How do gun silencers work?


If you’re shooting a number of animals, for example, you’re only going to get one shot before the rest of the animals start running. Now, if you’re only after one Deer, that’s fine. If you’re trying to cull pests, though, that poses a problem.

In some places, it’s legal to hunt in semi-rural or even built up areas with a .22 (when I was growing up in NZ, for example, it was legal to fire an airgun or .22 on your own property, even in the middle of town- within reason, of course) and having a silencer on the end was just a courtesy for the neighbours so you didn’t wake them up at 1am when taking potshots at rabbits.

Similarly, if you’re at the shooting range, it’s VERY distracting to have people’s guns going off right next to you- even through 35dB earmuffs, a .308 Winchester or a .45ACP is still surprisingly loud. Of course shooters manage to deal with it, but the edited highlights are that there are indeed non Frederick Forsyth-esque uses for silencers in civilian hands.


I recall reading years ago that the silencer was used in crime fiction before the actual thing was invented. Alas, like much else “I read years ago”, it doesn’t seem to be true.

According to this site on the History of Firearms it was invented in the 19th century:

“Hiram Maxim (born 1853) invented the Maxim Silencer or Suppressor: that attached to the front of the barrel of a pistol and allowed the firearm to be fired without a loud bang. Invented in 1909, the Maxim Suppressor was the first commercially successful silencer.”

'sfunny – I don’t remember .22LR making enough sound to worry about – in fact, I remember a sound much like a Hollywood “silencer” sound. But nearly all the shooting I ever did was with my father’s very serious target rifle (interchangeable front sights, dialable aperture and vernier elevation-windage dials on the rear peephole and so on – I suspect a comparable new one would cost well upward of $1000, and maybe a heckuva lot more), which had a long and heavy barrel (muzzle-on, it looked like a 19th-century sniper’s rifle) that probably suppressed a lot of sound by itself.

Moderator speaks: I’m seeing this a little late, but a reminder seems to be in order that personal insults are not permitted in this forum. Specifically, Stranger on a Train, comments about another poster’s “cognitive capability” is inappropriate.

I agree, beg your pardon, and sincerely apologize to all and sundry for making that comment in an inappropriate forum. But I’ll also note that the poster to whom I was responded implicitly referred to me as a “gun nut” for offering a technical, “non-nutty” response to what amounted to an advocacy of illegal improvised silencers. I’ll bow out of this thread now to avoid any further discombobulation.


A “standard” .22 rifle- the sort of thing most shooters grew up plinking with as kids- can be quite loud when the gunshot noise echoes off buildings, cliffs, etc. Silencers are quite effective on a .22, but they do slow the muzzle velocity down, which dramatically decreases the range- also a plus when hunting in a barn or semi-rural area, where you don’t actually want the projectile to go more than 100m or so anyway.

On a Ruger 10/22 fitted with a silencer, the report is reduced to what you would hear when dry firing the rifle. Don’t ask how I know that.

as a teenager I had a drug dealer friend i worked with at a pizza place who always carried a silenced Berreta .22 in the map pocket of his car. We used to set up bundles of napkins in the back room and shoot the hell out of them. The manager nearly lost her mind when she found out. He also had a full auto M4 and was building a Mac 10 from parts. He carried a pager and delivered his product on pizza delivery runs along with the pizza. He eventually got busted for it and I havent seen him since.

Anyway…The .22 was quiet…not as quiet in the movies but we got away with it. it was also probably not the best silencer on the market.

Ladies & Gents

The correct term is ‘supressor’ not ‘silencer’. ‘Silencer’ is a Hollywood and popular press term and is incorrect in its usage. Use the term ‘silencer’ around the ‘in-crowd’ and be deemed an ignoramous :slight_smile:

BTW - someone asked if a firearm can be supressed so that it makes no sound. We (my spouse and I) own two intergrally supressed .45 caliber bolt action rifles. The only sound you hear is the firing pin hitting the primer of the cartidge. And the sound of the bullet hitting the target if it is within 50 ft.

We own two other supressors that can be mounted on other firearms. One is better than the other but you still hear the sounds of the firearm - namely the the spent brass ejecting out of the port and the clack of the slide moving back into position. If used on something like an open bolt firearm (Thompson or Uzi) you hear the bolt slamming forward quite loudly.

For what its worth :slight_smile:
L Cook

If anyone is interested in acquiring one of these fun little gadgets (only applies to US Citizens, I expect) check out Western Firearms for some info on how to do it legally, and here for some product and pricing.

Argh! Screwed up coding, suppressors at

Not in Commonwealth English, it’s not. In fact, I refer you to the Weapons Categories Regulation 1997 (QLD), Section 8(h):

"*8. Category R Weapons

Each of the following is a Category R weapon:

H. A silencer or other device or contrivance made or used, or capable of being used or intended to be used, for reducing the sound caused by a discharging firearm.*"

So, in Australia (and the UK), the term “Silencer” is correct, and “Suppressor” is an American military jargonism. :wink:

Incidentally, if anyone wants to read up on the Firearms laws in Queensland, I’ve provided a link:

Scroll down link to “Weapons Act 1990” (Links on page are .pdfs)

The only suppressed .45 calibre bolt action rifle I’m aware of is the DeLisle Commando Carbine, and the modern replicas thereof manufactured by Valkyrie arms. They’re supposed to be a lot of fun to shoot!

When you fire a silenced S.M.G.(in my experience )all you can hear is the bolt going back and forward.

We have two suppressed .45 calibre Spanish Destroyers made by a gentleman in Bend, Oregon. A very fine manufacturer of suppressed firearms - but with a limited clientele. He does it for the fun and discovery of ‘neat’ engineering. And if he can sell a few along the way so much the better :slight_smile:

Well, from a legal perspective, the term “silencer” is quite meaningful; 18 USC § 921(a)(3) provides in pertinent part:

I didn’t realize that the Hollywood crowd was writing federal legislation, but what do I know?

I thought this was a very good write up, but I would like to point out some errors in the legality of silencers. There is no license needed to own a silencer. You do have to have your chief law enforcement officer sign off on the form 4 allowing you to take possession. Then you mail it in along with a passport photo, finger prints, and 200$ for the tax.

A good place to go to ask questions from VERY knowledgeable people, and a few manufacturers is: They can provide you with reliable information regarding any kind of question you might have. There is a lot of miss information regarding silencers, and their ownership and these guys can set you strait.

I edited the last paragraph of the write up to correct the mistakes that were present, also I live in Maine, so I know this to be incorrect about the dealers.

I said “license” rather than “an approved ATF Form 4” or “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm,” because the approval of your Form 4 is a de facto license to receive and possess that particular silencer.

When a sentence says, “In general…” it signals that the statement that follows is intended to be a general statement, rather than an exhaustive and rigorous list of all possible cases. So when I said, “In general…” and then failed to mention the filling out Form 4, certifying that you are not an unlawful user of nor addicted to marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug or controlled substance, failed to note the requirement for no dishonorable discharge and failed to specifiy that you cannot have renounced your US citizenship, the omission of those conditions did not convert my statement into error.