As black rifles become more mainstream within the domestic shooting community, the numbers of accessories and attachments have become greater and more varied in design. Butt stocks, fore ends, pistol grips, flash hiders, and other accessories are available from any number of sources to dress up and change the features and appearance of a black rifle. In addition, uncertainty within the political and economic future has resulted in a large number of .22 caliber black rifles that are inexpensive, easy to maintain, and cheap to shoot. Enter the Gemtech G5-22, a multifunctional .22 caliber suppressor built specifically for the black rifle market.
Long known within the NFA community, Gemtech is known for making high quality products. The G5-22 is no exception. Not to be confused by its big brother, the .223 caliber G5 suppressor, the G5-22 is a miniature version of the G5 in outward appearances. Measuring 6.6 inches in length, 1.37 inches in diameter, and weighing in at a svelte seven ounces, the G5-22 produced a sound signature measuring 117 decibels when measured from a .22 caliber Thompson Center single shot rifle. First round pop was not noticeable to the ear, and was statistically insignificant when measured via sound meter. When one considers that the actions of many semiautomatic .22 caliber rifles produce 125 – 130 decibels when the bolt slams into battery, the true benefit of the G5-22 becomes apparent – the sound signature will be that of the action, and not the muzzle blast. When trying to compare what a suppressor may sound like without actually being able to fire it, this proves to be an invaluable insight into the level of sound reduction capable from this efficient little unit.
Like the G5, the G5-22 was designed with black rifles in mind. Outfitted with a miniature Gemtech bi-lock flash hider, the G5-22 mimics the feel and performance characteristics of the larger G5 without the weight or cost of the larger .223 suppressor. For those readers unfamiliar with the Gemtech bi-lock system, the system allows the suppressor to be mounted to the rifle in the same repeatable manner, each and every time the suppressor is fitted to the rifle. This is an important feature, as thread-based designs common to many suppressor designs may not provide consistent and repeatable mounting between the suppressor and the host weapon. Accuracy (or lack thereof) and inconsistency between aimed suppressed and non-suppressed fire can sometimes be traced to variables in the suppressor mounting system. The Gemtech bi-lock system removes many of the inconsistencies through the use of two offset mounting tabs that force the suppressor to be mounted to the rifle in the exact same position every time it is used. More importantly, a suppressor using the Bi-lock system may be attached or removed from the rifle in a matter of seconds. The .22 caliber bi-lock, while smaller in size than the full sized bi-lock, provides the identical features as its larger full sized .223 caliber brethren, while preserving the tactical (yet diminutive) feel and appearance of a .22 caliber black rifle. For the G5-22 to follow in the footsteps of the larger G5 suppressor, the Bi-lock mounting system was a required feature.
For safety reasons, the G5-22 will not mount to a rifle using a traditional G5 bi-lock. Designed for use with the .22 LR cartridge, the G5-22 is not capable of withstanding the forces generated by the larger and more powerful .223 cartridge. As a result, the G5-22 Bi-lock is smaller in size, thereby preventing the use of the G5-22 on a full sized .223 Bi-lock mount (preventing a potentially catastrophic end result) while also excluding the G5 from being used on the G5-22 mount thus preventing the user from adverse lead build up within the sealed and non-serviceable G5 suppressor. For users with multiple .22 LR firearms, additional bi-lock mounts may be purchased.
For those with limited knowledge of how a suppressor works and functions, questions may arise why a new suppressor is needed when the Gemtech G5 suppressor (capable of firing the more powerful .223 cartridge) is fully capable of suppressing the lowly .22 LR cartridge. In simple terms, the answer is lead vapor. Most .223 projectiles have a full metal jacket, with only the lead base of the projectile exposed. In some cases, even the base may be enclosed, limiting the amount of exposed lead to the gases generated during the firing sequence. Less lead is exposed during the firing sequence of a .223 cartridge, resulting in less lead buildup within a dedicated .223 suppressor. The same is not true of .22 LR cartridges. Typical .22 LR cartridges are composed of lead with a waxy finish. During the firing sequence, the hot gases created from the burning propellant, combined with high temperatures generated via friction between the projectile and the barrel allows a small portion of the lead projectile to vaporize. Firing quick volleys of .22 LR (whether in semiautomatic or fully automatic manner) only exacerbates the problem, as the internal temperatures increase and the lead is more easily vaporized.
