As a long time rifle suppressor user I am often asked why there is a need. A recent conversation along with several correspondence this week sparked the need to complete this blog. It addresses those issues in detail alone. It surrounds the mythology behind the suppressor, the mysticism of Titanium, and who uses them and why. Writing it brought up some more issues that will get covered in later Blogs. I have written a few like this for print, but they had to be tempered a bit, this piece suffers no such limitation.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Marketing!
Most of the “facts” surrounding suppressors are in my opinion a mix of mythology and targeted marketing. Too often their value is measured against the “perceived” need, or their reputation on forums, social media, and depictions in the media. To this day the ignorant and uneducated make statements like “why would a hunter need a suppressor”, or “officers are not assassins” inferring only bad guys use them. Generally uttered by people never seeing let alone using one it is mind boggling. Make no mistake, this is not just the usual verbal defecation occurring on the Internet and social media. These statements come from “leaders” in the training and firearms industry – supposed experts in their field. Like much of this industry a misnomer at best. It never ceases to amaze me the crap recognized experts regurgitate.
Given close to three decades using a rifle suppressor the misinformation, propaganda, and outright lies are unmatched in the firearms industry. Coupled with marketing bordering on the absurd, facts are often missing in action. It is a cutthroat market with facts, figures and flatulence flying continually. They all do the same thing, just in different ways, and to different degrees. So, selling your suppressor over another requires all kinds of gyrations. Mate that to a buying public that is mired in meaningless comparisons and you get all kinds of “stuff” put out there. Here is what I have found having used dozens of them on rifles ranging from 22Lr to 50BMG both in a “tactical” environment and hunting critters with varying numbers of legs for almost 30 years now.
Who Makes the Best Suppressor
Every reputable company builds good suppressors. Brand loyalty is fine, it makes companies a ton of money, but good companies build good stuff. Nothing is perfect, and not every company does everything, but dedicated companies all make excellent products. The size of the company may have ZERO bearing on the quality of the product. Some of the best suppressors ever used came from small companies. Three sitting here now are all small companies and they are amongst the best ever tested. Every one of the “big boys” out there started as the little guy. Corporate money means corporate advertising and marketing, it does not always translate into a better product. Several new companies this year were started by “originators” leaving the bigger companies precisely because of the corporate melee. Big money equals big production, not always the best innovation or the best product.
Just because there is a military contract does not mean it is any better. The idea that only the “best” products make it into the hands of the military is pure fantasy – just ask someone who uses those products in war. Don’t get sucked into the mass marketing and testimonials. Some of them are great, but not necessarily any better than others. Is it easy to score a major military contract, nope, but is it based solely on the product, of course not. Acquisition remains one of the most politically entrenched aspects of the military world with the only change being the players, not the game. Its a dirty little secret, but its hard to sell something with the tag line “we got it because were know how to work the system”.
Bottom line, every suppressor in my inventory built by known companies works well, stands up to tons of abuse, and has withstood thousands of rounds of hard use. Companies often focus on different things, but they are all well made, safe, and will provide years, even decades of solid service to most users. Choose the can you want based on what YOU need and what it does, not necessarily who’s logo is on it.
Is Titanium really all that??
Titanium is good stuff, hard to work with, but great. It can be very light weight, but many new suppressors made of Stainless Alloys are not much heavier. A difference that used to be measured in pounds is often ounces these days. Weight is critical for sure, but it can be just as dependent on where its placed making over the barrel suppressors nice. The older I get the more critical weight is making them nice for me, but that is just me. It is only one aspect of a suppressors construction, not necessarily the most critical.
Titanium tends to dissipate heat better transferring less heat into a precision rifle’s barrel. It can generally take more heat making them preferred on many fully automatic suppressors. But, it is a pain to machine, costly to acquire, and most people just don’t need it. The difference in cost can be substantial, and if you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Stainless steel and Inconel, or other proprietary mixes can be incredibly durable – even more durable than Titanium. Its important to remember that metals are stronger than ever, alloys are better made, and machining is vastly improved. You may need it, but most don’t, and never think just because it is not Titanium it is substandard.
