September 5th, 2013

Silencer Facts: 39 States Now Allow Sound Suppressor Ownership

Approximately 27,000 suppressors, also called “silencers” or “sound moderators”, are sold in the United States every year. That may surprise you because the main-stream media often incorrectly report that suppressors are illegal. In fact, suppressors are legal to own in 39 states, provided that the devices are acquired in compliance with federal and state laws (which are explained below). In most of those 39 states, owners of legally-acquired suppressors may use their “cans” for hunting. The American Silencer Institute (ASA) has created a graphic showing where suppressors are legal to own, and where they may be used for hunting. Take a look:

Silencer Jurisdictions Hunting map

Silencers are regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, under the oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). To legally purchase/possess a silencer you must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age to purchase a silencer from a dealer.
  • Be at least 18 years of age to purchase a silencer from an individual on a Form 4 to Form 4 transfer (contingent on state laws).
  • Be at least 18 years of age to possess a silencer as a beneficiary of a trust or as a member of a corporation (contingent on state laws).
  • Be a resident of the United States.
  • Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm.
  • Pass a BATFE background check with a typical process time of 60-120 days.
  • Pay a one-time $200 Transfer Tax.
  • Reside in one of the 39 states that currently allows civilian ownership of silencers.

NOTE: In addition to these basic Federal rules regarding silencers, particular states may have additional registration requirements or other regulations. Check with a knowledgeable firearms attorney in your jurisdiction before beginning the process of buying a suppressor.


According to OSHA, the threshold for a hearing safe impulse noise is 140 dB. Without hearing protection, exposure to any impulse noise over 140dB causes varying degrees of permanent noise induced hearing loss, which can also lead to tinnitus. Most well-engineered silencers take the dB level of their host firearm well below 140 dB, making those silencers effective primary hearing safety devices. You should always still wear hearing protection (muffs or plugs) when using suppressors.

By containing the explosion at the muzzle, suppressors significantly reduce perceived recoil energy, reduce the rifle’s rearward movement on recoil, and reduce rifle torquing and muzzle flip. The reduction of recoil (and rifle torquing/hopping) lessens shooter fatigue and helps the shooter get his sight picture back on target rapidly after firing. With smaller calibers, a suppressor may enable the shooter to maintain a nearly-continuous sight picture, following the shot into the target. In addition, by reducing felt recoil (and muzzle blast), a suppressor can help inexperienced shooters avoid flinching.

Map Graphic by American Silencer Association.

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