By Al Paulson
SAR’s Suppressor Technology Editor Al Paulson was recently asked what he thought were good choices for someone’s “Kit” in the event of needing suppression on a firearm. The ensuing article provides some interesting perspectives and choices, and we hope this helps answer some questions for the readers- Dan
Who knows if this Y2K business is media hype or not? Friends who are computer programmers disagree. One suggests fixing code is simplistic stuff. Another points out that even the first release of Windows 98 was not Y2K compliant. He suggests that the Y2K problem is much more subtle and pervasive than a lot of people believe, and not all the Y2K problems will appear on the first day of the Year 2000. There are several minefields that will appear on subsequent critical dates as well. He also points out that a lot of public utilities use an archaic programing language that has not been taught at the college level in decades, so there are a limited number of qualified programmers to resolve Y2K issues for the many mainframes still using this old language. His personal solution to the Y2K issue was to buy a generator, bury a fuel tank, put in a well with hand pump, stockpile gallon cans of freeze-dried food and crates of ammo, and add some sound suppressors to his kit. That got me to thinking. What sound suppressors would I want in my Y2K kit? They would fall into several mission categories: small game hunting, big game hunting, general tactical, and long-range tactical.
Selecting silencers for a Y2K kit is somewhat daunting, since this is the golden age of silencer design. The state of the art has grown considerably in the last decade, and the industry is rich with talented companies making diverse and outstanding products. Some of these manufacturers are relatively large and well known, while others are small shops catering to small but fiercely loyal clienteles. Both big and small companies produce some really excellent products. The net result is that the consumer has a plethora of outstanding sound suppressors to choose from. The following are some of my personal favorites, which I hope will stimulate your thought processes concerning what your own needs may be. You may wish to add a few suppressors or integrally suppressed arms that will serve similar needs, be they from these or other manufacturers.
If food availability becomes a problem, the easiest way to supplement your existing stores is the hunting of small game. If local laws permit the use of suppressed firearms for hunting, you will be at a social and strategic advantage by using such tools.
Small Game Hunting
The criteria for selecting the best silenced arm for hunting small game will depend upon several factors. Can you hunt openly (i.e., with a rifle) or must you hunt surreptitiously (i.e., with a concealed handgun) to avoid alarming nearby farmers or residents, or to avoid giving away the location of your favorite hunting ground? Is visual stealth important? This would favor an integrally silenced arm, which the uninitiated will view as a target-barreled gun. Or is maximum service life more important? This would favor the use of a visually conspicuous muzzle can. Finally, does your skill level permit the use of a handgun to feed the family?
I now live in a semi-rural area that features individual homes and small subdivisions interspersed with small farms and woodlots. Hunting is frowned upon but small game abounds. Since hikers are welcome, I could go for a walk at dawn or dusk (when most game is especially active) with a day pack and an integrally silenced pistol hidden under a long shirt. It would be a simple matter to use a single well-placed shot to collect a rabbit, squirrel or game bird for the pot within the 50 yard effective range of a good silenced pistol.
In fact, I regularly did this when I was a graduate student at the University of Alaska—Fairbanks. With the blessing of campus security, I’d hike or ski the two miles to campus with a Ruger Mark I (not silenced to conform to local game laws). Since most of the two miles were woods, and since homes and cabins were rare, I frequently collected several snowshoe hares or grouse for the evening meal on the way home. All UAF security asked of me was that I keep the gun unloaded while on campus. While one saw people with long arms on campus routinely in those gentler days (often grad students who needed protection while conducting field research in bear country), it still would have been tacky to walk from class to class with a rifle on my shoulder. The pistol resided in my day pack, which was a ubiquitous and therefore invisible accouterment of campus life. The pistol was a graceful and discreet solution for adding meat to the table of a starving grad student.
If both game and neighbors are plentiful, my own bias would be to use an integrally silenced pistol that features a tensioned barrel to minimize barrel harmonics. Such pistols by manufactures like Gemtech, Sound Technology, and the D.H. Melton Company (to name a few) can be easily holstered and carried unobtrusively. This assumes the operator limits his or her shots to a range where first-round kills are assured and great care is taken to ensure that no livestock, hikers, or buildings lie behind the target.
If you can hunt openly in a rural setting, then I like a good silenced .22 rifle, which will greatly extend a hunter’s effective range. If visual stealth or maximum suppression are required, then I’m particularly fond of D.H. Melton’s Sound-Master integrally silenced Ruger 10/22, which can deliver a sound signature that is within 2 decibels of action noise when using subsonic ammunition, or it can deliver maximum practical subsonic projectile velocity by using high velocity ammunition, when maximizing penetration is important.
