(Gun) Silencers: How loud, really? And related...

I’m writing a mystery short story, and I’d love to have it involve a shooting with a silencer. But the Wikipedia entry has thrown the practicality of it into doubt. Just how loud is a “silenced” shot? I know it’s not completely silent, or probably anything close. But what (how loud a noise) would it take to drown out, or at least mostly cover up, such a shot?

While I’m at it, what relatively common models can take a silencer? The Wikipedia entry helps somewhat, but not enough for my purposes.

I was at a shoot recently where one of the guys had a suppressed .22
With subsonic ammo, the action of the pistol was louder than the round being fired. All you could hear was “click, thwap… click, thwap”) as the gun was fired, and the bullet struck the target. It was actually pretty scary, because it sounded like a toy. A cap gun would have been 10 times as loud.
I’ve also shot a suppressed 9mm. It was quiet enough to fire without hearing protection, but it would still attract attention indoors. Outside during the day, you might not have been able to hear it over traffic noise.

A buddy of mine has an Outback II suppressor for his .22LR rifles and handguns. He brings them every time he comes over to shoot.

As mentioned by beowulff, they’re so quiet that you don’t need hearing protection, even with regular ammo. You hear the action cycle, and then you hear the bullet hit the backstop. :cool:

With subsonic ammo, it’s even quieter.

The overall loudness will depend mainly on the speed of the round. Supersonic ammunition will still be fairly loud on account of the sonic boom. Presumably you’re writing for normal pistol ammunition, which is usually subsonic… so it could be very quiet. Handgun shots aren’t particularly loud in real life, anyway.

Suppressed .22LR is pretty much inaudible. The bullet hitting the target is louder. There are many .22LR pistols threaded to accept a suppressor due to some quirks in US gun law and rimfire.

If you look into gunsmithing and handloading, people make special “cat’s sneeze” rounds so they can listen to the action of the gun as it cycles. Very quiet indeed.

Most semi-automatic pistol brands have threaded barrels available in aftermarket… so you aren’t really restricted in choice on this matter.

Wasn’t aware there was a quirk in the law. When my buddy bought his Outback II, he had to go through all the Class III B.S. and pay (I think) $200 for the stamp.

Yeah, a suppressed .22LR with subsonic ammunition can really be, for all intents and purposes, almost completely silent. At least, as far as the sound of the discharge goes. The action cycling on a semiauto would still make a sound. I suppose if you had a suppressed bolt-action or single-shot gun, even that could be eliminated.

Of course, for the purpose of your story, you would have to remain within the limitations of the very small and relatively low-powered .22LR cartridge in order to keep things plausible. Probably the only circumstance under which you could expect a “silent” kill with a .22 is a careful headshot, since anywhere else stands a pretty good chance of leaving the victim conscious and able to act (and yell), for at least a short time. Don’t overstate the ballistics or terminal performance and you should be fine.

On the other hand, you might want to consider how much you expect your audience to know, and how readily they’ll believe you if you go on about a perfectly silenced bolt-action .22LR. It might seem more plausible to your readers if you have the assassin use a suppressed 9mm and simply take advantage of a covering noise, like nearby traffic. But, if you must have absolute silence, it is at least physically possible.
(Incidentally, I would just love to pick up a silenced Walther P22 for plinking. Unfortunately, it’s technically a misdemeanor to fire a shot through a suppressor in my state. It’s perfectly legal for me to buy and own one, and they sell them at pretty much every gun store in the state (on a wink-wink-nudge-nudge only-fire-this-in-Oregon basis), but I’m not really comfortable being a scofflaw. It’s a silly law, though. I should phone my representative.)

I have to take exception to that. I’ve tried firing my .45-caliber M1911 pistol without any hearing protection on occasion, and the only thing I can say is good god that thing is loud. Each time it has produced only a sudden shock of pain in my ear area, leaving me to subsequently question my sanity in trying the experiment as my hearing slowly returns and the echoes fade away across the valley.

Okay, it’s definitely quieter than my 12-gauge, and it won’t be as loud to someone standing a good distance away, or across several walls, and I might be exaggerating just a little about the echoing through the valley thing, but “not particularly loud” is the last phrase I’d use to describe it. :stuck_out_tongue:
ETA: And, of course, there are Google ads for “homemade silencers” at the bottom of the page. :smack:

I have a .380 backup that is one of the loudest guns I own. It doesn’t have the sheer volume of my HK91, but it makes up for it with the most astonishing sharp crack! when it’s fired. Must have something to do with the 1.5" barrel. I’ve had military guys who train without hearing protection wince when firing it, and ask for earplugs…

What gun do you propose the person in the story is using? As already said, a 22 is one of the best guns to suppress (by the way, don’t call it a silencer, it is a suppressor). I like the Ruger Mark 1, which has a suppressor built into the barrel. But it’s hard to tell someone what they should use for the story without knowing anything about it.

The overall loudness is from the explosion of the bullet going off. The bullet going supersonic just makes a crack as it goes downrange.

Subsonic ammunition is very special and not easy to find. 99.99% of pistol ammo is supersonic. Even with subsonic ammo, the gases escaping from the barrel may be supersonic, hence the suppressor to cut down the BANG!

Sounds like Binary was talking about the rifle, and your buddy needed a stamp for the silencer.

What gun do you propose the person in the story is using? As already said, a 22 is one of the best guns to suppress (by the way, don’t call it a silencer, it is a suppressor). I like the Ruger Mark 1, which has a suppressor built into the barrel. But it’s hard to tell someone what they should use for the story without knowing anything about it.


Well, the answers to my second question was going to determine that. What would you suggest for something that needs to be as quiet as possible? I’d like the weapon to be relatively common (i.e. not TOO hard to get) and not incredibly large/bulky (within reason; I’m not expecting to use one of those mini-pistols - I just don’t want to have to use an elephant gun here).


