There’s nothing cooler than watching James Bond lurk through hallways with a suppressor hanging off the end of his pistol.
But these nifty little tools aren’t just movie fodder.
Suppressors are handy accessories that not only protect your valuable ears but also can improve accuracy and ease new shooters into range days.
Cans, as they are also sometimes called, accomplish this by reducing the noise a firearm makes when it fires.
Modern silencers do this through various internal components, with most noise reduction falling between 14- and 43-decibels.
That’s cool and all, but how do suppressors accomplish this, and, further, is it even LEGAL to own a suppressor?
Good news is, yes, silencers are legal. Bad news, they are regulated. So, there’s a bit more to owning than just running to your local gun shop.
Hang in there with us as we tackle the ins and outs of suppressors, how they work, and the advantages.
More importantly, we’re going to walk you through how you can BUY a suppressor online.
Table of Contents
How Do Suppressors Work?
Many people mistakenly think suppressors are super complicated. Spoiler alert: they’re not.
Gases built up inside the gun as it fires help propel the bullet forward and out of the gun. The downside is, these same gases also cause a very distinct, loud BANG.
Suppressors work to slow the release of gases by using baffles to turn that noise energy into heat energy.
Baffles come in various forms but act like a car muffler, more or less.
In fact, the inventor of the silencer, Hiram Percy Mixam, also gave us the car muffler.
In addition to turning noise into heat, they can also redirect gases, ultimately reducing the bang you’re accustomed to hearing when the trigger is pulled.
What’s the Advantage, Though?
Brownells’ Daily Defense does a great job of laying out some reasons why you might want one, so check that video out below or keep reading for more insight.
Suppressors are more than just cool-looking gadgets. They offer several advantages to both new shooters and old.
As we talked about earlier, suppressors dampen the noise made when the gun fires.
Why does this matter, though?
For new gun owners or those picking up a gun for the first time, this reduced noise makes shooting a little less scary and a lot more fun.
Not to mention, without the looming boom, shooters tend to flinch less. This means more accurate shooting, which is always a plus on the range.
For seasoned pros, suppressors pull double duty, ironing out accuracy issues and protecting hearing.
Repeatedly subjecting yourself to loud noises causes hearing loss and issues down the road — especially for hunters who aren’t known for wearing hearing protection out in the field.
Using a suppressor reduces the noise of the gun down to a hearing safe level, thereby protecting that valuable hearing asset.
Accuracy-wise, the flinch principle applies here as well.
If you are anticipating the shot, your body will move in small ways that can throw things off course.
Eliminate that anticipation, and improve your shots.
It’s that simple.
Also, did we mention they’re kinda cool?
The ATF Process: Buckle Up
Unfortunately, rolling up to a regular gun store and snagging a silencer off the shelf isn’t an option.
Suppressors fall under the National Firearms Act, making them a regulated device.
In order to purchase a suppressor, there’s an entire process that you must go through to satisfy the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (a.k.a the ATF).
That includes filling out the appropriate paperwork, submitting fingerprints, paying a $200 fee, and waiting for the ATF’s okay.
In good times, approval comes within a few months. During heavier seasons, it can take many months and, in some cases, a year or more.
Steps to Buy a Suppressor Online
So, let’s get this party started!
How do you buy a suppressor online?
While you can certainly go the traditional route and head to a Class III dealer (also known as a SOT) in your local area, online purchasing is, no doubt, easier.
The process is similar to that of an in-store purchase and, in most instances, A LOT less painful.
That said, there’s a list of steps to follow to meet ATF regulations.
We’re going to give you a method to this madness with a step-by-step guide on how to buy a silencer online.
So read on!
Decide Which Suppressor You Want
Choosing a suppressor is like choosing anything else in the gun world. It all comes down to personal preference. The most important factor to nail down is the purpose of the suppressor.
Do you want something tiny to pair with your .22 LR pistol so your kids can plink? Or do you need something that withstands heavier .308 Win rounds?
It’s also helpful to determine what calibers you run the most. If you stock more 9mm than .45 ACP, then it makes more sense to get a can suited for 9mm….or head for a multi-caliber unit.
Let’s face it, suppressors aren’t cheap.
Get the most bang for your buck with a model that can accommodate the greatest number of your guns.
When looking for the best places to buy a suppressor (pssst…we did the hard work for you HERE), consider online shops that do the heavy lifting. And by heavy lifting, we mean paperwork. So much paperwork.
Silencer Central comes stocked with plenty of silencers to choose from but what really sets them apart from the competition is their process.
Buy from Silencer Central and they’ll set you up with a gun trust for FREE! (More on why this is a big deal in a bit.)
They even take care of the paperwork from start to finish.
Easy button? Yes, please.
Another great place to purchase is Capitol Armory…and they sell a TON of suppressors. They started off in Texas but now offer delivery to over half the suppressor legal states. If you’re not they can send it to your local FFL.
Other retailers, like Silencer Shop, adopt a slightly different process. Silencer Shop walks you through the purchase and paperwork and even stores your information for future buys.
Choose the silencer you want on Silencer Shop, then find a Powered by Silencer Shop dealer in your area to complete the paperwork.
