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Suppressors Aren’t Just for the Movies

Suppressors Aren’t Just for the Movies

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William Lawson

William Lawson

If you’re into certain movie or television genres, chances are that you’ve seen multiple suppressed firearms, usually deployed by government operatives or, more likely, assassins or hit men. Suppressors add mystique and contribute to good storytelling. Their portrayal is rarely accurate, but that’s a complaint for another day.

Sean Connery in Diamonds are Forever, shooting a suppressed pistol. Suppressors aren't just for the movies.
You don't have to be this guy to enjoy suppressors. (Photo: United Artists)

But Hollywood aside, suppressors have real world uses for everyday shooters. Hunters, plinkers, competition shooters, and others shoot suppressed every day. So, let’s look briefly at practical applications for suppressors that don’t require John Wick-level skills.

Yes, Silencers are Legal ®

Suppressors are heavily regulated, leading many folks to believe they are illegal. Hollywood doesn’t really help there, but that’s not their job. Suppressors are restricted by the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). That means you need to fill out certain paperwork, pass an enhanced background check that can take up to a year, and pay a $200 tax before taking possession of your new suppressor. You can find all that information in the link below:

man hunting with rifle suppressed with a SilencerCo Scythe-Ti suppressor.
The SilencerCo website has all the info you need to purchase a suppressor like the new lightweight Scythe-Ti.

That takes care of the federal side, but there are also some state restrictions. Suppressors are legal in 42 states. You can probably guess the eight holdouts, but here they are anyway: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. The others may have certain other restrictions. Make sure you’re aware of your state’s laws. 

One Size Does Not Fit All

If you’re new to silencers, make sure you understand that products vary by caliber, thread pitch, and intended use. A suppressor designed for 9mm cartridges and smaller will not work on a pistol chambered in .45 ACP. Know what caliber you need and shop accordingly. Your muzzle’s thread pitch also must match that of the suppressor, though you can often buy adapters. SilencerCo offers many mounting options:

SilencerCo Omega 300 mounted with ASR mount and flash hider.
This SilencerCo Omega 300 suppressor is mounted on an ASR mount, which doubles as a flash hider.

Finally, you should have at least some idea about how you intend to use your suppressor. Luckily, suppressors are more versatile than ever, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one that hits near the sweet spot. So, let’s get on to the “fun with suppressors” part.

Hunting Suppressed

Adding a suppressor to your hunting rifle, shotgun, or handgun is almost a no-brainer, assuming your firearm can accept it. Suppressors offer hunters multiple benefits. First, a suppressor makes zeroing your rifle much more pleasant. And you do need to zero with the suppressor attached because your rifle can shoot a bit differently. Second, shooting at game is far less likely to damage your hearing. This is especially beneficial to bird or hog hunters who fire multiple shots during a hunt.

hunter with rifle suppressed with SilencerCo Harvester Evo
The SilencerCo Harvester EVO suppressor is specially designed for hunters.

Finally, a suppressed firearm is less likely to spook game. Hunting suppressed means you can possibly take down several pigs or coyotes before their friends get wise. And I once watched a decent-sized buck walk right toward me, only to have a rifle shot from across the ridge scare him off. I get that most hunters won’t suppress their guns, but I sure wish that guy had. I probably would have filled my freezer that day.

The point is that we are nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century. This ain’t Elmer Fudd’s setup. Consider hunting with a suppressor. You won’t regret it.

Suppressors for Home Defense

Here’s another scenario where suppressors make a ton of sense. Guns are loud. Guns in enclosed spaces are much louder. Suppressing your home defense weapons will protect your hearing, and your night vision, if the unthinkable happens. 

