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I’ve been playing a rather unhealthy amount of the new Cyberpunk 2077 video game this week, much to the delight of my wife, who has been using this time to catch up on all her awful shmaltzy Christmas movies without me sitting there, complaining MST3K style.

But once again, the Cyberpunk 2077 designers have made the same choices that countless others have made in trying to balance the gameplay, and I gotta say one thing in particular irks me: the silencers in the game make the guns terrible when they really should make them better.

I’ve held, shot, tested, and broken a good number of silencers (or suppressors if you prefer) in my time here at TTAG. Some of them are great, some of them are goofy, and some of them have catapulted downrange during testing as if trying to escape further torture.

But there is a pretty common set of attributes that these cans all display.

First, while they don’t completely eliminate the sound of the gun firing, they usually do a pretty good job of reducing it significantly. As John Hollister always reminds people, YouTube is a terrible medium for trying to understand just how loud a silencer is, but I think this video still illustrates my point. There’s definitely still something going on that’s audible, but in a loud or noisy environment it’s easy to lose that sound in the mix.

In addition to the noise reduction, you’ll typically see an increase in accuracy with a suppressor, too. This isn’t because of some magical voodoo that the can itself is imparting on the bullet, but instead is a result of the impact the can has on the shooter. Without that extremely loud, jarring report coming as soon as you pull the trigger, most shooters are much calmer, more focused with a can on their gun, and won’t anticipate the recoil as much. The result is better accuracy and more consistent shot placement.

Last but not least, there’s muzzle velocity and bullet energy. All a bullet is really doing is imparting force on an object some distance away, and it does that by using a combination of mass and velocity. The mass is fixed — the bullet doesn’t change weight magically just because you have a can on the gun — and the muzzle velocity stays the same either way. In fact, in some tests with some cans, the muzzle velocity actually increases.

Which brings us to how video games handle silencers.

When a game is going through development, good developers will test the ever-loving heck out of it. Not just for bugs, but also for gameplay, enjoyment, and something they call “balance.” That’s making sure that there’s enough challenge for the player, that the enemies are sufficiently strong without being unbeatable, and that there aren’t perks that make the player an unstoppable super being.

Here in the real world, silencers have a more natural balance. They improve the abilities of the shooter, but what you gain in accuracy and stealth you lose in weight and concealability. Unfortunately for game designers, those two factors aren’t things that model well in video games. So, in order to balance out the beneficial impact of silencers, they need to turn to other factors to make the gun’s performance worse. Specifically, the most common impact is decreased accuracy, decreased range, and decreased damage.

None of those factors actually happen in real life. Well, they don’t anymore. But I think what you are seeing is not only game designers trying to balance the massive benefit of silencers, but also a continued reliance on outdated silencer performance information.

The entire point of a silencer is to temporarily trap the expanding gasses that are produced by the burning gunpowder propelling a projectile down a barrel. If released all at once those gasses are supersonic and make a hell of a racket, but if you let them expand in a controlled environment first and cool them down a touch the sound they make can be greatly reduced or eliminated.

Modern silencers do this through the use of different baffle geometry, the most popular version being “K baffles” which usually look like a stack of cones placed one on top of another, but increasingly companies are turning to 3D printed designs to improve efficiency. In all of these designs, at no point does the silencer actually come into contact with the bullet while in flight. Once the round leaves the barrel there’s no additional impact on its flight.

Back in the day, when silencers were still relatively young and poorly designed, a number of manufacturers relied on a design called a “bullet wipe.” This called for one or more thin rubber gaskets to be installed somewhere in the can, usually concentrated near the far end, that had a hole in it smaller than the diameter of the bullet.

The idea was that the bullet in flight would “wipe” past these gaskets and as it did, the gasses would be sealed and trapped momentarily behind that bullet. This would slow the gasses down significantly, but it also had a massive negative impact on the bullet. Not only does the gasket touching the bullet impact the flight path (usually negatively), but the friction also reduces the velocity of the projectile.

These early silencer designs absolutely had all of the impacts you see in video games now. They reduced accuracy by touching the bullet in flight once it left the barrel. And they reduced damage to the can by reducing the velocity of the round, thereby dialing down the energy imparted on a target.

The problem is that none of those things are true now with modern silencers, and would be less true with futuristic technology as seen in Cyberpunk 2077. But those old attributes are still attractive to game designers when balancing their game. So, even though their game sports “smart guns” with bullets that can home in on a target, they are still relying on 1960’s and 1970’s era silencer tech. Duh.

