May 23rd, 2019

Suppressor Myth Busting — Do Silencers Degrade Accuracy?

Shooting Sports Suppressor Sound

Shooting Sports Suppressor SoundAre sound suppressors useful in competition shooting? In some disciplines, and in venues where sound “moderators” are permitted, the answer is “yes”. Some years ago Shooting Sports USA (SSUSA), published an interesting article about the use of sound suppressors (aka “cans”). The article explores the use of suppressors in Europe and in tactical matches in North America. You’ll also find an explanation of the rules and regulations governing suppressor ownership and use in the United States.

Former SSUSA Editor Chip Lohman tested three rifles from the bench and found that suppressors did not harm accuracy (at least with these rigs). In fact, all three test rifles (.223 Rem, .308 Win, and .338 Lapua Magnum), shot slightly better 5-shot groups at 200 yards with a suppressor than without. However, the suppressors did alter point of impact. Interestingly, velocity standard deviation (SD) values were lower with suppressors in place for all three test rifles. This observation calls for further study.*

CLICK HERE to Read Suppressor Article in Shooting Sports USA.

Shooting Sports Suppressor Sound

So the use of suppressors in competition could be a good thing. However, in the United States, current NRA High Power rules prohibit the use of sound suppressors. NRA Rule 3.16.1 subsection (a) states: “Sound Suppressors are not authorized for use in High Power competition.” In addition, there are some practical problems with suppressors — the heat rising off of a naked suppressor can create mirage problems (that’s why some shooters wrap their cans with a cover).

Despite such issues, it is now common to see moderators on rifles used in non-NRA-sanctioned tactical matches such as the Precision Rifle Series. For example, many competitors in the popular Steel Safari field challenge match use suppressors. The photo below shows our friend Zak Smith competing in the Steel Safari with his suppressed Accuracy International rifle.

Zak Smith Thunder Beast Steel Safari Suppressor

Commentary — What Can We Conclude?
Obviously, this three-rifle SSUSA test was not definitive. One well might observe different results with different types of suppressors, fitted to different kinds of rifles. Mounting a suppressor to any barrel will certainly affect harmonics and “tune”. But this SSUSA study does suggest that tactical shooters, who are allowed to use suppressors in competition, may find that the benefits of suppressors (significantly reduced recoil and less noise) outweigh any meaningful accuracy loss, at least in PRS-type matches.

*The article cautions that one should not extrapolate too much from the SD numbers, given the low number of test shots. Chronograph-maker Ken Oehler, when asked to comment on the SD values stated: “[You should] report the observed SDs, but draw no conclusions until… you can do more testing with larger sample sizes.”
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January 28th, 2015

SHOT Show: Ashbury Precision, Vortex Optics, Thunder Beast

Our friends Ed and Steve, aka the 6.5 Guys, were prolific last week in Las Vegas, visiting dozens of vendors at SHOT Show. Here are Ed and Steve’s video reports for Ashbury Precision Ordnance (APO), Vortex Optics, and Thunderbeast Arms. (If you’re thinking about buying a suppressor definitely check out the new Ultra series from Thunderbeast, featured in the third video below). You can see more SHOT Show videos by Ed and Steve at 6.5Guys.com.


Ashbury Precision Ordnance

Here Precision Rifle Series (PRS) Competitor Melissa Gilliland talks about the modular chassis systems offered by Ashbury Precision Ordnance (APO). With adjustable buttplate, cheekpiece, and grip, these systems can be adapted for a variety of shooting disciplines. APO even offers a modular chassis for Savage barreled actions. Melissa shoots a tricked-out 6.5 Creedmoor rig with a Titanium APO action.

New Precision Rifle from APO
Ashbury Precision Ordnance

SABRE Chassis System for Savage Actions
Ashbury Precision Ordnance


Vortex Optics

Vortex continues to grab a larger share of the tactical and long-range hunting markets. This video features the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56mm and 3-18x50mm scopes. These Gen II Razors feature apochromatic objective lenses, rugged 34mm single-piece aluminum main tubes, and versatile 6X zoom range. Both MOA-based and Milrad-based reticles are offered. Vortex scopes have large, user-friendly controls, and a good feature set for the price.

