By Jim Dickson
One of the best examples of the effectiveness of brainwashing in this country is the transformation of an innocuous safety and noise reduction device to a sinister assassin’s tool in the public’s mind. While other countries may virtually ban guns, they tend to regard silencers as being in the category of automobile mufflers, a device to protect the hearing and prevent the disturbing the peace.
Typically, silencers have little or no regulation hindering their purchase and use abroad, but in this country, they are classed with machineguns and other National Federation Act-restricted weapons, which constitutes an effective prohibition for the general public. In England and the rest of Europe, it is very common to find permission to hunt on a man’s property linked to the provision that you use a silencer so that you don’t disturb the peace. Classically attired proper English gentlemen hunting with silencers on their rifles and shotguns are a common sight on the British hunting fields. Demand is so great that The Saddlery & Gunroom in Kent, England make an integral silencer for an over-and-under 20-gauge shotgun called the Hushpower purely for sporting use. The same is true on the Continent where dapper European gentry pursue game with the modest decorum of silenced weapons.
In South Africa, there are a number of game ranches that will not allow you to hunt unless you have a silencer on your rifle. This prevents the other game from getting spooked and also doesn’t upset the non-hunting tourists that are often nearby.
Silencers are readily available for all guns up to and including elephant rifles. You don’t hear about that much about them because no one writes about items that are restricted in the U.S.A. What little is written, perpetuates the myth that silencers are sinister devices for police and military use that the hapless citizen cannot be trusted with unless he jumps through BATF’s (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) hoops to acquire a registered one and pays a $200 transfer tax on it. Such thinking nullifies the Second Amendment and conditions the mind to accept any outrages a dictator inflicts on his subjects.
MAJOR BENEFITS OF SILENCERS
Silencers perform three major benefits for the shooter: They increase accuracy; allow the use of more powerful, effective calibers when hunting; and they suppress noise/protect hearing.
Â Increased Accuracy
Silencers reduce sound and recoil while increasing accuracy by favorably changing the harmonic vibration of the barrel as the shot is fired. I have never seen a case where accuracy was not improved by the addition of a suppressor. We could easily set some new target shooting records just by the simple addition of silencers to our weapons. Recoil is reduced because the silencer is an enclosed muzzle brake.
Whereas a conventional muzzle break works by deflecting gas back at you, resulting in higher muzzle blast in direct proportion to the recoil reduction, a silencer traps all the gas until it slows down to subsonic velocity, the sonic boom of the powder gasses being what makes it go bang. As it does this, all those gasses are pushing forward against the silencer’s baffles, pulling the gun forward against the recoil force and thereby reducing recoil by up to 75 percent. That’s another good reason to put them on heavy kickers, like elephant rifles.
Allows for More Powerful Cartridges
Secondly, silencers enable you to move up to a more powerful caliber for lesser game, reducing the chance of wounding and losing your quarry because of the use of an inadequate or borderline caliber. This is particularly important when introducing women and children to hunting. Typically they are given a gun chosen for its mild recoil and muzzle blast instead of its killing power. When it wounds instead of killing, they are turned off from hunting. The use of a silencer would enable them to use a cartridge chosen for its killing power.
Because of its recoil reduction, a gun with a silencer can also be made lighter without kicking too hard than a gun without one. That’s important not only to women and children, but also to mountain hunters who often will tolerate excessive recoil just for a lighter rifle.
Noise Reduction/Hearing Protection
Finally, silencers provide noise reduction comparable to what you get with shooter’s earplugs or earmuffs. Since silencers are only truly quiet with subsonic cartridges, you still have noise but it is greatly abated. That is why many prefer the term “suppressor.” If you wish, you may still use your hearing protection on a difficult-to-silence caliber, and you will find the efficiency of it has been vastly increased, for you have added the decibel-reduction level of the silencer to the decibel-reduction level of your shooter’s ear muffs and/or ear plugs.
This is a particular sore spot for me because all my old friends have hearing aids as a result of shooting in the days before hearing protection was available. Silencers were available, but effectively outlawed in the U.S. by the severe restrictions on them. Using them meant constantly having to “explain” them to the police, and they were illegal to hunt with in many states.
