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The silencer, range time, and metering equipment for this review were provided by Capitol Armory based in Cedar Park, Texas

Many years ago, in a land far away, the team at SilencerCo was like a large oak tree. Big, beautiful, and capable of nearly blotting out the sun with its size and scope. Over the years, various leaves have fallen from that original tree, taking root at other companies in the industry. In the case of Mike Pappas, co-founder of SilencerCo, the tree that sprung up was Dead Air Armament. Other SilencerCO alums who have taken root at Dead Air include designer Todd Magee and super salesman Gary Hughes. Like most silencer companies bringing products to the market for the first time, Dead Air’s first contribution to the market was a family of .30 caliber silencers called the Sandman

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The Sandman series comes in three versions. The first is a direct thread model constructed of titanium while the second and third are quick detach short and long models. The Sandman S is the short model tested here. As you can likely see from the photos, the model I used for testing had some mileage on it, something that Torrey, Capitol Armory’s owner, was all too pleased to discuss.

Torrey spends a lot of time shooting and abusing silencers, and has found the Sandman series of silencers to be robust. As TTAG doesn’t have its own FFL, we don’t get to test silencers for long term durability unless we go through the arduous process of buying them outright, so second hand information is valuable. At the time of our test, Torrey had just returned from a machine gun shoot where he’d put the Dead Air silencers, along with quite a few others, through their paces. The L model (review forthcoming), shows the telltale color changes to indicate that it had been run hard, and Torrey indicated that the S model hadn’t been babied either.

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Given their all-steel construction, the Sandman series is built like a tank. The baffles on both the Sandman S and L are constructed completely of Stellite while the outer tube is made of  precipitation hardened Stainless Steel. Picking up the Sandman S, it’s apparent that this is no flyweight silencer.

Dead Air claims the can alone is weighs 18.5 oz, but my scale pegged it at 18.6 oz. The muzzle devices add a few ounces as well, so call the whole package ~20 oz. Another pound and then some on the muzzle end does change the balance and feel of a rifle. Even with my eyes closed, I could tell if the Bergara we used for testing had a Sandman stuck to the end or not.

Getting the Sandman on and off is a breeze thanks to the ratcheting locking collar and keymount system. Simply slide the Sandman over the brake (it only goes one way), and tighten it down until it stops ratcheting. Reverse the procedure to loosen the Sandman. Once it stops turning, pull it off the end. This is a sweet setup that ensures that the Sandman only ever goes on one way, and locks up tight against a taper mount brake. Any silencer company worth their salt is worried about point of impact shift, and a taper mount is a sure sign they’ve done their homework as the taper ensures a consistent lockup every single time.

Another added benefit of Dead Air’s keymount break is that you can run this silencer under a hand guard for something like a short barreled 300 BLK AR. There’s no latch mechanism to get at, so you’re free to run a full length rail over the silencer. All the benefits of a taper mount thread over muzzle brake design with the added benefit of a locking collar. What’s not to love?

Given the weight of the Sandman S and the fact that it is designed as a QD silencer, I was very interested in the change it would make to the point of impact vs. a bare muzzle. To test this variable, I affixed the Sandman to Bergara’s LRP Elite in 6.5 Creedmoor. I shot a five round group without the silencer, torqued the silencer as tight as I could, shot another five round group, and then removed and reinstalled it with a less superhuman level of strength, and shot one more five shot group. The targets are below.

No Can 4 shot -0177 - 2029 MOA

No Can 5 shot 0020 - 2052

Sandman S POI Shift 1 0331 - 0038

Sandman S POI Shift 2 0232 - 0145

As you can see, I yanked one right off the side on my first shot of the day, making it a 1.12 MOA five shot group or a .36 MOA four shot group. I elected to kick out the called flier for the purposes of testing. I had every intention of shooting a better target without the silencer, but Texas’ famously fickle spring weather popped up, and our range day was cut short by rain. Unfortunately, I had to work with what I had. Below are the group sizes and their location from the point of aim (the bottom of the 1 inch circle).

