A favorite topic among YouTube trolls and pedants everywhere is whether that can on the end of one’s barrel — you know, the one that quiets the report of the gunshot — is called a “silencer” or a “suppressor.” Usually this is in the form of folks “correcting” anyone who says “silencer.” Well, I’m here to tell you that they’re both completely correct. As is “firearm muffler.” And here’s why….
Hiram Percy Maxim, son of the inventor of the Maxim machine gun, designed these devices while inventing similar mufflers for automobiles, and he called both the gun ones and vehicle ones “silencers.” He started the Maxim Silent Firearms Company to sell his silencers.
To the inventor goes the naming rights. Seems fair.
Then, the 1934 National Firearms Act, which is still unfortunately the law of the land, regulated the possession of various sorts of firearms. In order to regulate something, the law must first define it . . .
The terms “firearm silencer” and “firearm muffler” mean any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler, and any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.
“Suppressor” became common parlance at some point afterwards. When? I have no idea.
It is the term used most frequently by those “in the know” — meaning folks familiar with firearms, industry types, TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia, etc. — in particular when speaking to those who aren’t “in the know.”
It’s industry jargon — it’s a slang term, really — because it’s more accurate than “silencer,” since silencers don’t actually make gunshots silent, and it’s not as dorky as “gun muffler.”
At any rate, since the federal government says they are “silencers” and anybody who pays their $200 tax to get one or to make one is signing forms that say “silencer” all over them, but “suppressor” nowhere, and every law and legal definition everyplace in the nation refers solely to “silencer,” “silencer” is a perfectly acceptable and correct term for these things.
Of course, the federal government also defines silencers as “firearms” so . . .
That’s absurd, but that’s the government. And it’s the law. It is the official, legal, recognized definition and parlance. You’ll find there’s literally no way to register or pay tax on a “suppressor.”
We say “suppressor” with those not “in the know” because it’s more descriptive and less scary. Internally, though, we know “silencer” is correct and we use it at least as often as “suppressor.”
Bottom line: “silencer,” “suppressor,” “firearm muffler,” and “firearm silencer” are all perfectly correct. Colloquially, “can” is fine as well. Heck, just visit www.LibertyCans.net to find a company called Liberty Suppressors, and note that viewing its products requires visiting the “silencers” tab. No mufflers, though.