In the comments of the amusingly-title CNN Money article “Gun silencer sales are booming,” commenter Len Kivi asks the obvious question that the journalist writing the article forgot to address.
“Why are folks buying silencers?”
Here are my answers to his very logical question.
As a shooting instructor with Project Appleseed, I’d love to see all of our attendees show up with rifles equipped with suppressors. While the majority of students choose to shoot .22 LR rifles for a number of reasons, the noise of 30-50 rifles going off at the same time is still quite substantial, even when only rimfires are on the line. As we typically have a few centerfire shooters on every line as well (a mix of AR-15s, along with Mini-14s, SKSs, M1As, and Garands), the noise can be quite deafening, even with the use of quality hearing protection.
Suppressors reduce the noise somewhat (they do not “silence” guns, nor make them go “pew pew pew” as misrepresented constantly in Hollywood fantasy) so that students can more easily listen to individual instruction and tips while the firing line is “hot.” Students can also more easily hear a “cease fire” command. When communications can be more clear, safety and the quality of instruction of is improved.
If you go to any precision rifle match, or note the firearms used by police and military snipers and designated marksmen, you’ll notice that many of them feature suppressors. The baffle systems on the interior of suppressor direct and control the gasses expelled from the barrel. Controlling these gasses help stabilize the bullet and helps increase mechanical accuracy. It may also change barrel harmonics slightly (all barrels flex in a subtle whipping motion as the bullet accelerates down its length) in some firearms, making the barrel itself more capable of firing a more accurate shot.
Reduced Felt Recoil
By controlling the and slowing the expanding gasses over the length of the suppressor (and spreading out these forces over time), the perceived or felt recoil is reduced in suppressed firearms. Some suppressor manufactures claim an excess of 70% in felt recoil.
Better Individual Health
A long-term benefit to the use of suppressors is the potential and actual reduction in hearing loss. Even with good hearing protection, shooting can lead to hearing loss over time. Dampening the shot 20-30 Db has a tremendous health benefit for shooters, and may reduce health care costs of treating hearing loss.
Better Environmental Health
For property-owners near firing ranges and hunting lands, suppressors dampen the noise and reduce background noise. It’s a quality of life, noise abatement, and environmental health issue. In many nations in Europe, it is considered rude to not use a suppressor. They are far more progressive than we are in regards to acknowledging the common sense benefits of suppressing firearms.
Suppressors Aren’t Used In Crime
Now to dispatch the boogeyman.
Criminals simply don’t use suppressors in the real world. Suppressors double the length of handguns, making them all but impossible to conceal, and concealability is far more important to criminals than noise reduction. If anything, criminals prefer a loud firearm, as the noise of a gunshot has a deterrent effect on their targets. Other criminals and law-abiding victims flinch away from the sound of gun shots.
Suppressors were added to the NFA in 1934 not because criminals were using them, but because the poor in the Great Depression were using them to hunt to feed their starving families outside of hunting season. It was a punitive action against the poor who were in effect, “poaching the king’s deer.” Game wardens could hear the shot, but the slight reduction in volume made it difficult for them to pinpoint the direction or location of the shooter.
Like so many laws passed by the party obsessed with citizen control, the National Firearms Act of 1934 was a law pitched as being “anti-crime,” when what it really was was “anti-poor.”
Some people like to abuse the buzzword “common sense” when it comes to addressing firearms-related issues. We’ve just provided significant reasons that suppressors should be encouraged, and not vilified. Suppressors help in communications at firing ranges, aid in more accurate shooting, have immediate individual health benefits for the shooters, and a health care cost reduction and contribute to environmental health as well.
Many components of the National Firearms Act of 1934 simply doesn’t make much sense in 2014, even to people who are ambivalent or even hostile to firearms. Suppressors should be removed from the National Firearms Act, and their purchase and use should be encouraged as it is in many European countries (such as England), where it is simply considered a sign of being polite and a good neighbor to uses these devices.
If there are those who are concerned (despite the lack of criminal interest) that suppressors may be used in crimes, then simply classify them as any other firearm. Anyone purchasing a suppressor from a federal firearms dealer could simply undergo a FBI NICS background check, as they would for any gun purchase.
Forcing citizens who want to be polite and reduce the sound of their gunshots to pay an additional $200 tax and wait for 9 months to a year of more for a muffler is simply absurd.