How Does a Suppressor Work?

How Does A Suppressor Work?

Suppressors or silencers are quite common in Hollywood movies that attempt to make spies and assassins look awesome and lethal at the same time. These devices have been around for a while. In fact, they even predate the time when talkies were invented and gained popularity much later. The reason for that is because common folk can now own one instead of just the military or law enforcement officers.

Hiram Percy Maxim, who was a radio pioneer and inventor, was the one who created the silencer, which was then known as the Maxim silencer in the early 1900s. But as time went on, everything about the silencer from its name and owning one to understanding how they work has become complicated.

Silencer Or Suppressor

In spite of the name, Maxim may have stretched the truth for his silencer devices when it came down to its effectiveness. In actuality, silencers only reduce the sounds of gunshots rather than completely muting them. Hence, the more accurate term for this muzzle device that is most often used by the American firearms industry is, suppressor. They are also known by other names around the world such as moderators, mufflers or cans if you can believe that.

The Science Behind A Suppressor

Guns generally make a variety of sounds when fired. When the firing pin strikes the primer, it makes noise as does the action cycle. But the “big boom” comes from the bullet as it breaks the sound barrier along with the propellant gases that come out of the bore at supersonic speeds and shreds the surrounding air. It is those propellant gases that account for most of the noise as well as the flash.

The role of the suppressor in this is to simply contain the burning propellant gases, which therefore captures that energy. Most of the world’s suppressors are made up of a set of small chambers that are separated by baffles. The manufacturers use every type of angle, port dimension changes as well as other ways to give propellant gases a chance to escape and shut up.

But just how good a suppressor is at silencing a gunshot varies on its effectiveness. Gunshots, more or less, run between 160 to 180 decibels. A suppressor will only shave off 20 to 40 decibels off of those shots, which according to some government standards are considered “ear safe.” Though there are bigger suppressors available and the bigger they are, the better they will be quieting gunshots, generally speaking.

Shooting subsonic ammunition and locking an action or shooting fixed breech firearms can also reduce decibels, though both have their own set of tradeoffs.

Given that the strength at which propellant gases come out of the bore, you have to have a tough suppressor for it. Most suppressors are made of steel as well as high-tech alloys and each of the seams are welded. The best models, like the ones from AAC and Surefire, are rated for full-fire and thousands of rounds and are usually quite expensive. Smaller models that are meant for .22s can get by with aluminum components.

Why Use Suppressors When They Don’t Silence Guns?

If suppressors don’t exactly silence gunshots, then what is the point of owning one? The military seems to like them a lot because they help combatants communicate better on the battlefield while also retaining their hearing, both in short- and long-term basis. Suppressors also make it more difficult to find someone shooting at you because of the reduction of sound, dust and flash. It’ll only work in your favor if you’re the one doing the shooting. Recreational shooters and hunters can save their hearing and also make shooting more enjoyable by ensuring their shots are ear safe. Suppressors can also lower recoil to a certain extent.


So just because you can’t completely silence the shots of your guns, suppressors can still give you a good edge at concealing your actual location. You just have to be more strategic about where you’re shooting from.

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