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There are three things I’m very interested in when it comes to screwing a silencer to the end of a rifle. The first is the effect on the accuracy of the rifle. There’s no point in spending big money on a precision rifle if screwing a can to the end makes it shoot like a cheap Wally World special. The second thing I look for is change in the point of impact from a bare muzzle. There’s no getting around the fact that adding a weight to the end of the barrel will cause the barrel to “bow” ever so slightly causing the shots to hit low. This is magnified by usage on thinner, “whippier” barrels. The last thing I look for, and one that is tied to the second very closely is to see if any change in point of impact is repeatable with removal and installation. Given the cost and paperwork associated with acquiring a silencer, it will likely be doing double (or triple) duty on multiple rifles. Point of impact shift doesn’t have to be bad if you can reliably be compensated for it.

Based on my testing at 100 yards, it was apparent that the first thing the Sandman did was move the point of impact down by 1.94 MOA. I had first noticed this when I checked zero on the Bergara LRP for my review. Butted up against the zero stop on the scope, the gun shot two inches high at 100 yards. I called my point of contact and he told me that the rifle rarely spends time without a Sandman S on the business end. Actually fitting one to the muzzle confirmed that fact. Point of impact shift testing varies from gun to gun, so don’t expect that these results would hold up on a twenty inch heavy profile barrel or a twenty four inch thin profiled barrel.

In the case of the Sandman S, I found that the difference between the center of Group 1 and Group 2 was ~.1 MOA at 100 yards. Given that I was shooting groups that varied by that much (.60 vs .69), I’m  inclined to believe that the limited amount of shift I saw was nothing more than background noise. The final verdict is that it does have some shift which can be attributed to its chunky nature, but it is repeatable. Given the design of the muzzle device, I’m not surprised.

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For sound testing, Torrey and I used a yet to be reviewed FN SPR in .308 WIN fitted with a twenty four inch barrel. We shot Federal Gold Medal 168 gr. to ensure consistency.  The testing was done with Capitol Armory’s sound metering gear used for their series of review videos.

I mentioned that it was raining during a portion of our test, so it should come as no surprise that when I recorded our environmental data for the test using a Kestrel Sportsman, the humidity was pegged at 100%. Barometric pressure was 28.39 in Hg, and the temperature was 69.2 degrees. Unsuppressed, the 24″ FN turned in a reading of 172.8 dB. With the S model affixed to the end, that number was brought down to 143 dB on average. The loudest shot was the first one at 144.7 and the quietest was at 140.9 dB. That is a nearly 30 dB reduction, and while we can never recommend firing a rifle without hearing protection, I did find it to be relatively comfortable to fire sans ear plugs on both the 6.5 Creedmoor chambered LRP and the .308 WIN chambered SPR.

While I had the SPR in a rest, I hooked up a MagnetoSpeed chronograph to the end to see if there was any change in muzzle velocity between silenced and bare muzzle. I found a ~10 fps drop in velocity with the can affixed. Without the silencer, a five shot string of the same Federal Gold Medal turned in an average velocity of 2629 fps with a SD of 10.7. With the Sandman S screwed to the end, a similar five shot string dropped to 2620 fps on average with a SD of 5.7.

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Specifications: Dead Air Sandman S

  • Rating: Multi – Up to .300 Win Mag
  • Min. Barrel Length: No Restrictions
  • Length: 6.8″
  • Weight: 18.5 oz
  • Diameter: 1.5″
  • Finish: Cerakote body, nitrided muzzle device
  • Muzzle Devices: 1/2″-28 or 5/8″-24 flash hider or muzzle brake – $85 each
  • Warranty: Lifetime
  • MSRP: $1,049 ($845 through Capitol Armory)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * * *
The S model I tested clearly hadn’t been babied, something that Torrey from Capitol Armory confirmed. They’ve run this silencer on machine guns, 300 Win Mags, and everything else under the sun. It’s certainly scuffed and nicked, but built like a tank, and the CA crew indicates that they’ve never had any issues with the mounting system coming loose or breaking on their cans or their customers’.

Point of Impact Shift * * * * *
Given how heavy this silencer is, some point of impact shift is to be expected. However, I found that it was repeatable no matter how much I torqued down on the can. I swapped back and forth between this one and the L model multiple times and still had no issues engaging steel targets out to 600 yards.

