No Lowballers - Silencers: How They Work, Their History & How To Make Them Last

Show Notes

On today’s show with, we’re talking silencers and their development throughout the years. Allen dives right into how the original silencer was created and where the inspiration for them came from. He goes into just exactly how a silencer makes a firearm quieter and the science behind it. Jacob brings up the applications of hunting with a silencer. From whitetail or even hog hunting, a silencer opens up a ton of different options for you to hunt, with an added bonus – it’s way better on your ears in the long run. Check out this episode sponsored by to hear all about how silencers have changed the way a large majority of people hunt today.

We talk about the materials that a suppressor is made from now compared to originally. From stainless steel, which could’ve probably been used as a boat anchor, to now being made mostly with titanium or other lightweight materials, the weight on the end of your rifle has dropped dramatically with a silencer attached. We go over how they are manufactured including some that are even 3D printed today. Many of us are looking forward to seeing if manufacturers start making firearms with silencers built in versus having to buy a separate one to put on afterwards. With many other countries actually requiring silencers at ranges, we’re all very interested to see if the U.S. will ever follow suit.

Closing out, we talk maintenance and lifespan for suppressors. Allen goes over how many people are led wrong when it comes to the lifespan side of that. Many of them can last long enough for you to pass down to your children, if taken care of and cleaned correctly. Speaking of cleaning, Allen goes in depth on how he cleans his personally, but highly recommends you follow your manufacturers recommendation for cleaning. He also goes in depth on what silencers you can purchase currently on, with thousands of listings you should be able to find whatever it is you’re looking for!

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Check out the Sportsmen's Empire Podcast Network for more relevant outdoor content!

Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi everyone and welcome to the No Low Ballers podcast. I'm Logan Medish, your host of High Caliber History. We are sitting around the table here with the guys from Go Wild and Alan from Gun Broker and we are talking about really expensive stamps. I went to the store and I could not believe how much the cost of a stamp has gone up recently.

It seems like just last week they were like 52 cents and now the damn things are $200. It's insane. Can you believe that and you can't just get it over the counter and walk out? No, I they told me I was gonna have to wait like 10 months. They told me it might be like 90 days, but I think my weight's gonna be like 10 months for that.

Do you know how much I spent on Christmas cards last year? It was insane. Oh my gosh. It was insane. Yeah. Forget sending out a timely letter like, baby announcements and stuff are gonna be like way late You have to send out your wedding announcements [00:01:00] way in advance and it's just gonna be ridiculous And the post office lady gave me a really weird look when I said I was there for a full auto.

Oh, yeah She's like we sir. We've got first class Priority she started tapping some button under her desk But oddly enough half the guys in back when I'm sorry, what no, right? Yeah yeah. No, so guys We're not stupid. We don't in this regard, we're not stupid, but no, we're not talking about postage stamps.

Of course, we're talking about NFA tax stamps for suppressors. And interestingly the price of those has not gone up. So they're 200. They've stayed at 200 since the beginning of NFA stuff. We'll get into that. I believe in the next episode but for this one, we're talking the development of suppressors and how they work.

And the elephant in the room we'll throw it out there. Silencer, suppressor, use them interchangeably. 100%. Can. Can, yes. I will fight to the death on magazine versus clip, but silencer, [00:02:00] suppressor, I don't care. Hiram Maxim called him a silencer. The ATF calls him a silencer. Yep. I'm fine calling him a silencer.

You gotta pick the hill you're gonna die on. And for you, it's Clip Vs. Magazine, not Silencer Vs. Suppressor. I like it. My hill to die on is Antique and C& R and Modern because people don't understand that there are legal implications for those. But that's another episode all in and of itself. So Silencer Development, you mentioned the granddaddy of Silencer Development, Hiram Percy.

Maxim, who is Hiram Stevens, Maxim's son of course, Hiram Stevens is of machine gun fame. They're keeping it all in the family with his son doing suppressors and Hiram Stevens, I think it was his brother who was Hiram Hudson or not hiring. He was Hudson Maxim and he was involved with TNT and dynamite.

It was all things boom and Thanksgiving was so much fun. Oh, God, that would have, oh, yes. So much fun. But anyway so talk [00:03:00] early suppressor development with us here. Sure. At the end of the day it's a muffler. Just like you have on a lawnmower, on a car, on anything. And they were all being developed about the same time.

