Between improved Accuracy, Reduced Recoil, Scaring less game, widespread OK and Protecting your Hearing, there are a lot of reasons to consider Hunting with a Suppressor.
Featured Image above – SureFire’s SOCOM300-SPS Suppressor
Story by Frank Jardim and Photos by F.J.G. Jardim
Don’t let this turn you off, but at present, suppressors are considered Class II weapons and are regulated by the National Firearms Act and subject to the same controls as machineguns.
To legally possess one, at the very least, you’ll need to fill out some forms (online or old-fashioned paper ones), get finger-printed at your local police station, pay a $200 tax, and wait for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to process your approval paperwork. Online submissions have been approved in as little as a month, but the paper submissions can take up to a year. Sometimes states have a few extra hurdles, but overall, it’s not a big deal to get a suppressor and you shouldn’t be intimidated by the process.
Hunters have realized the benefits of using suppressors and they are rapidly gaining popularity with sportsmen and -women. Suppressors are legal to own in 42 states and legal to hunt with in 40. In addition, suppressors have been shown to often improve accuracy and reduce recoil.
The extra weight on the muzzle and the gases pushing forward against the baffles inside the suppressor are the source of the reduction in felt recoil. Gains in accuracy stem from less stressful shooting, like reduced
involuntary flinching associated with a loud report, and sometimes from the suppressor’s effect on the harmonics of the individual rifle barrel.
Other than adding 6 to 32 ounces to the rifle and making it impossible to use low-mounted iron sights, there are
no negatives to suppressed hunting.
Survivalist hunters were among the first to embrace suppressors. A good survival strategy usually requires keeping a low profile in the wilderness, harvesting your food and defending yourself with the same rifle. A suppressor can help you do both more discreetly, but probably not as much as you think it will if you formed your opinions about them based on TV and movies.
The reality is that most suppressed centerfire rifles are closer in report to an unsuppressed .22 LR rifle. That’s why silencers are more accurately called suppressors. Still, let’s not diminish the achievement. Getting the report of a .308 rifle down to the level of a .22 LR rifle is a huge improvement. You’ll scare away less game and draw less attention to yourself afield hunting with a suppressor, but the big gain is the protection of your hearing.
THE CALIBER AND type of ammo you shoot will affect suppressor performance. Though any cartridge
can be suppressed, loads with subsonic velocity (below the speed of sound) are the quietest. If you need to hunt with maximum stealth, your power and velocity options are limited. Subsonic .22 LR and .300 AAC Blackout fired through a good suppressor are no louder than the mechanical noise of the action cycling, but their practical hunting range is limited to under 100 yards. That’s not so bad in heavily wooded areas where most shots are going to be within that range, but not so good in the wide-open spaces of the West. Also, keep in mind that if you are hunting with a .300 Blackout, you have really dialed the ballistic technology clock back about 100 years when .44-40 Winchester Center Fire killed more deer than any other caliber.
If you can tolerate a bit more report, and usually a little more recoil too, just about any supersonic caliber is going to retain more energy longer, extend your range and kill more efficiently and humanely. Suppressing the typical supersonic deer calibers won’t always make them ear-safe, but you’ll be giving up nothing in terms of the performance you expect from them.
Anything supersonic (almost any centerfire rifle caliber) is going to produce its own sonic boom (the crack of the rifle shot) and there’s nothing a suppressor can do to change that. What the suppressor will do is reduce the volume of the gunshot by 25 to 40 decibels, which means that sound won’t do as much damage to your hearing and won’t carry as far as an unsuppressed shot.
Consider that the ubiquitous foam earplugs you’ve used at the range reduce sound about 29 decibels. What guns sound like to you with earplugs in is similar to what they actually sound like suppressed. Ideally, a rifle suppressor should reduce the report of the firearm below 140 decibels. That’s the point at which permanent hearing damage occurs.
The truth is that not all of them will and more money won’t necessarily buy you better performance. Aside from
the limitations of each suppressor’s design, varying barrel length, caliber and brand of ammunition can affect
suppressor performance and, though the report will be reduced, it may not be hearing-safe.
But as far as your hearing goes, any suppressor is better than no suppressor. Destroying your hearing is easier than you think. Continuous exposure to noise above 85 decibels over time causes hearing damage. Between 70 to 80 percent of hunters use no hearing protection of any kind because of their desire for situational awareness in the field. The price of that awareness when a 140-plus-decibel shot is fired is an instant painful ringing in the ears and progressively less hearing every time they pull the trigger.
SUPPRESSORS VARY IN size, weight and durability. The military has favored quick-detachable, heavy, rugged, welded steel models like the SOCOM300-SPS made by Surefire. This 8-inch-long, 1½-inch-diameter, 20.3-ounce unit is made of stainless steel and high temperature alloy.
People have been known to shoot these suppressors on full-auto guns and get them red-hot. Suppressors can be made
considerably lighter by using a combination of materials and simple, direct screw-on attachment. The Gemtech Tracker is an example of this type. It’s a tenth of an inch shorter than the SOCOM300-SPS but it weighs only 11.3 ounces due to its aluminum and titanium construction.
