“Sound arguments for the purchase and use of firearm suppressors” A Physician’s Perspective and Recommendations
Author: E. John Wipfler, III, MD, FACEP, RDMS
Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine
University of Illinois College of Medicine
Attending Emergency Physician, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center
Illinois Level 1 Trauma Center
Sheriff’s Physician, Peoria County Sheriff’s Office
Major, United States Army Medical Corp (Ret)
Lead author: Tactical Medicine Essentials textbook
Medical Director, STATT Tactical Medicine Unit (supporting three SWAT teams)
Contact Dr. Wipfler
Firearm sound suppressors (frequently referred to as “silencers” or simply “suppressors”) are required tactical props for assassins and tactical teams (good and bad) in TV and media. As such they are often viewed by the general public as being something alarming and dangerous. This is far from the truth. Supressors are in fact an important piece of safety equipment that should be used by law enforcement teams as a matter of safety and health when permitted. Indeed, one of the leading causes of disability for law enforcement officers (LEOs) is very preventable by these simple metal devices.
In 42 out of 50 US states law-abiding citizens are allowed to legally buy, own, and use suppressors after the citizen has successfully passed the screening procedure and paperwork and paying the associate fees. Interestingly, in many European countries, suppressors on firearms are mandatory to make target shooting and hunting quieter and less disturbing to neighbors. Firearm owners in France, for example, are fined and penalized for firing guns without a suppressor to quiet the noise.
The sound suppressor, also known as a “silencer,” is a simple mechanical cylinder 3 to 10 inches long and several inches in diameter that is built with internal components that help absorb and ‘baffle’ the expanding gases during the firing of a rifle or pistol. Thus, suppressors substantially reduce the sound energy transmitted to nearby ears reducing the amount and degree of hearing damage sustained. Because supressors capture some of the gases escaping from the barrel they may also reduce the light from gunshots lessening the impact on vision in low light. Suppressors can weigh from 14 ounces up to several pounds. Suppressors are usually designed to work with specific calibers and must be properly matched to a weapon to assure they will work, and that the suppressor will not be damaged.
There are three causes of noise when firing a gun. These include the muzzle blast (hot gases exiting the barrel), sonic crack (as the bullet passes the transonic speed, approximately 1120 ft/sec), and the cycle action of a firearm (physical movement of the slide / bolt carrier, etc.). The suppressor works by reducing the muzzle blast. The firearms that are quietest with a suppressor have ammunition that does not exceed the speed of sound when it leaves the barrel (subsonic), the action is quiet as it cycles, and all of the expanding gases from firing the weapon go through the suppressor.
Suppressors reduce the sound from a gunshot by around 1000 times (30dB) with some weapon/suppressor combinations offering significantly more sound energy reduction. The .223/5.56 rifle (such as an M4 or AR15 style rifle) generates sound levels of at least 165dB for anyone nearby. Any loud noise over 140dB causes will cause immediate and some permanent hearing loss. Without hearing protection, the shooter and anyone nearby will have hearing damage from a single shot; the damage is cumulative and worsens with each additional shot, which is loud enough to cause some immediate and permanent hearing loss from a single shot.
The sales of sound suppressors are closely regulated throughout the United States under the National Firearms Act (1934). Possession of a suppressor without paying the $200 tax and clearing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives background check (and in some areas notification of the chief law enforcement officer) is a felony. Most state and federal agencies in our country allow these devices to be used by authorized law enforcement agencies. The US military services are gradually broadening the use of suppressors to most units. The criminal use of these devices by lawful owners is virtually unheard of.
Sound suppressors are not a new technology. Hiram Maxim is usually credited with inventing them in 1902 and later repurposed the technology for quieting internal combustion engines via the muffler – a device that functions on the same principles. Further improvements in the technology and use of novel materials have improved the sound reduction, decreased the weight, and made attachment of the devices to firearms faster and more reliable. Despite the typical movie sound effects, suppressors rarely make the gunshot that quiet. In particular the first shot out of a gun with a suppressor is almost always significantly louder and more noticeable. This is attributed to being present in the cavities of the suppressor allowing additional combustion of unburned gunpowder. This “first shot pop” can be significantly reduced by (partially) filling the suppressor water or a non-flammable liquid.