The idea of making noisy mechanical things quieter was really a turn of the century thing. The Industrial Revolution had been rolling for a couple of decades now, and it was a noisy place to live if you were in cities. Higher Empiricy took a look at the, the development coming into, mufflers and just applied it to firearms that said the core technology that he developed that went into this really hasn't changed.

Now what we make them out of material wise, how we make them robotically Some of the things we've done as far as modularity, certainly tolerances have all improved over the years, but the end of the day, you've got a metal tube with a series of baffles in it that attaches to the end of a barrel, and that's probably where the biggest advancements have come as an attachment points.

Cause if I remember right, the original just slid over the barrel and they got held in place with a set screw. Yeah, it was, yeah, it was like a clamp on. Variety and they were designed for the Springfield rifles. And you could actually, it's [00:04:00] interesting, but pre NFA, there were, there are magazine ads, like order them through your local National Guard unit cause that's where all the Springfields were at, right?

Yeah, the early advertising for this is hilarious. I have some friends who collect the, both the old cans and the the advertising and, it's, shoot all day in your parlor if you want. Yep. Wow. My, my favorite one is an ad that came out around Christmas and a guy has they still make them today.

The little rimfire target traps, the bullet traps, and there's one of those set up in front of his fireplace and he's standing in the living room with his suppressed 22, and they're shooting and he's make the holidays fun or, some. Pithy marketing remark, but I'm like, man, that would be awesome.

I want to put a target in front of my fireplace and, shoot to my heart's content. You'll notice what's missing from that ad. Guy's wife. That's why he's able to shoot in front of the fireplace. Yeah. The technology is what it is. We're trying to contain the sound of a gunshot, which there's really two sound signatures on a gunshot.

[00:05:00] The sonic crack of supersonic bullets, which is what it is. But then that rapid expansion of gas. If you think about, there's two analogies I like to use. A firearm is a big champagne bottle, and you light off the powder, the gas expands quickly, it has to go somewhere, while that pressure pushes the bullet down the barrel.

The second one is when you pop a balloon. What you're hearing when a balloon pops is not the latex letting go, it's that air expanding quickly. And that's a really low pressure. Balloons are not exactly high pressure devices. Where here, you've got a very large volume of gas expanding really quickly, and that makes that loud boom.

What suppressors do is basically take that giant gas expansion, just slows it down. It lets it expand a little bit, and then into a baffle, and then a little bit, and then into a baffle, then a little bit pull some of the heat out of it. So by the time we reach the end of the muzzle at the end of the the end of the suppressor, it's coming out a lot slower, a lot cooler, and a lot quieter.

Yeah, that's. That's probably the biggest myth on can, like cocking your Glock when you take it out the biggest myth I hate on suppressors is this idea that you can walk through a crowded subway station with your gun under your arm and blast away And nobody will notice [00:06:00] even a suppressed gunshot I mean you take the quietest thing I can think of a subsonic 22 and you're still pushing a hundred decibels.

Yeah, it's not quiet It's hearing safe. And that's really the biggest benefit of suppressors It's not gonna make you a silent assassin, it's gonna keep you from having hearing aids when you're in your 40s slut Exactly. Too much shooting without hearing protection when I was younger, before I owned suppressors.

So yeah. I love the new emphasis on hunting suppressed from that sound perspective. And I know a guy that builds ammo himself and he was shooting subsonic rounds through a suppressor deer hunting and the deer don't. Care other than the deer that got hit and so if you're in a situation where you can take more than one deer they hang Out they stay It's to me.

That's a very interesting use case of keeping that sound down. Absolutely. And obviously how many of us wear ear pro hunting? Exactly. Hardly anybody does. I did once. I wore my electronic muffs hunting. Thought it was a great idea. No, if you think that [00:07:00] scroll sounds loud normally, crank it up with the setup.

Yeah. Oh my. There is Sasquatch over here. Lord, yeah. But no, hunting with a can has a lot of benefits. I was in a situation up in a stand, the deer came in and it was still early, but bedded down and I couldn't, no matter what I tried with the calls, I could not get it to stand up. So finally we're, this had gone on an hour and a half.