Vortex Optics 6.5Guys.com

Thunder Beast Arms

Thunder Beast Arms’s suppressors, built by shooters for shooters, are tough yet light. Thunder Beast developed a strong following for its titanium cans that offered excellent performance with light weight. In this video, Thunder Beast unveils its new “Ultra” series of suppressors. Compared to Thunder Beast’s previous CB-series suppressors (of like size), these Ultras are 4 to 5 ounces lighter, yet provide 4 to 5 decibels of additional noise reduction. That represents a major gain in suppressor performance.

Thunderbeast arms suppressor ultra can

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January 3rd, 2015

Silencer Shop Makes It Easy to Acquire and Register Suppressors

Many of us would like to outfit one (or more) of our rifles with a suppressor, but the cost and red tape involved can be daunting. Some states prohibit private individuals from owning suppressors. However, most U.S. states DO allow suppressor ownership. That’s the good news. On the other hand, suppressors are not inexpensive and the process of obtaining governmental approval is time-consuming. Then there is the cost of the tax stamp itself — $200.00 for each silencer you own.

Nonetheless, suppressors are fun, and they serve an important function. Along with protecting your hearing, suppressors can tame recoil and dramatically reduce muzzle flash. Noise reduction of up to 35 decibels is possible with a .223 Rem. When shooting any firearm, you should still wear hearing protection of course, but suppressors can help reduce the risk of permanent hearing damage.

Benefits of a Suppressor — Why Suppressors Make Sense:

Is It Legal For You To Own A Silencer?
The vast majority of the 50 states permit citizens to own silencers. Currently, the following states allow private ownership of suppressors: AL, AR, AK, AZ, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MI, MO, MS, MT, ND, NE, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV, and WY. Even if you live in one of these states, you should verify that owning a suppressor is legal in your city/county.

If you live in a state where suppressor ownership is legal, and you can legally own a firearm, then you can buy a suppressor. However, you need to obtain ATF permission and pay a tax.

If you are interested in getting a suppressor, thankfully there is a source that can help you select the right product, and fill out all the paperwork required. The Silencer Shop specializes in sound moderators for pistols, rimfire rifles, centerfire rifles, and yes, even shotguns. The Silencer Shop maintains a large selection of suppressors for sale, and the shop can guide you through the NFA permitting process from start to finish.

How to Buy a Silencer, Part One:

Based on hundreds of successful applications for its customers, the Silencer Shop has streamlined the National Firearms Act (NFA) Registration process for suppressor ownership. Having submitted more silencer NFA Forms than any other dealer, these guys know the ropes: “We’re at the leading edge of making the NFA process as fast and easy as possible. From our famous ‘Black Packets’ to the latest electronic submissions and Silencer Shop Direct, we have a history of innovation in this area”. The Silencer Shop also works with knowledgeable attorneys who can help you set up an NFA trust to own suppressors and other NFA items. CLICK HERE to Learn How to Register a Suppressor to a Trust.

silencer shop direct NFA suppressor register registration Class III

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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

SILENCER LEGALITY AND OWNERSHIP
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.

BENEFITS OF SILENCERS

NOISE REDUCTION
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.

RECOIL REDUCTION
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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May 20th, 2011

Modern Rifle Suppressors — What You Need to Know

In our recent story on the 2010 Steel Safari in New Mexico we included photos of tactical rifles fitted with suppressors (sound moderators). Whenever we show photos of suppressor-equipped rifles, some readers ask: “Why did you show silencers in that article — aren’t they illegal?”


J. Holdsworth ranges a target at the 2010 Steel Safari. Holdsworth finished 3rd overall in the main match.

In fact, sound moderators, also known as “suppressors”, “silencers”, or “cans”, are legal to own in most of the fifty U.S. States. You have to pay a special tax, fill out some official paperwork, and submit fingerprints. And the suppressor must be transferred through a Class III SOT Federal Firearms License-holder (FFL). In this article, tactical shooter Zak Smith explains the basic regulations concerning suppressors. Zak, whose company Thunder Beast Arms Corp., makes a line of advanced sound moderators, also explains the many benefits of modern suppressors.

What You Need to Know about Suppressors
by Zak Smith
Despite common perceptions, silencers are not illegal in the United States. That is, unless you live in CA, DE, HI, MA, MI, MN, MO*, NJ, NY, RI, or VT. If you live in one of those states you’re out of luck. Sorry! Try to elect better politicians.

