Take One Helicopter, Add Guns, Then Free Fall

Forbes | By Susannah Breslin
Published June 5, 2017 at 3:02PM EDT

If jumping out of a helicopter, shooting firearms while free falling through the air, and taking aim under canopy while you come in for a landing sounds like fun to you, SilencerCo, a West Valley City, Utah-based manufacturer of gun sound suppressors should be right up your alley.

I interviewed SilencerCo President Jason Schauble about how they came up with the crazy stunt, the state of the silencer business, and the future prospects of the hotly-contested Hearing Protection Act under President Donald Trump

Susannah Breslin: How did you come up with the idea for the video?

Jason Schauble: One of SilencerCo’s founders — Josh Waldron — bid on and won a tandem free fall jump with two Red Bull sponsored jumpers — Luke Aikins and Jeffro Provenzano — at a charity auction. He invited some other friends from Tomahawk Strategic Solutions — a tactical training company — to make a content piece around the jump that involved free falling rifles, silencers, and our newest offering — the revolutionary Maxim 9 integrally suppressed pistol.

Breslin: Can you explain what happens in the video?

Schauble: The jumpers engage targets while in free fall — before the parachutes are deployed — and under canopy as they reach their objective.

Breslin: What are the firearms and silencers used in the video?

Schauble: The rifle is made by a company called EraThr3 with a SilencerCo Omega silencer. The pistol used is the SilencerCo Maxim 9.

Breslin: What was your intention in creating the video?

Schauble: We always encourage our customers to come up with unique ways to enjoy recreational shooting. We had previously made a number of videos under the “Find Your Range” series which featured unique shooting situations.

Breslin: What’s the current state of the silencer business and why are silencers important?

Schauble: The current silencer business is down from a peak last year because of the potential impact of federal legislation known as the Hearing Protection Act. This legislation would make sound suppressor or silencers — currently the most highly regulated consumer product in existence that is not inherently dangerous — easier to buy, and some consumers are waiting to see what happens.

Silencers are important because shooters can save their hearing. There are approximately 1.25 million silencers currently in private hands, and silencers are not restricted for ownership in 42 states and not restricted for hunting in 40 states. Silencers work better than traditional hearing protection like ear muffs because they allow the shooter to retain situational awareness, reduce firearm recoil, and they reduce the sound signature at the source.

Breslin: In an interview last year with Donald Trump Jr., SilencerCo CEO Waldron stated, “There’s no better person than your father to protect our Second Amendment.” Are you optimistic the Hearing Protect Act will pass under the Trump administration?

Schauble: If the Hearing Protection Act is going to pass, the chances are more likely with a Republican president, House majority, and Senate majority than with Democratic Party control of any of these entities. The bill was originally introduced in October 2015 and went nowhere under the previous administration, despite being consistently in the top 10 of most viewed bills on Congress.gov and tens of thousands of letters being written in support of a vote. While sporting legislation has been bipartisan in the past, it remains to be seen if any legislation will pass with the 60 voters needed in the Senate in the current polarized political environment.

Breslin: If the Hearing Protection Act does pass, what kind of surge in demand do you expect?

Schauble: We expect demand will increase if the bill passes, potentially up to 10 times the current market size or more. The biggest barrier to entry to silencer purchases by hunters and recreational shooters at this time is the need to submit fingerprints and photographs, and fill out lengthy forms, and the nine to twelve month wait for an understaffed federal agency to approve the paperwork, which is perpetually in lengthy backlog.

The fact that we have been able to make a successful business selling these highly regulated products under the current regulatory structure is a testament to what people are willing to go through to protect their hearing. Bottom line: Guns don’t have to be loud, nor do silencers have to be as severely regulated as they are today. All the Hearing Protection Act does is reduce the regulations to mirror the instant background check standard for buying a rifle or pistol.

Susannah Breslin

Susannah Breslin

I cover the business of sex. I've written for The Atlantic, Harper's Bazaar, Slate, Salon, and The Daily Beast. In 2008, TIME named me one of the year's best bloggers. I've appeared on CNN, NPR, and "Politically Incorrect." This blog has been cited by The Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, ESPN, BuzzFeed, and Katie Couric.

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