Today where OSHA and other arms of the modern “Nanny state” scream safety at all costs, no one cares about protecting our hearing while shooting. That’s because they want to discourage gun ownership, and anything that makes a downside to the shooting sport is therefore good in the eyes of the powers that be. After all, it was those insolent subjects with guns that threw off the yoke of King George, and we can’t have that again. One has only to look at children in the rest of the world learning to shoot with silencers, protecting their tender young ears, to see what an innocent safety device we are talking about here. To use an overworked propaganda phrase, legalize silencers “For the children’s sake.”
How much improvement a silencer can make in a common hunting rifle is best shown by a South African GMS silencer in .30-06. Using factory ammo out of a Sako rifle, there was an 84-percent noise reduction and a 75-percent recoil reduction. Since decibel reduction is logarithmic, that’s a 27- to 29-decibel reduction. At 50 yards, a deer should look at the sound of the bullet’s impact instead of the gun when you’ve fired a silenced rifle from a relatively close range.
Another important point is that silencers effectively eliminate flinching by doing away with most of the noise and recoil that cause it, which results in better shooting. Even if you don’t flinch, the improvement in the harmonic vibration of the barrel while the bullet is leaving the gun makes the gun more accurate, and that alone makes you shoot better.
HOW THEY WORK
Silencers work by lowering the powder gasses, otherwise known as muzzle blast, to subsonic levels thereby depriving them of the ability to make the sonic boom that you hear when the gun fires. They do this by tapping the gasses in baffles or screens to slow them down and cool them. The cooling aspect is exploited by designs that use water, oil or grease as a cooling agent in addition to baffles. These are messy to clean.
Of course you cannot capture allÂ the gasses, since there is a channel behind the bullet, so there will be someÂ noise. This is measured in decibels and this is how you compare different designs in different calibers. Calibers with supersonic cartridges (more than 1,100 fps) will always be louder than subsonic calibers. Still, there is a significant noise reduction, and like a ventriloquist, the silencer makes finding the source of the noise difficult. Most people do not associate the noise with a gunshot, and ignore it.
The silencer was invented by the great genius Hiram Stevens Maxim, who also invented the first machinegun, flew the first airplane, invented the fire sprinkler system seen in most big buildings, and was the inventor who held the patent on the electric light bulb. Edison only got the electric light bulb when Maxim delegated the renewal of the patent to his shop foreman who forgot to. When the patent lapsed, Edison stepped in and ran with the idea.
Maxim got the idea for the silencer watching the water swirl out as his toilet flushed. He reasoned that if he made the powder gasses do that, they would slow down and he would have a silenced gun. He made a tube filled with baffles shaped to catch the powder gasses and divert them up and then down again following the curvature of his baffles. Like most of his inventions, no one has ever been able to improve on it, and I have found the original Maxim silencers to be as good, or better, than anything introduced since.
The silencers used by the OSS in WWII were made with the tube filled with baffles punched out of window screen. They worked quite well, and the silencer fitted on a .22-caliber High Standard Model HD Military pistol set the standard for covert work silencers. Firing one sounds like a hand clap: about 65 decibels.
Significantly, the exposed hammer of the HD Military retarded breech opening longer than the latter hammerless High Standard pistols, resulting in a quieter report. Unlike the Maxim and SIONICS silencers, which attach to the gun’s muzzle, this one is made integral with the gun. The barrel is milled down by lathe and a series of holes are drilled in it to bleed off gas into the screen wire baffles while the bullet is still traveling down the bore. This also drops the velocity of the .22 Long Rifle bullet to subsonic velocities permitting effective silencing.
“LESS SOPHISTICATED” DESIGNS
Other methods were also tried. Since a long barrel on a .22 that lets the volumetric capacity of the primer and powder gasses be reached before the bullet gets to the muzzle is both silent and legal, there has always been a market for extremely long-barreled .22 squirrel rifles for those in the know. This led to a Browning .22 automatic rifle that saw covert service with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Instead of a very long barrel, it had a standard-length barrel with holes drilled in the barrel that were covered by the forend. The forend was hollowed out and filled with steel wool. Volumetric capacity was reached before the bullet exited the muzzle, and the rifle was quiet. This does constitute a silencer under the National Firearms Act.