Sound Suppression * * * * *
The Capitol Armory guys tested this silencer on a different day with a different 24″ .308 and got an average of 139.4 dB while I got an average of 143 dB. I questioned Torrey about this and he chalked most of it up to the environmental conditions that day. If you watch their video above, you’ll also see that their bare muzzle number was 161 dB while mine was 172.8. Across the board, the numbers just seemed to be higher. What I can tell you is that the sound on either a .308 or 6.5 Creedmoor was definitely tolerable without hearing protection, both as the shooter and as a spotter. I wouldn’t hesitate to take the Sandman out on a hunt while leaving my ear plugs behind.

Modularity * * * * *
While we’d all love to have the ability to own a silencer for each gun in the safe, the truth is that silencers are expensive and the paperwork and wait time make them onerous to acquire. So a silencer will be used across multiple guns and needs to be as versatile as possible. The S model from Dead Air has the ability to work on 5/8″-24 and 1/2″-28 threaded muzzles thanks to the quick detach brake system, and further sound moderation can be had on 5.56 guns thanks to the replaceable end cap with a smaller aperture that is available for $55.

Overall * * * * *
If you value rock solid lockup with hell and back durability, you’d be hard pressed to find a better platform than the Sandman series. If you’re looking for maximum sound suppression, the “S” model isn’t likely to make you as happy as the L model with a bit more length (and weight). If you value light weight over durability, then the Sandman series is going to leave you a bit disappointed. The S model is certainly short enough, but it’s a bit porky compared to the Titanium models on the market. Buyers looking for flyweight cans should certainly consider the Sandman Ti which is a few ounces lighter while being a bit longer. If weight doesn’t bother you that much, then the Dead Air Sandman S is a very versatile and stout silencer that should last as long as the rifles you put it on.

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19 Responses to Silencer Review: Dead Air Sandman S

  1. Too bad the BATFE decided to make getting new NFA gear such pain in the ass.

    Unless the rules change back to what they were I don’t see myself picking up many, if any, more cans.

    Fingerprints and photographs from everyone on my trust along with informing the LEOs (or getting their permission as the final rule may end up stating is required) in multiple states just isn’t worth the hassle.

    Earpro is cheap, easy and effective. Dealing with this BS none of the above.

    • That is not true. In almost all respects its easier. The only added ‘hurdle’ is that all trustee’s and responsible persons on an NFA trust will have to submit finger prints. That is in the spirit of the law. Thats what individuals have to do now. The added benefit to most people, and especially people with non-permissive sheriffs, is that there is no longer a required chief LEO sign off, and its simply a notification. Multiple States? No. Just your county. The whole point is to move away from CLEO approval. So why fear it will be the rule? This means the process can be more easily automated because they are not waiting on a physical signature to proceed. They simply notify. I would rather have to deal with none of the mess, but this seems like an improvement. The whole point of the rule was to address the quickly growing demand.

      • If it were a one-time thing — each responsible party on the trust have photos and fingerprints added to the trust record — it would be easier to swallow and easier to say it’s worth it for all of the people who were barred from NFA ownership due to CLEO sign-off. However, the law is that every time you submit an NFA application every responsible member on the trust has to submit photos, fingerprints, and Form 5320.23s with it plus do the CLEO notification including copies of the application and 5320.23 forms. That’s a legitimate burden in time and money. No longer can I fill out an e-file Form 1 to assemble an SBR and never leave my couch. Apparently now I’m going to have to go get passport photos, go get fingerprint cards, fill out redundant forms, physically mail this stuff to the ATF and to the sheriff, and ask my wife to do all of that crap also. Now I’m looking at an extra $50 for photos and fingerprinting and postage and hours of extra time, plus an annoyed wife. Rinse and repeat for every single NFA application. Compared to today when I can go on the e-file site and complete a Form 1 in 10 minutes and be done with it.

      • Except that you have no idea what my situation is and apparently didn’t read what I said, nor do you comprehend what this rule change actually does.

        My trust includes myself and my wife, in Colorado, my parents in New Mexico and my wife’s parents and brother in Wisconsin because my trust is set up to cover multiple people dying in a car accident and making sure our wills don’t screw someone else into a felony NFA violation if some estate lawyer is a tard (which is one of the most common ways people end up being charged under the NFA btw). That’s multiple states and multiple counties.