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  1. Not a big silencer person, as they’ve basically been non-available to me in my state, but I liked the information about the old style silencer “wiping” the bullet. Which caused me to wonder if part of that old design was an attempt to actually reduce the velocity so that the bullet was sub-sonic as it exited the silencer? Anyone know?

    • “Which caused me to wonder if part of that old design was an attempt to actually reduce the velocity so that the bullet was sub-sonic as it exited the silencer?”

      As I understand it, (not being a can owner *yet*) if a reduced sound signature is why you are using a can with rubber ‘wipes’, you would be using sub-sonic ammo anyways.

      The primary point of using wipes is to provide as tight of a gas seal as possible, trapping the expanded combustion gas noise as long as possible, to make it as quiet as possible…

    • No, wipes are not designed to slow the bullet and wouldn’t do so very well if they were [poorly] designed for this purpose.

      Wipes give you a better seal around the bullet as it passes through the wipe. This means that the suppressor slows the expanding gasses better than a metal baffle does because there’s no space for gas to get around the bullet as it transits the baffle.

      The trade off is that the wipes are rapidly destroyed by this process and have to be replaced fairly rapidly which doesn’t lend itself to a sealed device.

      Modern silencers, particularly in the US, are not meant to be disposable or require regular service. This is not useful from a military point of view and it’s not useful from an NFA point of view either. The result of the laws is long-lasting cans that do a good job but make certain sacrifices.

      • Part of that is also that at some point in history ATF reclassified “suppressor parts” as NFA items.

        So initially, even under the NFA, you could replace your destroyed wipes yourself. Then at some point that changed and to get wipes replaced the silencer had to either be sent to someone with the appropriate licebsure, which usually meant the manufacturer, or you had to pay transfer tax on and register all of your “suppressor parts”.

        • PS; It seems like this happened in my lifetime. I remember going to gun shows in my late teens and early 20s (so late 80’s into early 90s) where they had silencer tubes, and internal parts available separately. And then there was an ATF ruling or opinion and they all disappeared.

        • IIRC technically you can replace them yourself. It’s just a royal PITA because each wipe is an NFA item so you can only acquire one at a time and each one requires a tax stamp.

          Someone with an SOT can do all the work themselves and all in one, pardon the pun, shot. Generally people I know who have wipe-based cans don’t send them back to the manufacturer because it takes too long. They use a local guy with an SOT who can order the parts in quantity and does the job for them at a pretty reasonable price.

          Or they get an SOT themselves.

          The whole thing is moronic at best.

        • Correction:

          You can only acquire one at a time but they do NOT require a tax stamp. And you can make them yourself provided that you only make one at a time for 1:1 replacement. You can’t make extras to keep around or make them for other people without a SOT license. But you can buy a sheet of rubber meant for the purpose and make one at time to replace the ones in a can for which you have the paperwork.

    • Some integrally suppressed guns had drilled barrels that essentially acted as a shorter barrel and reduced velocity. This helped keep some supersonic rounds subsonic and reduces the overall length of the system. Threading a silencer onto the end of a barrel doesn’t reduce the velocity appreciably.

    • Yes that was very interesting to me as well.

      Things I used to hear about suppressors about 20 years ago, and in some old video games, the suppressors would essentially “wear out” after a certain number of rounds were fired, and I always wondered how that “myth” came about or if there was ever a truth to it.

      Makes sense now as with the billet wipe style I can definitely see that issue at hand.

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  2. The only games I’ve seen that did suppressors well and didn’t just have them be integral to all the relevant guns or be a strict upgrade is Metal Gear Solid 3 and its two PSP spinoffs. They’re set in 1964 to 1974 and suppressors have no penalties except for their finite durability and have to be replaced when worn out (extremely rare items to find in MGS3, but replaced between missions in the PSP games because most mission ends have the player character return to base).

    • This caused me to think about games where suppressors were used and their effects.

      No effect on gun performance:
      * Quake II – only affects firing noise. Limited duration.
      * Global Operations – not available for all guns. Reduces firing noise. Unlimited duration. Extra cost to purchase.
      * No One Lives Forever – option on at least two guns, and fitted as standard on a de Lisle carbine type gun. Unlimited duration.

      Affects performance:
      Return to Castle Wolfenstein – STEN mk IIS, overheats and stops firing until cooled down. No other limit.
      Call of Duty Black Ops series – available for many, but not all, guns. Shortens maximum range. Firing report does not show your position in the map on multiplayer games.
      STALKER series – universal suppressor available for most guns. Small loss in KE is the negative effect. Reduces firing signature.

