The Sounds of Silence(r)

A bit more than eight decades ago, the U.S. government in its infallible (according to itself) judgment to save us from ourselves pulled a fast one on us with the National Firearms Act of 1934. Time and space prevent me from fully explaining the details of how this infringement of our Second Amendment rights occurred, along with the other ramifications. However, one of the devices that comes under this disgusting legislation is the firearm sound suppressor—a.k.a. silencer. Like machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, the suppressor comes under what we now colloquially called an NFA device.
In order to possess an NFA device, a citizen must fill out a Form 4, submit to a background check, be fingerprinted and—most importantly—write a check to the government for $200 per device. The $200 is considered a tax, and its original intent was to dissuade people from obtaining NFA devices. Nowadays $200 is chump change, especially given the prices that these devices command.
Suppressor sales are skyrocketing, and suppressor technology is growing at an almost equal rate. Now there is even a suppressor for shotguns. One reason for the stratospheric increase in suppressors is that most of us who have been shooting for some time have suffered some hearing loss. Even though we try to be vigilant with ear pro (hearing protection) stuff happens, and our hearing suffers.
Some states, notably Kansas and my home state of Wyoming, have seen the light and rescinded their arcane and frivolous laws prohibiting the use of suppressed weapons in the taking of wildlife. The efforts needed to accomplish this have been stymied somewhat by the 81-year-old stigma of federal law. Because of the strict control the feds have placed on these devices, there is an implication that suppressors are good for nothing except hiding nefarious behavior. In Kansas and Wyoming, along with many other states, we have been successful in demonstrating that using suppressors is a public health issue.

This suppressor made by SureFire allows Dave to shoot prairie dogs all day without external ear pro.

This suppressor made by SureFire allows Dave to shoot prairie dogs all day without external ear pro.

I, for one, am really glad to be able to use suppressed guns on prairie dog shoots. Typically, these are shoots that require a high volume of rounds expended during the day. Too, they often occur on warm days when wearing ear pro can become uncomfortable.
For those interested in using suppressors, here are a few tips to make the process of obtaining them a bit easier and hanging onto them afterward. First up, be absolutely sure that possessing a suppressor is legal in your state. There are a few states where it is illegal to possess a suppressor. Also, make sure it is legal to hunt with one if you plan to do so. If you are an active shooter, you will want at least three cans—street lingo for suppressors—a rimfire can which will handle everything from .17 HMR through .22 WMR; a .223 (5.56 mm) can for .22-caliber centerfires; and a .30-caliber can for everything else up to .300 magnum. I was surprised last year at how well a .30-cal. can works on a .223 Remington bolt-action rifle. If you want to suppress your AR, though, you’ll want a can that fits over a flash suppressor. The other two will be screw-on cans and will require the muzzle of you gun to be threaded. If you are really into it deeply, include a .338-caliber can and even a .45-caliber for the big stuff.
Each person will have their own parameters and restrictions, but I would advise on buying as many of them as you can at one time. The waiting period between applying for the stamp (your permit to purchase and possess one item) is about a year now. It doesn’t matter whether you are applying for one can or 10, so get all that you feel you can afford at one time.
Finally, when you get your Form 4 returned with the stamp and pick up your suppressor(s), make a copy of each Form 4 and keep it with the can. I roll a copy of mine up and keep it in the pouch that came with my can. That way when some LE guy wants to check you out, you have the proof that you possess that device legally.
Here are some links to sites with detailed information regarding suppressors:
And for buying suppressors:
Should you decide to purchase from one of these retailers, I’d be grateful if you told them I sent you. Shooting suppressed firearms makes the whole shooting experience much more civilized.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”
  1. Peter Caroline Reply

    My hearing was literally shot to hell when I went through Army Basic Training with an M1 Garand. Stuffing cigarette filters in one’s ears was considered unmanly, and now many of my generation are often heard saying “What?!” Silencers make good sense. It’s a damn shame that acquiring these devices require such an expenditure of time and money.

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