I’ve heard some people say they keep ear protection beside their firearm. Fine. Personally, I don’t think I would don that ear pro, even if I had the time, which is questionable at best. I want my senses at the full. A suppressor lets me do that while not blowing out my eardrums in a tight hallway or stairwell. It will still be loud because of the enclosure. But it won’t be nearly as bad.

hybrid 46m on .45 caliber handgun
A suppressed .45 like this one is perfect for home defense. And that Hybrid 46M even tames the recoil. (Sara Liberte Photography)

I’ve also heard people say they want an intruder to be overwhelmed by sound, muzzle flash, and, of course, rounds. Do what you will, but might I respectfully suggest that the sound and muzzle flash may well affect you almost as much as your target? Once again, I want my senses to be as near to perfect as they can be. I see no reason to purposely degrade them in what may be a live-or-die situation. A suppressor is my best shot at doing that. 

Plinking Suppressed

Plinking at cans and such is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. Whether you use a .22 or something bigger (I’ve been known to plink with an 8mm Mauser rifle), a suppressor just makes it better. Suppressors make your guns quieter, but they also mitigate recoil, in case that Ruger 10/22 is beating your shoulder a little too hard.

hybrid 46m on .45 caliber handgun
This SilencerCo Switchback 22 makes for a fun day of plinking.

But seriously, that depends on your firearm choice. Some colleagues and I once shot a suppressed Marlin 1895 in .45-70 while visiting SilencerCo. I would never have thought I would say a .45-70’s recoil was tame, but it was. And being outdoors, we didn’t even need ear protection. Imagine a day of plinking with your friends where you aren’t yelling at one another through your ear pro. It’s a good time. 

You should be aware, however, that suppressors heat up quickly and may not be appropriate for sustained shot strings. Use a suppressor cover to protect yourself and be certain to have a pair of heavy gloves. 

man shooting Marlin .45-70 with Hybrid 46M
I would never have thought this Marlin .45-70's recoil would be tame. But that Hybrid 46M did the job. Notice the lack of ear protection. It was QUIET. (Sara Liberte Photography)

Like the other activities, suppressors can improve competition performance, if they’re allowed. Reduced recoil, muzzle flash, and sound can help shave crucial seconds from your run. Suppressors can also be useful for precision shooters looking to mitigate recoil. Many shooters use them at least some of the time. Again, be aware of heating issues since hot barrels can impair accuracy.

Training Suppressed

If you own a firearm, and intend to use it, you need to train. Home defense, concealed carry, hunting, whatever. If you don’t practice, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Training requires repetition. I’m likely preaching to the choir here, but there’s an added element if you use a suppressor for other activities.

The new titanium Scythe-Ti is one of many great suppressors that can enhance your competitive or precision shooting.

If you plan to suppress your hunting rifle, home defense pistol, or competition carbine, you should train with that suppressor. We noted earlier that it’s important to zero your firearm with the suppressor because that suppressor will affect how your gun fires, even if only slightly.

Effective military units train like they fight. Good sports teams practice like they play. Good shooters train like they shoot when it’s for real. That goes beyond your equipment, but it does include that equipment. Suppressors are part of it. Don’t shirk proper training.

Police and Military

This article isn’t about “official” use of suppressors, but police and military agencies increasingly use suppressors where they are appropriate. Their reasons are similar to what we’ve already covered: a better, safer, more controlled experience for the shooter. Special operations units in both realms have used suppressors for years, but more and more regular soldiers are being issued suppressed weapons. 

Suppress Yourself

Figuratively, not literally. You get the idea. Suppressors have come a long way since the 1930s. Even since the 1990s. Suppressors are lighter, stronger, more efficient, and more available than ever. They come in many shapes and sizes for just about every caliber. Many modern suppressors are modular, enabling use on multiple firearms and classes of firearms.

SilencerCo Salvo 12 on shotgun - suppressors aren't just for the movies
The Salvo 12 even gets bird hunters in on the fun.

The SilencerCo Hybrid 46M, for example, is perfect for handguns and rifles up to .45 caliber. Or you can get specific with the Velos LBP, specifically designed for the AR-15, while the Salvo 12 will tame your 12-gauge shotgun.

Choices abound and it’s very much a buyer’s market. Do yourself a favor and check out your options. You might just find the suppressor that will take your shooting experience to the next level.

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