Sound suppressors offer multiple additional advantages to tactical teams beyond protecting the hearing of officers and civilians. The reduction in sound from gunfire improves a team’s ability to communicate while decreasing the opposition’s ability to locate where gunfire is coming from. Suppressors can significantly reduce the light emitted when a firearm is fired which improves night vision – both with the naked eye and when night vision technology is being used. Suppressors can significantly reduce recoil which allows for faster and more accurate follow-up shots. A study done by the US Marine Corps found the use of suppressors on rifles significantly improved combat efficiency for units universally equipped with suppressors.
Sound suppressors are not without disadvantages. Sound suppressors will slightly alter the trajectory of the fired bullet making re-zeroing weapons each time a suppressor is removed or attached important. Sound suppressors increase back pressure in the barrel which can result in increased wear on firearm components. Another issue related to back pressure which is particularly noticeable for left-handed shooters is increased gas and particulate matter being ejected towards the shooter. Many rifles include technologies (including piston driven actions and adjustable gas blocks) which can reduce these concerns. Novel suppressor designs which pass gases through the suppressor rather than trapping it further reduce but do not eliminate these two concerns. Because suppressors absorb significant energy and capture still-burning gases, suppressors rapidly become heated. Indeed, after firing 20 rounds rapidly a suppressor may be too hot for the user to comfortably handle. After firing another 20 rounds they can cause severe burns. Suppressors accumulate significant carbon build up and may require specialized cleaning to keep them functioning properly. Finally, suppressors add several inches to the overall length of the firearm as well as additional weight which may hinder maneuverability particularly in close quarters.
Suppressors typically cost between $200-$1200 dollars depending on the design and materials. Special muzzle devices which allow the suppressor to be rapidly attached or removed often cost an additional $100-200. For civilians seeking to get their own personal suppressors a tax stamp, which costs $200, and requires a BATFE approval is required. Over the past few years this approval has taken between 1-14 months. In order to legally permit others to use your suppressor, additional legal structures such as a firearms trust may be needed.
Suppressors, unlike what is typically shown in Hollywood.
Noting that the average LEO has an annual base salary of $52,000 dollars, this adds up over a 25-year career to a combined income of $1.3 million dollars. The cost of this simple mechanical devise is less than 0.04% of the total salary, which can help prevent hearing disability and forced early retirement. This device has also been demonstrated to improve tactical efficiency and decrease liability for municipalities and counties. It also clearly saves the lives of peace officers and citizens. Therefore, the administrators who are responsible for the health and safety of LEOs (the Chiefs, Sheriffs, and their city / county boards) should take note of the following facts. The goal of this article is to explain the many reasons why the law enforcement agencies and law-abiding citizens of their communities can greatly benefit by purchasing and allowing use of sound suppressors on firearms.
The author is a Professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He is a board-certified emergency physician who has served his country in the military for 14 years and continues involvement in tactical law enforcement for over 29 years, including close-up medical supporting in over 250 SWAT callouts. Qualified ‘Expert’ in pistol, small-bore and large-bore rifles, and a certified firearms instructor and Illinois concealed carry instructor, he routinely teaches tactical medicine and firearms courses. He is an expert in ballistics and has shot multiple weapons with and without suppressors and as a physician, his strong opinion is that these devices are good for law enforcement officers and law-abiding citizens.
Note: Financial disclosure: None; The author does not have any direct or indirect financial interest in any company or organization that will financially benefit from sound suppressor legislation. He does not represent any company or specific agency. He does not plan to own any shares of any company, nor directly benefit personally from any suppressor legislation or sales.
Historically, LEOs in Illinois have been repeatedly denied the ability to use this tool, the firearm suppressor. In 2013 after involvement and support of many good people and testifying by this author with the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate, Representative Mike Unes led the effort on a bill that was successfully passed by the Illinois legislature which authorized Illinois law enforcement tactical officers to utilize firearms suppressors. Unfortunately, for most LEOs and all citizens, it is illegal in 8 of our 50 states to own a suppressor. The good news is that 42 states in our country, as well as many other countries in the world, authorize law abiding citizens to apply for and obtain firearm suppressors.
