Probably no other gun accessory is as misunderstood by everyone from the common gun owner to the gun-adverse than the suppressor, sometimes called a silencer. Even the term “silencer” is very misleading, conjuring an image of a spy shooting a nigh-silent round at his nemesis. This could be no further from the truth.
Let’s take a look at the most popular myths, and the truth behind them.
- Silencers Totally or Almost Totally Silence Gunshots
This is the big one, and it’s thanks to early marketing on the part of inventor Hiram Maxim, who came up with the term “silencer,” and Hollywood portrayals over many decades. The former is sly advertising, and the latter is simply fantasy.
In reality, the device functions much more like a muffler on a car. The gasses propelled from the muzzle of the gun are suppressed, but it does absolutely nothing about the physical reaction of a sonic crack that the bullet makes or the gun’s firing mechanism. The result is that the absolute most quiet “silenced” guns are still about as loud as a car door slamming.
- Owning A Silencer Signs Away Rights
Many gun owners believe they are surrendering some rights when they purchase a silencer, but there’s no legal basis to this. While the BAFTE will remain your address, that doesn’t give them a right to ever do more than drop by to say hello thanks to the Fourth Amendment. They have absolutely zero right to enter your house uninvited without a search warrant.
- Silencers Slow Bullet Velocity
If anything, a silencer increases the pressure on the bullet and thus increases velocity. But in practice, the silencer really doesn’t interact with the bullet at all and barely affects velocity. It absolutely does not slow it down, however, as it’s simply against the laws of physics.
- Silencers are Illegal
In 42 states, suppressors are perfectly legal after jumping through routine hoops like passing a background check and paying a $200 tax stamp. Short of living in the predictable states like California or Massachusetts—who, by the way, are under immense pressure to do away with these laws—or being a felon or illegal alien, it’s perfectly legal to own a suppressor.
- Silencers Are Used by Criminals
While there will be some criminal, somewhere, using a silencer, just as someone will find a way to use anything the wrong way, the ATF has no record of a silencer being used in a crime during the last 10 years by a legal owner? Mostly, this is because it’s just not practical—silencers aren’t really silent, and the need to register and submit to a background check dissuades most criminals.
Contrary to what you see in the movies, silencers are almost explicitly used to protect hearing. Powerful and loud ammunition can severely damage the ears in short order to the point that gun ranges mandate the use of hearing protection. Suppressors just make more sense, regardless of what politicians or the media have to say.