Sure suppressors look cool, but what do they actually do in real life?
Put simply, suppressors reduce the noise a firearm makes when it goes bang.
Modern silencers manage this through different internal components, with most noise reduction falling between 14 and 43-decibels.
Of course, other factors play into how quiet a silencer is. Barrel length, subsonic ammo, and suppressor type all weigh into the ultimate decibel reduction.
All in all, a suppressor makes it pretty easy to ditch heavy hearing protection.
If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between silencers and suppressors or why noise reduction is a big deal, you’re not alone.
We’ve gathered all the facts to help you better understand suppressors, what they do, why you want one, and even where to buy when you’re ready to commit.
Table of Contents
Silencer vs. Suppressor: Potayto-Potahto
You’ve probably heard suppressor and silencer used, but which term is correct?
Technically, a silencer dampens sound while a suppressor reduces muzzle flash.
Despite the purists who will no doubt argue this (come at me, bruh) the phrases are applied interchangeably.
Suppressor inventor, Hiram Percy Maxim, referenced his creation as the “Maxim Silencer” in his original patent.
If the dude who invented it can switch it up, we’re not going to judge you for doing the same.
How Do Suppressors Work?
At the end of the day, silencers/suppressors reduce sound, but how?
Suppressors slow the release of gases — the very same gases that propel the bullet forward and out of the barrel — and turn that noise energy into heat energy.
Baffles, or rings inside the silencer tube, act like a car muffler slowing the travel of gases. The cooler, dispersed gas creates a softer sound that is less of a BANG.
It’s nowhere near as quiet as movies make them seem. But the resulting noise out of a suppressor is subtle enough that most shooters can opt-out of hearing protection at the range.
Why Should I Buy a Suppressor?
We know that suppressors/silencers muffle the pop associated with firing a gun, but does that matter for the average gun owner?
It sure does.
Tossing a suppressor onto the end of a firearm offers several advantages over a suppressor-less platform.
First, it makes for a more comfortable shooting experience. With a suppressor, you can ditch the bulky, over-the-ear muffs or earplugs while shooting.
Even better, this noise reduction works particularly well when introducing new shooters to guns.
Often, that loud bang is the scariest part of shooting a gun for the first time. The anticipation alone causes many newcomers to flinch while pulling the trigger, in turn, reducing accuracy on target.
A tool that negates this loud pop and puts the shooter at ease works exceptionally well for new shooters.
Anytime we can reduce the fear factor and interject fun is a good day!
Surprisingly, hunters also benefit from suppressors. Many hunters forgo hearing protection in the woods, resulting in hearing loss over time. Preserve those ears by using a silencer to dampen those noises.
Accuracy can also be improved in the field because, again, you’re not anticipating that loud bang and flinching.
For more on the benefits of a suppressor, check out Brownells’ Daily Defense video below.
Like anything else, there’s a downside to suppressors — namely the cost and the lengthy process.
Because suppressors are regulated by the ATF (thanks NFA), you can’t just pop into your local shop and grab one.
There’s an entire process centered on suppressor ownership that includes paperwork and a hefty $200 fee.
Not to mention, you can’t actually take a newly purchased suppressor home right away. You have to wait for the ATF to approve your submitted paperwork…which can take months and sometimes even a year or more.
The cool factor alone makes up for this, but it’s something to keep in mind as you set out on the buying adventure.
Speaking of buying, where does one actually pick up a suppressor?
Read on to find out the best places to grab a shiny new toy.
Take My Money: Where to Buy a Suppressor
You might be dying to get your hands on a suppressor, but not every gun store comes stocked with silencers.
That begs the question, where do I buy one?
Luckily, there are a few options for shoppers — some of which are so easy you can do it from the comfort of your couch.
So, let’s take a look at some various ways to add a suppressor to your gun collection.
1. Silencer Central
The first and, dare we say, one of the easiest ways to buy a silencer is through Silencer Central. Perfect for the introvert in all of us, Silencer Central is designed with ease in mind.
First, you log on to their website and scope out the silencer you want. Not quite sure what to get? No prob.
They offer a ton of handy articles to get you started, and they’re even willing to chat over the phone if you need some personal advice on which suppressor would be best for you.
We also love their suppressors.
Here’s a quick clip of the Banish 30 on a .308 bolt gun!
