silencers” even though that’s what the ATF and two well known providers call them – offer far more benefits to shooters, spectators, and wild game than just making the gunshot as “quiet” as a lawnmower. For frequent or competitive shooters, there are numerous benefits in addition to the clear benefit of reduced noise.