They’re Called Suppressors. Shhh…

Suppressors are often associated with gangster-type hit men, especially in television and film, and in books. However, these sound-suppressing devices have other, more legitimate, purposes, such as protecting a shooter’s hearing (hunters and target shooters), and increasing the accuracy of the shot.

Accuracy is enhanced when using a suppressor due to the reduction in recoil that’s normally caused by escaping gases. A suppressor quite effectively strips away most of those gases as they exit the weapon after a round has been discharged. It’s the suppression of those gases that also reduces the sound of gunfire, much like what a muffler does on an automobile.

The military uses suppressors to confuse the enemy by deceiving the location of the shooter. However, there are devices available that can pinpoint those locations even when a suppressor is used.

Suppressors are often called silencers by laypeople, however, the term silencer is not an accurate one. The explosion caused when a bullet is fired cannot be totally silenced, so suppressor is a much more appropriate term. Actually, many shooters call the devices a “can.”

A “silenced” weapon has a unique sound, especially an automatic weapon. The clacking and clanging of the metal parts are pretty much all that’s heard by bystanders.

Uzi .45 with suppressor

Here’s a shooter firing a .22 AR-15 with a suppressor attached. There’s no sound other than the mechanical parts of the weapon.

Suppressors are normally attached to the barrel of a weapon by threading the barrel (male end) and then screwing the suppressor (female end) to it.

Weapons with threaded barrels (male threads).

Threaded suppressor (female threads).

Weapon with suppressor attached.

Brief History of Suppressor Use

1909 – Suppressors first introduced in the U.S.

1910 – Black Jack Pershing used rifles equipped with suppressors when attempting to capture Poncho Villa.

WWII – A suppressor-equipped High Standard .22 was developed for operatives of the Office of Strategic Services.

The German army equipped their 9mm lugers, Mauser sniper rifles, and Walther P-38’s with suppressors.

Machine guns, including the Thompson, were equipped with suppressors.

1998 –  U.S. Special Operations Command began equipping the M-4A1’s with quick detach flash/noise suppressors.

Citizens may legally own and use suppressors in many areas of the U.S. However, it is illegal to do so in certain areas.


There’s an old joke that’s been circulating among male shooters for years. It’s the top ten reasons why men prefer guns over women. Remember, I’m just the messenger. Please don’t shoot!

#10. You can trade an old 44 for a new 22.

#9. You can keep one gun at home and have another for when you’re on the road.

#8. If you admire a friend’s gun and tell him so, he will probably let you try it out a few times.

#7. Your primary gun doesn’t mind if you keep another gun for a backup.

#6. Your gun will stay with you even if you run out of ammo.

#5. A gun doesn’t take up a lot of closet space.

#4. Guns function normally every day of the month.

#3. A gun doesn’t ask , “Do these new grips make me look fat?”

#2. A gun doesn’t mind if you go to sleep after you use it.

And the number one reason a gun is favored over a woman….


Integral suppressor

12 replies
  1. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Wonderful blog and great discussion here.

    I just read Hubby the top ten list. He cracked up. I’d heard it before but he’d only heard #1.

    And, Pat, you have to use the burnt pillow idea.

    The Other Pat

  2. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    Lee, I had forgotten about that one. I wonder if he used some sort of improvised suppressor that was never located? Oh, and the house is for sale, if anyone is interested.

    Ruger makes some of their guns with integral suppressors; they are amazingly quiet. I think Lee’s attached photo is a Ruger Mk II. I’ve heard too that some of the factory suppressed semi-auto guns (the old High-Standard?) had a locking lever you could throw to keep the action from cycling, thus making the gun even quieter.

    Also Pat, if you use the pillow on the revolver, you could have your shooter hold the pillow so tightly that the cylinder doesn’t turn properly (pressure on the cylinder could keep it from rotating as the trigger is pulled). That could add to the detail and tension in the scene (“Why won’t the gun fire?!?”). You could replace Lee’s favorite writer’s odor (cordite!) with the smell of burnt feathers or foam in the pillow, too.

  3. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    That’s, Steve. Great addition of information. Yes, I believe the $200 license fee is still in place. Maybe someone from ATF will confirm that for us (hint to Rick).

    I had a photo of an integral barrel suppressed weapon, but it wouldn’t attach. I’ll try again.

  4. Steve Perry
    Steve Perry says:

    Oh, and one I forgot — if your suppressed weapon’s bullet still goes faster than 1100 ft/sec, you get a crack when it breaks the sound barrier.

  5. Steve Perry
    Steve Perry says:

    Good stuff. A few additions that might be useful.

    Suppression works best on a closed-bolt weapon. As pointed out, some of the sound escapes via a cylinder gap in a revolver, and when a semi-automatic’s action opens to eject the spent shell. The quietest one I’ve ever heard was a bolt-action .22 rifle — sounded like a BB gun.

    Suppressors cut the normal velocity of the projectile.

    And full-length, integral barrel suppressors are quieter than the screw-on models. Used to be a maker in southern Oregon who, if you sent him a Ruger .22 rifle or pistol, would replace the existing barrel with a full-length suppressor if you wanted.

    Aside from the cost of a suppressor, there is a federal license fee. Used to be $200.

  6. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Bob. What about the family in Amityville (the one the movie was based on)? Six people in that house were each shot with a rifle. The killer moved from one room to another blasting each of his family members. Yet, no one heard the shots. No one woke up. Nothing. A real mystery.

  7. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I’d think the pillow would work, some. But the cylinder would also need to be covered since that’s where the majority of a revolver’s gases escape. However, Dan Wesson makes a revolver with an adjustable gap that, I believe, just may be effectively suppressed. But I’m not sure since I’ve never tried it.

  8. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    Pat, the problem with trying to suppress a revolver is that there’s still the gap between the front edge of the cylinder and the back end of the barrel. It may only be a fraction of an inch (less than a credit card’s thickness), but it’s still going to let some sound out (along with some carbon & smoke). I’d say the pillow will quiet the sound to some extent – the shooter wouldn’t be as temporarily deafened as they might otherwise be – but anyone is a house where that’s done is still going to know SOMETHING just happened.

    Also note that you’re creating evidence when you use a pillow that way. There will be significant powder burns on the pillow.

  9. Pat Brown
    Pat Brown says:

    Very funny, Lee. Okay, here’s a question: I have a guy shoot another guy in the back of the head with a .38 revolver. He grabs a down-filled pillow and shoots through it. Would that muffle the sound much? If so, how much. What would likely be heard?

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