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September 6th, 2021

Suppressors for Hunting — What You Need to Know

There is an informative article on the NRA’s American Hunter website regarding suppressor use for hunting. The article, What Hunters Need to Know About Suppressors, answers common questions about licensing, tax stamps, and suppressor types. The article explains the history of the $200 tax stamp which must be paid when acquiring a suppressor:

“Why the Tax? In 1934 … the federal government, while battling gangsters such as Al Capone, heavily restricted silencers with passage of the first National Firearms Act. Hoping to gain an advantage on criminals that often had better weapons than cops, the Feds placed a mandatory ‘sin’ tax on silencers that was so high it would effectively ban their purchase by all but the wealthiest individuals. In 1934, $200 was the equivalent of $3,500 today. The $200 tax still stands despite no evidence that a simple metal tube is capable of causing crime.” — American Hunter

The American Hunter article also discusses how well suppressors actually reduce noise. User should be aware that the sound level of a large, centerfire hunting cartridge will still exceed 130 decibels (dB) on average, even with a typical suppressor (silencer) in place. For that reason, we recommend that hunters continue to wear ear protection even when they shoot suppressed.

For example, Thunder Beast Arms says its latest Ultra 9 Suppressor will reduce the report of a .308 Win to 132-134 dB: “The ULTRA 9 will suppress a typical .308 bolt-action rifle down to approx. 132-134 dB. It also has very little or no ‘first round pop’ (FRP) in most applications.” NOTE: These dB levels are measured in accordance with MIL-STD-1474D using BK 2209 SLM offset one meter from muzzle.

How Loud Are Unsuppressed Rifles?
Firearms Are Loud — 140 dB to 175 dB. Audiology group ASHA explains: “Almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140-dB level. Exposure to noise greater than 140 dB can permanently damage hearing. A small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB. Firing guns in a place where sounds can reverberate, or bounce off walls and other structures, can make noises louder and increase the risk of hearing loss. Also, adding muzzle brakes or other modifications can make the firearm louder. People who do not wear hearing protection while shooting can suffer a severe hearing loss with as little as one shot[.] Audiologists see this often, especially during hunting season when hunters and bystanders may be exposed to rapid fire from big-bore rifles, shotguns, or pistols.” Source: ASHA, Recreational Firearm Noise Exposure.

suppressor fact and fiction moderator silencer

How Much Does a Good Suppressor Really Reduce Firearm Sound Levels?
That depends on the rifle, the cartridge, and the effectiveness of the suppressor. The American Hunter article explains: “Suppressors retard the speed of propellant gases from the cartridge that rapidly expand and rush out of the barrel. It’s these gases that produce the loud boom that’s heard for miles. A suppressor’s series of internal baffles slows these gases so they are not all released at once, thereby muffling the sound.” Many good commercial suppressors can achieve 30-35 dB sound suppression. However, Zak Smith of Thunder Beast Arms says: “There are a bunch of manufacturers who publish values that are not reproducible, or use an ad-hoc test instead of a mil-spec test. In many cases we’ve tested the exact same suppressors they’ve advertised with 30-40 dB reductions and found they are actually in the high 20s instead.”

Again, for this reason, we recommend that hunters use ear protection, such as electronic muffs, even when shooting suppressed.

Choosing a Suppressor for Hunting Use
The American Hunter article explains that there are many types of suppressors on the market. Bigger suppressors are heavier, but they normally are more effective. You also have a choice in muzzle attachments:

“For most hunting applications, direct thread is the best choice. If you intend to buy only one suppressor yet you have multiple guns, it’s advantageous to buy a model sized and rated for the largest caliber you intend to use. While a suppressor made specifically for a .223 Rem. will reduce the sound of that round slightly better than a model made for .30 caliber, for example, you can use a .30-caliber can for smaller calibers — but not vice-versa. In general, the bigger the can, the more it reduces sound. Smaller suppressors, however, are easier to carry in the woods.” — American Hunter


Chart from American Suppressor Association.

States Where Suppressor Ownership is Allowed
Currently, the following 42 states allow private ownership of suppressors: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY. NOTE: Suppressors are legal in Connecticut and Vermont, but hunting with silencers is not allowed in those states.