We're finally starting to get into, probably the last 45 minutes of the day. So I sent around over the top of it into the tree behind it. The deer heard the bullet, smacked the tree, got up and walked away from that sound right toward me. So the next round of course found its mark, but if I'd have been doing that with a regular rifle, the deer would be three counties over before I got the bolt cycle.

So yeah, there's all kinds of application for deer. Obviously with hog hunting or when you're varmint hunting, anything that's going to have multiple target engagements, it comes in key, but aside from those benefits, it, they're just easier to shoot. I don't care how experienced you are, a big blast of something like a 300 Win Mag, everybody reacts to that a little bit.

This takes that out of the equation. You're adding a little bit of weight onto the end of the [00:08:00] barrel, which reduces your recoil a little bit. It's just, suppressed guns are easier to shoot more accurately. And I think that's, talking about the hunting aspects of it, we can talk about the materials that stuff are made out of.

There are now... hunting geared cans, stuff that, that, it's made out of lightweight titanium, so they're bringing down the crazy weight like there's rifle cans out now that I've seen, they're six inches long, they weigh eight ounces, and it'll tame your 300 wind mag if you're on a back country hunt, the old adage, ounces equal pounds equal pain, and a 13 ounce suppressor, that's certainly a lot more, Weight, you know that you're gonna be humping around another half a pound versus a six ounce suppressor And so yeah, it's really interesting how they've become geared towards hunting now and specific for it, you know Obviously the harvester was the first one that did that from silencer Yeah, but since then, you know to your point Nosler makes a 22 cal can they just came out with their K Can which is slightly smaller not quite as efficient, but it's a lot lighter and it's designed for those backcountry hunters, right?

Yeah, banish has one. It's called the banish [00:09:00] Backcountry and then they've got another one with the Buck commander guys. Is that just introduce that the buck 30. And so yeah, there's a ton of hunting tie ins for suppressors that just 10 years ago, even really wasn't. And it's not that expensive for a rifle manufacturer just to add a threaded barrel on the end.

So that's an easy upgrade to your to your hunting lineup is just throw a threaded barrel on there and then you can put a flash hider on it, you can put a suppressor on it, you can use a suppressor as a flash hider. A muzzle brake. You're getting to the point now that if you walk in and you see a rifle, especially a bolt, that doesn't have a threaded barrel, you're ooh, that's a miss.

You knows, you're exactly right. Because the most recent rifle I bought, I was looking at a couple different models and I was like, no, I'm gonna pass on that one because I know I wanna use a suppressor and I don't wanna have to send it out and have it threaded. Companies have made it easy.

You referenced Silencer Central and they've got one of the easiest barrel threading programs Yes. I've ever seen. If you don't have to, you don't have to. Exactly. Yeah. I'd rather just buy it off the shelf already threaded, yeah.[00:10:00] With materials obviously in the early days, stainless.

And they were very heavy. I've got an older stainless can. And at the time it was like, I had a can. Now it's Oh good. I need to tie up my boat. I don't have a boat, but if I had a boat, I'd tie it up with this thing. Were the new ones, a lot of aluminum they've learned, in the recent decades where the cans need to be strong and where they can be light.

So you see a lot of use in aluminums in the outer tube. You'll see a lot of use of aluminum in some of the later blast baffles. You'll still see stainless in the, what we call the blast baffle, that very first one that takes the most of the heat and the abrasion and everything else. The biggest development though is followed with golf clubs and other things, and that's the use of titanium.

You find titanium in the blast baffles and especially some of the mounting points, super light, super strong. Probably the other development that we can't overlook is the way they're made. Yes. The they're stupid, simple at the risk of trying to tell people how to do it, it's really just a tube with a stack of baffles.

So if you are a company that, that machines metal tubing. You can make a can I was telling a story before we started [00:11:00] today we were at Chacho a few years ago and our friends at Leupold they're machining guys made some cans up for us to use at the range day event. Never made them to sell, never made them for anything else.

But. They were really effective and really simple to make. And it's important to note that the folks at Leupold have all of the appropriate government documentation to just go in the back and have their guys turn out a few suppressors. They were completely legal stamped and marked as they should be.

