Silenced weapons are often used by members of the special forces.
Anyone who has watched a James Bond film or any movie involving special forces incursions is familiar with gun silencers. More accurately known as gun suppressors, silencers have evolved over the decades alongside their firearm counterparts. Responsible for more than simply lessening the sound of gunfire, silencers are an essential piece of equipment when stealth is needed.
Firearm Sound Creation
The notion of a firearm “silencer” is a misnomer, as no firearm can be completely silenced. The term “suppressor” is far more accurate.
There are four types of sound created by a fired weapon. The first is the mechanical sound of the pin striking the round, followed by the chambering of a new cartridge. The second is the rapid expansion of combusted gases emerging from the muzzle, creating the characteristic “bang.” The third is created as the bullet surpasses the speed of sound after leaving the barrel, creating a miniature sonic boom. The fourth is the sound a bullet makes as it travels through the air.
The first sound type (mechanical) is usually too quiet to earn the effort of suppression. The third type (sonic boom) cannot be suppressed, with the exception of using subsonic ammunition. The fourth type (bullet travel) also cannot be suppressed, due to the nature of fluid dynamics. However, the second type can be suppressed with the proper equipment.
The basic suppressor “can” is screwed onto the muzzle of a firearm, containing a multitude of small metal pockets and holes throughout. As the rapidly expanding gases explode out of the muzzle, they are compressed in the maze of tubes and released in a controlled arc away from the shooter. A significant portion of the sound energy is converted into heat, in accordance with Newton’s Law of Thermodynamics.
The resulting sound produced can be 18-32 decibels (dB) quieter with supersonic ammunition and 40 dB quieter with subsonic ammunition.
Suppressors can reduce the recoil of a firearm by up to 30 percent, acting as a highly efficient muzzle break. This characteristic of suppressors allows for longer training periods and less shoulder injury due to frequent practice with high-caliber weapons.
Suppressors also significantly decrease muzzle flash, which is the burst of light created by the combusting gases exiting the muzzle. This characteristic of suppressors has obvious applications in nighttime warfare, particularly for snipers.
Suppressors are used by special forces entry teams, as the devices allow for greater control and the elimination of ear protection. The specific sound created by suppressed weapons is more difficult for enemies to pinpoint and acts to distinguish enemy gunfire from that of friendly units.
Military snipers often use suppressors due to the high-caliber weapons they must fire, as well as for the substantial decrease of muzzle flash. Urban police forces also outfit sniper teams with suppressors, as a suppressed shot is less likely to attract public relations issues.
Suppressors are available to American citizens of certain states. The possession of such a device requires a $200 fee paid to the United States government, a background check and the signature of a chief law enforcement officer. After these conditions are met, a suppressor can be purchased from an authorized Type III weapons dealer.