Suppressors are only for “operators” (what ever that means)
This may be the biggest lie perpetrated on the consuming public. It takes on two aspects. The first is that suppressors are only suited for military and or police operations. The second, and just as important, is the police world uses them the most. Both are complete BS!
Lets tart with the latter, its the purview of the “operator”. If you mean couch commandos or video game operators dressed in camo, well maybe. Maybe an apocalyptic warrior or two if they are “operators”. If you mean a Law Enforcement or Military Professional, then NOT A CHANCE!
It is nothing more than an incredibly well executed marketing plan, one that is backfiring now that the hunting market is in play. Those not in either Law Enforcement or the Military clamor for items that supposedly are. Its that old joke, want to sell it paint it black and call it “tactical”. Well, surprise, the marketing works! It has made millions for the gun industry, still does. Want to really make more money, mark it “LE ONLY”. Problem being, its just not true, never has been. Now you have to convince the real gun buying public you were just kidding!
Cops Seldom get issued Suppressors
I am not aware of a single agency in the state of Utah that issues suppressors to its tactical team. Maybe an officer or two, but the entire team? Maybe, but if so they are few. The same is true throughout the country. Few agencies issue these, they never have. Took years to get my agency to approve four suppressors for the sniper unit, I supplied them for a long time. Even the military has only made a move “en masse” in the last five years or so. Prior to that they were all but non-existent outside the Special Missions Units. Frequently seen in the movies, they are far less prevalent in the real world, even the police and military one. I don’t have any real figures, not sure they exist, but the vast majority of ownership outside the government is civilian not law enforcement. Spend the day at a high end precision rifle match, lots of guys with cans, few of them are officers. Most don’t have the five grand plus for the rifle, let alone another grand for a suppressor. Same at training, been attending police sniper training for decades. Seldom do officers attending training have them, it is getting better, but it is the doctor, lawyer, or computer programmer sitting next to them with the suppressor. This is not likely to change anytime soon given the strain on police budgets. Suppressors are no more the purview of the police operator than ammunition marked LE only is “special”.
Suppressors are Great for Hunters
Suppressors are a tool, period. They are a great tool, wish more agencies issued them or cops could afford them. Are they always the best tool, nope, money is often spent in better places. In my oppinion they are far better suited to hunters, target shooters, and enthusiasts. Its just a matter of working through all the mythology to get to them. A recent hunt in Texas proved my suppressors value immediately. Moving to a spot looking for some hogs the guide told me of a ram that had been injured by a bow hunter the week prior. They had seen glimpses of it, but it had been suffering for a week. So, he tells me if we see it to put it down. Driving up the trail he catches a glimpse of it and says “shoot it”. With very little time I roll out with my muzzle in pretty close proximity to the guide. Not unsafe, but pretty close, much like what occurs on the street. Suppressed, I knew it would not cause him pain, or injury. Took the shot on the moving animal and finally put him out of a weeks misery. He (the guide not the ram) looked at me and said, man, that suppressor is NICE! As the hunt continued the guide and the other writers commented on how quiet it was, and the lack of concussive effect. Mounted to a 6.5 Creedmoor it was no rimfire. It did nothing but enhance everyone’s experience, no ninjas in the vicinity as far as I know, just hunters.
Frankly, it is just damned polite if you ask me. Since it lessens recoil there is no need for some annoying muzzle brake. Flash is all but non-existent, and all the blast is sent forward instead of being absorbed by you and your partner(s). It improves your ability to be accurate, provides faster follow ups, and facilitates longer range shots. There is just nothing bad at all about hunting with a suppressor, using it at the range, or mounting it to your self defense rifle. The only thing making it so is the ignorance of those in power, and the media created mythology of its use as an “assassins tool”. Thankfully more states are starting to allow them for hunting, hopefully that will continue.
Its time the gun buying public woke up and cut through the crap. Rifle Suppressors are not assassins tools used by ninjas. Nor are they or should they be the sole purview of the military. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are nothing but a mechanical device, one that benefits anyone in the vicinity of their use. Time we started encouraging their use rather than demonizing them, but given the world today that may be too much to ask, one can only hope.