With High Interest in ‘Cans’ and plenty of Manufacturers to pick from these days, here’s a look at seven of the best units for AR-type Rifles.
Story by Nick Perna
Suppressors, or “cans,” are becoming a common accessory on the firearms of professionals and sport shooters. Once viewed as an assassin’s tool used by mobsters and spies, they are now used routinely by military, law enforcement and others. They are not “silencers,” as they used to be referred to. They decrease the decibel level, but they cannot silence a firearm.
There are many advantages to running a suppressor on your long gun. In the tactical realm, they allow operators to run their guns without hearing protection. This allows for ease of communication amongst operators. Bear in mind that ear protection is still a good idea, especially with rifles and when firing rounds traveling at supersonic speeds.
Suppressors allow for more accurate, consistent shots through noise and, to a certain extent, recoil mitigation. Good suppressors don’t usually cause a big difference in shot placement when compared to shooting the same firearm without a can. There are minimal differences in round velocity with a decrease of about 1 to 3 percent in round speed. In general, they make guns more enjoyable to shoot.
THERE ARE a few disadvantages worth mentioning. Some suppressors can cause more buildup of carbon and other debris inside of a weapon, so more cleaning may be required. There is also a safety concern anytime you attach an item to the end of a barrel. That being said, a good quality suppressor paired with a properly adapted bore – one with threads or specially designed flash suppressor – generally mitigates those issues. For any number of reasons, steer clear of homemade jobs.
The potential for a catastrophic malfunction when a high-velocity round strikes an internal part of a poorly made can is a distinct possibility. Besides, it’s illegal.
Suppressors get hot; really hot! The internet is full of videos of red-hot cans burning brightly after sustained fire. Care must be taken to avoid contacting them after shooting. There are suppressor sleeves available that are made out of burn-resistant materials that can help as well.
One other drawback of note for non-military/non-law enforcement folks is what’s involved in purchasing one. Some states don’t allow them, and in the ones that do, paperwork needs to be filed with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to own one. Turnaround times for processing the paperwork is six to nine months and a $200 tax stamp has to be purchased.
This was the price set by the government in 1934 to try to make “silencers” out of reach for most folks. Nowadays, it’s still money no one wants to part with, but it’s comparatively a lot less painful.
Despite all that, a suppressor can reduce the decibel level of a firearm by 25 to 40 decibels, which is significant. The noise level varies depending on the type of suppressor used, type of firearm and type of ammo, especially if subsonic rounds can be used. In some instances, a subsonic round may not have enough energy to cycle the action of a semiautomatic or fully automatic weapon. Like suppressors, though, there have been great advancements in the development and production of subsonic ammo to mitigate this and firearms can be modified to handle these lighter loads.
THE MARKET is currently flooded with suppressor manufacturers. For consumers, this means there are a lot of good cans to choose from. This also means there are suppressors available in just about every price range.
The weapons of choice for suppressors are AR-15s and their full-auto cousin, the M4. There is a great selection of cans available for 5.56 AR, as well as those chambered in .308 and other calibers.
Here is a look at some of the best suppressors for AR-type rifles.
SUREFIRE SOCOM556 MINI 2
Surefire is a mainstay in the suppressor business. They supply many of the cans used by the US military and law enforcement. As the name implies, it’s in use by SOCOM, the Special Operations Command. The Mini is compact at 5 inches and weighs under a pound. They can be had for around $1,000, so it’s a little pricey but worth the money. It works with the Surefire SOCOM 3 flash hider, which also allows other Surefire cans to be mounted to it and works well as a flash hider on its own.
I’ve used Surefire brand suppressors extensively and have found them to be excellent, durable products.
SILENCERCO SPECWAR 556
The Specwar model features a fast-attach mounting system, which means it can be removed and attached in seconds. They use a proprietary manufacturing technique referred to as True Bore that ensures precise bore alignment, which means minimal point of impact shift. In other words, the rounds will hit in pretty much the same place, regardless of whether the can is mounted or not. It brings the noise level down to around 133 decibels. You can pick one up for about $650.
O.S.S. SUPPRESSORS HELIX 5.56 IFM6
The IFM6 is a good suppressor that can be used with multiple weapons when used with the STS muzzle brake. It is a threaded system with the can being threaded onto the muzzle brake. This makes a good choice for the owner who wants to run it on multiple platforms. The company guarantees the suppressor won’t come loose during fire. It is 8 inches long, weighs in at 23 ounces and will bring the noise level down to 132 decibels. Cost: $1,199.
GRIFFIN ARMAMENT PALADIN 5
The Paladin 5 is lightweight at 12.5 ounces. It uses titanium components to help keep the weight down. Size-wise it is just over 6 inches, making it pretty compact. Sound levels are around 131 decibels. It includes a taper-mount minimalist muzzle brake for mounting, armorer’s wrench, tool kit and pouch for $850. This is one of the lowest priced cans out there.
DEAD AIR SANDMAN-S
Enter the Sandman. The Sandman-S is a fully-auto-rated can that weighs 17.7 ounces and is 6.8 inches in length. It’s built to take a beating and is considered to be one of the toughest cans out there. There are no barrel length restrictions when pairing it with a rifle. Cost: $850.
SIG SAUER SRD556
The SRD556 is different from aforementioned models since it requires a threaded barrel to mount to. This results in a lower cost ($650) since no specific muzzle brake has to be mounted. As an added bonus, when permanently attached to an AR barrel, it counts towards the legal definition of the overall length of the barrel. Overall length is 6.4 inches with a weight of 14.5 ounces.
SILENT LEGION MULTI-CALIBER
This suppressor can easily be converted to work with 5.56/.223, .300 Blackout, .308, .300 Win Mag and 6.8 SPC. It MSRPs at $1,379, but given that it will work with multiple calibers, it is like getting multiple cans for one price. That also includes two flash hider mounts for 5.56 and .308. It is 7.5 inches long and weighs 16 ounces.
THERE ARE MANY good suppressor options out there today and there has never been a better time to buy one. As with all things fun in the firearms world, I recommend buying one sooner rather than later. You never know what is going to end up on the government’s “naughty list.”
Editor’s note: Author Nick Perna is a sergeant with the Redwood City Police Department in northern California. He previously served as a paratrooper in the US Army and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also has a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco. He is a frequent contributor to multiple print and online forums on topics related to law enforcement, firearms, tactics and veterans issues.