Really we used them because. Again, shooting suppressed is just more fun. It's just nice. It really is. We wanted to dial it down and because this was a little layer of a plan, we didn't have a chance to get actual cans on hand. So we may do but also how they're made, so it's not just machining out a tube and then just trying to put in the baffles that fit, which you can do, but doing precisely.

Can be expensive. And that's really the efficacy of suppressors, how well those baffles fit in there, how, what their tolerances are trying to control that gas as best as possible and slow it down. And that's where companies like Sig Sauer have really brought innovations in. They began using robotic welds.

I forget the exact term but basically circular welds to stack them that way. [00:12:00] So they're able to make tubeless cans. What those are basically is a baffle stack that's welded together and because the materials they use, the baffles and the way they robotically weld those together, it's strong enough.

So you've now removed an entire layer of metal off of it, which brings the weight down pretty significantly. Then you've got companies like Q that are making modular cans. And that's something that's caught on when we've got at least two or three, right? Three modular, yeah, three of the four sitting here, which allows you to basically.

Get the big can, but then dial it down if you don't need it. Here we come back into hunting. If I'm shooting on the range, especially an indoor range, I want as much volume as possible because the volume being space volume, not noise volume, because the bigger the volume of the can, the more gas it's going to contain, the quieter it should be where if I'm hunting or, maybe an outdoor range or, taking a class indoors or something, like a a CQB class, I want to shorten those up and make it just make it easier too.

So those are really where the developments have come. And of course the mounts, we've got direct threads, which are as inexpensive as it gets, but the QD and quick detach suppressors, [00:13:00] suppressing systems that, go right back into zero alignment so you don't have to worry about shims and realigning everything.

Yeah. Lets you move cans around between different platforms. It's not a huge expense, but there is still the paperwork hassle to it. You can buy a 30 caliber can and put it on anything from 22 to, up to 30 cal. Yeah. My favorite thing with the manufacturing is 3d printing, which I think, 3d printing is cool as hell anyway, but the fact that you can 3d print a suppressor, just it, okay. I understand there are. production benefits and things like that, but the marketing genius of it. And I say that because that's the only reason I purchased this can is because it was the first time I'd seen a 3d printed can, and this one's from PWS.

And I say the only reason I bought it was because it was 3d printed, but I also bought it because of the name. And it's very tongue in cheek. They call it the Bravo Delta Echo, the BDE. And you can read into that as you. see fit, but but [00:14:00] it's stupid quiet and it is modular. You can take one, two, three, four, four of the, sections off of it.

And it's still a very quiet can. And yeah, they're just, the manufacturing has come so far for a concept that hasn't changed in more than a century. What I like, and without. Dipping too much into the next episode's politics, the 3D printing cans gets us closer to where the rest of the world is in kind of disposable cans, if you look at a number of countries around the world.

Not only are suppressors legal, they're required. Yeah. It's just, if you've ever been in a range next to a 7 inch barreled, 308AR, trust me, you understand why cans should be required. So over there, there's something you can buy out of a vending machine for the equivalent of 5 or 6 bucks U.

S., they're good for a few hundred rounds, and then you just toss them in the can on the way out. Glock is famous for their polymer suppressor, which is a, European product that's... Meant to be fired a few hundred times at the range, and then you're done. So as 3D printing gets more effective, [00:15:00] less expensive, if we can ever do something with the NFA and the tax stamp, we're just getting closer and closer to where can should be, which, it's just something a polite shooter should have and use.

I like it. Polite shooter. We're all polite shooters, aren't we? No. No? Okay. If an armed society is a polite society, then... That's true. Yeah. I'm like so freaking polite, it's not even funny. Do you think we will start seeing more guns, especially long guns, with integrated Into the barrel suppressors as opposed to the removable suppressors I hope but I don't know because that's a big commitment right out the gate and as Americans We're not big on delayed gratification You know if you can have the buying the suppressor and having to wait the Nine months to a year is tough, we still have the gun to play with Having to actually sit and wait for the gun that long, I, man, I don't know.

