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  • Writer's pictureHootey Cline

Silencers versus Suppressors

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Are silencers and suppressors the same thing? What is a suppressor? Do they really make a firearm silent? There are so many myths and misconceptions that surround these devices because of Hollywood, ignorant news media, and an overall general lack of knowledge about these devices. So what exactly is a silencer? A silencer is a fantastical invention that was created by Hollywood to make crime and spy movies more entertaining. A silencer’s real-world counter-part is the suppressor. A suppressor is a device that re-directs and re-distributes the gasses that are used by a firearm to cycle its action to create less noise. Notice I wrote less noise and not all noise. The best way to think of a suppressor is it is like a car muffler for your firearm. The average gun shot is around 150 decibels. A high-end suppressor is able to reduce this sound by about 25 decibels (125db). It should also be noted that hearing-loss can begin as low as 80 decibels. So basically if you have ever fired a gun while wearing hearing protection, that is how loud the shot is with a suppressor being used.

I. Benefits of Suppressors

Some of the benefits of suppressors are that they allow for hunting with less noise pollution. This means that you can hunt without disturbing other people, depending how large the parcel of land is, or other animals that may be on the property. This also allows provides hunters with additional hearing protection; and can overall make time spent at a gun range more enjoyable and comfortable for everyone. In fact, quite a few European countries allow their firearms to be equipped with suppressors out of common courtesy.

Negatives of Suppressors

Suppressors are really not great for concealed carry they can add anywhere from 7-9 inches total to the barrel of your firearm. In order to work properly they also require special ammunition. Suppressors need to be used in conjunction with sub-sonic ammunition. Sub-sonic ammunition is made to be slower than traditional rounds that can break the sound barrier and create a rapport. Suppressors will also not work on every firearm. For example, revolvers are nearly impossible to use because of the barrel-to-cylinder gap.

II. Process for purchasing and owning a Suppressor

Generally speaking, suppressors are far from being considered and ‘every day’ item for many folks, in the United States. There is so much stigma and regulation tied to suppressors that most people have never actually seen one, let alone use one. Suppressors are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), through the use of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs), and the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). Suppressors are manufactured and sold using the same processes as firearms. Suppressors are serialized and you must pass a background check in order to purchase one. Most suppressors cost about $1,000 and then an additional $200 tax stamp fee. There are also other forms and processes that are utilized that makes the whole process take 8-9 months to be completed.

III. Why all the hate then?

Like most things in life people are afraid of what they do not know, but they would rather ban something or get rid of something than educate themselves. Gun-control groups want you to believe that suppressors make crimes easier to commit and that they should be banned. I have said it several times, along with countless others, but one more time for those in the back “No matter what we do as a society, criminals will not follow the law. PERIOD!” If a criminal wants to use a suppressor they will find a way. This is why laws should be created to protect law-abiding citizens. This point has also been proven false statistically many times. Since the NFA was passed in 1934 there have only been 6 prosecuted cases where a suppressor was used in the crime committed. 5 of those defendants also had prior federal prosecution charges. I will even throw a bone and count the Virginia Beach shooter; but that still only brings the total number of cases to 7 since 1934 (88 years). In 2017 ATF released a report that stated suppressors were used in .008% of crimes. Now while this may seem like conflicting evidence you have to consider plea deals and other criminal justice processes that are utilized today that lead to many of these cases not being tried; and why they can’t be counted toward the above statistics.

IV. What can we do?

The best thing to do is try to educate our legislative bodies and the general public about what a suppressor really is and what they actually do. There are also positive pieces of legislation that are introduced frequently, but they often die at some point. The only way to combat this is to talk to our legislatures. The National Hearing Protection Act (H.R.155) sought to remove suppressors from the NFA list, so that they could be more easily purchased by hunters and professional marksman. They still would be serialized and a background check would need to be completed though. Illinois Senate Bill 50 sought to make it legal to utilize suppressors for hunting and sporting applications, which it is already legal in 42 other states. Suppressors would still be bound by the same processes as purchasing a firearm in Illinois; foid card, background check, ect.

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