        Now, the rule covers all “responsible persons” which covers anyone who’s a settlor or trustee or may become one as the trust is written. Since an inheritance trust is f&^king useless without a line of succession for control and trusteeship, everyone on the damn thing is a “responsible person” unless explicitly granted no rights, which leaves any heirs they might have screwed if said person is the last one on the trust that’s alive.

        Guess what that means? Every single one of those people has to submit a recent passport photograph and recent, certified fingerprints plus prove they sent a letter to a CLEO or the tax stamp on a new item to be added to the trust is denied. That’s seven sets of fingerprints (certified by a accredited lab), seven new passport photographs and proof of seven CLEO letters for a new can/MG/SBS/SBR/SBS/DD to be added.

        Sure, I could pay like $500 to have the whole trust reworked, but that would destroy the whole point of a trust like this, which is to make estate stuff easier and avoid all the unnecessary BS. It works for the NFA stuff I already have, but adding things just became a ROYAL pain in the ass, which is exactly what this rule is MEANT to do.

        I only spent 15 hours on the phone with my NFA lawyer over this in the last few months about this, but hey, I’m sure you know better.

        • You could keep your existing trust for your existing property, and set up a new trust for newly acquired NFA items.

          Or don’t. Whatever, it’s your time and money.

        • Peter: What purpose would that serve? I could just as easily buy them as an individual and the result would be the same

  2. I’m the proud new owner of a Sandman Ti. Stamp came in last week and I did some shooting with it over the weekend. So far so good 🙂

    First thing I’m going to figure out is whether the swappable end caps make a noticeable difference. Obviously the standard end cap is bored for a .30 cal projectile, but it can be replaced with a cap bored for a .223 cal projectile. I’m curious to run both on an AR-15 to see if I can tell a real difference. (they do a 6.5 bore end cap as well)

    • Whether or not you can tell the difference as you shoot would be interesting. Let us know.

      Any time you drop down calibers like that it tends to make it “louder” because gas escapes more easily making the resulting pressure differential higher. Even subsonic 9mm is “louder” out of a .45 can than it is out of a 9mm can, personally I feel like I hear the difference, but that may just be me thinking I am hearing it. A sound level meter sure can tell the difference though.

      • No, not just you. And not just the example of shooting 9mm through a .45 can instead of a 9mm can, but suppressed .45 in a .45 can tends to be louder than suppressed 9mm (subsonic) in a 9mm can because the larger bore lets more gas through. And not just “louder,” but actually louder. Smaller bore diameter can suppress more effectively without having to go nuts on the length of the can. It’s also why the percentage reductions in recoil on my .308 brake test were lower than on my 5.56 brake tests. The 5.56 brakes with their tighter bores are able to redirect a larger percentage of the gasses.

        That said, changing the exit hole in the end cap isn’t the same as changing the bore diameter through all of the baffles inside of the suppressor, either. Some manufacturers say it makes a noticeable, measurable difference (I’ve seen meter results between 2 and 4 dB… and while 3 dB is technically twice the sound pressure it isn’t always noticeable to the human ear, whereas moving up/down 10 dB typically “sounds” like doubling/halving the volume level), and some manufacturers say it’s a gimmick and/or something for the manufacturer to sell and make more money off of. I personally like the idea and will be recoil testing the setup to see if it makes a difference on that and will just subjectively see if it sounds different as I don’t have the metering tech. Maybe Tyler can take that one on though.

        BTW I did shoot Dead Air’s GHOST-M can at SHOT Show, and was very impressed. It’s a .45 ACP can but it uses silicone wipes to restrict the bore diameter. I think mostly because of the wipe, it’s super quiet on 9mm also. After many hundreds of rounds of 9mm through one wipe, the bore diameter still appeared slightly smaller than 9mm…I think the bullet stretches the rubber out of the way as it goes through and then the rubber springs back a little and helps seal the gases inside. Seems to legitimately work, in the case of the GHOST-M. We’ll see if the $24 for the 5.56 end cap works in the case of my Sandman Ti…

        • Different caliber end caps can be bought and switched out?

          I thought the ATF position was *every* part of a suppressor must stay on that suppressor that had the stamp.