      Considering the eras of the game stories, the performance loss could be a historical reference in addition to balancing. Also DIY suppressors you would find in Cyberpunk type games are also known to affect performance.

      • Yep. As much as many (and rightfully) hate hollywierd, or video games, those things have seriously helped gun culture.

        Like the “zombie craze” and the walking dead. Yeah that was annoying, but it brought literally millions of new gun owners into the fold. Who in turn brought others in.

        Play the game to win it. Pun intended.

    • One good reason: tons of kids, especially young men, first encounter gun culture through games. They find the subject fascinating, and giving them a semi-realistic, interactive experience with virtual firearms can be an important tool for shifting the cultural narrative in the right direction. For once.

      • Same with Hollywood. Even movies that “trained” a lot like John Wick, make a bunch of massive hollyweird fuck ups. They give silencers the ability to be shot in a massively crowded terminal without anyone so much as blinking… from the hip, while walking, and dangerously over peoples heads with pinpoint accuracy. That movie is hailed by so many for the “training” that Keanu went through but it’s just another form of hollyweirds over compensation. “training” with fat boy Taran Tacticool does not make you oper8or.

      • napresto, I disagree. When my son was young I played video games with him. They didn’t stimulate any interest in me becoming a plumber.

  3. “The problem is that none of those things are true now with modern silencers, and would be less true with futuristic technology as seen in Cyberpunk 2077.”

    A little education can go a long way with those folks, so I suggest identifying those people and offering them a day at a range in state where silencers are allowed, so they can see (and hear) the reality of the situation.

    Perhaps find your way into developer’s forums where they gather to ‘talk shop’ and make the offer there. I would think the ones that take pride in realistic game play would love to see it for themselves…

    • It would also be useful for them to realize that suppressed firearms are still quite loud. I’d love to see a game where suppressors are treated realistically. Currently, in literally every shooter I’ve played, you can hose one guy with suppressed gunfire from contact distance and his buddy, who has his back turned, 10 feet away, doesn’t react in the slightest. Makes it too easy, to the point that I’ve deliberately stopped using suppressors in the vast majority of single player shooters

  4. You just have to assume that a silencer in a video game is actually a silencer + subsonic ammo. That would account for reduced “velocity”, “damage”, and “range” in video games.

    • My thoughts exactly. Battlefield 3 did a great job of that, where even the in game attachment description even mentioned “cold loaded ammo” (which is of course a meaningless phrase but it did convey that the rounds themselves were different when using a can). And it didn’t make a ton of difference in damage at close range but at longer ranges the additional bullet drop was significant

    • I dunno, I remember having to get a job in Shenmue, and then having no free time to do anything with the money my character made from it. That was pretty realistic.

      • Yeah that’s pretty damn realistic. But doesn’t sound like a fun game. Hits a little too close to reality.

    • Not necessarily. Given that private firearm ownership is currently under siege from basically all angles, the popularity of first person shooter video games might honestly be the single strongest cultural force in our favor. There are a LOT of younger (late teens and early 20s) PotG who weren’t raised around firearms but developed an interest in them solely as a result of these games, so relating real world guns and accessories to games isn’t as useless as one might think at first glance

      • I can tell you first hand that many of my undergraduate game design students, who tend to be very far left politically and culturally, are nonetheless fascinated by firearms because of their prevalence in video games. Even the short conversations I’ve had with some of them about firearms have sparked interest in deeper subjects related to military history. From there, it’s a fairly short journey to seriously and intellectually questioning whether the world is actually very much like how their grievance studies professors describe it. I have seen it happen, and in my opinion, every little bit of cultural ground we can take and hold in this way is worth it.

        • “Grievance Studies Professors…” That gave me a solid chuckle. Thank you, Sir. I feel a bit more vindicated for telling my professors to pound sand up their ass with a ball-peen hammer when they utilized veiled threats of failing me for questioning their world view in even the slightest ways.

  5. Check out State of Decay2. It is pretty decent with firearm modeling. The staff at Undead Labs has some shooters on it.

  6. *Places former TTAG Video Games Correspondent Hat on head*

    Ultimately the realism of silencers in games doesn’t matter. The incorporation of the Osprey into the older Modern Warfare games, particularly in conjunction with the Vector, sold a lot of Ospreys (and Vectors).

    Culture-> Politics. Gamers have a metric fuckton of money. More than gun folks do. By A LOT. Guns are like $30 billion a year, video games are more than 500% more.

