April 06, 2020
Should you suppress your AK, SVD, PSL, Makarov or other Combloc gun? Why not? The Soviets were actually early adopters of both suppressors and dedicated subsonic ammunition for use by snipers. A modicum of research reveals the Soviet’s interest in suppressors began around 1930 and in 1931 a model was tested on the DP light machine gun. A variety of models from different designers were tested throughout the 1930s before a model was adopted for use on the Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 sniper rifle in December 1940. Developed by the Matin brothers, the Bramit suppressor was a simple device which used rubber wipes and subsonic 7.62x54mmR ammunition. Production started in 1941 and it saw service during World War II in surprisingly large numbers. After World War II the Russians fielded suppressors on a variety of rifles and pistols. So there is no reason not to consider a suppressor.
Whether you use the term suppressor or silencer, you’re saying the same thing and we won’t debate those terms here. Just know the terms will be used interchangeably. A suppressor is a device that is attached to the muzzle of a firearm that allows the hot gases and energy that results from the discharge of a cartridge, to enter and cool before being released into the atmosphere. In a well-made suppressor, this delay allows the gases to cool enough to significantly decrease the report of the fired round. When a round is fired, there are basically two types of sounds or noises which occur:
- The sonic crack of the projectile as it breaks the sound barrier. This sound occurs throughout the flight path until the projectile stops or falls under the supersonic barrier or goes subsonic. If you were 500 yards downrange and a bullet passed by, you’d hear a “crack” as it passed. The same would be true at any yardage until the bullet goes subsonic or impacts something.
- The loud explosion or report of the round actually being fired. This noise results from the ultra-hot gases expanding and making contact with cooler ambient air. It’s all energy that has to go somewhere. It’s not the sound of the primer igniting the powder, contrary to what many believe.
Noises of these sorts have many negative implications for shooters, and ones that may be even more impactful for the survivalist. These resultant noises can give away ones position, making you susceptible to return fire or being tracked, scare off potential game when hunting for that necessary protein, and of course permanently damage precious hearing that is necessary for being effective in the field. Your senses need to be at their peak at all times and good hearing is too often overlooked. It is after all, one of the best early warning systems available. A suppressor can help negate some of these issues.
How Will A Suppressor Help You?
The greatest benefit a suppressor will provide is helping to preserve your hearing. Remember, each time you experience noises above the hearing safe level of 140 dB (decibel), you experience permanent hearing loss. Actually it can happen at 95 dB of continuous exposure. The average gun report is 165 dB which is well above the hearing safe level. Keep in mind that noise levels aren’t linear. 165 dB is not simply 20 dB louder than 140 dB; it’s actually more than four-times louder than 140 db.
A proper sound suppressor will decrease noise levels to under 140 db. A good suppressor will bring those levels down to the 135 dB range or lower on center-fire rifle cartridges, such as 5.45x39mm and 7.62x54mmR. This will help preserve your hearing as long as you don’t engage in long exposure-sessions of noises at even these decreased levels.
A good suppressor will also help shield your exact position. Years ago Surefire, a maker of high quality suppressors, brought to light what they call Total Signature Reduction (TSR). Part of this is the suppressor effecting sound waves in a manner such that if you’re down range, you can’t pinpoint exactly it is originating from. Game would only hear a crack (maybe) but not know what direction it came from. With an unsuppressed weapon it’s simpler to triangulate its origin.
Another benefit of suppressors is the decrease in concussion. While noise levels are decreased; so too is the concussive wave that can result from gunfire. Concussion is exacerbated when using muzzle devices, because pressure waves that were once only exiting forward from the muzzle are now being released at the sides and even above the shooter. Because of this we must consider the environment from which you may be shooting. For example, firing a rifle while standing will be far less concussive even with a muzzle brake attached than firing from an urban prone position around cover. The resultant pressure waves travel through the ground, other obstacles and into the shooter’s ears via the bones. Even with effective hearing protection which is doubled-up (muffs and plugs), these concussive waves travel through the bones around your ears, and cause damage. Needless to say, with a suppressor attached this concussion is removed and the shooting experience is far less taxing to the shooter and bystanders.
Assuming you’ll have other like-minded companions with you, they’ll benefit from the suppression as well. Engagements by multiple people, all using suppressors will allow more effective verbal communication outside of the obvious benefit of multiple people not losing their eardrums. Being able to communicate with others, without yelling, also helps to reduce stress.
Once you have your new suppressor in hand you’ll want to mount it to the appropriate host weapon. This is crucial to making sure your weapon and suppressor combination performs well together. If you’re intending on putting your new suppressor on an AK you need to verify the muzzle threads are concentric to the bore. If you’ve purchased a suppressor with a quick mounting/muzzle brake type of attachment system, you’ll want to make sure that component is properly installed on your firearm. This applies mainly to rifle suppressors. If that attachment point is a muzzle brake with ports you’ll need to ensure the brake is appropriately “timed”. This means making sure the brake is oriented correctly and that the ports are lined up vertically and horizontally as recommended by the manufacturer. Note: this is only crucial if you plan to shoot without the suppressor attached. Timing of the brake is not necessary with the suppressor attached, although it is advised so that mistakes are avoided.
If you’ve chosen a direct-thread type of attachment, you can simply remove the muzzle device from the weapon and thread the suppressor on assuming you have the appropriate thread pitch on both. Make sure the suppressor lines up properly with the bore of your rifle. Test firing your suppressed weapon is paramount. You’ll want to verify proper functioning with the suppressor attached. This is most crucial if your host weapon is a semi-automatic, whether rifle or pistol.
Once functioning has been verified you’ll also want to note any change in point of impact that results from the suppressor being attached to your host weapon. This can vary from no appreciable change, to several inches. This point of impact shift is especially important to note in your rifle/carbine because of the extended distances they are capable of. An inch shift in any direction at 100 yards is 4 inches at 400 yards. You can then zero your weapon with the suppressor attached, or note the windage and elevation adjustments necessary when the suppressor is attached or removed. This is why I like direct thread suppressors. I attach them, zero the weapon, and leave it on. It only comes off if absolutely necessary and yes, you can clean your weapon with the suppressor attached. Be sure to consult your user’s manual for more detailed information.
You’ll also want to test the repeatability of the Point of Impact (POI) shift. This simply means shooting groups with and without the suppressor attached to make sure any changes are consistent. Shoot a group without the suppressor, then shoot with the suppressor and repeat the process, noting anything significant. After this you should be ready to go. Keep in mind that you may see improved accuracy in the form of decreased group sizes as well as increased velocities after attaching a suppressor. This is why a good suppressor/weapon combo is paramount.
While this may seem like a lot of information, it’s really not difficult to do. In fact, adding suppression makes the defensive/firearms portion of any preparation more insightful and fulfilling. Once you shoot suppressed and experience the benefits that can come, you’ll be likely to never return to, if not completely loathe unsuppressed shooting. The benefits are many and the impact on the shooter and his or her capabilities can be significant.
If we are assuming worst case scenarios, the best case would be to have access to weapons which allow you to remain less detectable to anyone, or anything, which could harm you, while also being less damaging and disorienting to your senses. Thus suppressors are a good part of any preparedness plan.