Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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Ask TTAG: Best Gun-Plus-Suppressor Choices For Personal Defense In and Outside the Home

TTAG receives a fair bit of reader mail, and most of the time we just reply directly, but sometimes a question makes a good basis for a post that will interest a lot of our readers. In the email below, reader “Al Nonymous” requested our input on a suppressed home/family defense firearm that’s capable of being carried in a small, incognito bag.

I’m going to copy-and-paste “Al’s” email below and will reply here and there in bold blue and then add some additional thoughts and suggestions at bottom.

Use case:  mainly home/family defense.  Ability to stow in a laptop backpack or slightly larger bag (with or without suppressor attached) for family road trips would be a big plus.

Candidate 1
Caliber:  300 BLK
Platform:  E.g., BRN-180S (10″)
Pros:  wide variety of loadings; compact when paired with matching BRN-180 lower and side-folding brace
Cons:  uncertainty over prospective impact of new pistol brace regulations (wish to avoid SBR tax stamp); likely to select supersonic loadings for best terminal ballistics, so any advantage over, e.g., 7.62×39?  How well does supersonic ammo suppress?  Excessive ballistics for home defense use?

The AR platform is always a solid choice. Models with the recoil system contained within the upper receiver make a lot of sense for portability since you can run a folding pistol brace or stock. 300 Blackout is more than sufficient for home defense, whether with expanding subsonic rounds or with a variety of supersonic options.

I’d probably run expanding subs in the home for noise level purposes when shooting suppressed (suppressed supersonic rifle rounds are still very loud when fired in enclosed spaces) and then switch to high velocity supersonic rounds (such as 110 grain V-Max) on those family road trips for better ballistics on coyotes, deer, and other things when you’re outdoors where the likelihood of shooting at something farther away goes way up.

Pistol braces aren’t going away, even if absolutely everything in ATF’s draft guidance remains in the final ruling (more likely it will be a subset of the guidance). You’ll be able to configure a highly effective 300 BLK AR pistol with a brace and stay within that ridiculous point system.

Also look into the Black Collar Arms APS, which is an entirely new category of rear accessory — not a rifle stock, not a pistol brace, but a pistol support — for large format pistols that provides a height-adjustable rear support for taking long shots (great for varmint hunting on those road trips, etc.). Full disclosure: I’m a co-owner of Black Collar Arms.

Yes, there are projectile choice and magazine compatibility advantages to 300 BLK over 7.62×39 that make it appropriate for use in a wider variety of scenarios (varmints to deer to self-defense, supersonic and subsonic both).

Candidate 2
Caliber:  7.62×39 
Platform:  BRN-180 (16″)
Pros:  ammo availability; rifle-length barrel avoids pistol/SBR concerns under new regs
Cons:  limited variety of loadings vs. 300 BLK; less compact format with suppressor mounted; how well does supersonic ammo suppress?  Excessive ballistics for home defense use?*This upper is also offered with 10.5″ barrel, but pistol/SBR could be a concern depending on the new regs.  Would suppression mitigate most of the increased muzzle blast and concussion with 10.5″ vs. 16″ barrel?

I wouldn’t worry too much about the pistol brace regs. As mentioned above, even if all of the suggested regs become official you’ll still be able to configure a perfectly fine braced AR pistol.

I think for your use case you should stick with a short barrel. A decent suppressor will tame nearly all of the blast and concussion. I like 300 BLK over 7.62×39 for your use. You’re building a self-defense gun, not a make-noise-at-the-range-and-blow-up-watermelons guns.

The ability to easily find and fire large quantities of cheap ammo isn’t the primary concern like it would be with a fun use gun. For home defense and travel defense, etc., the concern should be efficacy and appropriate loads for the use. 7.62×39 loaded with appropriate projectiles for home defense, predator hunting, deer hunting, etc. is harder to find than 300 BLK designed for those uses.

Candidate 3
Caliber:  5.7×28
Platform:  KelTec P50
Pros:  light and handy configuration; 50 rounds on board; use with sling-tension technique if pistol brace is a problem under new regs
Cons:  KelTec quality control; limited variety and availability of loadings — how effective is the cartridge for the use case?  How well does supersonic ammo suppress?

Nah. Mostly because of the cartridge but partially because the form factor of the KelTec P50 is a bit awkward. I know there are die-hard 5.7×28 fans and I know the cartridge has proven efficacy in a few arenas, but I’m just not much of a fan of it and it has also been extremely difficult to find over the past few years in particular. It suppresses fine. Obviously you’ll have the supersonic crack, but it sounds pretty decent when suppressed, especially in a carbine or PDW style gun.

Candidate 4
Caliber:  9×19
Platform:  KelTec Sub CQB
Pros:  integrally suppressed; wide variety and availability of loadings; no pistol/SBR concerns; folds in half; Glock mags 🙂
Cons:  KelTec quality control; might be unobtanium; how effective is the cartridge in a PCC for the use case?  Performance of integral suppressor vs. third party suppressors?
*A more readily available option might be a KelTec Sub 2000 with separate suppressor, but at the expense of compact form factor.

A KelTec Sub CQB or Sub 2000 are both cool choices. They run well and 9mm with the right loads is a solid home defense cartridge. I think the ergonomics of these guns make them more difficult to run confidently than an AR platform and they’re harder to accessorize with optics and lights and such. They’re more difficult for the rest of the family — wife, age-appropriate children, etc — to run than an AR platform as the length of pull isn’t adjustable and the charging handle is harder to operate for multiple reasons.

Performance of the integral vs add-on silencers isn’t particularly different in this case. The integral has the advantage of being 16″ with the suppressor whereas if you add one to a 16″ Sub 2000 then it’ll obviously be longer by whatever your suppressor’s length is.