          Hence, the reason that oil filter thread adapter’s filter could only be replaced by the original manufacturer…

        • Depends. There are all sorts of variances. The most common is mounts, but there are now suppressors where the length of the suppressor is end-user adjustable, end caps are swappable, wear-and-tear parts like wipes are swappable, brakes and FH options can be swapped (e.g. in this Dead Air Sandman S and L setup, the muzzle device is mandatory in order to use the suppressor), etc etc. I don’t believe there’s any case in which the serialized tube and/or the baffles can be repaired or replaced if you aren’t an SOT, though. The thing with the oil filter adapter is that even though the adapter is the serialized part, the filter itself is the baffles and is critical to the function. There’s no way they could have received a variance to allow end-user swapping like manufacturers are able to do with mounts and endcaps and such.

        • @ Geoff:

          The reason for the oil filter thing is that the attachment “is the device”. It has an SN on it.

          I can swap my .45 Osprey to a .40 or 9mm by changing the piston in the suppressor. The can itself bears the SN, so that’s the “silencer”.

          Same with an AR, you can buy uppers over the internet all day, the lower is “the gun” because the SN is stamped on the mag well.

          The serial number is what the BATFE cares about, it’s on “the device”.

        • @Jermey:

          The wipes are the reason for what you’re seeing, but they’re a BITCH to change out.

          The GemTech Aurora uses this tech, and is currently available in a limited run. It’s based on the design for suppressing an M9 for pilots behind enemy lines and keeping the can REALLY short. The limitation is that it’s only good for about 50 rounds before the wipes need to be changed out, which is a HUGE bitch on the older models.

          My .45 Osprey, when wet, suppresses my USP down to nearly movie style levels. With no earpro, you can hear action racking back and forth and a nice “pfffft”. That lasts about three shots and gets louder with each until it’s back to “dry” suppression at around 12 shots (one mag). I was actually shocked, based on my experience with rifle suppressors how well the thing worked… but of course it’s freaking HUGE compared to most pistol cans and that odd shape design gives it a TON more baffle room.

          I’ve swapped the piston out for a 9mm and shot it with subsonic ammo. I notice a difference but I have not measured it. I noticed the same thing to a lesser extent with .40. The explanation, given to my by SilencerCo, was that since the bullet is enough smaller than the bore of the suppressor, much more gas escapes around the baffles (and out the end of the can) and does so faster than it does with a can that’s meant for that bore diameter (caliber), resulting in less suppression of the shot.

          When going down a caliber or two the wet suppression isn’t quite as good and the same is true of the dry suppression. I would put 9mm with water as a touch, louder than .45 dryish (after…. 6-7 rounds). Dry obviously it’s a bit louder.

          Again, I’ve not done any of this with an actual sound level meter so maybe some of it is me hearing what I “want” to hear.

        • @wilson – in the case of the GHOST-M the wipes are very simple to swap out (plops in right behind the removable end cap). They come from the factory with a bore hole in them so they aren’t specifically designed to seal the suppressor for running it wet without it leaking, but mostly just to restrict the exit bore diameter for running calibers smaller than .45… a slightly new-ish twist on the idea of silencer wipes. http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2016/01/tyler-kee/dead-air-armament-debuts-ghost-m/

          BTW on the oil filter adapter thing, it isn’t just the serialized adapter that the end user can’t replace, it’s the oil filter itself as well. From the Cadiz site: “If or when you need to change the filter out, the ATF/NFA rules says it needs to come back to the original manufacturer, which Cadiz Gun Works is. The cost is $25.00”. Sort of ruins the whole thing IMHO. That or anyone who actually bought one just breaks the law and swaps the filter themselves in secret.

    • Calling them nuts didn’t seem very nice. Think of them like those helicopter maple leaf/seeds.

  3. If the unconstitutional red tape is ever cut and suppressors are unchained from the NFA, I’ll consider owning one. Until then, muzzle break and hearing protection it is. Land of the coward, home of the slave.

  4. Oh man! I have one of these in lock-up right now at my local gun store. Just waiting on the ATF paperwork to clear. Reading reviews like this get me very excited.

    Incidentally, that price from Capital Armory is excellent. The price I paid at my LGS was much closer to MSRP.

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