Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Don't Silence Me!

Silent, but not too silent.
Silencers do not silence a firearm.  Silencers are better named “suppressors” as in “noise suppressor”.  Despite what we’ve been taught by movies and television—who rarely, if ever, get anything wrong—a suppressor will not change a gunshot to a sound like popcorn popping, or make that cool “fftt” noise.  Depending on the ammunition and the suppressor used, it will only reduce the sound by around 30dB.  Most guns crack off at around 160dB or better.  So a “silenced” gun will still sound like a gun shooting, just a little quieter.

On the other hand, modern suppressors no longer use the wipes (physical barriers of any number of materials meant to trap the exploding gasses) which would physically touch the bullet and effect the velocity.  Reducing the velocity of the bullet will reduce the range and accuracy—not a lot, but it should be noted.  Suppressors now use baffles and spacers which are machined with such great precision that they tend to no longer have these drawbacks.  In some cases, suppressors can actually increase muzzle velocity, although it’s not very much.

Proper hearing protection!
So, if you’re not getting James Bond-levels of assassination silence, what do you get with a suppressor?  First, dropping the dB from 160 (which is dangerous) down to 130dB definitely saves wear and tear on the eardrums, especially if they're unprotected.  It also cuts down on noise pollution for those areas around gun clubs and hunting areas where gunshots are more likely to be heard.  Aside from the noise, suppressors also cut down on the recoil as the lighter mass of the gas is slowed and expelled over a longer period of time.  Finally, you increase your ability to communicate if your ears and theirs aren’t ringing from the sonic boom of a gunshot, and your voice isn’t being drowned out by louder-than-a-rock-concert noises.  For military operations, this is incredibly desirable for obvious reasons of tactics and on-the-fly orders.

One final note is that suppressors wear out over time.  If we’re talking about an older unit, which uses the wipes, they wear out pretty quickly as the bullet is literally tearing through them.  But even more modern suppressors are worn down by the corrosive gasses and the passage of the bullet over time.  Automatic weapons are generally never suppressed for this reason, as the suppressors simply can’t stand up to the wear and tear.  Some of the highest quality suppressors may last over 30,000 rounds.

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