For the rest of us in the Free United States, sound suppressors — also called silencers — can be owned legally by private citizens provided a little extra paperwork is filled out and approved by the ATF. Silencers (and other NFA items) are transferred to individuals on an ATF Form 4, which requires a $200 stamp tax, a chief law enforcement sign-off, and a set of fingerprints to be submitted to the ATF. In some cases a “corporate” transfer can be done that bypasses the requirements for fingerprints and the local chief law-enforcement sign-off. It usually takes between 3 and 6 months for a Form 4 to be approved by the ATF. At that point you can take possession of your shiny new suppressor. The suppressor itself is the NFA item; you can place it on any firearm (that is otherwise legal to own in your jurisdiction).

Silencers, along with other National Firearms Act (NFA) items, must be transferred only by Class 3 SOT (Special Occupation Tax) license holders, which is an additional license on top of a regular FFL. To buy a suppressor, you can choose one your local Class 3 dealer has in stock, or you can have him order it for you from the manufacturer. A manufacturer-to-dealer transfer is done on an ATF Form 3, and typically takes 10 days to 3 weeks.

“But I don’t plan to be a sniper so why would I want a silencer anyway?” If you hear a shooter say that, you can bet your beer money that they haven’t shot a modern suppressor. Modern suppressors allow the use of full-power ammunition, do not reduce the muzzle velocity, do not contact the bullet during flight, and often aid accuracy. On high-power rifles, a suppressor acts like a muzzle brake and reduces recoil, and of course, the “ka-BOOM” report of the shot is reduced 25-30 dB, yielding a sound not unlike high-pressure gas escaping from an air hose being disconnected.

I have been shooting high-power, bolt-action rifles at long range in competition since 2004. The same year, I had the opportunity to try a modern suppressor on a long-range rifle and there was no going back. Since 2005, my long-range shooting is done almost exclusively suppressed — the only exceptions being F-class (which prohibits their use) and for comparative testing with brakes or bare muzzles.

If you take an accurate bolt-action rifle in .260 Remington or .308 Winchester and fit a suppressor, the recoil will be noticeably reduced and the report will be more similar to a .22 WMR. Most premium .30 caliber suppressors will reduce the report by 25-30 dB — a very substantial sound attenuation. While I do recommend wearing ear protection when using suppressors because hearing damage is subtle but cumulative, the entire experience is more pleasant with a suppressed rifle.

Modern Suppressors Are Superior to Older Designs — And May IMPROVE Your Accuracy
Historically, suppressors had rubber baffles that slowed down the bullets and ruined accuracy. Modern suppressors don’t have any of these drawbacks. While you’ll find competing viewpoints as to whether a suppressor-equipped rifle is more inherently accurate than a rifle with a bare muzzle (or muzzle brake), in practice many shooters shoot better with a suppressed rifle due to psychological and physiological factors — call it “shootability”. With less noise, less barrel hop, and less felt recoil — thanks to the suppressor — many shooters can achieve greater accuracy, shot after shot.

In the last few years, the use of suppressors by competitors has gone from an oddity to being commonplace. At recent matches such as the 2010 Steel Safari, as many as half of the top ten competitors used suppressors.

Suppressors from Thunder Beast Arms Corp.
Several years ago two fellow long-range shooters and I had the opportunity to start a suppressor manufacturing company. We all shared a passion for long-range shooting, had a history of competition, and were convinced that shooting suppressed was the way to go. Thunder Beast Arms Corp., based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, was formed to produce the best suppressors for practical long-range rifle shooting. Our “cans”, as they are sometimes called informally, are designed for accuracy, durability, and light weight, while maintaining best-in-class sound suppression levels. Many of our suppressors are made from Titanium for ultra-light weight and superior corrosion resistance.

Although I am proud of our products, there are many good brands of suppressors on the market right now. A suppressor buyer can dial in the performance, application, and amount he wants to pay very precisely — there will almost certainly be a suppressor on the market that meets his requirements. If you have a chance, see if you can get a suppressor demo lined up — I guarantee you’ll be impressed.

*In Missouri, suppressors may be legally acquired, but only by the military, by law enforcement personnel (acting officially), and by certain Federal Firearms License Holders (including C&R). See: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C500-599/5710000020.HTM .

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