While generally safe to the shooter, the lead vapor will exit the muzzle and is directed away from the shooter. From a safety standpoint, this is ideal. Nevertheless, the lead vapor will quickly condense on any cool surface encountered, including the internals of a sound suppressor. While there are .22 LR cartridges that are “jacketed,” these rounds typically feature a copper wash over the lead projectile that measures only several thousandths of an inch in thickness. While the copper wash may lessen the amount of lead vapor generated, the issue of lead vapor and leading remains.
Why is the issue of lead vapor important? Typically, large caliber suppressors are sealed and are not user-serviceable. There is no need to service a typical centerfire suppressor. Remember – lead vapor is typically not an issue for centerfire caliber cartridges. The caveat of course comes when a centerfire suppressor is used to fire .22 LR cartridges. Build up of lead vapor within the centerfire suppressor will increase weight and degrade performance over time, without the ability to clean or remove the internal lead build up. While a G5 (or any large caliber centerfire suppressor) may be used to suppress the report of a .22 caliber cartridge, the centerfire suppressor is not intended, nor recommended for long term use with .22 caliber cartridges.
Designed for the .22 LR cartridge, the G5-22 may be disassembled and is fully user serviceable for internal cleaning. In practice, the G5-22 was easily disassembled without tools. The end caps were easily unscrewed by hand and without tools to expose an inner tube used to align the internal baffles. Removing the baffles from the inner tube was easily accomplished by unscrewing the outermost baffle with a coin. Once removed, the remaining eight baffles slide out of place for cleaning and maintenance. Reassembly of the G5-22 was easy by simply reversing the steps used in disassembly. With the exception of placing the blast baffle in the proper internal position, there were no baffle alignment or sequential internal assembly steps required.
Virtually identical in use and installation to the larger G5 suppressor, the G5-22 has the added benefit of allowing law enforcement SWAT teams to train at lower cost. When installed on a .22 caliber AR-15, M16, or M4 platform, the G5-22 allows the use of inexpensive .22 caliber cartridges, while maintaining the same muscle memory required for use of the larger .223 caliber G5. In stressful situations, one must train in the same manner as the fight; the G5-22 allows the user to train at a lower cost without trying to remember how different systems are used in varying situations.
Accuracy testing showed that the suppressor did not adversely affect accuracy of the host weapon. Partly due to the consistency in mounting, and partly due to physics, users will typically find that use of a suppressor will tighten a shot group. The effect is best described by the imagining the inner workings of the suppressor. Rather than allowing gases to escape from the barrel unimpeded, suppressors typically contain and direct the gases formed during the firing sequence, allowing the bullet to exit the bore with minimal disruption. The bullet exits a suppressed bore with less external influence from the muzzle blast, resulting in greater accuracy and tighter shot groups.
The G5-22 suppressor proved to be a quality product, in line with what one might expect from Gemtech. As the first Gemtech suppressor capable of full disassembly, the design is well thought out and designed for heavy use by serious shooters. Suggested retail price is $495. The $200 NFA transfer tax will apply for the transfer of the suppressor to non-licensed individuals or entities, making the suppressor as expensive (or potentially more expensive) than the host .22 caliber firearm. Nevertheless, the ability to train on the AR-15/M16 platform using inexpensive .22 caliber ammunition will easily provide an afternoon of shooting without breaking the bank, irritating the neighbors, or worrying about an errant centerfire .223 round leaving the firing range.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V14N5 (February 2011)|