Shooting Suppressed — Is It Worth It?

Most experienced shooters have heard of silencers (also known as suppressors or cans). These firearm add-ons are expensive and come with a wait of several months. They require extra paperwork that has to be hand-approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Otherwise known as BATFE.

Is It Worth the Wait?

A firearm mentor once told us, “If you’ve never shot suppressed, DON’T. You’ll never want to shoot unsuppressed again.”

Let’s start from the beginning.


What Is A Silencer?

A silencer is a fixture that can be attached to a firearm. The responsibility of a silencer is to reduce the decibel level to under 140 dB. Anything under 140 dB is considered “Hearing Safe” by OSHA for impulse noises, such as gunshots. The hearing safe level drops for continuous noises, like a jackhammer.

The first silencer development is generally credited to Hiram P. Maxim around 1902. His intention was to create, in essence, a muffler for a gun — much like a muffler for a car. These “silencers” were patented by Maxim and sold for $5 – $7 (about $120 – $165 in today’s dollars).

ATF Tax Stamp

National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA)

In 1934, a tax of $200 was imposed upon any item considered NFA. The original Act included machine guns, Short-Barreled Rifles (SBR), Short-Barreled Shotguns (SBS), Any Other Weapons (AOW), and silencers. The laws today have remained largely unchanged, with the exception of two amendments: 16-inch-barrel rifles (centerfire and rimfire) — amended out by 1960.

The $200 tax still remains, it hasn’t increased with inflation. In the 30’s, $200 was equivalent to roughly $3,500 in today’s dollars — an astronomical fee for any working person nearly 100 years ago.

Purpose of A Silencer

Silencers have improved greatly over the years, with huge technological advancements. However, the purposes are still the same as they were in 1900 when they were first created. Silencers significantly reduce decibel levels, protecting the shooter’s hearing. Don’t worry, silencers don’t make any firearm silent. That’s simply a trick used by Hollywood for, um… artistic license?

Additionally, they reduce recoil by up to 50% — an enormous advantage for new shooters or precision long shots. Generally, the decreased sound and increased firearm control make suppressed firearms much safer and more enjoyable to shoot.

Buying A Silencer

Due to the provisions of the NFA, buying a silencer is a little different than buying a firearm. You must legally be able to purchase a firearm. In addition, you must provide a few extra things, like passport photos, fingerprints, and a Form 4.

There are two ways to buy: an individual or a trust. Individuals file paperwork as the sole owner of the silencer. An individually-owned silencer cannot be given to any other person without risk of penalty (up to a felony). A trust-owned silencer considers the trust as the person — meaning anyone in the trust can have possession of the silencer at any time. Trusts are often set up with legal paperwork involving a lawyer. Individual forms generally clear the ATF more quickly, and don’t require legal paperwork. Trust forms allow multiple ownership of every NFA item in the trust. Trust or Individual? It comes down to personal preference.


Is A Silencer Right For Me?

It’s totally up to you. Silencers can be expensive and they always come with a wait from the ATF. Currently, silencers are legal in 42 states. If you live in California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, or Rhode Island, you cannot legally own a silencer. Hunting with silencers is legal in most of the 42 silencer-legal states, but you must always check with local laws and ordinances before hunting. American Suppressor Association is a great resource for updated information on silencers. 

We’ve found silencers to ease the shooting experience. Silenced firearms are quieter, produce less recoil, and usually make shooting easier for first-timers.

Do you shoot with a silencer? If so, what make and model? Share in the comments!