How to Apply for a Suppressor
To acquire a quality suppressor, you’ll first need to shop around, comparing verified performance. Unfortunately some manufacturer’s dB claims are exaggerated. Give due consideration to size, weight, and durability. When you’ve selected a brand and model, find a Class 3 dealer authorized by the ATF to sell suppressors. You must fill out ATF Form 4, get fingerprinted, and pass a background check. Along with two completed copies of Form 4, submit your fingerprint card, passport photo and a check for $200 to the ATF. Then you wait for the ATF to process your application. American Hunter says the average ATF suppressor processing wait time is now nine months.

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 140 dB 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.

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April 11th, 2017

President’s Son Supports New Suppressor Legislation in Congress

Hearing Safety act suppressor silencerco thunder beast silencer legislation
Thunder Beast Arms suppressors are popular with tactical competitors and hunters.

Hopefully, in the near future, it will be much easier to purchase a suppressor for your firearm. Legislative efforts to reform the laws governing suppressors are moving forward in the U.S. Congress.

On January 9, 2017, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC), co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), introduced H.R. 367 to remove suppressors from National Firearms Act control and treat them the same as long guns, replacing the outdated federal transfer process with a NICS background check. The measure picked up 42 Republican co-sponsors and one Democrat co-sponsor. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introducted the similar Hearing Protection Act of 2017 (S. 59) in the U.S. Senate.

The new silencer reform legislation has a key backer — Donald Trump, Jr., the President’s son. “It’s about safety. It’s a health issue, frankly.” Trump Jr. explains in a video interview with Joshua Waldron, the founder of SilencerCo.

Donald Trump Jr. Talks about Suppressors and Shooting Safety

Donald Trump Jr. Talks about Suppressors
“I’ve had the privilege of being able to hunt in Europe, where some of the strictest gun laws in the world exist. Guess what… virtually every hunting gun there is suppressed. It’s about safety. If you had that kind of noise levels in any other industry as you would in shooting sports, OSHA would be all over the place. It’s about safety.” Trump Jr. said the current U.S. suppressor laws are “arbitrary policies by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.” He says it’s time the U.S. follow the lead of European nations, and adopt sensible suppressor policies, “because if Europe can do it, American better well be able to do it.”

NSSF Supports Hearing Safety Act
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) supports efforts to make silencers/suppressors easier to purchase. “This legislation will enable gun owners to have better access to hearing protection products and improve safety for the shooting sports by removing extensive wait times for burdensome paperwork processing that does not advance public safety,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior VP and general counsel.

“Anyone who has ever worried about hearing loss from shooting might want to lend their ears to this cause” said Emily Taylor, an attorney at the Houston law firm of Walker & Byington.

Current law imposes signficant barriers to suppressor ownership, Taylor explained: “Currently, the manufacture, purchase, and possession of firearm silencers are regulated by the ATF and must comply with the requirements laid out in the National Firearms Act (NFA). Anyone who wants a firearm suppressor must first get approval from the ATF and pay the required tax. An extended waiting period comes along with the time it takes the ATF to process these requests.”

“The Hearing Protection Act seeks to amend the law so that firearm silencers are treated the same way as long guns,” Taylor added. “The bill would make it so that there is no longer a tax associated with the transfer of a firearm silencer, and anyone who pays a tax on a silencer after October 22, 2015 could receive a refund of such tax. Lastly, the bill would preempt certain state laws that tried to impose taxes or registration requirements on firearm silencers.”

This article based on story in the Midsouth Shooters Supply Blog.

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July 14th, 2016

Dope for Your Scope — Handy Laminated Ballistics Card

JBM laminated ballistics card zak smith

Tactical ace Zak Smith of Thunder Beast Arms employs a simple, handy means to store his elevation and wind dift data — a laminated data card. To make one, first generate a come-up table, using one of the free online ballistics programs such as JBM Ballistics. You can also put the information in an Excel spreadsheet or MS Word table and print it out. You want to keep it pretty small.

Above is a sample of a data card. For each distance, the card includes drop in inches, drop in MOA, drop in mils. It also shows drift for a 10-mph cross wind, expressed three ways–inches, MOA, and mils. Zak explained that “to save space… I printed data every 50 yards. For an actual data-card, I recommend printing data every 20 or 25 yards.” But Zak also advised that you’ll want to customize the card format to keep things simple: “The sample card has multiple sets of data to be more universal. But if you make your own data card, you can reduce the chance of a mistake by keeping it simple. Because I use scopes with MILS, my own card (photo below left) just has three items: range, wind, drop in MILS only.”