It is not designed to hold up under sustained rapid fire. Gemtech advises shooters to allow it to cool to ambient
temperature after firing 10 rounds. The best combination of durability and light weight is found in suppressors made entirely of titanium, like the Tion Dragoon 7.62 Suppressor. It’s 9½ inches long and 1⅜ inches in diameter
but only 12.95 ounces, equipped with a quick-detachable feature. Tion recommends allowing it to cool after 60 rounds of rapid fire through a 16-inch or longer barrel.
Modern suppressors are mounted on the barrel in one of two ways:
The simplest and cheapest is directly screwing it onto a threaded muzzle. Alternatively, suppressor manufacturers have invented various proprietary quick-detachable mechanisms that require the muzzle to be fitted with a special mounting base, but allow suppressor installation or removal in seconds. The best designed ones will change bullet
impact minimally, 1 inch or less at 100 yards. The mounting bases frequently incorporate a flash hider or muzzle
brake into the design for added utility when the rifle is fired unsuppressed.
The standard thread for .223-caliber suppressors is ½x28 threads per inch, or TPI. That’s the same thread you find on the muzzle of .223-caliber AR-15s, which makes suppressor installation a do-it-yourself operation. The standard thread for .30-caliber suppressors is ⅝x24 TPI. More and more companies are offering bolt-action hunting rifles with factory-threaded muzzles, but most older rifles are unthreaded.
Preparation of unthreaded muzzles for either direct screw-on or quick detachable suppressors requires the
services of a skilled machinist with the knowledge to do single-point cut threads on a lathe. Don’t imagine you
can do this yourself with a die you bought online.
I guarantee that even if you do manage to cut the threads straight, you will cut off too much material, resulting in a loose and totally useless fit. Then you’ll have to have the machinist cut off the part you ruined, recrown the muzzle, and then cut the threads properly on their lathe.
A screw-on suppressor is the cheaper way to go since you don’t have to spend an additional $99 to $125 for each quick-change mounting base. The quick-change feature would be helpful if you had several rifles in your survival cache to suppress. It also allows the installation of a .30-caliber suppressor onto a .223-caliber AR-15 rifle, something you could not do with a direct attach model because of the difference in mounting thread size.
Thanks to Utah-based SilencerCo, a company started by two guys in a garage in 2008, shotguns now have a practical suppressor in the Salvo 12.
YOU AREN’T GOING to be hunting elk or bear with subsonic .300 AAC Blackout, but plenty of deer-sized game have fallen to black powder rounds of comparable power. Loaded with a heavy 220-grain bullet, the round is quite effective for hunting wild pigs at under 100 yards.
If you’re hunkered down somewhere, you’ll want to minimize your hunting forays to reduce the chances of revealing the location of your hideout. In this case, it may make sense to hunt larger game to get the most meat for each of your precious bullets. If you’re on the move, it’s more likely you’ll be filling your cook pot with small game you can take with .22 LR. Does this mean you need two suppressors? The good news is no, but with some qualifications.
The stacked (multi-piece) baffles commonly used in .30-caliber rifle suppressors will also reduce the noise of smaller calibers. Because .30-caliber suppressors are physically bigger, they are sometimes even more effective
than a suppressor made specifically for the smaller rifle caliber; if they are worse, it is generally only by a
few decibels. If you can buy only one suppressor, one designed for .30 caliber will be the most versatile.
Here’s the caveat: The manufacturers of permanently sealed suppressors advise against shooting .22 LR ammo through them because it is very dirty and leaves lead and powder deposits inside that build up over time and cannot be cleaned out. Continuously shooting .22 LR will eventually clog up and ruin your sealed suppressor, which you could easily have spent from $800 to $2,500 on, not including the $200 tax. In normal times jeopardizing your investment would be foolish, but any situation that has you bugging out to stay alive is not normal.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The fact is it’s going to take a lot of .22 LR to clog up a big .30-caliber suppressor and your days of casually plinking away a brick of 1,000 rounds for fun ended when the looters cleaned off the Walmart shelves two hours after the Emergency Broadcast System came on the air. In that scenario, every bullet is a precious resource, and you won’t shoot even one except to put food in your belly or defend yourself. At that rate of fire, you won’t have to worry about suppressor degradation for many years. Using copper-plated bullets will help too.
Changes in hunting laws to permit the use of suppressors was a big factor in the explosion of consumer interest in them. The result was lots of new manufacturers coming into the marketplace. The choices today are vast. Seriously evaluate your needs and do your research before you buy.
While almost all .30-caliber suppressors are sealed units that can’t be serviced by the user, or even the manufacturer, the Tion Dragoon 7.62 suppressor and Silencer Central’s Banish 30 are exceptions. Both suppressors are designed to be completely disassembled for cleaning by the user. This type of lightweight titanium suppressor would be ideal on a .22-caliber survival/hunting rifle. Because shooting .22 LR does no irreparable harm, you can
practice your critical small game marksmanship until no bushy tail is safe within 50 yards.
While the American Suppressor Association has hopes to remove suppressors from the NFA list so they can be sold like ordinary firearms, this seems very unlikely to happen under the present presidential leadership. You can help; go to americansuppressorassociation.com, where you’ll find a link to bill H.R. 95, the Hearing Protection Act, that allows you to directly email your representatives on Capitol Hill.