The overlooked benefits of using handgun silencers
To the uninitiated, silencers or sound suppressors have a very negative connotation due to their depiction in films and books as the tools of assassins, spies and criminals. However, for firearms instructors, hunters and shooters; they meet a number of needs.
In the case of instructors, one of the largest hurdles with new shooting students is the perception of recoil. Firearms are noisy by nature and coupled with the violent action of recoil; many new shooters are intimidated and their first attempts at punching holes in paper targets leave much to be desired.
Silencers reduce noise and recoil
Silencers can increase accuracy
Hunters can benefit from a suppressor in a number of ways. First is just like the new shooters mentioned previous with regard to the increased accuracy, reduced flash and recoil. Not only is the firing sequence made hearing safe for the hunter, but the sound reduction does not cause other potential game to flee the area as un-suppressed gun shots may cause.
For the typical shooter, suppressors offer the convenience of shooting without hearing protection as well as the benefits of increased accuracy and reduced recoil. It is unfortunate that silencers have been unfairly stigmatized by politicians and the media and hence the impression that they are illegal.
Silencers are not illegal
Suppressors are heavily regulated at the federal level. Most states that prohibit suppressor ownership make allowances if the owner has the required Federal Tax Stamp from the NFA (National Firearms Act) Branch of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). In 37 states, suppressors are legal with the tax stamp.
The Federal Tax Stamp is an offshoot of the 1934 National Firearms Act. As a restricted item, the buyer must fill out an ATF Form 4 stating that they want to buy a suppressor, attach photographs, fingerprint cards and obtain written permission from the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) in their jurisdiction. The packet is mailed to ATF with a check for $200 and the 9-month waiting period begins while ATF examiners run an FBI Background check and if everything is in order, approve the transfer.
This process has led many people to falsely believe that silencers are illegal. Another reason is the lack of familiarity with suppressors due to the process and the fact that for 10 years while the Federal Assault Weapon Ban was in place, threaded barrels (the easiest and most practical way to attach a suppressor) were a defining characteristic of a so-called assault weapon. After the ban sunsetted in 2004, new life was breathed into the suppressor industry and the new demand (along with America being engaged in the War on Terror) lead to increases in research and development to improve suppressors.
As a rule 22 long rifle, 45 ACP and 9mm Parabellum loaded to subsonic levels are the easiest rounds to suppress. Suppressors are made in models big enough to accommodate calibers such as 338 Lapua and 50 BMG, but these types deal more with reducing flash and recoil. Some special purpose cartridges such as Advanced Armament Corporation’s 300 BLACKOUT subsonic round were developed with suppressors in mind and are extremely quiet when fired through a suppressed AR-15.
It is surprising that so-called advocates for “firearm safety” do not think that they should be mandatory.
Note: Some firearms enthusiasts do not like the term “silencer:” as they feel the term “sound suppressor” is more accurate. We use the terms interchangeably. First of all, the ATF classifies them as “silencers” on the various forms and that is how they are referred to in US law. The second argument is that silencers do not truly make anything silent. This author has fired some amazingly quiet pieces over the years and finds that last statement mostly without merit.
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