For decades, turkey hunters have associated the loud muzzle blast of a shotgun with the conclusion of a hunt. Nowadays, some folks anticipate another sound — more of a light crack — when pulling the trigger. That’s because suppressors, or silencers, might represent the largest growth area in the firearms market.
FACTS AND MYTHS
Suppressors don’t silence muzzle blasts. Instead, they trap expanding gases at a firearm’s muzzle and let them cool slowly, muffling the sound. Most suppressors reduce the noise from a gunshot by about 20 to 35 decibels, which is similar to the noise reduction provided by earplugs or earmuffs.
“Over the past five years, suppressors have seen a dramatic increase in acceptance by the hunting and shooting communities,” said Knox Williams, president and executive director of the American Suppressor Association.
I never realized how effective suppressors were until using one during a spring 2015 Texas turkey hunt hosted by Darren Jones, who handles public relations for SilencerCo, the largest manufacturer of suppressors in the United States. We hunted Rios with SilencerCo’s Salvo 12 suppressors on 12-gauge shotguns and test-fired the company’s rimfire, centerfire and handgun suppressors during midday breaks at the range.
The Salvo 12 reduces a shotgun’s muzzle blast to a moderate crack. It added some weight to the barrel, but not so much that the shotgun became difficult to carry. Several dead gobblers in the back of the ranch pickup testified to the effectiveness of the muffled 12 gauges.
In addition, suppressors reduce recoil — up to 40 percent with some calibers.
“We’re all out there because we enjoy shooting,” Williams said. “Anything that makes it a more comfortable, enjoyable experience, people are going to get more excited about it.”
THE GROWING TREND
Despite increasing public acceptance and their obvious benefits, suppressors remain misunderstood in some circles. Suppressors are legal in 43 states and legal for hunting in 41, Jones said.
Purchasing a suppressor is also surprisingly easy, Jones said, and the number of purchases is growing every year. Only about 40,000 people annually purchased suppressors six or seven years ago. According to BATFE figures, there were 360,534 registered suppressors in March 2012 in the United States. That increased to 494,452 in April 2013, 571,750 in March 2014 and 792,282 in February 2015.
Jones and Williams expect the suppressor boom to continue as more hunters and recreational shooters learn about the benefits of the devices.