If I were cynical about the duration of problems following Y2K, then I’d opt for a muzzle can rather than an integrally suppressed .22 rimfire. Any integrally suppressed arm will have a finite lifespan, limited by the infinitesimally slow accumulation of lead and hard carbon residue inside the suppressor wherever there is porting. I have x-rays documenting this process, but I can’t publish them without giving up the design secrets of the manufacturer. For most end-users, this process is so slow as to be irrelevant; you’ll be able to leave these guns to your grandkids. But if you expect to hunt game for food on a frequent and long-term basis, then using a well-designed muzzle can might increase the number of rounds you could put through the system tenfold.
Perhaps the most thought-provoking muzzle can design in the marketplace is the Millennium .22 suppressor from Sound Technology. It’s very quiet. It’s as tough as a Russian T34 tank. Lead and carbon accumulation is minimal. Furthermore, the design will probably tolerate more lead and carbon build-up than any design I’ve seen, which means it could well deliver the longest service life. Finally, the Millennium’s mounting system is practical in the extreme.
For mounting to a rifle or pistol, it features a 5/8 inch, hardened steel stud with NF, left-hand threads. The muzzle of a heavy (target-weight) rifle or pistol barrel is counterbored, crowned and threaded to accept this stud. This arrangement has a number of practical advantages. (1) The new barrel crown is protected by the deep, threaded socket. (2) The use of internal threading in front of the new crown eliminates any expansion of the bore that might be caused by the use of conventional outside threading. Such expansion adversely affects accuracy. (3) The use of left-hand threading ensures that the muzzle can tightens to the weapon with each shot, since the barrels use RH rifling so the resulting torque from each shot is applied in a right-handed vector. (4) No external thread protector is required. (5) This design assures proper axial alignment and it compensates for face wear over the long haul. (6) The same suppressor can be swapped between rifles and pistols. Sound Technology’s Millennium suppressor would be part of a very practical and durable system for hunting small game after the dawn of Y2K and well into the new millennium.
Big Game Hunting
For most residents of the United States, deer are the most readily accessible large game. Decades of experience hunting big game in Alaska has given me some definite biases. One of these biases is my confidence in the efficacy of heavy bullets of large diameter. My standard gun for bear protection was a Winchester Model 95 in .405 caliber. It stopped three bears at very close range with a single shot each time. Another of my favorites was the .44 Special round, which proved to be very accurate and effective on the black-tailed deer of Kodiak and Afognak, consistently providing one-shot kills. Coincidentally, this is a subsonic round and well suited to employment with a silencer. An integrally suppressed Ruger 77/44 rifle would be my first choice for discreetly taking deer-sized game.
The suppressed Ruger 77/44 from John’s Guns is an especially attractive system. Featuring a 16.25 inch barrel, and a 1.25×20 inch suppressor tube of 4140 steel finished in a handsome but discreet matt blue, this suppressed Ruger 77/44 has an overall length of just 39 inches. More importantly, it has a superbly quiet sound signature, and it’s as accurate as the unsuppressed rifle. This system from John’s Guns is my suppressed rifle of choice for the taking of deer-sized animals.
Any tactical requirements related to Y2K would probably relate to a possible breakdown of the social order, which could manifest itself as looting, or as an increased incidence of robbery, burglary, and carjackings. For protection from robbery and carjackings, it’s hard to beat a concealed and unsuppressed handgun of major caliber, preferably in .45 ACP according to my biases. For home defense, however, it’s hard to beat a 5.56x45mm carbine fitted with a sound suppressor to preserve the family’s short-term and long-term hearing if the weapon must be fired. One of my favorite systems is a select-fire M16 with 11.5 inch barrel and a quick-mount suppressor. A quick-mount suppressor is handy because some tactical situations call for making as much noise as possible, such as the need to gain temporary fire superiority to disengage from a superior force or to flank the enemy using fire-and-movement tactics.
One of my favorite quick-mount cans for the M16 family of weapons is the Model M4 3L sound suppressor from Suppressed Tactical Weapons. STW’s Model M4 3L features a patented three-lug quick-mounting system which is the most robust and trouble-free quick mount in the business. Designed by Carl O’Quinn and Andy Andrews, STW’s M4 3L suppressor has just four parts. The rear end cap and suppressor guts are machined from a single block of solid titanium. This ingenious monobloc design does not use baffles and spacers in any conventional sense. In my opinion, STW’s very efficient, one-piece suppression module represents one of the most important technological advances in the history of suppressor design.