    You’d love the results if you could peel off 10-15% of the video games industry money and dump it into guns. You’d also love those people having “skin in the 2A rights” game.

    But nah, talk shit. That wins ’em over every time.

    • I didn’t see it as shit talking as much as a realistic analysis of how video games don’t always portray firearms in the most accurate light (which is true, although at least they’re better than Hollywood). But you’re correct, the video game industry dwarfs the gun industry and there’s no shortage of young adults (late teens/early 20s) who are gun people because of video games. The progression seems to go like this: kids play CoD or whatever and say, hey, these guns seems pretty cool! And then they spend some time/money with airsoft since the price point is lower and kids typically don’t have a lot of money. And then they get a little older, start working, and get into firearms. I say that as a younger person (currently 25) who still very much enjoys video games, airsoft guns, AND firearms. While video games, both the industry and the player base, currently suffer from a high degree of toxicity, the fact is most of the younger converts to the pro gun side were influenced to do so by those games.

        • What was ‘toxic’ on my suggestion for a little exposure to the real deal and education as to the reality of how they behave in the real world?

    • Culture-> Politics. Gamers have a metric fuckton of money. More than gun folks do. By A LOT

      As a “gun owner” AND a “gamer” I can say you are sadly mistaken… I don’t have a metric “fuckton” of money though my wife and I live comfortably on a low six figure income (not to mention that I’m not really sure what a “metric fuckton” of money is).. The basic reason more money is spent on gaming than on guns is that here is a whole “fuckton” more gamers than there are shooters… My most expensive gaming console to date was under $500.00 my cheapest gun was slightly more than that with most costing two to three times that.. In my gaming lifetime I’ve purchased no more than 6 consoles (still waiting for the “price gouging” element to stop buying up all of the new Series X consoles) and maybe 200 games (I have both Playstation AND Xbox consoles) representing about 8 to 10 thousand bucks (I buy a lot of used games), however my “special” safe alone contains 10 guns that dwarf that amount and my ammo supply nearly equals.. Two EDCs are nearly 1/4 of that and my collection of range use firearms (various handguns, ARs, AKs, shotguns, Mini-14, 22 rifles) far exceeds that before we get into ALL the peripheral stuff like holsters, scopes (including night vision) lasers, grips, stocks, speed loaders and magazines not to mention tubs full of cleaning, maintenance and spare parts kits.. I could not even begin to put a value on all of the gun and shooting related stuff I have now let alone all the stuff I have purchased over the past 60 or so years…. So maybe there IS a “fuckton” more money being spent on gaming but It’s more likely ten twelve year olds spending $60.00 each of mommies money on a game than one adult spending $600.00 of his own hard earned money on a firearm…

    • I totally agree. For more then this reason, we also must take into account the issue of censorship and agenda setting.

      Games are one of the few remaining outlets of media, (and a big one at that) that isn’t really tainted but SJW bullshit, leftist preaching, or censorship.

      Throw on ANY TV show or movie in the last 4-5 years, you have that in EVERYTHING.

      Now… go play a first person shooter or post apocalyptic role playing game. There’s nothing but simulated survival and *constant* weapons use.

      Many of these games also use stories and events from history, even if they are embellished. That’s history kids aren’t taught in school anymore.

      They then take a greater interest in both firearms and history, and outside that game they do a little research, low and behold, they come across things like the concept of “the right to keep and bear arms” and why that’s important.

      They learn how the Nazis and communists did what they did.

      Their schools don’t teach them any of that anymore guys. Not a thing. So when they play it in a game, then find it online, it’s like finding something cool and new, even rebellious.

      The video game industry is one of the BIGGEST allies we have.

      Their schools, the news, their music, tv shows and movies are all telling them to conform to be a good little communist. Then they play a game, that can be shockingly realistic, that shows them a world that is polar opposite from what their lefty betters are telling them.

  7. While I favor such classics as WHITE CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT, MIRACLE ON 34 TH STREET, AND IT HAPPENED ON 5th AVENUE, I would enjoy a Christmas themed movie featuring Lori Loughlin in prison. Imagine the type of gratuitous nudity and sexual violence that we haven’t enjoyed since Linda Blair and Sybil Danning gave us CHAINED HEAT.

      • Lori is the reigning queen of the schmaltzy, Hallmark Christmas movies. Lori is also currently in prison, so they wouldn’t have to film on location. Unless you are a billionaire, you need to be prepared to appreciate the charms of a more mature woman because that is all you are going to be getting in the next few years.

        • you need to be prepared to appreciate the charms of a more mature woman because that is all you are going to be getting in the next few years.

