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Suppressors vs. Silencers: What’s the Difference?

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Suppressor vs. Silencer: What’s the Difference?

Suppressor vs. Silencer: What’s the Difference?

SilencerCo Blog

SilencerCo Blog

A silencer and a suppressor are the same thing. 

These two terms, among others, are used interchangeably, but a lack of knowledge has caused confusion about what they are and how they are different.

To help you confidently research and use these terms, we are going to equip you with the knowledge you need, and demystify the confusion surrounding silencers vs. suppressors.

Silencer or Suppressor: What’s the appropriate term to use?

If silencers and suppressors are the same thing, then does it matter what you call them? Should you call it a suppressor or a silencer? Or maybe one of its other names such as a “can” or “moderator?” Which term is the appropriate usage?

Call it whichever you prefer.

Traditionalists prefer the term “silencer.” Still, others recommend using “suppressor,” since it is technically a more accurate term. Those in advocacy and politics tend to use “suppressor.” However, using either term is correct. 

NFA (National Firearms Association) aficionados have adopted slang terms, like “moderator,” and “can.” Truthfully, the terminology is interchangeable. What we believe is more important is that people are educated on the truths of suppressors. 

A brief history of suppressor terminology

(and the confusion it’s caused)

Hiram Maxim black and white photo
Hiram Percy Maxim

Hiram Percy Maxim invented the silencer in 1902, and then patented the product in 1909 under the name “Maxim Silencer.” This is how it became known as a silencer. 

In 1934, the National Firearms Act passed. Within this law, suppressors were deemed “silencers” and that has been the legal name ever since. Additionally, the NFA classified suppressors as “firearms” and enforced the same strict rules around them as Short Barreled Rifles, Short Barreled Shotguns, and Machine Guns. This law set a precedent across government for those in power to interpret the 2nd Amendment in any way that benefits their personal goals, without consideration for what the 2nd Amendment actually states.

Letter from Maxim Silent Firearms Company

The term “suppressor” has become more common over the last decade. There are a few reasons for the change in terminology:

  • Suppressor more accurately describes what it does. 
  • Advocate groups wanted to shine a positive light without the negative connotations of the term “silencer.”
  • To correct the false conceptions created by movies

Knowing the history of the terminology helps us understand why there has been confusion in what suppressors should be called. 

To put it simply:

  • Silencer is the legal definition sometimes used by government agencies.
  • Suppressor is the term that most accurately describes what the product is. 

Suppressor is becoming the more common term, but silencer is still an appropriate term to use. 

Has terminology hindered your search for the right product?

The different uses of terminology can become a hangup for someone looking to purchase the right product. When people are told things like a silencer reduces sound while a suppressor is for eliminating muzzle flash, it can make finding the right solution confusing. 

To provide clarity here is what a silencer / suppressor does:

  • Reduces peak decibels offering hearing protection for people and animals nearby
  • Reduces recoil
  • Reduces muzzle blast
  • Can increase accuracy
  • Can lead to faster follow-up shots 
  • Makes it easier and less intimidating for beginners to get into shooting

When it comes to suppressors, there is a lot of misinformation which can make knowing what you’re looking for confusing. Not to worry. Whether you thought you needed a silencer for one reason or a suppressor for another, you were probably right all along. 

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