You Don’t Need a ‘Silencer’
have learned much of what they “know” about firearms from
the movies. This includes the devices commonly known as “silencers.”
Even the name is misleading. A sound suppressor does not silence
a firearm completely in most cases. What it does do is reduce the
noise level while greatly reducing the muzzle blast and flash. Sound
suppressors have been in use for over 100 years. Until the National
Firearms Act of 1934, people in the United States could buy sound
suppressors in gun stores or even hardware stores. Sound suppressors
are now heavily regulated in the U.S. and in many countries. Curiously,
however, some nations place few restrictions on sound suppressors
or even require their use, in order to reduce the “noise
pollution” associated with target shooting and hunting.
of a sound suppressor in the United States is administered by the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). Before
the purchase can be made, the person must undergo the application
process, which includes paying a $200 tax and undergoing a criminal
background check. Some purchasers are surprised to find that sound
suppressors in the US are often very expensive in many cases
exceeding the cost of the firearm they are to be used with. In some
states including California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey,
Illinois, and some others sound suppressors are completely
banned for ordinary citizens. In states that allow suppressors,
there may be purchase requirements in addition to those required
by the federal government.
a sound suppressor will be seen by some preppers as a violation
of OPSEC. Suppressors are also likely to draw unwanted attention
if used at a public range. Additionally, they are bulky and add
weight to a firearm, and their width can block the view through
the sights of some firearms. Adding a sound suppressor to my favorite
squirrel rifle would make it much less fun to carry in the woods,
even if it didn’t block the sights.
On the other
hand, the ability to shoot with less noise has several advantages.
In addition to allowing early-morning shooting at urban or suburban
ranges without disturbing nearby neighbors, a quiet firearm is a
wonderful tool for training. New shooters are often intimidated
by the loud noises associated with firearms, and this can contribute
If the suppression
reduces the sound sufficiently, hearing protection may be deemed
unnecessary. This means greater comfort, especially for those who
complain of discomfort caused by ear plugs or other hearing protection.
A quieter range can also be a safer range, as range master commands
are more easily heard by shooters and spectators. Eye protection,
however, must always be worn whenever firearms are in use.
I have been struck by a ricocheting .22LR bullet that struck a hard
object and bounced straight back at me. It caused no injury, but
it drove home the need to always wear eye protection.
In the hunting
camp, a quiet firearm may give the hunter the ability to take small
game near camp without alarming his or her partners or spooking
larger game animals that may be grazing in the vicinity. When hunting
small game, such as squirrels, being able to shoot with less noise
may allow more animals to be taken in one location, without a loud
report to scare the animals from the vicinity.
For the survivalist,
the prepper, or even the rural homesteader, there are huge advantages
to being able to shoot with less noise. On a working farm, more
shots are probably fired at pests or predators than are ever fired
at game animals. At my sister’s ranch near Ukiah, California, I
learned as a child just how many animals are fond of free range
chickens! Several years later, while working as the range master
at a Boy Scout camp outside Boonville, California, I used a quiet
rifle for early morning rodent elimination near the range. The low
report didn’t disturb sleeping campers on the other side of the
security is another very important reason to look for ways to reduce
gunshot noise. Anyone who has been outdoors during hunting season
knows that rifle fire can be heard for a considerable distance.
A low profile is vital, especially in the weeks or months after
a calamity, when elements of the Golden Horde may be on the move
the ability to shoot quietly may be even more important to preppers
who are near suburban or urban areas. As we have seen in the wake
of disasters, sometimes people are left to fend for themselves
without power, phone, or other means of calling for help
for weeks at a time. Flood waters and lack of proper sanitation
may bring rats, mice and other potential disease vectors closer
to homes. With no one to call, it would be helpful to have a way
to deal with such a threat. At the same time, the days after a disaster
are not a good time to be shatter the now-quiet neighborhood with
gunshots. Even if it is a genuine emergency, such as a rabid animal
threatening your household, caution is warranted. And changing technologies
have made discretion even more important than before.
a backfire. Three is gunplay.” ~ James Caan in The
Way of the Gun
It’s a great
movie line, but it’s no longer the case. A single gunshot used to
be a transitory event: a loud noise that could be mistaken for fireworks,
a board being dropped, or something else. People would tend to perk
up, and if the noise wasn’t repeated, they would forget about it.
