Since only about three people actually read this blog, and I think that might actually include me, perhaps it isn’t necessary to explain why this is (momentarily) a Student of the Suppressor blog. Some folks I know are dedicated “gun guys” but have no interest in suppressors. Or “silencers” as others call them. Though I’d say “silencer” is a bit of a misnomer.
The reasons I will dedicate some blog space to this is because a) it’s my blog and I can do whatever the hell I want, b) some people have asked me to give them some information about suppressors and c) suppressors are exceedingly enjoyable.
So let’s start with the basics. A suppressor is a device that attaches to a firearm via a threaded barrel or an adapter. There are plenty of firearms available these days that come with threaded barrels. In other cases, one can add an adapter by replacing the flash hider (such as one would find on an AR-15). In the case of semi-auto pistols, it is often possible to simply buy an aftermarket barrel that is threaded. But more on that later.
The big burning question is: “Are suppressors legal?”. The answer in most states is yes. They are legal if you either form a corporation or trust or buy them by obtaining the signature of your Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO). The CLEO is usually your country sheriff or police chief. My humble suggestion is to set up what is called an NFA Trust. Typically this involves the following steps:
1. Setup an NFA Trust with the help of an attorney. If you contact your local NFA dealer (NFA dealers, or “Class III dealers” are able to sell suppressors, short barreled rifles, machine guns, etc. ) they are usually willing to provide you with a template you can use. This is typically a PDF document that you will need to fill out and then sign in the presence of a notary. The notary will slap their seal on it and voila, you’ve got your trust. There are lots of theories related to the best way to set it up. Some people engage an attorney and some people don’t. Some trusts are written better than others. But I know for a fact that there are many guys out there that got a template somewhere, filed it out correctly and got it notarized, and they are enjoying their suppressors as I type this. You just want to make sure your trust has provisions for beneficiaries to take over the items owned by the trust in the unfortunate event of your demise. You also want to make sure that your trust has what is called a “Schedule A” which is a list of the items owned by the trust. As the Grantor, or “boss” of the trust, you are therefore able to possess the items purchased under the trust. (Disclaimer: If anything I said here was slightly inaccurate, my apologies. But I’m still not responsible.)
2. Once you have completed the trust paperwork, scan it so that you have an electronic copy on your computer. If you don’t have a scanner, I suggest using an app such as TurboScan. It allows you to take pictures of each page of the document and save it as a PDF. I happen to believe that TurborScan (specifically using the 3x feature) actually works better than the scanner in my office. Your mileage may vary. But the important thing is to get an electronic version and file the original in a safe place.
3. Now that you have an electronic version of your trust, you are ready to buy a suppressor. Once you have determined what it is you’re looking for, you can reach out to an NFA dealer and arrange the purchase. Usually they will need either an electronic version of your trust (PDF) or a certified copy, which you’ll need to obtain using a notary. It might be a good idea to go ahead and get a couple certified copies of the original while you are getting the trust notarized initially.
4. Some NFA dealers have websites that allow you to buy the item online using a credit card. Those websites may also allow you to pay the $200 tax stamp electronically as well. Keep in mind that you’re going to have the following costs associated with your suppressor purchase: a) the cost of the suppressor b) the cost of the tax stamp, which is always $200. Some dealers charge a processing fee, but I’ve found that there are many that do not charge a processing fee. It really pays to shop around.
5. So you have found the suppressor you want, and have arranged payment. Once the dealer submits your paperwork (either via the ATF’s eFile system or paper) you will have to wait about 6-8 months for your tax stamp to arrive. Once that stamp arrives, you can go to the dealer and pick up your item. Typically you will also complete a 4473, which is the same form you complete when you buy a rifle or pistol.
6. You are now ready to attach your suppressor to your host weapon and enjoy it. So to recap, the steps are relatively simple. Just setup a trust, get it notarized and make sure you’ve got certified copies. Then find the suppressor you want and a dealer to sell it to you. A quick Bing search should yield all sorts of options. Once you’ve made your decision, just pay for the suppressor and the tax stamp. Then all that’s left to do is wait until your stamp arrives, pick up your suppressor from the dealer, and you’re good to go. Note that you will need to always make sure that you keep a copy of your tax stamp document with your suppressor, while the original version of your trust and tax stamp document should be filed safely away. By law, you must always have a copy of your tax stamp with your suppressor, even if you’re just going to the range.
So that’s the basic process, and I’m happy to help answer any questions as best I can that pop up in the comments. Or via email, assuming I remembered to enable the email option on this blog. Honestly, I can’t even remember. This is my first blog and the only reason I have it is to keep from sending out the same emails over and over. But if you’re one of the three or four people that are reading this, chances are that you already know me and have my contact info. Anyway, please note that the process may vary depending upon the state you live in. As always, be sure to check your local laws before making a purchase of this type.