What gun do you propose the person in the story is using? As already said, a 22 is one of the best guns to suppress (by the way, don’t call it a silencer, it is a suppressor). I like the Ruger Mark 1, which has a suppressor built into the barrel. But it’s hard to tell someone what they should use for the story without knowing anything about it.

It all depends on how your guy is going to get whacked.
If he gets grabbed by two guys and shot in the cap at point blank range by another, a .22 is perfect, and is the hitman’s weapon of choice for these situations. If he’s going to get shot at long range, well then you’re talking a whole different type of gun…

No, standard .45 ACP has a typical muzzle velocity of only around 900 fps, well under the speed of sound in normal air conditions, which is about 1130 fps. I very much doubt that .45 ACP accounts for only .01% of pistol ammunition. :wink:

Even a lot of standard full metal jacket 9mm and .40 S&W rounds are subsonic. It’s typically the cheaper FMJ rounds that are most often used for practice, so I would say that subsonic pistol ammunition is in fact quite common.

It’s going to be made to look like suicide, so short range.

Here’s a possibility for the gun they leave him with.
You wouldn’t want him to be found with a suppressed gun - that would raise a lot of suspicion.

Have you browsed through youtube videos yet?

Are there any shooting ranges in your area? I’m sure if you called them and asked, someone could come up with a way for you to hear what a silencer sounds like.

Handgun calibers may not be loud compared to what you might expect from watching movies (where the shot sound is produced by foley artists who combine a number of sounds that come from different sources to make something that people who watch films expect a shot to sound like) but in real life an unsilenced .22LR is a “Bang”, a .38 Spl is a “BANG!”, and a 10mm Auto is a "B ". (Seriously, I knew a guy who suffered permanent hearing loss from firing a 10mm Auto in a confined space without hearing protection.) I’ve seen a locked-slide .22LR Ruger Mark II firing subsonic rounds in which the loudest sound was the firing pin striking the rim, and a 9mm Para submachine gun that could be fired in burst mode where the action of the slide and the impact on the steel target was louder than the muzzle report.

As for covering up the sound of a shot, at distance most people can’t distinguish a single shot from any other loud sound like a slamming door. And very few criminals use or have access to silencers (at least in the United States). Urban legands about making a silencer out of a potato or a 2-litre bottle are mostly that; dangerous and almost entirely useless, in addition to being very illegal.

??? The Mark I is just Ruger’s second .22LR auttoloading pistol (the first being the Ruger Standard) and while a few may have been modified with a threaded or integrally supressed barrel it was never produced by the OEM this way. Subsonic pistol ammunition is, contrary to the claim above, very common for most calibers. Common subsonic rounds for defensive-grade pistol calibers include the 147 gr 9mm Parabellum, the 180 gr .40 S&W, and the 230 gr .45 ACP. The 40 gr .22 Long Rifle (a very common round, especially in match grade quality) is transonic, and the .22 Long, .25 ACP/6.35mm Browning, .32 ACP/7.65mm Browning (the choice of Ian Fleming for the literary Bond after his Beretta was taken away), the .380 ACP/9mm Kurtz, and most rimmed rounds .38 Spl and less powerful are all subsonic.

At one time the most popular covert assassination pistol favored by the Israeli Mossad and the Iranian Shah’s Mossad-trained SAVAK was the Beretta 70 Series, due to the reliability (James Bond aside) and the easily replaced barrel (unlike most other .22 pistols, the barrel is not staked to the frame and so can be swapped out by simply field stripping the pistol). It also has excellent ergonomics. Of course, it is a .22 LR–it wouldn’t be my weapon of choice for offing anything larger than a rabbit, but provided you have a clean shot from the rear, quite effective. Personally, if I were (hypothetically) going to shoot someone, I’d go the Michael Corleone route; use a large bore caliber, leave the gun loud and clean, drop it in place (assuming that it is otherwise untraceable), and walk away. But then, I prefer to let things take their natural course in that regard; most people that need killin’ will probably get what’s coming to them eventually, and without the effort of my intervention.


Of course.

Cool, but because of the nature of online videos, it doesn’t really answer my question of how LOUD it is. Without sound context, it’s hard to tell (and I have to turn my computer volume way up for that video to even hear the narrator anyway).

What I have read that typical scenario was to get close to the victim posing as bystander and then empty magazine from like, two steps away, drop the gun right there and mix into crowd or drive away on the scooter. Doesn’t matter what caliber it is if you get a chestful at point blank range.

This might be off-topic, but I wanted to note that shooting through silencer from suicide range will cause a different pattern of gunpowder marks on the victim. Silencers hold hot gases long enough to get most of still burning gunpowder particles to cool off - and thus pathologist might find something off when examining body. Also, there would be no ring burn that is typical sign that somebody pressed barrel against flesh, which is common in suicides.

The speed of the round has the least effect on total overall loudness.

No it isn’t. Super sonic ammo creates a tiny little crack. The shooter harldy even hears it over the sound of the bolt slamming. It’s the person downrange who hears it. If you are firing supersonic ammo through a suppressor, the victim may not hear the shot itself, but he will hear the round fly by him if you miss. Shoot subsonic and noone but the shooter hears the round. That is the advantage.

Not usually.

That’s totally a qualatative statement. But I’m still going to call bullshit on it. Hangun rounds are VERY loud. Especially indoors. What are you comparing them too? A jet taking off? Pistols are loud. Much louder than they appear to be in movies, IMO.

Cite? What kind of quirk? There is nothing special about 22 WRT suppressors.

Pretty much the only statement in your post that wasn’t completely inaccurate.

Just wanted to note that this column from the archives might help with ideas on what a suicide can look like. Among other things, it addresses the powder burn issue.