Volumetric capacity allows a silencer to work without baffles. Slipping a rubber baby bottle nipple over a .22’s muzzle is an old squirrel hunter’s trick that works for a few shots. A 2-litre Coke bottle fastened to the end of the muzzle will silence up to a .45 for a shot or two. An empty propane torch cylinder threaded to the muzzle and having a hole in the bottom makes a decent suppressor for an M16 or AK-47.
In the early 1970s, Mitch WerBell established Sionics to build his version of a silencer. His design had a cooling chamber filled with metal shoe eyelets crunched in tight under a giant press followed by two spiral baffle sections with the first turned one way and the second turning the opposite way for disruptive slowing of the gas, followed by an expansion chamber at the muzzle capped off with a thick washer of Ecushnet E310 Polyurethane, which would close back up tighter than the bore diameter after firing. After a while, these wipes had to be replaced as all wipes do. That’s why they have fallen from favor with many designers.
There are many silencer designs out there, and you can look at the decibel level they provide to see how well they work. One thing most folks won’t tell you is that no one knows exactly what goes on inside one while it’s working. We could probably make a better design if we just knew that.
There are a lot of other interesting things about them. For instance, a .22 silencer will not work as well with a tube over an inch in diameter as it will with one an inch or less. This can actually be shrunk to a Â½-inch O.D. and still work, but an inch and a half one won’t work as well. I have seen a cutaway silencer that still had the same good decibel reduction as one that had not been cut away for a display piece. I’m still waiting for someone to figure that one out.
Silencers are mysterious, fascinating devices that serve the same function on a gun as a muffler does on a car. They may not eliminate all the noise, but they muffle it, and that’s a big improvement. It’s time the laws against them were all repealed and they were treated the same as an auto muffler.
OUTLAWED, FOR WHAT?
Some would argue that America’s laws have kept silencers out of criminals’ hands. If that were the case, America’s laws would keep drugs out. The fact is, our laws can’t effectively keep anything out of the hands of people who are willing to pay for them. Silencers are so easy to make and the plans for them so readily available that anyone wanting an illegal silencer should have no problem obtaining one.
Mitch WerBell of Sionics and Military Armament Corporation once told me that every machinist that likes guns has made a silencer at some point. He might well be right. A child is capable of making a disposable one for a .22.
Obviously, the laws are only affecting the law abiding, but what’s new about that? Maybe if the laws against silencers were extended to automobile silencers (also known as car mufflers) the hue and cry against the tyranny would result in the repeal of the laws. Then we could go about our business protecting our hearing and avoiding disturbing the peace without “Big Brother” sticking his nose in our business. Until the day these laws are repealed, the draconian penalties connected with illegal silencers make violating the law for a hearing protector unwise. It just isn’t worth the risk.
KEEP ’EM CLEAN
No matter what method is used, the use of non-corrosive components is critical. Silencers get dirty fast. They will rust if you let them. Most original Maxim silencers have rusted out from the corrosive primers of their day. The desire of some users to put water in them to aid in cooling the gasses is a formula for disaster with carbon steel parts. A fully productive rust mine will emerge quickly.
Additionally, silencers on a .22 can accumulate unburned powder inside them. And when it finally ignites, you get a most strange noise. It is harmless, but sounds weird. Those that allow for cleaning are preferable. If they don’t disassemble, you can at least swish them around in mineral spirits until most of the gunk is out. Like everything else, they can get so gummed up that they don’t work as well as they should.
Stainless steel and aluminum have been around for a long time. Be sure your maker uses them. Aluminum also transfers heat faster than steel, so you get more cooling effect on the gasses as well as a lighter-weight silencer. This is where stainless or aluminum components are so important. Not all designs allow for disassembly to allow you to oil them.