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Suppressors and Subsonic Ammunition

Suppressors and Subsonic Ammunition

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Kat Ainsworth

Kat Ainsworth

If you have a suppressor — or even if you don’t — you might be wondering what subsonic ammunition has to do with it. Or maybe you’ve been perusing the gun store shelves and spotted subsonic ammo, leading you to find out what it’s used for. Whatever your reason for subsonic ammo curiosity, we’re here to help.

What is subsonic ammo?

Subsonic ammunition is designed to travel down range below the speed of sound, unlike standard or higher pressure loads that are made to deliver greater velocities. That typically means the bullet travels under 1100 feet per second. Of course, there are a few things to consider when you’re debating whether you should use subsonic ammo in your gun:

  • Twist rate varies, meaning the gun’s barrel might not be ideally capable of stabilizing the heavier, slower bullets.
  • Not all cartridges are ideal for subsonic use.
  • Certain cartridges, such as 300 BLK, were designed specifically for subsonic loads which means they can deliver a superior performance to others.
  • Temperature and various atmospheric conditions affect subsonic ammo performance.
  • Changing the ammo substantially can require a different buffer weight and spring in guns such as AR platform rifles.
  • Subsonic ammunition shouldn’t be confused with supersonic ammunition, the latter of which is designed for greater velocity rather than less.
SilencerCo Harvester Evo
Should you use subsonic ammunition with your suppressor?

Do you have to use subsonic ammo with a suppressor?

No, generally speaking, you don’t have to use subsonic ammo with a suppressor. However, you might find that running your suppressed gun with subsonic loads makes for a better experience overall because it does reduce overall sound.

With many suppressor models, it’s up to you whether you use subsonic or supersonic ammunition. That said, some suppressor models do require subsonic ammunition in specific calibers. The SilencerCo Octane and Osprey fall in this category with 300 BLK. If you have questions about this, be sure to ask your qualified dealer or reach out to the SilencerCo Customer Service department.

If your suppressor does not require subsonic ammo in your chosen caliber and you’re trying to decide whether or not to use subsonic ammo in your suppressed firearm, it’s a good idea to consider what you’re using it for. When the gun in question is a defensive firearm, it is generally wiser to stick to standard loads. A defensive firearm must cycle consistently, impact targets predictably at a variety of distances, and be capable of significant energy transfer (which is helped along by greater velocity, among other things). If it’s for hunting, you could easily be fine using subsonic ammo as long as you keep in mind that range will be more limited. As a hunter, it’s your responsibility to make a clean, ethical kill.

Benefits of using subsonic ammo with your suppressed firearm:

  • Reduced overall sound signature.
  • Improved hearing protection.
  • Lower likelihood of scaring off game in the area.
  • Less noise for neighbors and any other shooters or hunters in the area.

When you combine a suppressor with subsonic ammo, you’re creating the best possible scenario for sound reduction. After all, you’ve invested in a suppressor, so why not use it to its greatest advantage?

SilencerCo Osprey 2
UsingUsing subsonic ammunition with your suppressor is an exxcellent way to better protect your hearing. subsonic ammunition with your suppressor is an exxcellent way to better protect your hearing.

Drawbacks of using subsonic ammo:

  • Reduced range compared to using supersonic loads.
  • Not necessarily ideal for hunting.
  • Slower velocities could result in feeding issues.

When should you use supersonic ammo?

As we said, it’s fine to use either subsonic or supersonic ammunition with your suppressor. The times you choose to use supersonic over subsonic might be dictated by things like defensive use, hunting distance or specific game, or a desire to shoot at much longer distances on steel. This is one reason why it’s so important for you to be familiar with how your choice of gun, ammo, and suppressor works as a unit. Drift and drop rate varies with equipment and temperature, so you need to spend time shooting to
understand what your setup can and cannot do.

Ruger SR22 with SilencerCo Warlock 22
Take the time to run your suppressed gun with subsonic ammo at the range to familiearize yourself with its drift and drop rate.

When should you use subsonic ammo?

Ideally, you’ll use subsonic ammunition with your suppressor rather frequently. It’s a good way to protect your hearing, reduce the audible imprint you make on an area, and be a better neighbor in general. Hearing loss is a serious problem among shooters and it’s important to do what you can to protect yours (and the hearing of anyone around you).

Range time is perfect for subsonic use. You can protect your hearing and that of those around you and, unless you’re shooting at extreme distances, the more limited effective distance won’t be a problem. This is especially important for high round count shooters interested in minimizing the negative affects of live fire on their hearing.

Choosing when and where to use subsonic loads is as simple as deciding whether the load in question is capable of getting the job done. If you’re not in a situation where you need significant effective range or defensive ammo, it might be a great time to break out the subsonic.

Can all suppressors work with subsonic ammo?

Generally speaking, most suppressors can be used with subsonic ammunition. As with any piece of gear it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for what you should and should not do with it.

MP9 Shield with Omega 9K suppressor - subsonic ammunition
There are a variety of subsonic loads available for guns chambered in 9mm.

Can you use subsonic ammo without a suppressor?

Yes, it’s possible to use subsonic ammunition on a gun that doesn’t have a suppressor mounted to it. Just be aware that those loads can cause cycling issues and you might need to adjust the firearm — when possible — to work more effectively with subsonic loads.

As long as you’re staying within the manufacturer’s guidelines for both your firearm and suppressor, it’s up to you what type of ammunition you use. Subsonic ammunition can be a bit more expensive and challenging to find because it’s not as high-demand as standard loads, but if you look for it you’ll find it.

You can’t put a price on the value of your hearing and combining a suppressor with subsonic ammo is a fantastic way to protect it.

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