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Silencer, Thy Name Is Misleading

Silencers are now a well-known accessory for firearms. What amazes me is how wrong most portrayals are. I swear, every time they stick a tube on the end of a barrel and I hear (or read about hearing) a “soft phut,” or a “whisper,” or any other description that implies a near silent shot, I have to stop myself from screaming in protest. (Actually, I don’t always refrain. You should try watching a movie with me.)

Now before I go any further, let me make one thing clear. It is possible to silence a gunshot, and a silencer/suppressor is part of the equation. But not all! Several other things must happen as well.

The gas emerging from the barrel is not what makes a gunshot loud. It is loud, but you know what’s a heck of a lot louder? A sonic boom. Most bullets break the sound barrier. Screwing a baffled tube on the barrel doesn’t do anything for the sonic boom.

In order to fire a silent shot, you must also have sub-sonic ammo. Special rounds that go slower than the speed of sound are available. Used properly, with a silencer and other correct components, these rounds can be fired in near silence.

When you do fire a truly silenced shot, it still does not make a “soft phut” or whatever. What you will hear (when using a semi-automatic) is the sound of the bolt cycling. The sound might be described as a click or maybe a clang.

So, mind your “phuts” and “clicks.” Think before you silence!

(And please don’t try to silence a revolver…)

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