When A "Silenced Sub-Machine Gun" Isn't

I ran across an interesting crime report this morning in the New Hampshire Union-Leader, which ends up being an excellent example of why you can’t trust what you read in your average news story. The article was headlined with the catchy title,  “Warner felon caught with silenced sub-machine pistol, drugs.”


A felon on parole named Gordon Potter and his friend Aliza Drouin were approached by a Salem detective after the detective noticed erratic Drouin’s driving. When Potter got combative, the detective called for backup.

The real fun began when they searched the car:

Police said officers found a small amount of heroin and prescription pills in Potter’s possession. Potter gave police a false name, but he and Drouin were taken into custody without incident, according to police.

Officers searched the car and found a Kel-Tec 5.56 silenced sub-machine pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun in the vehicle.

Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said the type of weapons – especially the silenced pistol – drew concerns from officers given Potter was a convicted felon.

“Your normal hunter or sportsman doesn’t carry these kinds of weapons in their trunk,” he said.

There are only a few things wrong with the description of the “silenced sub-machine pistol.”
Photo of the shotgun and “silenced sub-machine pistol” from the Union Leader article.
  1. It isn’t silenced. The object on the muzzle of the firearm is the FS22 by Tactical Innovations. You’ll note that the markings on the barrel in the photo of the firearm with the article clearly show it is the FS22. It is a $25 fake suppressor (an empty tube) often used by gun shops for displays, or by people who like the look of suppressors, but who can’t pass the federal background check, don’t want to pay the $200 tax stamp, and can’t afford the $525 cost of a real suppressor, like the Silencerco Sparrow.  The FS22 is not a suppressor in any way, shape, or form, and does not reduce sound.
  2. The firearm in question is not a “sub-machine pistol.” No machine pistols have been made for public sale since President Reagan signed the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) in 1986, and they have been heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934.

    Legally owned sub-machine pistols are so rare that they have been used in precisely two murders in 81 years… and one of those was a corrupt Ohio SWAT officer who used his duty weapon to murder an informant.

    The company that made this firearm, Kel-Tec, has NEVER made any form of machine pistol, ever.

    The firearm in question is either their PLR-16, or their PLR-22. Both are standard pistols, that fire one shot per trigger pull. The biggest difference is their caliber. The PLR-16 is 5.56 NATO caliber, while the PLR-22 is chambered in .22LR.

  3. If the firearm in question is a PLR-16, with a FS22 on the muzzle, it was a great threat… to the criminal. If a PLR-22, it was not a threat to police body armor. Both the PLR-22 and PLR-16 have the same muzzle threads to accept different muzzle devices, but the pressure curve for the 5.56 NATO rifle round and the .22LR training round are world’s apart. The FS22 fake muzzle device is designed for the very low pressures of a .22LR round, which generates about 100 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle. The 5.56 NATO generates tremendous pressures at short barrel lengths, as it was designed for a rifle with a 20-inch barrel. The roughly 900+ ft-lbs of energy of the 5.56 NATO cartridge would likely blow the FS22 apart like a hand grenade, seriously injuring the criminal. The only question is how many shots the criminal might fire before the FS22 fails under pressures it was never designed to handle.

    If the weapon is a PLR-22 (and I can’t tell the difference from this side of pistol since they use the same frame), then the .22LR rimfire bullets (commonly used for training, introducing shooters to firearms, small game hunting) are of no threat to police body armor.

The media can only report what law enforcement agencies provide them in terms of information. Unfortunately, many police officers—and most PIOs within police departments—have minimal firearms experience beyond what they learn for their specific duty weapons, and so they tend to give out inaccurate information.

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