Crafted entirely out of G2 titanium, the M4 3L suppressor has an overall length of 8.5 inches. Since the quick mount slips over the weapon’s barrel for 1.6 inches, the suppressor only adds 6.9 inches to the overall length of the weapon. The diameter of the silencer is 1.3 inches and the weight is an astonishingly light 14.0 ounces. The M4 3L runs 6-11 ounces lighter than the other quick-mount systems in the marketplace. Only the superbly crafted, screw-mount titanium Viper Model 3016 from the Special Op’s Shop is comparably light, but this smallest Viper variant produces a much louder sound signature. An M16 carbine with STW’s M4 3L suppressor provides an outstanding system for the up-close and personal requirements of family defense and the repelling of boarders.
Some folks live in open areas where they can see trouble coming from a considerable distance. To deal with such problems, it’s hard to beat a precision rifle chambered for 7.62x51mm ammunition. My own bias would be to use a system that featured a sound suppressor since, as the old Finnish proverb explains, “A silencer does not make a soldier silent, but it does make him invisible.” Using a suppressed rifle greatly facilities the ability to engage a superior force at a distance.
Furthermore, if the rifle features a barrel with a 1 in 10 inch twist, then the operator could also use high-performance, 200 grain 7.62x51mm Precision Bonded Subsonic (PBS) hollowpoint ammunition from Engel Ballistics Research that will give accurate shot placement, good penetration, and reliable expansion at subsonic velocities. Thus the operator could place high velocity shots reliably out to perhaps 800 yards using conventional match-grade service ammunition or 1,000 yards using VLD ammo. This same rifle could also be used to provide virtually silent hits into 1 MOA at 100 yards by using EBR’s PBS rounds. This would be a very versatile system suitable for a wide variety of hunting or tactical applications.
There are a number of outstanding .30 caliber suppressors in the marketplace. One of my favorites is the TPR-S suppressor from Gemtech. The TPR-S is very quiet with supersonic ammo, and it has a large enough bullet passage to use with subsonic ammo when the rifle barrel has a 1 in 10 twist rate. (Some other .30 caliber cans have tight bores that require a 1 in 8 rate of twist with subsonic ammo.) One of the best features of the Gemtech suppressor is that it features a spring-loaded quick mount that snaps onto two asymmetric lugs of a patented muzzle brake called the Bi-Lock. Not only does this allow the operator to mount or dismount the can in a few seconds, it also means that the rifle returns to the same zero every time the suppressor is mounted. Screw-mount suppressors will frequently require re-zeroing every time they are mounted, unless a torque wrench is used to mount them with the same number of inch-pounds every time the can is installed.
Is all this concern about Y2K insightful or just so much hokum? Only time will tell. While you might never use that new-in-the-box generator or a basement full of freeze-dried food, a careful collection of suppressed firearms would serve you well for years to come, whether or not you and your loved ones are bitten by the Millennium Bug. A good suppressed .22 rimfire rifle or pistol, a silenced .44 Special rifle, a 5.56mm carbine with quick mount suppressor, and a silenced rifle of .30 caliber should prove to be practical tools that will cover a wide spectrum of requirements in the new millennium. But this selection is a very personal one, based upon my own experiences and biases. What suppressed weapons would best fill your own needs as the new millennium approaches? I hope the preceding discussion has stimulated your own decision-making process.
D.H. Melton Company
1739 E. Broadway Road, Suite 1-161
Tempe, AZ 85282
phone 602-967-6218, fax 602-902-0783
P.O. Box 3538
Boise, ID 83701
phone 208-939-7222, fax 208-939-7804
Engel Ballistic Research, Inc.
544A Alum Creek Road
Smithville, Texas 78957
phone 512-360-5327, fax 512-360-2652
3010A Hwy. 155 North
Palestine, TX 75801
phone 903-729-8251, fax 903-723-4653
P.O. Box 391
Pelham, AL 35124
phone and fax 205-664-5860
Suppressed Tactical Weapons, Inc.
6911 Bill Poole Road
Rougemont, NC 27572
phone 919-471-6778, fax 919-471-3314
Special Op’s Shop
P.O. Box 978
Madisonville, TN 37354
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N1 (October 1999)|