Question: What are the key benefits of sound suppressors for firearms?
1) Sound suppressors enable peace officers and law-abiding citizens to remain healthier by decreasing loud gunfire damage to their ear drums, thus helping greatly to preserve their hearing and remain able to communicate more effectively.
2) Sound suppressors enable officers and citizens to train realistically and be better prepared.
3) Sound suppressors enable peace officers to respond more effectively, maintain proper communications during gunfights, and save lives due to improved tactics and communications.
This directly helps officers’ survival, and also helps law abiding citizens benefit as well.
4) Sound suppressors enable firearms to be less disruptive to our communities (quieter).
5) Sound suppressors can save lives by reducing muzzle flash and preventing potential explosions (in a meth lab or other explosive environment).
6) Sound suppressors reduce disability, reduce early forced retirement due to hearing loss, and in multiple ways will decrease costs and liability to our cities, counties, and our state.
7) Children and innocent bystanders who happen to be nearby (when law enforcement officers shoot their rifles with suppressors) are exposed to much quieter gunfire noise, and this prevents permanent hearing damage to children’s and other’s ears.
These devices are looked upon by a ‘vocal minority’ of our legislative leaders and some in the American public as “bad” devices that a criminal or assassin screws onto the pistol and then proceed to kill others without any noise. This has been perpetuated by Hollywood movies and is simply wrong.
There are tremendous benefits for the use of suppressors, and here is further discussion. Each of the 7 key benefits is explained in further detail on the following pages.
What is a Sound Suppressor, or “silencer” (layman’s term)?
Definition: ‘Sound Suppressor’ - The sound suppressor, also known as a “silencer”, is a simple mechanical cylinder 3 to 10 inches long and several inches in diameter that is built with internal components that help absorb and ‘baffle’ the expanding gases during the firing of a rifle or pistol. Thus, suppressors enable a much quieter auditory ‘gunshot’ sound, thus any human ears that are nearby are subjected to much less noise, which has multiple benefits. Modern sound suppressor devices can be attached to the end of a special barrel attachment of a firearm within 5 seconds. Suppressors can weigh from 14 ounces up to several pounds. Sound suppressors enable peace officers to enforce the law more safely, and results in improved health for the officer and those nearby, including children and other innocent citizens. There are also multiple other good reasons (medical and tactical) to enact this legislation, which are explained further in this article.
The experience that Dr. Wipfler in multiple areas has enabled him to be uniquely qualified to render expert opinion on the use of sound suppressors. His one and only reason to support creation and implementation of use of sound suppressors by law enforcement officers and citizens is to improve the health and safety and performance and thus help to enable law enforcement officers to prepare for more safely and successfully complete their response to a community crisis. Citizens who have passed a strict screening process can also use these for self-defense, and in some states are authorized to use them for some types of hunting, leading to improved health and a quieter community. Use of suppressor technology in other states has enhanced the safety and ability for law enforcement officers to train for and complete their dangerous missions more successfully. We need this technology for our officers in Illinois and the other 7 states.
The sales of sound suppressors are closely regulated throughout the United States. Mistakenly called ‘silencers’, the public perceives that these are used mostly by “spies”, “assassins”, and special operations soldiers. In fact, currently most states and federal agencies in our country allow these devices to be sold to and used by authorized law enforcement agencies and military units and citizens. The criminal use of these devices by lawful owners is virtually unheard of.
Do these devices work?
Yes, they reduce the sound by over 1000 times. The loudness of the rifles used by citizens and peace officers can be decreased over one thousand times less energy. The .223 rifle (AR-15 or M-4 model rifle) used by most law enforcement agencies has a tremendous muzzle blast noise intensity, more than 165 to 170 decibels (Db) and very bright flash of light. Note that any loud noise that is above 140 decibels will cause immediate and irreversible hearing damage to the officer, fellow officers nearby, citizens, and any innocent children nearby. The European Union Department on Safety & Sound Risk and OSHA have established that the Safety Sound Risk is set at 140 Db. Any noise at or above this level causes immediate pain and permanent hearing damage, that is irreversible and will never ‘heal’ nor be able to be fixed. And the damage is cumulative… it adds up and worsens with each loud noise that strikes the ear drums.