In many urban areas, a single gunshot didn’t even warrant a call
to the police, and there was little chance of pinpointing its origin
if they were called. In my neighborhood in Oakland, California in
the 1980s, gunfire at night was a common sound, and we rarely saw
a police car coming to investigate unless someone was hit and 9-1-1
was called. Now, however, cities like Oakland are using new technologies,
such as microphones on cell phone towers, utility poles, or rooftops
to record, identify and quickly triangulate the location of a gunshot
Spotter” WIRED Magazine, March 2007). With
the relaxation of restrictions, drones may soon join the ranks of
Once a gunshot
is identified and located, police are alerted by the system and
can be given an exact street address and the time of the gunshot.
During a grid-up emergency, one could imagine that authorities would
continue to rely on gunshot location networks. It could make for
an ugly situation if you dispatch a rabid skunk while cleaning up
after a hurricane, only to have the National Guard show up, looking
for a possible sniper.
Over the years,
I’ve had a number of people ask me about alternatives to firearms
for pest elimination and small game hunting. The tools asked about
have included airguns, bows and arrows, crossbows, blowguns, slingshots,
slings, and even darts and thrown knives. Some of these particularly
airguns can be quite effective, but all have their own limitations.
Some stray into the realm of fantasy (slings and throwing weapons).
can be powerful, insanely accurate, and are sized for adults. Unfortunately,
some of them are also loud enough to cause troubles of their own.
None of the high-quality airguns are inexpensive, and they are somewhat
specialized tools. One of the quieter air rifles, however, could
serve for quiet pest elimination and for practice. Once the initial
investment is made, further costs are not prohibitive. Pellets can
be bought by the thousands, and quality airguns last a long time
and are not maintenance-intensive.
be very accurate within their limits, but they are a short-range
proposition and lack stopping power. They are also banned in California
and probably in some other jurisdictions. Bows and crossbows
seem rather clumsy for dealing with an animal in the yard or garden,
and short-range shots in that environment will be destructive to
arrows and bolts. Additionally, most people lack the skill level
to make this a viable choice: a limitation which also applies to
slingshots. Of course, a skilled shooter with a slingshot can be
very impressive. I’ve seen small game animals dropped with a .38
round ball from a slingshot as though they’d been hit between the
eyes with a hammer. Of all the non-gun weapons, a quality slingshot
is probably the most practical, provided the shooter takes the time
to acquire the necessary skill.
The ideal solution
for many of us would be using a firearm that we are already proficient
with, but to somehow make the gun quiet on demand. Special rimfire
ammunition renders a long-barreled .22 rifle nearly silent without
any muzzle device, special permit or other trouble. The handling
qualities of the rifle are unaffected, and there is no suppressor
tube to intrude into the sight picture. I have found this special
ammo useful for pests and for training without the need for hearing
The ideal rifle
for quiet rimfire shooting has a barrel length of 24 inches or longer.
I have experimented with other barrel lengths. It came as a surprise
to find that a 22-inch barrel with quiet rimfire ammo was significantly
louder than the same ammunition out of the longer barrel. Generally,
the shorter the barrel, the louder the report will be, but the sound
of the shot will still be quieter than standard .22LR high velocity
may not cycle with quiet ammunition, as it generates less energy
than regular ammo. In this case, of course, the action can be manually
cycled between shots. Some quiet ammo, due to the overall length
of the rounds, may also have issues in feeding from a magazine.
I have experimented
with two types of quiet rimfire ammunition in particular. There
are other choices available, but the two types looked at here would
be a good starting point. Every rimfire rifle is a law unto itself:
what shoots accurately in my rifle may not do so in yours, and vice
versa. You should be ready to try different types of ammunition
until you find one that shoots accurately in your rifle. Fortunately,
rimfire ammo is inexpensive and is not particularly hard to find.
I’ve even seen Quiet-22 ammo (described below) in Wal-Mart recently,
alongside some .22 Short loads that I plan to try out soon.
© 2012 Survival