Suppressors: first impressions from a californian
hope you're doing well.
recently, as many of you know, I was away in Idaho visiting a sick relative. While I was there, I had the opportunity to shoot an integrally suppressed AR-15 chambered in 300 blackout.
For starters, this was a bit of a treat for me. living in california, we rarely, if ever get the opportunity to shoot or use items that the legislature has deemed too scary, dangerous, or unnecessary, despite having no clue as to what these devices do.
the rifle itself weighed about as much as my 450 bushmaster, and was slightly front heavy due to the suppressor/barrel combo.
not knowing what to expect I braced myself for what I thought would be ringing ears. instead, I was pleasantly surprised. What I ended up with was a firearm that was less painful to shoot than a 22 or and certainly more so than any rifle I had shot before. by painful, I specifically mean ear pain.
now before anyone says "aha! I knew suppressors got rid of the sound! we should ban them!" read on.
suppressors have long been known to us in the gun community as not totally eliminating sound, and everything I experienced reflected that. I still heard the "bang", I still heard the report from the bullet traveling about 200 yards, however it was muffled enough to keep my ears from being damaged. it effectively reduced the noise to the level that I would experience if I shot indoors and had my earmuffs on.
did it prevent my family members at the house from hearing it, some 500 yards away? yes, however the neighbor heard it, as their house was a short distance from where we shot.
to make matters more interesting, my family member took the housing off of the barrel, and it behaved like I expected: my ears rang, and it was as if I forgot to put in my ear protection, because, well, I had none on!
so what is the truth about suppressors? they don't chirp, by any means, it just muffles the sound of the report to a "safe" level. it's not silenced any more than a V8 engine with a muffler tends to be. in fact, if you take the mufflers off a v8, it sounds like a WWII fighter plane: really loud and obnoxious. Suppressors work in the exact same way: a combination of baffles that captures some of the gas and releases it slowly. you can still hear the noise, but it's not as bad.
it's easy to see why one might want one for hunting: it makes it safer for the ears, and is in reality, a chief reason why there's been a movement to remove suppressors from the NFA items list.
all in all, the experience was enjoyable, and I got the opportunity to use a piece of hardware that we don't get to use in this state.
if there's ever a vote, I would highly recommend voting to deregulate, as they don't even come close to doing what james bond movies, as well as what the various fear-monger legislators would have you believe they do, and deserve more of a look as an effective shooting safety device.
as always, stay safe and happy shooting!
Ken Kraushaar is a gunsmith and shooter with over 30 years of shooting experience. he lives and works in beautiful sonoma county ca, and when he's not at the shop, he can be found out at the various local ranges and local outdoorsy locations enjoying nature.