The modern sound suppressor will lower the muzzle blast sound by approximately 30 dB, which is a factor of about 1000 times less noise intensity (energy), and essentially eliminate the muzzle flash. Suppressors can decrease the noise to less than 130 decibels. The decibel scale is an exponential measurement, and a decrease in noise by just 10 decibels is equal to a factor of 10 times less energy to the ears, and 20 decibels is 100 times less, and a 30 dB decrease is 1000 times less intensity.
Common noises and the ‘loudness’ or decibels of the noise is as follows:
0 Decibels = threshold of hearing (faintest noise)
10 Db = rustling leaves
20 Db = whisper
60 Db = normal conversation
80 Db = vacuum cleaner
100 Db = headset radio at maximum volume
110 Db = front row of rock concert
130 Db = threshold of pain (ear pain due to loud noise); small caliber gunfire noise
140 Db = military plane take-off, some rifle gunfire
165 Db = law enforcement rifle muzzle blasts; can cause ear perforation if too close
Note that law enforcement sound suppressors will decrease the 160 Db by 30 Db, lowering it to approximately 130 Decibels (which is about as loud as a .22 long rifle cartridge fired from a rifle).
There are three causes of noise when firing a gun. These include the muzzle blast (hot gases exiting the barrel), sonic crack (as the bullet passes the transonic speed, approximately 1120 ft/sec), and the cycle action of a firearm (physical movement of the slide / bolt carrier, etc). The suppressor works by reducing the muzzle blast.
Incidentally, the use of sound suppressors will decrease the recoil of the weapon by 20 to 30% which makes it easier to accurately place the bullet on target when firing more than one bullet. Accurate bullet placement will neutralize criminal threats faster and help decrease the ‘miss rate’ and thus fewer innocent bystanders and children are struck by stray bullets. (In New York City, up to 30% of gunfights involving police result in innocent bystanders being struck by stray bullets).
The cost of a modern suppressor is not cheap. Quality varies with price, and anywhere from $400 dollars to 1400 dollars is the cost of a pistol or rifle suppressor. The federal tax stamp that is required to purchase one suppressor is $200 dollars.
There is nothing new or unique about sound suppressors… these devices were invented in 1902. Recently they have been greatly improved, and now some are made well enough to withstand the firing of over 30,000 rounds of ammunition over years of use. They have been experimented with since the age of gunpowder first began and developed over the centuries with the understanding and recognition that use of firearms to fire a bullet without a loud “bang” has significant advantage in combat. This is true even today, and many of our special operations soldiers and SWAT tactical officers utilize suppressors with high efficiency. These devices are successfully used by law enforcement officers and citizens throughout the world.
What are the benefits of sound suppressors?
These were summarized on the first page and will now be discussed in further detail.
The reasons why most states authorize their law enforcement officers and law-abiding citizens to use suppressors are very important and are listed below. In fact, currently in the United States, 42 of 50 states will allow their own law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers to purchase and use suppressors once they have completed the necessary application (which includes a thorough background check and fingerprinting) and have paid the required fees. However, in Illinois up until 2013, not even our law enforcement officers were allowed to use this excellent technology, who are issued and trusted to use fully automatic rifles and other weapons. Every Illinois citizen, including medical personnel and elected representatives, should support the lawful use of sound suppressors by law enforcement agencies, their peace officers who keep our communities safe, and also law-abiding citizens. The benefits include:
- Sound suppressors enable peace officers and citizens to remain healthier by preserving their hearing. These devices significantly decrease their short-term and long-term hearing loss. The medical term for damage to the inner ear is Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Exposure to loud gunfire, even with the use of modern ear plugs and earmuffs, will in many cases cause permanent hearing damage. Whenever the human ear is exposed to loud noise, such as gunfire, the small hair-like structures and cells in the inner ear are damaged. This hearing damage is additive and will in nearly all cases never be repaired by the body. Repeated exposure to gunfire during firing range sessions or actual officer-involved-shootings (OIS, more often for SWAT officers) causes permanent ear damage and hearing loss over time. Therefore, anyone who shoots their pistol, rifle, shotgun, or other loud weapons will undoubtedly suffer hearing loss, which becomes gradually worse and worse. Unfortunately, some peace officers and citizens (at any age) may eventually be hearing-impaired severely enough that they will be forced to retire on disability or be unable to perform their job safely. In the worse of situations, it may not be recognized early enough, until one day on a mission the unfortunate officer may not hear the suspect creeping up on them until it is too late, and the officer is killed. The same thing could happen if a partner suddenly fires their weapon nearby and causes immediate NIHL. Acute or chronic accumulation over years, any hearing loss is bad and the negative things that are associated (worsened tactical situation, eventual forced retirement, disability, injury / possible death, etc) which is truly unfortunate as this is unnecessary and is very preventable.
