Sound suppressors, often referred to as “silencers” or “gun mufflers,” have a mystique about them that has created a lot of misinformation and subjective opinion in the firearms community as well as in the eyes of the general public. A class created specifically to educate and provide practical experience for participants would easily clarify the questions surrounding these devices. Unfortunately, there are few, if any, classes currently focused exclusively on sound suppressors and how they can be beneficial to gun owners.
Gun owners should be aware of the pros and cons of owning a suppressor, and firearms instructors can inform them. In building the framework of what a class on suppressors for home defense should entail, it is important to qualify the terminology as well as the equipment that might realistically be employed.
Addressing the “practical-tactical” use of the equipment — along with the differences between suppressing defensive firearms and leaving their muzzles bare, especially in enclosed environments — is essential. An endless number of variables could present themselves during a defensive encounter, so it would be prudent to include as many caveats for intention and application as possible. Teaching the student to evaluate and think through potential applications is a must, and employing a range of scenarios will help students look at the use of suppressors from multiple viewpoints.
Getting the Facts
It is important to emphasize from the beginning that a sound suppressor is just that: a suppressor. It is not a silencer as the entertainment media would have you believe. There will always be noise generated when the trigger is pulled on any firearm feasible for defensive purposes. It is similar to how an automobile muffler suppresses the sound of the internal combustion engine to a comfortable level in most environments.
The ammunition fired in a suppressed firearm must be rated as subsonic to realize the maximum benefit of noise reduction. Subsonic ammunition is loaded so that the projectile exits the muzzle of the firearm slower than the speed of sound. Although the speed of sound is variable with altitude and temperature, it is generally recognized that a bullet velocity of 1,100 feet per second or less can be considered subsonic. While supersonic ammunition can and often is fired through a suppressed firearm, the sound of a bullet breaking the sound barrier is unmitigated by the suppressor, resulting in an uncomfortable amount of noise for an unprotected ear. A key point to keep in perspective is that the noise created by supersonic ammunition — even through a suppressor — in an enclosed environment such as a bedroom or a closet is likely to be disorienting if you’re not wearing ear protection.
A suppressor adds length and weight to a gun, which means special allowances must be made for the storage, accessibility, carrying and handling of that gun compared to a non-suppressed one.
It is worth describing and having examples of subsonic and supersonic ammunition for both display and demonstration in an introductory suppressor class. Conventional semi-automatic pistols in the generally recognized defensive calibers of 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP all have subsonic and supersonic ammunition availability, and any of them would be an appropriate sample for demonstration.
Another option to consider is the popularity of AR pistols with the SB Tactical arm brace in pistol-caliber cartridges as well as the subsonic .300 Blackout cartridge. Accessories, including lights, lasers, red-dot sights and conventional night sights, should all be considered for a suppressed home-defense handgun.
As with all instruction, never fail to emphasize that each individual has a different set of circumstances that might affect equipment selection — in this case, whether a suppressed pistol would be a good fit. The layout of the house, the closeness in proximity to other dwellings, and the number and age of the occupants (both humans and pets) are but a few considerations while weighing whether it would be beneficial to have a sound-attenuated defensive tool available to protect a household. Even though the operator of an unsuppressed gun might be equipped with electronic ear protection for enhanced hearing and noise management, others in the house wouldn’t fare as well if shots were fired without a suppressor to deaden the sound.
While suppressors have a lot of pros, a few cons must be recognized as well. For most people, the process of purchasing and taking possession of a sound suppressor is the biggest con. The price of a quality suppressor will likely rival the price of the gun to which it will be attached, and the gun itself must be equipped with a barrel that will accept the suppressor, which could be an added expense to complete the system. Then there is the $200 federal tax stamp required to possess the suppressor, which involves filling out the required ATF forms, being photographed and fingerprinted, writing a check for $200 above the price of the suppressor, and then waiting months for the government to process the paperwork and send the stamp back to the dealer so you can come pick up your purchase.
Atop that initial con, an individual might not put sufficient thought into how he or she will deploy the suppressor once he or she gets it home. A suppressor adds length and weight to a gun, which means special allowances must be made for the storage, accessibility, carrying and handling of that gun compared to a non-suppressed one.
Along those lines, training with the suppressed handgun is essential because the weight, balance and recoil of the gun are vastly different from the same gun without a suppressor. Just the inertia alone of moving the gun vertically or horizontally is enough to cause some difficulty in quickly getting on target. Where to store the pistol when it is no longer needed is also a valid consideration. It is important to practice loading, unloading and immediate action with the pistol because those processes may feel different with a suppressor attached and could possibly be needed when the suppressed handgun is put to practical application.
Time to Level Up
Despite the extra work it takes to own one, a suppressed firearm for home defense makes a lot of sense. And this information, perhaps along with a little of your own instructor flavor and some training aids, will lay the foundation for the creation of a much-needed class that is sure to succeed with those interested in unique solutions to common problems.