Brownells and Rainier Arms offer a nice inventory of suppressors online as well.
For online sites like this, though, you’ll need to put in the grunt work to secure a local FFL who can transfer silencers.
Call around and ask local dealers if they are a SOT — or Special Occupational Taxpayer.
A SOT is the golden ticket to transfer NFA items, like silencers. Before you buy online through Brownells, Rainier Arms, or any other site, make sure you have a SOT in place who can receive the item.
Some local SOTs offer to help with the Form 4 — or the paperwork required by the ATF to apply for a tax stamp.
A tax stamp is a fancy…well stamp..that allows you to legally own a suppressor in the 42 states that allow them.
The Form 4 is pretty detailed and, depending on your state/municipality, there may be additional steps required before you can submit the paperwork to the ATF.
When you call around to local FFLs, it’s worth asking if they help with paperwork or if you’re on your own.
Buying as an Individual vs. Corporation vs. Trust
Now that you know which suppressor you want, the next step is to figure out how you want to buy the suppressor.
No, we don’t mean in-person or virtually.
Will you purchase it as an individual, corporation, or trust?
Buying a Suppressor as an Individual
Buying a suppressor as an individual cuts out any additional processes, but the downside is that the item is registered to you and you alone.
That means your spouse, your child, or any other person that might want to use it can only do so if you’re around.
This also makes it difficult to transfer to a family member in the event of your untimely passing.
Registering as an individual works best if you are the only person interested in the silencer and you don’t intend to pass it down to future generations.
Buying a Suppressor as a Corporation
Buying a suppressor as a corporation is another option to add the NFA item to your collection.
This works best when you already have a corporation set up.
Registering a can in this fashion means any officers of the corporation may use the silencer. If you can use suppressed guns for your business, this is a great avenue.
The downside is that the corporation must remain in business — if it dissolves or is no longer deemed in good standing, the silencer will have to be transferred to another individual, corporation, or trust.
Buying a Suppressor with a Trust
Finally, the option that makes the most sense and works for most people is to buy the silencer with a gun trust.
Multiple people may be added to a trust, which means those individuals have access to the silencer.
Gun trusts allow the suppressor to be passed down to other family members, and you can make changes to it at any point.
Definitely the most flexible option on the table!
That being said, it does require the extra step of setting up.
Luckily, some retailers, ahem Silencer Central, allow customers to start and use a gun trust for FREE!
Capitol Armory also works with GunTrustGuru to set one up for $79. However, you’ll still need to visit a notary to sign.
The PPT team has done both options and so far so good!
Submit Paperwork to the ATF
As we previously discussed, a suppressor is a regulated item; so, you have to jump through some hoops before you can legally own one.
Those hoops we speak of entail paperwork (a.k.a. the Form 4), fingerprints, and a passport-style photo of yourself.
It can be headache-inducing trying to navigate these muddy waters, so it might be worth teaming up with someone who already knows the ins and outs.
Again, we gotta give props to places like Silencer Central who take care of the paperwork for you. All you need to do is verify the information and give it your signature. That’s it.
Like, for real, you don’t even have to leave your house.
They’re not alone in their resourcefulness. Several gun shops and online retailers are also seeing the benefits of helping customers fill out and submit paperwork.
In short, we recommend forgoing the hard work and joining forces with an actual team of experts who do it for a living.
Assuming your forms are nice and tidy and you’ve gathered fingerprints, photo, and all that jazz..it’s time to send everything to the ATF.
Then, we wait. And wait. And wait some more.
Approval times vary depending on the current backlog.
We’ve seen wait times as short as a couple of months and as long as over a year. It really depends on what the ATF is up to at the time and whether you use eForms or not.
Most online suppressor retailers offer a current indicator of wait times. Or you can just do it the old-fashioned way and, eeek, call the ATF.
Just be ready with your information and the suppressor’s serial number.
Take That Can to the Range
Finally, at some point, the ATF will send you their blessing in the form of a tax stamp.
This nifty stamp says you can officially own your suppressor.
If you ordered your suppressor through a place like Silencer Central, they’ll ship the can straight to your house.
If you opted for another online retailer, like Rainier Arms or Brownells, your suppressor is already at the FFL you requested who is holding it until the Form 4 is approved.
Once you have the tax stamp in hand, your FFL can transfer to you. (Some additional fees may apply. Be sure to check on that.)
After you’ve secured that bad boy, take it to the range and let ‘er rip!
Buying a suppressor online may seem daunting, but it’s not as scary as you think. First, research the model you want, then purchase it online as an individual, corporation, or gun trust. Finally, complete and submit the Form 4 and other necessities. (Not to mention the $200 fee.)
After that, wait a few months (or longer, depending on the speed of the ATF.)
Once that paperwork is approved and you have the stamp in hand, you are legally the proud owner of a brand-new suppressor!
Knowledge is power, and hopefully, we’ve given you enough information to get you started in the world of silencers.
So, go out there and make your suppressor dreams come true!
Need help picking the perfect suppressor?
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Have you bought a suppressor online? Let us know in the comments below. Ready to buy a suppressor? Take a peek at our list of Best Places to Buy a Suppressor: Online & Off.