- Sound suppressors enable peace officers and law-abiding citizens to train realistically and be better prepared. Patrol officers, tactical officers, and other peace officers routinely practice realistically with their weapons, and when they respond to real-world emergencies they take and use their same gear and weapons in a similar manner. With one exception… their hearing protection. Unfortunately, during law enforcement firing range sessions and during SWAT training, our peace officers are forced to use hearing protection of the time (ear plugs, hearing muffs) because there is no such thing as use of sound suppressors for them. But later, in the real-world use of their gun, there will be no hearing protection if a suppressor is not in use.
When discussing eye protection during training and real-world missions, the officers will usually use the same exact eye protection arrangement. Therefore, during real-world missions, he or she uses the same exact thing to protect their eyes without any change required. This makes sense.
However, this is not so when discussing hearing protection. To re-emphasize this point, during real-world events, our law enforcement officers very often will not use the ear plugs and ear muffs that they normally use during training sessions, as this would limit communication with each other, and very obviously will absolutely decrease the chances of hearing the nearby criminal’s movements and noise such as racking a shotgun, walking down the hallway towards the officers, or perhaps a rustling noise in the closet nearby as the officers carefully search for the suspect. Question: how often do peace officers wear hearing protection during real-world missions to protect their ears? Answer: almost nobody, estimated to be less than 5%. During training, over 95% will use hearing protection, but these same officers will very likely choose to wear no hearing protection during real-world missions. Therefore, any real-world firing of their pistols or rifles (with severe muzzle blast noise – especially inside a building) will always result in that officer being essentially temporarily deafened with ringing ears, with greatly reduced ability to hear effectively during the remainder of the gunfight, and if they survive, the officer will walk away with worsening of their irreversible hearing loss. Any children (i.e. school or other setting) who are nearby will also suffer irreversible hearing damage. Sound suppressors greatly decrease the likelihood of hearing loss and will enable officers to train and respond the same way. How an officer trains is how they will respond to real-world events. This is true for patrol officers who are armed with patrol rifles, and for SWAT officers who also utilize similar rifles. Citizens who choose to use suppressors will also have all the advantages for the same reasons above.
Question: In the 42 states where citizens (law-abiding, who completed a thorough application / screening procedure) are authorized to own silencers, does the crime rate go up? Don’t ‘bad guys’ use suppressors to commit a lot of crime?
Answer: No, there is no increase in crime. In fact, the use of “silencers” by criminals is so rare that the federal government doesn’t even have a separate category for keeping track of crimes committed with them. The reason is quite simple: the citizens who purchase these are ‘law-abiding’. Criminals practically never use them as they are expensive, and too bulky to ‘carry hidden’ tucked inside their pants without a holster. Over 90% of criminals carry their pistols tucked inside their left front beltline.
3) Sound suppressors save lives due to improved tactics. In all urgent criminal and terrorist situations, there is the likelihood of a peace officer facing more than one criminal or terrorist. In fact, most home invasions and bank robberies involved two or three or more criminals. If a peace officer with a normal non-suppressed firearm enters a building with a partner, or multiple partners (SWAT team) and they are forced to fire their weapon to neutralize a deadly threat, then the gunshots will likely cause NIHL (hearing loss) that is tactically a very bad thing. Officers are rendered “temporarily deaf” in a practical sense and will be much less likely to hear any approaching criminals, and thus will be more likely to be killed or injured. The officers won’t be able to communicate with other officers, leading to a higher chance of LEO death, and increase the chance of a tragic ‘blue-on-blue’ shooting (officer is shot by another officer mistakenly) In addition, loud gunshots are easily heard throughout the building and neighborhood. This will very likely alert the other criminals or terrorists nearby and they will know the location of the peace officer(s) and may possibly respond with deadly force with a goal of killing any law enforcement officers. However, this is very much preventable with the use of the sound suppressor.
