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Silencers (or suppressors or whatever you want to call them) have long been ignored in the conversation about “gun rights.” Regulations regarding ownership and manufacture of silencers haven’t changed much since the National Firearms Act of 1934 restricted their ownership and made them subject to a $200 tax, requiring almost the same background checks and paperwork as a machine gun. Last week, hot on the heels of their big win in the House of Representatives with The National Right to Carry Act, the NRA published an article supporting loosening restrictions on silencers. But it wasn’t always thus, as Kevin Brittingham of Advanced Armament Co. told us . .

In 2000 the NRA had their annual show in Charlotte, and we were a pretty young company then and I bought a table and was setting up to go there and about a week before the show they called me, someone from their executive office, and informed us that we could not set up at the NRA show. And the reason they gave was “we don’t want the news media focusing on your table and putting guns in a bad light.”

So I was the first person to get my lifetime membership money back from the NRA, and I was really pissed.

But to show how things are changing, at our silencer shoot this year the NRA actually set up a table and came to our event. And now at their federal level and their grassroots (the guy that runs that), they’re willing to help us to create better awareness about silencers and promote them, and get it to where all states are legal for silencers.

It seems like a new state opens up every year, we have most of them now. And to get states where we can hunt game animals with silencers. In Europe you can already do it, so we’re not as progressive as we’d like to think.

You can read the entire interview with Kevin Brittingham here

The NRA was slow to warm to silencers, but it seems like they’ve reached the tipping point. On the 17th the NRA published an article titled “Suppressors – Good for Our Hearing… And the Shooting Sports.” Darren LaSorte, manager of the NRA’s hunting policy, listed all of the reasons why it’s dumb to keep regulating silencers so much. Read the full article here, but here are the highlights:

  • Silencers are legally classified as firearms for regulatory purposes, but don’t meet the definition of a firearm.
  • People put mufflers on their cars, why not their guns?
  • Silencers may help improve accuracy and lead to fewer wounded animals (and more humane kills) during hunting season.
  • Noise complaints against ranges would decrease or be eliminated if everyone used a silencer.
  • Silencers for home defense would be a benefit to the homeowner.
  • Hearing protection wouldn’t always need to be worn.

They elaborate a bit on each reason, but the last two paragraphs really tie together the whole argument.

Some will argue that the legalization of suppressor use while hunting will increase the incidents of poaching, but the experience of the many states that allow the practice clearly proves them wrong. Would these opponents mandate the use of the .338 Lapua with a muzzle brake in order for shots to be heard from the greatest possible distance? Is the diminutive .243 Win. Simply too quiet? As one suppressor advocate in Montana asked earlier this year during the legislative session, should all bow hunters be required to sound an air horn every time they release an arrow in order to alert any nearby wardens?

The reality is, the less muzzle noise heard by the non-hunting public, the better off we all are.

It’s time that policymakers–legislators, wildlife commissioners and gun club board members–move to eliminate the laws, regulations and policies that discourage or prohibit suppressor use. In addition to decreasing the incidents of permanent hearing loss, it will help keep the shooting sports alive and well by decreasing the calls to close shooting areas and hunting lands. Suppressors may not be for everyone, but that’s the best aspect of freedom–it is your choice.

I really hope the NRA goes after changing silencer regulation as fervently as they have with pursuing other legislative changes. Because seriously, I’m going crazy waiting for the paperwork to clear on my new silencer.

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  1. Suppressors are great! What a PITA to get one. The paperwork is lengthy with pictures, prints, and getting the designated LEO in your area to sign off on it. You can go the legal trust route but ATF really drags feet processing your paperwork.

    I wanted to get one because a) they are a lot of fun to shoot and b) home defense. Wearing of hearing protection is not gonna happen in the middle of the night while you are investigating stange noises in your house. If you have never fired a gun in an enclosed space without hearing protection, you are in for a surprise. Noise and a pressure wave will make your ears ring and make you deaf for quite a while.

    I went the trust route since the Police Chief will not approve any NFA items in my area. My local dealer helped with the forms for free since I purchased the suppressor from him. I stroked a check and mailed everything off via registered mail with return receipt. I recieved the receipt back with a signature I could not read and my check cleared quickly. I thought surely they would not cash a check unless the forms were good to go and the background check was done. Not so much. I also though that maybe it would not take the 4 months I had heard. Maybe I hit a sweet spot with timing. Wrong again. I waited till the 4 month mark and called the ATF NFA Branch. The lady who answered the phone was curt but polite and helpful. It seems they did not even add my forms to the que for 5 weeks after they got them. Well after the check cleared. The 4 to 6 month processing time begins when your “request” is entered into the system. Oddly enough, 2 weeks later my dealer called with the news my paperwork was back and approved. This process will happen with every NFA item.

    If you can, see if your dealer will do lay away. Buy all the cans you want at once and pay on them until the paperwork comes back. I wish I had thought of it before I bought my suppressor.

  2. In some countries it is mandatory to use a silencer in some areas while hunting and you can take home a silencer immediately after purchasing it from the store. Those countries have a lower crime rate than the US.

    • To be fair the suppressors probably aren’t the leading factor in decreased crime but they certainly aren’t causing any.

        • Here in Norway its as easy to buy a silencer as a scope(they fall in the “firearms accesory” definition)

          PS: does anyone know of the legality of exporting a suppressor from the US since they are generally better than the ones here.

        • Contrary to popular belief, silencers ran afoul of the feds in the Depression, when land owners reckoned poachers would use them to evade detection. Nothing to do with the mob.

  3. I wish suppresors were easier to get than now and it was just part of the fire arm or an accessory. The country side is getting more crowded and a lot of people do not want to hear a loud boom.
    I guess the reason they are illegal is so the cops can hear the gun go boom?… and respond? Heck, I dunno.
    I am still trying to figure out why the Liberals think a pistol grip and a heat shield on a gun are so dangerous?

  4. We need a marketing guru to design an advertising program around “hearing protectors.” Which is what silencers are.

  5. Just call it economic stimulation. I can think of 6 people off the top of my head, myself included, who would buy suppressors for at least 4 guns each if the tax stamp and paperwork hassles were gone… Good chunk of change for American companies.

    • Add 2 for me – I’m currently looking into the “trust” way of doing it first. I want a .30 cal for a long-range tactical rifle and a .223 cal compact model for my LWRC…

  6. Here in New Zealand suppressors for rifles are freely available and if you want one, then get one fitted to your rifle and off you go. No restrictions etc.

    There is only one mandatory requirement – if you are a professional deer culler (i.e. you are shooting hundreds of rounds a year as part of your job) you MUST use a suppressed rifle – health and safety bites here too!

    Try this link for one of the better known gunsmiths that fits suppressors :

    I’ve shot with people using one and they are a lot quieter but not entirely silent – more like a black powder “boom” than the sharp “crack” of a centrefire. The big advantage is that the animal can’t pinpoint your position.

    I wouldn’t use one as I think that it spoils the look of the rifle but they are undeniably effective and make a .270 sound like a .38 SPL at 10 feet with a strangely flat sound. I’d still use hearing protection on a range if I was using a suppressed rifle but that’s just me….

    A suppressor fitted to a .22LR rifle DOES silence the rifle – with subsonic ammunition, the loudest noise is the firing pin flying forward and the breech opening (if you are using a semi auto).

    Oddly enough, the streets aren’t stacked up with dead people assassinated by silenced rifles that no-one has seen or heard.

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