Once you have the card you can fold it in half and then have it laminated at a local office store or Kinko’s. You can keep this in your pocket, tape it to your stock, or tie the laminated card to your rifle. If you regularly shoot at both low and high elevations, you may want to create multiple cards (since your ballistics change with altitude). To learn more about ballistic tables and data cards, check out the excellent Practical Long-Range Rifle Shooting–Part 1 article on Zak’s website. This article offers many other insights as well–including valuable tips on caliber and rifle selection.

ballistics data scope coverScope-Cover Mounted Ballistics Table
Another option is to place your ballistics card on the back of the front flip-up scope cover. This set-up is used by Forum member Greg C. (aka “Rem40X”). With your ‘come-up’ table on the flip-up cover you can check your windage and elevation drops easily without having to move out of shooting position.

Greg tells us: “Placing my trajectory table on the front scope cover has worked well for me for a couple of years and thought I’d share. It’s in plain view and not under my armpit. And the table is far enough away that my aging eyes can read it easily. To apply, just use clear tape on the front objective cover.”

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June 12th, 2016

SilencerCo Leads Huge Growth in USA Suppressor Market

Suppressor Silencer Josh Waldron Dean Weingarten Silencerco

In this article, Gun Watch Editor Dean Weingarten interviews SilencerCo Founder/CEO Josh Waldron. Started in 2008, SilencerCo is an amazing success story. The company now sells 18,000 silencers a month. To put that in perspective, a decade ago, the entire domestic suppressor industry was selling 18,000 suppressors a YEAR. SilencerCo now controls 65% of the suppressor market in the USA, and its business is growing 100% a year.

This growth is remarkable considering that suppressors remain highly regulated and costly to acquire. The National Firearms Act (NFA), passed in 1934, imposes significant restrictions and requires a $200 tax to be paid on each silencer sold.

How Suppressors Work — The Science of Silencers

Interview with Josh Waldron, CEO of SilencerCo
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

At the NRA Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, I was able to talk to Josh Waldron, CEO of SilencerCo. Josh is more than a visionary. He is a man who acted on his vision, and is changing the gun culture and the national culture.

I [visited] the SilencerCo booth during the NRA Annual Meeting. I was told that SilencerCo produces about 65% of the silencers in the United States. The company is growing so fast that it was hard to keep up with the number of employees, currently about 330 and rising quickly. There is no doubt that SilencerCo holds a dominant market share and is growing at an exceptionally fast rate. I asked Josh about the future of silencers and silencer legislation.

Q: Do you have a plan, and can you tell me about it?

“It starts as education. Ever since we started the company in 2008, we have had a focus on education and advocacy. When I first started the company… only 18,000 silencers were sold in the United States each year, and that was every manufacturer.”

“From the time we have started until now, there were 18,000 then, we are now selling about 18,000 silencers every month, just SilencerCo.”

“In the last five years, this has been the fastest growing segment of the firearms industry.”

Suppressor Silencer Josh Waldron Dean Weingarten Silencerco

When I first started the company… only 18,000 silencers were sold in the United States each YEAR [from] every manufacturer. We are now selling about 18,000 silencers every MONTH, just SilencerCo. — Josh Waldron

“People are just starting to understand. This is not a ‘cool accessory’ as much as it is a personal protection/personal safety device, just as you would consider any other device that keeps you safe while you shoot, such as safety glasses. It is really the only true way to hunt while you protect your hearing. As we continue to educate the market, it grows exponentially. A guy will get one who has never had one before, he brings it home, he shows his friends, and they say ‘Oh my gosh, I want to buy one!’ Every time we get suppressors out there, the snowball continues to grow and get bigger and bigger.”

Q: Your market share is dominant. Your sales growth is exponential, isn’t it?

“Yes … pretty amazing. We are growing 100% every year.”

WATCH X-Ray View of Shots Through Silencer (28,000 frames per second, 22 Sparrow)

Q: Do you fear that removal of suppressors from the NFA (National Firearms Act) will cut into your profit margin?

“I don’t think so. We don’t get to take full benefit of the economies of scale. We have to order materials on a small-batch basis. As we increase the number of suppressors going out the door we decrease the amount that it costs us. We haven’t pushed it to the level where are seeing those economies of scale.”