The incident of NIHL is even worse in the situation where officers are moving closely together to ‘clear’ a building and are forced to shoot while standing near other officers or perhaps with one officer’s weapon very near the ear of a partner, and the gunfire causing severe instant pain, disorientation, and permanent hearing damage. This is a real-world fact that has been documented multiple times. It’s tragic because it’s preventable.
4) Sound suppressors help our communities, as they enable firearms to be more quiet and less disruptive. If a gunfight does erupt and shots are fired, with a non-suppressed law enforcement rifle the noise is extremely loud and it is possible that elderly citizens or others in the building or nearby building may be so startled that they could suffer a heart attack and die. In addition, the use of suppressors during training sessions will allow law enforcement officers and citizens to shoot more quietly at target ranges and be less disruptive to nearby neighborhoods. This presents a wider variety of options when training and firing weapons, especially important as our cities continue to expand into the surrounding countryside.
5) Sound suppressors save lives by reducing muzzle flash. This is important due to two reasons. First, in certain environments, the use of sound suppressors will prevent an explosion and thus will save officer lives and citizen lives. The situation that has been repeatedly faced by peace officers, especially those who are with or work alongside the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), is the presence of “meth labs”. These home-built illegal drug labs are built and operated by criminals to produce illegal drugs such as methamphetamine. Unfortunately, many of the ingredients used in these labs to ‘cook’ and make drugs with include ether and other flammable chemicals and hydrocarbons. About 10 percent of these ‘labs’ are discovered suddenly without prior knowledge. When law enforcement officers enter a building to arrest suspects, if a gunfight occurs the firing of a normal firearm will often cause a ‘muzzle blast’ flame which may result in igniting the explosive gases and cause severe injuries, burns, explosions, and death. The use of sound suppressors will prevent any muzzle flash or flame from the gun, thus making it much less likely that an explosion will occur in these circumstances.
The second reason that muzzle flash reduction will help save lives is the situation where a gunfight occurs at night or in a dark building, and the lack of a ‘flash signature’ or muzzle flash will prevent the bad guy from seeing where the law enforcement officer is. The simple fact is this: with no ‘flash’ to give away the exact location of the peace officer, there is no ‘target’ for the criminal or terrorist to shoot at. There is virtually no light or flash when a sound suppressor is used, which is always a good thing for the good guys.
6) Sound suppressors reduce costs and decrease liability. A sign of a good police department is having proactive, rather than reactive policy development. With increasing use of modern ‘patrol rifles’, the use of AR-15 / M-4 style rifles by normal patrol officers as well as SWAT makes the potential use of the sound suppressor an important one. The initial purchase cost of one suppressor ranges from $400 dollars to 1400 dollars each. Suppressors have minimal effect on accuracy, and due to the fact that they reduce recoil and reduced “flinch” of the shooter, it can be argued that they actually improve accuracy of the rifle or pistol.
In the modern world, ‘quality costs’, and according to several experts, buying a good quality sound suppressor is like buying a good suit… if you buy a good one it will last for years of quality service.
Given the many advantages makes these cost effective for an organization to obtain. Dr. Lawrence Heiskell (tactical physician) wrote an excellent summary of hearing damage suffered by law enforcement officers (Dangerous Decibels, Police Magazine, August 2008) and he summarized another important issue:
“With the current climate of litigation and liability for workplace injuries, it makes good sense for law enforcement agencies to become proactive and take steps to mitigate increased disability payments and prevent the early retirement of peace officers because of noise-induced hearing loss. The amount of money saved by city and county governments could easily be $15,000 to $30,000 per year for each officer who could be out on early retirement or disability from hearing loss.
The author highly recommends the reader go online and read the above-mentioned article, which has additional information that will be very useful to fully understand hearing loss and how sound suppressors work effectively to increase safety.