Check out the full review Johnny B did on Silencer Central’s multi-cal Banish 30 which fits .17 rimfire through .300 Weatherby.
When it comes time to buy, they handle the entire process for you — beginning to end.
Silencer Central will even get you set up with a trust to make future purchases a cinch!
ATF paperwork comes ready for your signature, so there’s no stumbling through the process.
When the feds give you their blessing, Silencer Central will ship your suppressor straight to your house since they’ve got setups in all 42 states that allow suppressors.
Yeah, you read that right.
No need to wait among the peasants at your local FFL. You can take care of the process entirely at home. It’s, like, an introvert’s dream.
2. Capitol Armory
Another huge player in the suppressor world is Capitol Armory.
While Silencer Central has the ship to your doorstep option…they pretty much push their own suppressor line and sometimes YHM products.
Capitol Armory has them ALL…including the big boys of SilencerCo and Dead Air.
They have an online NFA Gun Trust for $79 to help you set up. They started off in Texas but now are available in over half the suppressor legal states.
Current states where they can ship directly: Texas, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, or Washington.
Otherwise, they can still send it to your local FFL.
Bottom line…if you’re looking for one of the best selections…check out Capitol Armory.
3. Silencer Shop (S.I.D. Kiosks)
The Secure Identity Documentation Kiosk, courtesy of Silencer Shop, streamlines the suppressor process. After buying a suppressor from Silencer Shop, you head to an authorized Powered by Silencer Shop dealer.
From there, the rest of your transaction takes place through the S.I.D. Kiosk. (With over 300 locations nationwide, there’s probably a kiosk near you.)
Hate filling out the same paperwork every time?
The S.I.D. system eliminates the redundancy of paperwork by storing your information — including your fingerprints.
Next suppressor you buy will come with an even quicker and easier paperwork procedure.
The kiosk is a free service if you select a Powered by Silencer Shop dealer; however, if you opt for a dealer outside of that category, the fee averages $40, according to Silencer Shop.
This hybrid experience does mean you have to leave your house and head to a registered Silencer Shop dealer, though.
That said, it does make future buying easy.
4. Online Retailers
Shoppers after a boutique suppressor or those with eagle eyes for deals might find online retailers, like Brownells and Rainier Arms, a good match.
With a bevy of suppressors for all types of guns, you’re sure to find whatever it is you seek.
Worth noting that if you buy a suppressor online through an online retailer, you are responsible for providing them with the information of a local FFL able to hold and transfer suppressors.
Dealers with this ability to handle NFA items like suppressors are called SOTs, or Special Occupational Taxpayers.
In order for online stores to get your silencer to you, you need to find an FFL who is also a SOT to complete the transfer.
Easiest way to do this is to call around to local dealers and ask. Before you purchase online, though, make sure to grab a copy of the dealer’s FFL and SOT to provide to the retailer.
5. Local Gun Shops
The final option for grabbing your own can is to do it the old-fashioned way — head to a Class III dealer.
These shops are stocked with suppressors but often leave most of the grunt work up to you.
Setting up a trust? That’s on you. Getting fingerprints? Also, your responsibility.
This option is best suited for the one-and-done shopper who intends to buy only one NFA item for the rest of eternity.
Alternatively, if you’re a gun owner who prefers to sidestep technology in favor of shopping local, this is your best bet.
Either way, you’ll need to get your ducks in a row before heading to the store.
If you intend to purchase via a gun trust, take care of that through a service or your attorney beforehand, as most shops can’t help you with that.
Some shops are able to help out with the ATF’s Form 4 — the paper that must be filled out with suppressor info and your deets in order to register the can with the ATF.
If they don’t help with that, make sure to research the ATF process so you can confidently work through the steps.
Aside from the hearing benefits on the range and in the woods, suppressors are just plain cool.
One-stop shops like Silencer Central, tech-savvy S.I.D. Kiosks, and even online/local gun store options have made finding and buying a suppressor super easy these days.
So head to your favorite place (either online or in-person) and get to shopping!
Also, if you’re in the market for a can (or two) check out Johnny B’s recent reviews of Silencer Central’s sister suppressors — the Banish 30 and Banish 45.
Which buying method do you prefer? Sound off in the comments below. Want even more suppressor goodness? Check out the Best 9mm & .45 ACP Suppressors, AR-15 Suppressors, and Best Rimfire Suppressors.