Got A Trust. How Do I Decide What Suppressor I Should Buy?
Let me first begin by saying that I personally have five suppressors. I have had the opportunity to use several different kinds due to the Friends of the NRA event that occurs twice a year in my area. This event is very special I believe because in addition to dozens and dozens of suppressed weapons, there are also several machine guns that one is able to try out. Events like this are so wonderful because you may be able to try out the exact host weapon and suppressor combination you’ve been considering. Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky and their exposure to suppressed weapons is very limited. I know a few guys that had never fired a suppressed weapon until the day they were able to legally own their own suppressor and take it to the range.
The important thing is to do your research and not just take my word for it. Everyone has slightly different preferences and budgets. There’s a certain amount of budgetary constraint that I employ in my recommendations. People that have unlimited funds can probably get a better advisor than me. But for us regular folks, we have to do the best we can with what we’ve got. I won’t recommend anything that I think is sub par. Anything one buys they will likely own for the rest of their lives, so it is important to take that fact into consideration. The other aspect is that suppressor ownership is about to get a lot more difficult based on an executive order that resulted in a rule change (do a search for ATF rule 41P for more information) that will require ALL suppressor purchasers to get their CLEO to sign off on it. Unfortunately, many CLEOs refuse to sign, even if you pass all the background checks, finger printing, and mental health check. In other words, they simply don’t want you to have suppressors. To me, that constitutes a infringement on my 2nd Amendment rights. Quite frankly, I do not believe the ATF should give local sheriffs that kind of power. How many crimes have been committed with legal suppressors? Here’s a hint: it is either a number exceedingly close to zero or zero. But that doesn’t matter to the people who are currently in charge. In my opinion, gun control is about controlling people, not violence. If it were, they’d be doing something about all the criminals in Chicago (one of the cities with the toughest gun laws) instead of worrying about further regulating law abiding gun owners. But that’s a discussion for another time. It suffices to say that we’ve got a window that may last until the end of 2014 to get what we can via a trust. After that, it is hard to say what will happen if you don’t have a friendly sheriff.
So what are the reasons I would want a suppressor?
1. In some states, it is legal to hunt with a suppressor. This means you don’t also get a helping of hearing damage with each animal you harvest. Anyone who has ever uncorked a 30.06 inside of a big deer stand, and had the sound bounce right off the wall knows why that is important.
2. Suppressors help your relationships with the neighbors. If you have enough land to shoot on, your neighbors will likely appreciate the fact that you can shoot suppressed.
3. Suppressors are essentially safety equipment. Not only do they protect your hearing, it is also easier to instruct a new shooter when ear protection isn’t needed. The lack of concussion and noise puts a novice shooter more at ease, and allows them to focus on instructions as well as fundamental such as sight alignment and trigger squeeze. I’ve also noticed an increase in muzzle awareness. The human mind can only juggle so many things at once.
So we’ve finally come to the question: What should I buy? First and foremost, I will say that everyone should consider buying a dedicated .22LR suppressor. That is in part because subsonic ammo can be found, usually at reasonable prices. Subsonic .22LR ammo shot from a suppressed pistol or a rifle makes very little noise. It is wonderful for plinking under safe conditions (proper backstop) in one’s rural backyard. The caliber is great because it doesn’t have a lot of recoil to begin with. I have personally found that I shoot more suppressed .22LR than anything else. It can be fun for the entire family, and it is extremely effective for hunting small game.
What are the big things to consider when buying a .22LR suppressor? I think that there are a few main criteria that factor into my buying decision:
1. What materials is it made out of? Is it stainless or aluminum, or both? Which parts are made of which material?
I think this is one of the most important considerations. The aluminum suppressors are much lighter than their stainless counterparts. Stainless steel suppressors are a lot more durable. In some cases, you can buy a suppressor that has aluminum baffles and later on down the road, you can upgrade it to stainless baffles. My humble suggestion is to get a suppressor with stainless steel components. Yes, it will weigh more, but if you do your part, it will last a lot longer.
2. Does the suppressor come apart for cleaning?
Most people prefer a suppressor that is “user-serviceable” meaning that it can be taken apart and cleaned. After all, .22LR is rather dirty ammunition. However, I have used a YHM Wraith that doesn’t come apart and it has been a wonderful suppressor. Personally, I have only purchased .22LR suppressors that I can take apart. Your mileage may vary.
3. How are the baffles designed? Are they some sort of K baffles or is it a monocore design?
First, here are examples of the two types of suppressor innards:
Photo credit: http://emptormaven.com/img/Element_II_New.jpg
Which one is better? That is a tough call. The monocore designs are a lot easier to maintain in my opinion. They are easier to clean, for one thing. Baffles, such as the traditional K type, have to be aligned perfectly each time the suppressor is reassembled. In the end, it may not matter very much as the goal is to properly maintain your suppressor and make sure it is assembled correctly before each use. But there’s something to be said for the simplicity of the monocore design. My top pick for value is the Spectre II, as I mention below. It is not a monocore design but I believe it to be the best all around. Simply be aware of the differences and take that into consideration when buying.
