Suppressors, also known as silencers, are accessories that you add to the end of your pistol’s barrel, as the name implies, to cut down on the noise that they make.
There’s a little more to the whole story than simply screwing on a suppressor, and before making the somewhat heavy investment of time, money, and paperwork to buying one, it’s worth thinking about the pros and cons of adding a silencer to your pistol.
Overall, we’re big fans of suppressors for a variety of reasons, but we do understand that they also come with some downsides as well, which are worth weighing out.
Pros of Suppressors
Of course, the biggest pro to owning and using a suppressor is the reduction of sound that comes from adding a suppressor to your pistol. While very few will end up as quiet as the movies, good suppressors, combined with subsonic ammunition can often yield results that are not far from what you’d expect from your favorite movies and games.
This is the big reason people buy suppressors, and we see why: shooting a suppressed handgun is a shooting experience that few people get to have, and we recommend everyone to try it if they get the chance.
Suppressors work by giving the expanding gasses that come out of the end of a barrel when a round is fired extra space and time to cool down. The primary effect of this is the reduction in noise that we just covered, but there’s an additional benefit as well.
Suppressors also reduce and often eliminate, any muzzle flash that comes out of the end of your pistol’s barrel. This is especially handy for people who want to use their pistol for home defense, as the flash from a round can be blinding at night, making it hard to keep on target.
With the sound suppression offered by a silencer comes a big health benefit: it’s easier on your ears. Even with adequate hearing protection, firing unsuppressed firearms can lead to both short and long term hearing damage, which is a major concern for everyone but especially for folks who do a lot of shooting.
Combined with a good set of earmuffs and some earplugs, a suppressed pistol has a lot less chance of damaging your hearing, which we think is yet another great reason to not only buy suppressors but also make them more affordable and accessible through things like the proposed Hearing Protection Act.
Last, but certainly not least in our book: it’s extremely fun to shoot a suppressed pistol. In our experience, we have yet to find a single human being who was not smiling from ear to ear the first time they fired a handgun that’s been suppressed.
This goes double for cases when we can get our hands on good subsonic ammunition as well. Even though, yes, firearms are dangerous and should always be taken seriously, it’s important to remember that many of us got into, and remain in, the hobby of shooting because it’s fun.
Cons of Suppressors
The first, and biggest, con of suppressors are their expense. On the cheap end, a suppressor will run you several hundred dollars. From there, you’ll have to fill out Form 4 with the ATF, which means another $200 in taxes, as well as waiting sometimes up to a year to get the suppressor in your hands.
This is the part that keeps some people from getting into suppressors in the first place, which we think is a shame and we hope gets better through some legislative action sometime in the next few years.
As far performance goes, the added weight on the end of the barrel makes it harder for some people to keep their shots on target when using a suppressor. For most people, this means shooting low, but you’ll learn to adapt over time.
It can be a little more tiring to shoot with a suppressor since the weight is further from your hand, and this is something to consider for long range sessions.
Additionally, your standard height iron sights might be too low to see over the suppressor: in one of those cases, you’ll have to either get higher iron sights or, more commonly these days, get a red dot sight that sits above the height of the body of the suppressor.
Some designs of suppressor vent much of the gas from firing backward at the shooter. This makes them effective in terms of sound and flash suppression but prevents an issue of its own: those relatively hot gasses and some unburnt powder is likely to hit you right in the face.
The first time you shoot a suppressed handgun, we recommend wearing safety glasses as well as a balaclava or something similar to cover your face to prevent the unpleasant sensation of hot gasses to the face.
Shooting with a suppressor also usually means that there’s more backpressure, and some of the unburnt powder and other residues usually make their way into the action of the gun one way or another. When you shoot suppressed, you’ll likely notice that there’s about double the usual amount of carbon buildup and fouling in the gun.
Generally, this isn’t a big deal, but we do recommend cleaning after each shooting session with a suppressor just to keep any filth-induced malfunctions from occurring. It’s a bit of a pain, but one well worth it in our view.
There are some downsides to owning a suppressor. They’re expensive, can make it harder to shoot well, and can mean a lot more time cleaning your handgun. With that said, they’re good tools that make it safer to shoot, reduce the noise and flash you’re likely to get out of your muzzle, and, above all, are a lot of fun.
In our view, a suppressor can be more than worth it, and we’d like to add a few more to our personal collection. While they may not be for everyone, we certainly like adding suppressor to our pistols when we can.