I, I hope, because I love them. I've always wanted the, the Ruger 10 22 as their Integrally. Thank you. Integrally [00:16:00] suppressed top end, obviously, it shortens everything down. That's always the little bit of the knock on suppressors. I have a really nice short little MPX that now has a, 9 inch SR 45 on it, negating some of that, and I think that's, you mentioned the 10 integrally suppressed stuff, is because while you're waiting for that thing in NFA jail, you just slap a regular barrel on that thing, and you can still go shoot your 10 22, whereas if it was... A Remington 700 or something like that. That's an entire barreled action and all this other stuff that's a heck of a lot more precise than what you're hoping to get out of your 10 22, not that you can't do precision shooting with a 10 22, you're not wanting to swap things out.

But I, I certainly hope we see more integrally suppressed stuff cause it is so cool. So what about maintenance, cleaning? Lifespan, how long can have one of these in service, baffle strikes? See, I think those are related questions. I think another reason people are a little hesitant to buy the integrally suppressed guns is [00:17:00] because of that very reason there, where if you have a baffle strike with your can, you take it off, you're back in the game.

And I think a little bit of it is misperception. I don't think the cans are as delicate as some people think they are. I think as long as you follow manufacturer's recommendations, you should be able to, your kids should be able to inherit those cans. Yeah, they do need cleaned. Especially these little rimfire cans, because they will lead and crud up like crazy.

There's not really a one size fits all because, again, now we get back into the materials. Aluminum doesn't like certain chemicals. Titanium's usually pretty good. Stainless has certain things. So certainly, look to your manual. But typically I clean mine every couple thousand rounds, and I do it in a very high tech way.

I've got a can that used to hold tennis balls, and I put the suppressor in there, fill it up with the appropriate solvent, give it a shake, let it sit on the bench. A couple days later, flip it over. When that's done, we just brush and compress air from there, and then... Nice little light lube and good to go.

The ones that come apart are even better. If your baffles will take it, ultrasonics are great for that. Again, [00:18:00] certain materials and ultrasonic solutions don't get along, so please read your manuals. I don't leave me a comment that's saying you dissolved your can to get you through it in your ultrasonic.

After that, the baffle strike thing It can happen. I honestly have never put a can on even direct thread and had, any Concentricity issues. I've looked at, it's always been lined up good. I think, modern manufacturing certainly, the robotic manufacturing is so damn good these days that unless you've got a a really wonky threading on your rifle, you're probably gonna be okay.

And even then one, especially for the quick detaches that come off of some hider. If you shim those up nice and straight, the can's gonna go on. That's the beauty of them. The can's gonna go on straight every time. And I think that's what's so great about, factory threaded barrels. Sure, there are places that will do a great job of threading your barrel aftermarket, but, for the love of God, if your neighbor has a Dremel and he calls himself a gunsmith, don't let him thread your barrel because, if those threads are screwed then your can is screwed too.

But, yeah, generally that suppressor, as [00:19:00] long as you take care of it, it'll take care of you and it should last a very long time. The number one piece of maintenance you can do to your can, after it's cool, or unless you got a good pair of gloves, Every X number of rounds reach up and just make sure it's tight.

That's where most problems come with cans is they get a little loose on the threads and then they start getting a little wonky and next thing it's 50 yards down range and you're in for a little bit of a warranty claim. You're lucky. So really that's the thing. Just make sure they're tight.

You're going to have a bad time. Yeah. Yeah. I love rifle cans that have some form of a detent system, either a ratchet or a clip like the sure fires do big fans of those, but for pistol cans we were doing a range event last year and about, and running new shooters through, I would say every three shooters, I had to pull my gloves on and just torque it back down a little bit.

Cause it just would start to work its way loose and that's probably the biggest. Problem maintenance wise with the can, just make sure it stays on. Don't use red threadlock, please. Oh god, no. Don't use red threadlock and do [00:20:00] not go after the forbidden popsicle. Heh. That's don't do it.

It may look like an orange creamsicle, but oh, she burns like habaneros meme. Screenshot right there. Dammit, I wasn't even thinking about this. And we were going to photoshop all sorts of stuff in your hands. Oh man. We were doing an event with a night vision thermal company and Of course, as things go, someone's how hot can we make that can?

Oh God, I don't know. Let's find out. And we got it up to, 9, or 900 or 1, 000 degrees and it was screaming hot. But it's a night shoot, hence the night vision thing. So we get done. All right, that's great. Someone just sets it down on the bench. 10 minutes later, it's what's that smell?