7) Children and innocent bystanders will be protected by suppressors with less hearing damage. Anyone who happens to be nearby when law enforcement officers shoot their rifles with suppressors is subject to much quieter gunfire noise, and this prevents permanent hearing damage to children’s and other’s ears. And this is always a good thing.
So, with all these many advantages of silencers, are there any disadvantages?
There are a few.
The point of aim when using suppressors may be slightly different than normal un-suppressed rifles, but it is consistent, and a good quality suppressor will have the same point of impact repeatedly when used. Solution: mount the suppressor, and sight in the weapon, and it will continue to shoot accurately. Many departments will place the suppressors on rifles and always leave them there for use. Qualifications for accuracy will need to be done and documented with suppressors before officers’ use these for law enforcement duty.
Some suppressors are maintenance-free, and others will require occasional disassembly and cleaning. Most do not require any special ammunition, as they can be fired with the same normal police ammunition commonly utilized.
Due to the partial-obstruction at the end of the barrel, there are sometimes some “blow-back gases” that may cause smoke and small particles of gunpowder to eject into the action of AR-15 rifles and other firearms, which may be a slight disadvantage, but any officer or citizen with proper eye protection (they should be wearing eye protection anyway) will not have any significant disadvantage. Fortunately, improved rifles, bolts, rifles built for suppressors, and improved suppressor technology is resulting in less blow-back effects.
The only other disadvantage is the added paperwork hassle and expense of purchasing a suppressor. The costs vary as mentioned above, and therefore this factor needs to be taken into consideration.
Overall, the suppressor is a reliable and beneficial piece of equipment and can be viewed from many perspectives. From a medical professional’s perspective, the use of sound suppressors makes extremely good sense. Suppressors are an effective preventive medical tool that decreases hearing damage. From a law enforcement officer’s perspective, these make good tactical sense that helps keep citizens and officers safer. From a law enforcement agency administrator’s perspective, suppressors help keep their officers safer and healthier and decrease the likelihood of early forced disability / retirement, and most importantly, will help save lives.
From a city or county or state’s administration and legal advisers, the suppressor makes good financial and liability sense, and will help decrease the rate of disability and early retirement.
From the citizen’s view who is law-abiding and does not intend to commit a crime, but instead has loved ones or family members to protect and keep safe, the use of suppressors on firearms makes solid sense and there are many advantages. In the USA, 42 of 50 states allow law-abiding citizens to own suppressors, which helps bring about safer and quieter communities.
From the author’s perspective with years and years of combined military and medical and tactical experience, these devices are urgently needed by our law enforcement officers. The time has come for law enforcement administrators to do their best to purchase and provide these safety devices for use by their officers and deputies. In addition, all communities are better off with ownership of these safety devices by law-abiding citizens. Our elected representatives and senators should take notice of the many benefits to pass effective legislation.
The significant deficit of silencer use by our peace officers in many communities is a huge liability on all accounts. And since there is no increase in crime with passage of suppressor legislation, there are only positive benefits to gain when citizens use these devices.
The political and emotional roadblocks that have been thrown into the path in years past must be torn down and replaced by good common sense and a look around at the successful use of these devices by over 40 states in the USA.
There are a lot of myths and misperceptions about these “dreaded silencers”, when in fact they are a good and necessary device for modern law enforcement and for our society. The correct decisions will hopefully be made that take into account the facts and leave out the myths and misperceptions and Hollywood-induced fears held by too many of our elected officials and citizens.
This author respectfully requests that you consider the above information. If you agree, then perhaps consider taking the time and energy to contribute and do your part to help bring about legislation that will help. Contact your local representative. Law enforcement administrators with tactical teams should search for and find the money to purchase these suppressors for all tactical officers and for patrol officers as well. Each citizen, law enforcement officer, and elected representative stands to gain when passage of legislation helps bring about the option for all of law-abiding persons to be better equipped and able to respond more safely to resolve critical incidents when they occur.
Respectfully, with highest regards,
Dr. John Wipfler
Originally written May 2016
Updated Jan 17, 2017
Cuts/Edits by Ackerman April 2023