By Aaron Brudenell
For years, the firearm suppressor manufacturing icon known as Gemtech has produced a number of superlative designs. One of their older offerings, the Aurora, was listed in the catalogue for years but only teased the reader. Caught between the boundaries of regulation and better innovations, until recently it was only available to government customers. This model was intended for a very specific role and uses wipes and an artificial environment (coolant) to achieve the necessary sound reduction for a 9mm pistol in an uncommonly compact size.
The unfortunate downside of this arrangement is an exceptionally short service life. Wipes are a disposable technology, and the official ATF regulatory position requires only licensed Class 2 manufacturers be authorized to produce replacements. For this reason, the Aurora was relegated strictly to government and military customers willing to send the used units back to their maker for restoration if and when it was necessary.
The design, a specific and task-oriented one, was to equip a compact 9mm pistol (like a GLOCK 26) with a quiet, reliable and compact suppressor that was ideal for use in emergency situations like a downed pilot or some other overseas contingency operation. The Aurora, as specified, fit this mission admirably without the need for hyper-engineered baffle stacks or large suppressor bodies that would limit reliability or otherwise interfere with the mission.
For the Public
Recently, Gemtech released an upgraded version to the general public—the Aurora-II, complete with a rebuild service for all to enjoy. For less than $40, an Aurora-II can be returned to the manufacturer and have the wipes and coolant replaced; the good-as-new unit is then re-sent to the customer (turnaround time is less than 2 weeks). Current owners in need of this service should contact Smith and Wesson, the new home of Gemtech, for a return authorization and shipping instructions.
The advertised performance of the Aurora-II is 137dB, and recent testing verified that value for a majority of the first 20 shots (a reduction of 25dB or more). Because of the nature of a wipe suppressor design, subsonic ammunition must be selected that uses a round nose and a non-expanding bullet type. Figures below come from test shots using a brand new Aurora-II and PPU brand 158-grain 9mm round nose subsonic ammunition. Sound measurements were conducted with a Larson Davis Model 800B using the A scale.
One advantage that comes from a wipe and spacer design is the suppressor can be used in either direction. Gemtech’s Aurora-II has threads on both ends to accommodate 1/2×28- inch right-hand and metric 13.5×1 left-hand threads. On the other hand, one disadvantage is that the initial shots fired through virgin wipes can suffer from accuracy limitations. Test shots recorded above were simultaneously fired into a target, but it was found that accuracy and bullet stability was only affected for the first four shots. Accuracy limitations at 10 to 15 yards would still keep a center of mass shot within the target area of a man-sized silhouette.
The semi-rigid polyurethane wipes are manufactured with an “X” cut through the center to allow passage of the fired bullets but enough sturdiness to resist damage from the shot and maintain back pressure necessary for cycling a recoil-operated pistol. The test firearm, a GLOCK 26 equipped with a Lone Wolf Distributors threaded barrel, cycled reliably for the first 20 shots, but once the wipes were shot through, stoppages were frequent. A blowback pistol subsequently tested continued to fully function regardless of the condition of the Aurora-II wipes.
It should be noted that while expended wipes may not be replaceable by the user, the coolant within the spacers may be replenished and will offer some restoration of sound reduction—just not as much as with fresh wipes. Gemtech has traditionally used Vaseline® or a similar type of petroleum jelly as an artificial environment, but other options are listed in the Owner’s Manual.
Suppressor designs of the 21st century have evolved to the point where the state-of-the-art consists of efficient baffle designs and adaptive couplers capable of quiet and reliable functioning on a variety of host firearms. If properly mounted, these designs will give years and thousands of rounds of faithful maintenance-free service to their users without any need for coolant material or specialized ammunition. All of this notwithstanding, the Aurora-II occupies a small corner of compact effectiveness that still makes use of older technology in a way that the best modern cans can’t … at least, not yet!
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V24N2 (Feb 2020)