On my weekly trip to the gun shop, I happened to peruse the shelves and noticed a few boxes of American Eagle Suppressor ammo in .45. Intrigued, I picked the box up and noticed that it was proudly advertised as “subsonic” and “made for suppressor use.” I turned to the OFWG behind the sales counter with the box in my hand and said, “But isn’t all .45 ACP subsonic?” He said, yes it is. “Okay then,” I said, “so what the heck is this stuff?” “Well, that’s even better and quieter than regular .45 ACP.” Mmmmkay. Now, I may have been born at night . . .
But it wasn’t last night. This smelled like a shameless attempt to cash in on the suppressor craze to me, particularly as this ammo had a price tag of $35 for 50 rounds. That’s at least 50% more than regular FMJ .45 ACP was currently going for and nearly twice what I paid for .45 ACP not that long ago.
Since I happen to own a .45 silencer, I figured that I owed it to the community to pick up a box and test out the claims. Before we delve into things, though, let’s take a quick look at the science of sound suppression.
To oversimplify things, there are generally two major elements to the noise that a bullet makes. The first component is the noise made by the bullet leaving the barrel. This is largely the work of the high temperature and pressurized gas that leaves the barrel behind the bullet. Both of which ares directly related to the amount of powder used to propel the bullet. This explains why a .45 is louder than a 9 mm, and that’s louder than a .22. And a rifle is generally louder than any pistol round. It’s also why suppressors tend to get longer and/or fatter as you move up in caliber. That’s this component of noise that the suppressor has the greatest ability to control.
The second element of noise is the sonic boom of the round makes as it breaks the sound barrier, which happens at about 1,125 feet per second at sea level. Most types of ammo exceed this speed fairly easily. The relatively slower moving 230 grain standard .45 ACP does not (although there are some lightweight defensive rounds that can exceed the speed of sound in .45).
I set up my chronograph as I wanted to see if there was any significant velocity difference between the Blaser and the American Eagle ammo. I loaded up one magazine of Blaser and one of American Eagle. For my third mag, I alternated between Blaser and American Eagle so that I could compare the two back to back. The ambient temperature on the range that day was 27 degrees and the humidity fairly low. According to the chronograph, the Blaser had an average velocity of 875 feet per second with a standard deviation of 6 while the American Eagle suppressor ammo clocked in at about 852 feet per second with a standard deviation of 11.
What about the noise level? Unfortunately, I don’t have the kind of equipment necessary to properly test suppression levels. The sort of stuff you need to measure things as short in duration as a gunshot doesn’t come cheap. What I do have, though, is two highly efficient organs on the sides of my head that are sensitive enough to hear my kids talking upstairs after bedtime.
Using these less-than-scientific devices, I came to the conclusion that there was no appreciable difference between the cheap Blaser FMJ and the much more expensive American Eagle Suppressor stuff. This became especially apparent when I got to the magazine where the two types of ammo alternated. I simply could not tell the difference in sound level. The Blaser seemed to have slightly more bass in its report, but in terms of how loud the two rounds sounded, there was no discernible difference. Certainly nothing to justify that price. Pretty much what I expected.
That evening, I went onto American Eagle’s site and read the following description of their suppressor ammo:
Available for rifle, handgun and rimfire. Turn down the volume without sacrificing performance. American Eagle® Suppressor delivers superior accuracy, reliability and cleanliness in suppressed firearms, thanks to carefully selected propellants, bullet weights and profiles. The subsonic loading lends themselves to better noise reduction through the suppressor, and they also reduce noise by avoiding the ballistic crack inherent to supersonic loads. In addition, special clean-burning powders make cleaning weapons easy for shooters—other conventional ammunition can cause severe fouling in suppressed firearms.
I can see this ammo making a difference in any round that’s normally supersonic, such as 9mm or .22 (not to mention most rifle rounds). But it really doesn’t bring much to the table when you’re talking about something like .45 ACP that’s already subsonic. As for the rest of the claims, “special clean burning powders,” the only way to really measure the truth about that is to shoot a couple of boxes through my H&K, then compare the level of filth with normal ammo. If Federal Premium wants to send me a box or two, I’m game, but otherwise, I think I’ll hang onto my cash.
Bottom line: Don’t waste your money on the .45 flavor. Other sizes TBD.