“We are always going to be a top-shelf brand. We are never going to discount our brand. We will be a leader in the industry, continually. I do believe there will be a lot of new entrants to the industry. I do not think that will hurt our brand or hurt our market.”

Q: I saw the Maxim 9, SilencerCo’s integrally-suppressed pistol, at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Is the Maxim 9 in production yet?

“It is not in production yet. Projects of this size take a lot of research and development. They take a lot of torture testing. We have to put it through a lot of standard testing. We use outside firms that come in and test and evaluate, so that we can hold our heads up high and say ‘This is a duty grade weapon’. We are not going to release it until it is.”

“I do not want to be marketing to our men and women in uniform, and saying this is a safe way to shoot until we can say this is a perfect firearm for them. The amount of testing is extremely rigorous. We are on schedule. We will release it, probably in December.”

Q: Is the Maxim 9 your entry into a future market of integrally-suppressed firearms?

“Yes. Our intention with the Maxim brand is to have integrally-suppressed firearms in that brand. We are talking everything from shotguns to rifles to pistols. The pistol is a good place to start because it is the holy grail of integrally suppressed guns that everyone has wanted. It is extremely difficult to do. People have tried it and failed, years and years, for decades, and this is the first time it has actually been viable and real. We are very excited about that, and very proud of that. We are going to move into new calibers as soon as this one starts shipping. We are very excited to expand that line.”

Suppressor Silencer Josh Waldron Dean Weingarten Silencerco

“Do I think the gun companies will compete? They can try. Number one, our IQ is amazing around this product. We spent a lot of time researching every firearm, every handgun that you can think of. How the mechanisms worked, and why. We had to be thorough. Which is why we designed the gun from the ground up. We went into every single style of this type of firearm, and other types of handguns as well, and really, truly understand how it needed to be designed. We had to take every mechanism, the guide rods, the springs, the things that are in front of the chamber in a conventional handgun, and move them behind the chamber. That was our biggest challenge. Do I think that some of those guys will start competing and get around our IQ? It will be a lot harder for them than for us. Because we are the ones who figured it out in the first place, and we have a lot of patents around that.”

Q: Rifles have had a lot of [suppressor] solutions … for a long time.

“We will get into those lines, the rifle lines. The difference is that we will design the gun, just the same way as we did for the Maxim 9. We will design the gun for the suppressor instead of putting on a suppressor designed for the gun, so our guns will be better.”

Suppressor Silencer Josh Waldron Dean Weingarten Silencerco

“There are about 400 million firearms in the U.S. right now. Most of those were not designed with a suppressor in mind. There is a huge market for retrofitted suppressors.”

“Which is what we have been doing for the last eight years, it is what we have done as a company which is providing solutions for firearms that already exist. The field is ready to harvest as far as creating a new platform. A new platform that has never been done before this, that was designed from the ground up with the intention of being suppressed, integrally suppressed.”

Q: You say you are going to stay on the high end. I looked at some of the markets. There is a lot of low end potential out there.

“There is. It is something that I am just not interested in. Number one, I do not know how to make something that is not the best.”

“It is impossible to know what the percentage of the market the high end will be. It is important to me to make the best product in the world. I am a brand guy. My brand is very important to me to so if I am making things that are less than the best, that is not ever something that I want. I always want to be top shelf.”

Q: Are you exporting much?

“We export, yes. We can’t export to the commercial market. Only to the military and law enforcement. It is a State Department thing.

“We have a bill right now, it is called the Suppressor Export Act. Congressman Jeff Stewart is the one that is sponsoring that bill for us. It would ensure that the State Department would have to allow us to take part in the world market, that is available, that we are not able to take part in right now. We can only export to law enforcement and military, but not to the commercial market. But with this bill, we would be able to export to everybody. If there is a country where it is legal to have suppressors, we would be allowed to export to them.”

“There are suppressor manufacturers all over the world, and they sell all over the world. The United States is the only place where they are this regulated. It is just crazy. You can go to the UK, where it is really hard to own a gun, and you can buy a suppressor over the counter, without a background check.”

“We are behind the curve when it comes to the rest of the world.”

Q: Can [one buy stock in Silencerco]?

“We are a private company.”

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch

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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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