While 9mm is a solid home defense cartridge it starts to feel lackluster as soon as you’re out in the wild on road trips and whatever else where engagement ranges tend to increase and targets often have better cover. If something is going down where I’m pulling a carbine out from my trunk, I want to be shooting a rifle round.

For instance, the last time I actually did this in practice I was driving down a rural road and saw two coyotes like 350 yards distant in a field waiting next to a cow who was in the process of birthing a calf. As is their practice, they would have snatched that calf the second it hit the ground. My 5.56 BRN-180 pistol gave me the capability and confidence to take shots at those coyotes and save the calf. Not to mention save the rancher thousands of dollars of future cow value.

Candidate 5:  any alternatives you recommend?

Part of the premise to my request is that, considering typical engagement distances and backstops in the home, I’m unclear whether (supersonic) 300 BLK and 7.62×39 would be considered excessive while 9mm and 5.7 might be considered insufficient, and if so what is the “sweet spot” that is effective and suppresses well? Shot placement can make all the difference and predominate over caliber, but realistically precision under duress can be a tall order.

I like the AR platform for your use case. I like the idea of a recoil system that’s contained within the upper (like your BRN-180 candidate) so the stock/brace can be folded, or at least a system that allows for the stock or brace to be collapsed way down.

Sticking with the AR platform means familiar, high quality ergonomics and form factor that works for the whole family and is easily customized to suit your needs and your environment. AR platform means the most parts, accessories, and magazine compatibility possible. Including even swapping uppers with zeroed-in optic depending on whether you’re using it in your home or taking it with you outside of the home.

Perhaps you like subsonic 9mm inside of the home (e.g. 147 grain Federal HST) but want to run 5.56 when you’re out in the wild. CMMG, for instance, offers magazine options that make this possible on the same lower without having to do magazine block inserts or anything of that sort.

It may be no surprise that my personal preference is what I’ve had as my actual home/vehicle self-defense setup for a couple years now, a compact .223/5.56 AR platform. In my case it’s a complete BRN-180 pistol with SB Tactical FS1913 brace, but it’s far more about the form factor and chambering for me than any particular brand or model.

Fast, lightweight .223/5.56 loads, starting at M193 and going lighter and faster from there, and particularly when you get into ballistic tips like A-Max and V-Max ammo and others with thin jackets that are designed to expand, are less likely to penetrate multiple interior walls than most any other effective home defense cartridge you could choose. Far less likely than a 9mm hollow point or buckshot or a 300 BLK or anything else, really.

These high velocity, thin-skinned projectiles tend to disintegrate when they impact drywall and harder materials. If they pass through the wall, it’s typically little more than dust and small fragments that make it out the other side. For the same reason they’re also less likely to ricochet and/or ricochet while remaining dangerous.

I’d choose 300 BLK over 5.56 for the purposes of being able to shoot quieter, subsonic ammo that’s still effective or if I intended to use it on deer, hogs, etc. But any of the solid copper subsonic expanding .30 cal projectiles are going to pass through far more interior walls and maintain lethality than a lightweight 5.56 round will. Those are often little more than dust coming out the back side of a single interior wall after hitting nothing but the two sheets of drywall.

As my personal defense weapon was chosen with the same requirements in mind as “Al Nonymous” — as compact as possible, effective and safe for home defense, capable when taken on road trips or otherwise outside of the home, reliable and effective suppressed (which it always is) — I went 5.56 and I went pistol length.

I run high velocity 40 grain varmint ammo in the house and have two mags of M855 in my incognito case for when it leaves the house. The mag full of varmint ammo stays in the gun, and outside of the house I’ve gone after coyotes with it on, I think, four different occasions so that’s perfect.

If some crazy self-defense scenario popped up, I can switch to the M855 if that makes sense for the scenario and my zero inside of 150 or so yards is close enough to the 40 grain (for which my Trijicon TA44 ACOG is zeroed) for that sort of work.

“Al” also asked for silencer recommendations. For this use case my recommendation is the smallest suppressor that will provide “hearing safe” (under 140 dB) noise levels on whatever setup you end up going with.

The lead photo in this article shows a YHM R9 underneath the handguard of my 300 BLK SBR. I think this is an absolutely fantastic silencer choice for “Al’s” use case as it’s extremely compact, simple, affordable, and can be used effectively on 9mm, 300 Blackout, 5.56, and more. Read my review on it for more info and contact Silencer Shop with questions or for the easiest suppressor buying experience possible.

My personal BRN-180 setup is rocking an ODIN Works Baja 5.56 suppressor. I like simple and small for this use case, and the Baja delivers. If I were buying a dedicated can for my 5.56 BRN-180 today, though, I’d get an AB Suppressor Raptor with 4 baffles. They’re insanely lightweight and compact and they sound shockingly great on .223/5.56.

Alternatively, the AB Suppressor F4 (TTAG review HERE) is similar in form factor but designed for 9mm. It works on a pistol without the use of a booster because it’s so dang light, and it’s rated for 5.56 use as well. On more of a budget, the YHM Turbo-K (TTAG review HERE) is a great silencer for dedicated 5.56 use where size is a big consideration.

My first word of advice when suppressor shopping for this use is to avoid comparing dB ratings and prioritize finding the smallest, lightest suppressor in your budget that meets the sub-140 dB threshold. Only compare dB test results or ratings if you’ve found two silencers of equivalent size followed by other points of comparison such as weight, warranty, firing schedule or barrel length restrictions, price, etc.

Hope this helps and thanks for reading. 




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