Two, it's a smell, it's a combination of two things. One, the actual bench is starting to burn around it. Huh. And two, someone didn't notice that the, when they set it down, the rifle sling went through there? So that can for the rest of our event had a very interesting texture around part of it because a Really nice magpul sling became part of it.

Yes. Yeah, just melt it all around it. So They get they do get [00:21:00] hot quick. You gotta pay attention on those So that's are you telling me that's the origin story of a magpul suppressor cover? You melted the sling to it. That's a big benefit of having a suppressor cover. Yeah Absolutely.

And so folks are, looking to buy suppressors, there's a million different options on the market and, obviously you can find them on gum broker. And we had an interesting conversation, Dan, you had, you'd brought, we're Yeah, okay. Yeah. About, how does that work? If you buy a suppressor from someone on gun, because there are all these regulations.

So where does your can go once you buy it from someone on gun broker? It's not really any different than buying a firearm. There's a few more steps to go through and you've got to find an SOT, or some people call a class three dealer. But after that you'll go on gun broker, find one you like, which just looked a little while ago.

We've got about a little over 5, 000 listings right now, including penny auctions. Believe it or not, you can get a can on a penny auction and find yourself a pretty screaming deal. Dave's probably got like a hundred of them in his [00:22:00] watch list. None of his 1890s revolvers have threaded barrels, so we're good there.

Not yet. No. Oh, you just, man, his, the hair on the back of his neck just stood up. Anywhere from a 16, 000 Barrett can down to, like I said I think we saw a Q Erector right now going for a penny. Once you find your can, you'll. Basically buy it and the payment will go to that particular dealer.

What they'll do is basically a dealer to dealer transfer because just like you would with a firearm you're gonna provide an FFL and in this case the SOT the special occupancy tax That dealer will send your can to your local person and from there It's just like buying it off the shelf. So really the process is the same, you know If you bought a gun you'd send them an FFL They would transfer the firearm dealer to your local gun dealer and then you would finish the transaction there.

So It's a little bit of a headache, but in all honesty, it's not a tremendously burdensome process. It's just a long, drawn out one. It's a death of a thousand paper cuts. You have a little extra paperwork to do. You have to provide a mug shot, provide your [00:23:00] fingerprints. Thank God you don't have to have the chief law enforcement sign off anymore.

You just have to tell them who they are so they can notify. 200 payment and then patience. Once that goes in, you sit, you wait. Eventually, you get the magic call from your FFL SOT that, Hey, got your stamp in and come pick up your new toy. What I think should be over the counter and Black Friday sales and buy one, get ones is a 200 tax and anywhere from a nine month to a year wait these days, yeah, a right delayed is a right denied. And that's where we're at with it. What's really fun though is flying with suppressors, and this is, I've made this joke several times, trying to help the TSA agent prove that it's unloaded. It's legally it's a firearm. I can see through it.

I think it's unloaded. The best advice there is just don't laugh at them. Just just bite your tongue and get through it. Yeah, bite your tongue and get through it, which I guess is what we hope people were not doing on this episode. I'm [00:24:00] not looking forward to that closed captioning one popping up now.

It's going to go along with that awful meme, yeah. Anyway. Thanks guys for sitting on the table and talking about suppressor stuff there It's a fascinating topic and there's so much fun to shoot. We've all shot suppressed and It's just so much fun. Once you do it, you never want to go back.

Yep. Oh, Absolutely, and people become I probably fit in this category. Become evangelists for it very quickly. We do a lot of industry shooting events and there, there's a couple of CEOs of companies that man if a brand shows up on a range and the guns don't have cans, he is right in your ear and he's not, I won't name him, but he is not very.

Subtle about his feeling of you bringing an unsuppressed gun where he has to be. He does not like it. So Yeah, once you shoot suppressed you never want to go back In fact the next thing you go to the range of that one and that first shot you're oh, yeah That's right. I remember these now.

Yep, exactly Well guys, thanks again for sitting around the table. Thanks to all of you for tuning in to the show. We appreciate [00:25:00] you being here each and every week with us. If you're not subscribed on your favorite platform, please do that. Leave us a review and some comments. We'd love to hear your thoughts about the suppressor world.

And again, we appreciate you being here and we will see you. Next week, right here on the next episode of the no low ballers podcast.