AAC: It’s called a “Silencer”

The guys at Advanced Armament Corp. produce devices that reduce the noise and light associated with firing a gun, and it’s a part that has been called many things over the years by different people. Suppressor? Can? Gun muffler? According to AAC there’s only one correct answer to the question of what to call their devices and that’s “silencer.” Why? Because Hiram Percy Maxim told them to.

Riding up to the range with John Hollister he gave me a little background on the terminology.

“In 1909 Hiram Percy Maxim patented the ‘firearms silencer’ – that’s what he named it. Today, if you fill out a Form 4 [paperwork submitted to the ATF to purchase a silencer] in the block where it asks you what it is you write in ‘silencer.’ In the 1980s there was a magazine article written that a writer called it a ‘suppressor’ and his reasoning was that it didn’t silence the shot, it just suppressed the sound to the point where it went below the OSHA hearing safe levels. It’s been in a couple movies that ‘no, it’s not a silencer it’s a suppressor.’

“I even had a gentleman yesterday tell me that there’s actually two levels of devices; there are silencers and there are suppressors, one made it completely silent and one just suppressed the shot. He said that it was illegal to own a silencer, but you could own a suppressor. So there’s a lot of disinformation out there. Our position is that if you invented the Band Aid, we’re gunna call it a Band Aid. We sell what Hiram Percy Maxim patented in 1909 and he called it a silencer.”

I then asked about some dingy looking tubes behind Kevin’s desk which were original Maxim silencers, and about Kevin’s obsession with Maxim. The man, not the magazine.

“He is, to the best of my knowledge, the foremost collector of original Maxim memorabilia and firearms and silencers. He has quite the collection. Whenever any of us sees a Maxim silencer, a tube, an ad, a firearm… we’re under orders to just buy it and he’ll take it.”

The Firearms Silencer, patent # 916,885, was issued March 30, 1909 by the U.S. Patent Office. The original patent can be seen by clicking on this link.


About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

10 Responses to AAC: It’s called a “Silencer”

  1. avatarMagoo says:

    Great story, thanks.

    Hiram Percy Maxim is a fascinating character…along with his other accomplishments, he wrote three great books, including one about his experiences in the early years of the American automotive industry, and a memoir on his father, Hiram Stevens Maxim, inventor of the Maxim machine gun. He was also one of the pioneers of amateur radio and founded the ARRL. He was also, I believe, the driver of the winning car in the first auto race held on a closed course in the United States.

  2. avatarDingus says:

    Suppressor. I deal in proven facts based in reality, not commentary. So, it is a suppressor. Until I deiced to ever buy one then I will use the incorrect name they desire because it fits their ideals of how to legitimize the reasoning for making something more evil. And the inventor will call it what ever he wants to call it since it makes it more marketable.

    So in my circles it is still a suppressor.

  3. avatarChuck in IL says:

    Call it what you want, but I still can’t have one. My betters here in IL know that only evil can come from such a device.

  4. avatarrick marlar says:

    why do we argue over such simple things I remember in my youth we called magazines clips now everyone gets their tit in a wringer over that terminology I really do not want to sound like Hillary Clinton but really what difference does it make

  5. avatarWilliam Gunn says:

    Early cars were originally called “horseless carriages” or “automobiles”, but that doesn’t mean the word “car”, which came into use around 1896, is improper.

    At one point hammers on firearms were known as “cocks”, does that mean one or the other is incorrect?


  6. avatarMarcus Aurelius says:

    I’m on the fence on this one. Sure, the original name was “silencer,” sure the law calls them that, but the law calls things “assault weapons” and the same term was used in advertising back when (I’m told) and we generally hate that term.

    My criterion is: does it contribute to a misunderstanding of firearms that aids the fearmongers in stampeding the hoplophobic masses?

    If it does, the term should probably be depreciated.

  7. avatarGonzo Geezer says:

    IMO, Silencer:suppressor::Kleenix:facial tissue. Mine does not silence, it merely attenuates the noise of the bullet discharge. I own a suppressor.

  8. The U.S. Code that classifies them for the tax stamp calls them both Silencer and Suppressor. The more the term, as pointed out, “Silencer” is used the more we perpetuate the incorrect facts that a “can” will make a shot silent and “havoc with guns will prevail”… If we want the publics support in getting these devices off the $200 tax stamp and make them more available to shooters we’d be better off calling them what they are “Suppressor”.

  9. avatarObeyance DeKat says:

    Its a silencer. Its not something that makes something silent, as in no noise… not in this definition of the word. You put a silencer in your exhaust to make it quieter… It obviously doesnt make your exhaust silent.

    The general idea is that you can call it whatever you want. If you wanna call it a Fiddlespingerdoodle Flopper… Then do it. But for official business, its a silencer.

    As for the guy that said he used to call them clips now everyone gets butthurt about it… We got butthurt then too… Its not a clip, a clip is not a magazine. A clip … clips a few rounds together and usually is taken out… IE a Stripper Clip on a K98 Mauser. A magazine is a case that holds rounds separately from the firearm from which the firearm feeds from. I cringe at this often… I live in the south, so people are generally idiots.

    Yes terms change and evolve… Mostly because of idiocy and laziness though. So think about that point. “Hey baby” turned to “Hey Babe” turned to “A Bae” for example. Do you want to be part of that crowd that succumbs to normalization of ignorance/idiocy?

    Its ultimately up to you, but i choose to be on the side of the intelligent and call things what they are supposed to be called. Just, dont get mad when i/we call you out on it and explain why you are wrong…. Like you dumbasses are doing on here already…

    “It doesnt silence, so its a suppressor!” Its not from Hamburg… So i just call it a bread & meat stack. Might as well right?

  10. avatarwho really cares says:

    Reminds me of the old argument, engine vs motor. When you call an engine a motor, it seems normal to the general public. But to someone who actually knows the difference, they cringe.

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