Ever the gracious host: suppressors and the modern handgun.
The first time I beseeched a local Chief Law Enforcement Officer for his signature on a BATF Form 4 for a sound suppressor, he looked at me with skepticism. Raising an eyebrow he said, "If I hear of somebody getting shot in my county by a gun that don't make no noise I'm coming for you." That sentence nicely sums up all the many-splendored reasons why the CLEO sign-off requirement for National Firearms Act (NFA) weapons should go the way of the dodo. Criminals intent on doing someone harm seldom make an appointment with their local Chief Law Enforcement Officer to ask permission. By the time you read these words the CLEO signoff requirement will be gone. Good riddance.
Nowadays sound suppressors are appropriate conversation fodder in polite genteel company. Thirty-nine states allow their ownership by civilians and 17 allow them for hunting purposes. Sound suppressors should really be sold unrestricted alongside the night crawlers, RC Cola and moon pies at your local bait shop. As the aforementioned High Sheriff did not seem to understand, outside of the myopic minds of Hollywood screenwriters there simply is no crime committed with these delightful devices.
A proper sound suppressor makes you a more courteous and neighborly shooter, masks the direction of the shot while hunting and preserves your capacity to assess your surroundings and communicate should you ever have to use your weapon for real, particularly indoors. It will cost you $200 for the privilege and you still have to be photographed, fingerprinted and wait months for processing but the process is otherwise fairly straightforward. Your local Class III dealer can fill you in on the details.
Who Makes Them?
Lots of folks. Sound suppressors are big business these days and any number of reputable companies produce remarkably effective suppressors or "cans" in the lexicon of the purist. At the very top of the heap resides Gemtech.
Gemtech has been there from the very beginning and their suppressors are built using actual science rather than the consultation of chicken entrails. Their flagship pistol cans are the G-Core line. These monocore suppressors sport a baffle stack cut from a solid cylinder of 7075 aluminum. They also include a Nielson Device or Linear Inertial Decoupler (LID) for reliable use on Browning-inspired tilting lock handguns.
The LID is the most extraordinary invention since smokeless powder. A modest piston resides in the near end of a sound suppressor so equipped and captures escaping muzzle gases to give the pistol a little tap with each round fired. After tossing maybe a zillion suppressed rounds downrange I have never once had a stoppage with a suppressed handgun that included an LID.
G-Core cans are effective and mightily compact. Size and effectiveness in a sound suppressor are conflicting characteristics and the GM9 and GM45 are designed to cut the racket markedly while still remaining small enough for tight spaces. To make them truly hearing-safe involves adding a bit of ablative material inside the device. I use Vaseline myself though there are dozens of options including tap water, shaving cream, wire pulling gel and even urine in a pinch. When using ablative material it's a good idea to disassemble the can and clean it periodically.
A sound suppressor must slow and cool the fast, hot gases escaping through the muzzle. Adding a little ablative material is called shooting the can "wet" and greatly increases a sound suppressor's efficiency. When fired dry the GM9 and GM45 will still ring your bell a bit but nonetheless allow communication in enclosed spaces. With a spot of ablative material in place the cans are just about movie-quiet.
Springfield Armory is a company familiar to anyone who has ever squeezed a trigger. Their forebear was the central repository of small arms research and production for the military from 1777 to 1968 and their rifles and handguns still embody this robust and efficient martial ethos. Their new XD(M) .45 is engineered from the ground up to run a sound suppressor.
The frame is Flat Dark Earth and the backstraps are interchangeable for various hand sizes. The grip-to-frame angle approximates that of the beloved 1911 and there is a grip safety as well as a trigger blade safety for truly failsafe operation. The 4.5" barrel is threaded 0.578x28 for a .45 ACP can. Additionally, the sights are extra tall to provide a proper sight picture despite the suppressor. The frame rail will accept any sundry electronic bling.
The Smith and Wesson M&P CORE series is to Smith and Wesson what Lexus is to Toyota. My example sports two different barrels. One tube is extended and threaded for a suppressor while the other is ported to match corresponding ports cut in the slide. The ports redirect some of the muzzle gases upward to counteract recoil when fired without the can. Barrels can be swapped at the bench, and there are interchangeable wraparound grip inserts. The suppressor-ready CORE also sports elevated sights.
For the shooter who doesn't want to spring for dedicated quiet iron there is Lone Wolf. Lone Wolf produces a variety of aftermarket extended threaded barrels as well as caliber conversions and replacement uppers for CLOCK handguns. I picked up a drop-in threaded 9mm barrel for my .40-caliber GLOCK 22 and found the gun runs 9mm like a scalded ape with nothing more than this barrel and a few inexpensive aftermarket 9mm magazines.
While there are lots of great .22-caliber suppressor hosts available on the market today, the Walther P22 is the benchmark. The P22 is small enough to be easily carried yet sufficiently large as to fit a normal set of hands. Whether it's introducing a novice to the storied art of handgunning or just ventilating surplus soup cans, a Walther P22 sporting a Gemtech Outback suppressor is the ultimate small-caliber fun machine.
Retiring To The Range
The Springfield Armory XD(M) is a serious handgun in a serious caliber. I like the way the gun rides in my hand and recoil is surprisingly mild, particularly with the can installed. The Gemtech GM45 suppressor is not unduly bulky and the gun maneuvers just about as well with the can than it does without. I threw enough rounds downrange to make the gun and can utterly filthy and it never once hiccupped.
A modest dollop of Vaseline behind the first baffle drops the racket quite nicely and lasts for maybe a magazine. The ablative material cooks off and isn't as messy as you might think. Charging the can involves threading the suppressor tube off, smearing a spot of Vaseline with your finger and replacing the tube.
The Smith and Wesson CORE feels like an extension of your own anatomy. Particularly with the can installed,- the gun is soft shooting and deadly accurate. Standard velocity 9mm rounds are naturally supersonic and result in an annoying sonic crack no matter what you hang on the muzzle of your gun. However, all the major ammo manufacturers produce subsonic loads suitable for suppressed pistols.
The GLOCK sporting a Lone Wolf threaded barrel runs smoothly and well with any standard commercial ammo. My aftermarket barrel has not diminished the legendary GLOCK reliability and this rig allows a shooter with a GLOCK or three languishing in the gun box to get into a suppressed platform for modest cost.
I'd sooner shoot my suppressed P22 than eat or breathe. I literally shot mine until the slide broke in half. Before you wrinkle your noses up at that last statement, appreciate that it took untold thousands of rounds to get there and Walther had the gun back in my hands with a new slide in 10 days door to door.
That $200 is not the insurmountable sum it was back in 1934 when the National Firearms Act first became law, and little will amp up the cool points like a proper sound suppressor hanging off the end of your favorite gun. In addition to making you a more neighborly shooter, a sound suppressor is an invaluable indoor tactical tool. Touch off an unsuppressed firearm of most any sort indoors and you will be answering the phone for a week when it isn't ringing. Do the same thing with a can in place and the experience, while not necessarily pleasant, will not trash your hearing at a critical time.
All the major manufacturers now produce suppressor-ready handguns and the ones we reviewed for this article are reliable, comfortable and effective in each of their respective calibers. Sporting can-friendly sights and threaded barrels, the combination of one of these handguns and a quality suppressor is both a genuine combat multiplier and a handy training tool. Try one for yourself and begin enjoying the sound of silence.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index
WILL DABBS, MD * PHOTOS: SARAH BABBS