4. What is the quietest suppressor I can buy?
That is a tough question to answer because it takes professional sound measuring equipment to be able to determine this objectively. Subjectively, I can tell you that it can be very difficult to tell the difference between suppressors. I believe the AAC Element II to be the quietest all around due to the fact that it has no first round pop. First round pop refers to the first round that is fired through the suppressor after it has been stored or cleaned. The first round is typically a bit louder than subsequent rounds. Here is the definition of FRP on GemTech’s website (GemTech is a prominent suppressor manufacturer).
First Round Pop is a phenomenon in which the first round fired through a cold suppressor is louder than the subsequent shots fired. This is caused by the combustion of oxygen within the suppressor. After the first round is fired, the oxygen is burned up and replaced by combustion gasses. If the suppressor is allowed to cool for a short period of time (minutes) the FRP will occur again. Some suppressor designs are very effective at reducing or eliminating FRP. There are several ways to help reduce or eliminate FRP within a suppressor: http://www.ebr-inc.net/articles_first-round-pop.html
Is FRP a big concern? That depends on the shooter, but generally it is not. However, if the goal is to make shooting as quiet and enjoyable as possible, eliminating or reducing FRP may be important to you. Keep in mind that the type of ammo you are using is going to make all the difference. You could have the best .22LR suppressor ever made, but if you are shooting high velocity ammo, it is going to be a lot louder than someone shooting subsonic ammo through a less effective suppressor.
When it comes to .22LR suppressors, here are my suggestions:
AAC Element II
The AAC Element II is one of the best .22 suppressors available. It has a robust construction, yet it is a relatively light suppressor. It also has no “first round pop”, or FRP, that is common in many other models. I’ve used it on several different host firearms and it has never exhibited any signs of having FRP.
I have a .22 can that has a noticeable FRP and it doesn’t bother me in the least. But, again, if you want no FRP, the AAC Element II is the way to go.
Silencerco Spectre II
This suppressor is probably the best bang for the buck. In fact, there are many people that say it is very close to the AAC Element II in terms of sound reduction and it is difficult to tell the difference. However, there is definitely a difference in cost, which is anywhere from $150 to $200 difference. That’s about the cost of the tax stamp, and that matters to a lot of folks. If I could have only ONE .22LR can, and I had to make the purchase as economical as possible, I would pick the Spectre II without hesitation. The components are stainless steel, whereas many similarly priced suppressors have aluminum. It is easy to take apart, easy to clean, and therefore easy to maintain. And the sound suppression really is excellent. If you’re considering buying just one suppressor, I cannot recommend this one enough. It works well on a pistol or a rifle.
Surefire Ryder 22-A
This suppressor took a bit to get released but I think it was worth the wait. The design is a bit different than other .22LR suppressors based on how the baffles were designed. I’ve had the chance to fire it using a Ruger 22/45 as a host weapon. The suppression was excellent, but the only ammo available was Remington Golden Bullet. If there was ever a third string level of ammo, that would be it. But it seemed to function okay, even though I would have loved to try out some GemTech subsonic ammo instead.
The Sparrow is built like a tank and is another excellent choice. I’ve had the pleasure of using one at the range and it offers a wonderful level of suppression. It also happens to come in a really nice nylon case that can be attached to a belt or vest. It is very easy to clean and maintain. It works well on a pistol but it really shines on a rifle.
Photo credit and website: http://www.silencerco.com/products/#/sparrow/
What About Suppressors For Other Calibers?
If you are looking for a centerfire pistol or rifle suppressor, I have some suggestions in those areas as well. However, I will probably approach them one caliber at a time so that I can do each of them justice.
That said, if one has the funds for a maximum of two suppressors, my recommendations are straightforward. I think that the best way to cover as many bases as possible is to get a Silencerco Spectre II .22LR suppressor and a Silencerco Octane 9 HD II.
The Spectre II will allow you to shoot .22LR to your heart’s content. The Octane 9 will allow you to shoot a variety of calibers, including: 9mm, .38 Special, .380 ACP, 300 Blackout (subsonic only), and even .22LR.
The Octane 9 is an extremely versatile suppressor. The ability to use it for your 9mm home defense pistol as well as your subsonic 300 Blackout deer rifle, is tough to match. And let me tell you that a 220 grain .30 caliber bullet moving at just over 1,000 feet per second packs one hell of a punch. There is a lot to be said for the 300 Blackout caliber, but it suffices to say that if one is considering buying a max of two suppressors, the Octane 9 should at the very least be a strong contender. And yes, it also comes apart for cleaning.
Website for the Octane: