Cleaning Your Suppressors
Whether you’re new to suppressors or have been using them for some time, you might be wondering if it needs to be cleaned — and if it does, how to do it. The good news is that cleaning your suppressors is a relatively straightforward process, and you don’t have to clean all suppressors, either. We’re going to answer basic questions about how and when to clean suppressors, and when not to clean them.
How do suppressors self-clean? What about build-up from use?
Some suppressors can self-clean, and we’re going to explain how that works and how build-up does and doesn’t accumulate from heavy use. Before we go further, though, it’s important to understand that when it comes to cleaning, there are two types of suppressors: sealed and unsealed, the latter of which can be serviced or disassembled for cleaning by the user. A sealed (welded) suppressor isn’t considered user-serviceable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be sufficiently cleaned. We’ll get into that more later.
Suppressors made for centerfire rifles and many handguns are largely self-cleaning. This is due in large part to the amount of pressure that builds up and is released through the suppressor. The worst of the fouling is typically pushed out, leaving only a small amount behind.
SilencerCo suppressors are designed to last a lifetime, including a lifetime worth of rounds. They do not need to be cleaned with or without solvents, which is why SilencerCo does not approve any solvents for cleaning welded suppressors. If you want to clean your suppressor you can use solvents but at your own risk, as it does void the SilencerCo Lifetime Warranty.
In the case that a user does decide to clean their welded suppressor, use an appropriate solvent and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Generally speaking, cleaning a sealed suppressor involves having a tub large enough for the suppressor to be submerged and filling it with solvent. The solvent being used must be non-corrosive and should be specifically designed for removing lead and carbon. Specific details such as how long to soak the suppressor can vary by manufacturer.
Why don't welded rifle suppressors need to be cleaned?
Of all types of suppressors, welded are least likely to ever need to be cleaned because the high pressure that’s generated by live fire cleans out most potential build-up. This is because these are higher-powered rifles and the pressure is significant, blowing out the carbon rather than allowing it to accumulate. Although there’s going to be a little fouling, there isn’t much. Again, SilencerCo welded suppressors are designed to last a lifetime for customers, including a lifetime worth of rounds.
How does build up improve performance and affect weight?
Some residue build up in a suppressor can actually improve its sound suppression. For example, a brand new, unused suppressor can sound a bit louder during live fire than one that’s been run enough to have some fouling. On a centerfire suppressor, such as one for a higher powered rifle, this level of fouling doesn’t have much impact on the weight or balance of the suppressor because it’s so minimal. You’re unlikely to notice a difference in the feel or weight of your centerfire rifle suppressor with use.
However, if you’re running lead or otherwise dirty ammunition through the firearm and suppressor, you might notice a weight change. In these cases, it’s possible for fouling to reach the point where ounces are added to the suppressor’s overall weight. It’s simply another reason to stick to clean ammo when possible. In some cases, such as with rimfire, serious fouling is simply part of running the gun.
How do you carefully clean rimfire suppressors?
The biggest exception to the no-cleaning-needed rule for suppressors is those made for rimfire. Rimfire ammunition such as 22 LR is inherently dirty and creates quite a bit of fouling. With a rimfire suppressor, it doesn’t take tens of thousands of rounds before you need to clean it. That serious build up happens quite a bit faster. Generally, it’s safe to assume your SilencerCo rimfire suppressor needs to be cleaned around every 1500 rounds.
Assuming your rimfire suppressor is designed to be user serviceable, you can find instructions on properly cleaning it in the manual or through the manufacturer. Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection to protect yourself from solvents. It’s also important to have the correct tools on hand for disassembly, if there are tools required. From there, simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions on soaking and scrubbing the parts of the rimfire suppressor. Useful cleaning supplies might include a soft brush, microfiber cloth, and a flat head pick.
When cleaning your user-serviceable rimfire suppressor, take note of how it’s assembled to ensure you can put it back together exactly as it was before. Sometimes it’s helpful to take pictures with your cell phone as you go. And as with any suppressor cleaning, take care to only use non-corrosive solvent and non-marring tools.
Use of a vibrating tumbler for cleaning suppressors will void the SilencerCo Lifetime Warranty. It is not recommended, but if you decide to use a tumbler containing some sort of media for cleaning your suppressor, you’ll need to make sure it’s a media type that won’t potentially damage the parts or finish.