          Even at 71 you’d be very surprised at the number of 20 somethings that still make themselves available to me when I roll in on my Harley.. It’s not about how much money you have.. It’s about how you carry yourself and your self confidence… The fact that I can still pass for 40s helps too… However I do appreciate the charms of the more mature (ten years my junior) woman with whom I’ve had an exclusive contract for over twenty years now, but even she appreciates the fact that much younger women are still attracted to me… says she enjoys the competition (they really don’t have a chance), keeps her young….

    • ” The pffft sound they make is laughable. SMH.”

      Unless you are running a very high-end gamer rig with a soundcard, amplifier, and speakers capable of reproducing the real-world dynamic range and sound pressure levels of actual gunfire, it’s never gonna be realistic. You would literally go deaf in short order from hearing damage.

      Then again, I suppose a game could keep track of cumulative exposure and artificially insert a tinnitus ‘hiss’ into the sound track that grows worse until it goes silent…

  8. Back in the day before Battlefield morphed into a modern-day politically correct clusterf*ck, I’d waste some time playing – especially Battlefield 3/4. Never much liked the addition of silencers when playing long range recon because they reduced the player’s distance advantage against SMGs, carbines, and LMGs with higher rates of fire.
    The biggest gripe I then was the unrealistic representation of compensators and muzzle brakes on bullet spread. Worse still was introducing the “heavy barrel” option that actually reduced accuracy on an M27.
    I was like …WTF, really? Going “loud” was sometimes a better option in certain cases.
    Unfortunately, some game designers don’t want certain equipment combos to be too powerful or advantageous and never really seem to get their data right because the customer -who may be a whining pre-teen with zero RL experience with guns and tactics – will whine too much and refuse to pay for those expensive updates.

  9. Silencers cause a damage reduction in games like counterstrike purely for balancing the gameplay. A lot of “issues” in games are purely for balancing, gameplay, etc, such as instant transform with werewolves, unrealistically high weight / ammo / carry capacity, etc. Every game handles it differently and then there are mods.

    If there was no penalty for using a can in games, all you would hear is the usual suppressor sounds with that weapon.

    Some things are done purely because it makes a game, fantasy, more fun.

    -a life long gamer.

    • This is exactly right. In fact, I daresay that very few people would actually enjoy combat games if they were balanced realistically. They would be too much like actual combat… really boring and then really unfair.

  10. I just can’t get behind this game. As soon as devs mentioned it was first person I knew it would be a shit show. Some people keep it political though – they just don’t care because they want to believe it’s a good thing.

  11. First of all they made Cyberpunk way more complicated than it needs to be and even their idea of “silencer” restriction goes too far with up to a 30% loss in damage level

  12. Two words: game balance. Unless its an upgrade that’s gained later during play, there has to be some benefit to the player for not taking one.

    • It’s easy, make any weapon with a suppressor affect a malus on attributes like stealth, if that game uses that sort of thing (sort of how they do it in Payday 2) or making a suppressed weapon have a longer delay when swapping to it, or even change the aiming characteristics (whether using a mouse or analog stick for the filthy console peasants) so it has a slight but noticeably less responsive aim speed or smoothness.

      No need to do the damage/accuracy malus unless some some others have said, it’s a game in the mid 20th century or if its applied to subsonic ammo (which really shouldn’t affect accuracy, maybe point of impact though).

  13. What is more concerning than the suppressor question is that a grown man is playing Video games!. geez, get a life and go and actually do something, anything to make or complete something real. People used to have hobbies that actually produced something, took skill and thought.

    • Playing video games is not really that different from previous generations hobbies such as playing card games such as solitaire or bridge. You’re not going to achieve anything in life playing those games either, other than amusing yourself, but that’s fine.

    • You know it’s entirely possible to enjoy playing video games while still living a rich, fulfilling life that accomplishes a great deal, right? Why, people who play computer games are even getting married, having kids, earning degrees, paying bills, and even holding down full time employment in lucrative careers these days!

      • I know some who’s houses are in shambles, kids with shitty diapers, sink full of dishes , ole lady goes to work while the he plays warcraft,,, ,forever, Depends on the person

    • What is more concerning than the suppressor question is that a grown man is playing Video games!.

      I hunt, ride motorcycles, drag race my 03 “Terminator”, have a fairly well equipped shop where I build shit like engines and firearms from 80% lowers… I also USED to enjoy Sundays watching football or just watching a good movie until politics and the SJWs fucked that up.. I’m 71 have some arthritis and found that playing action/shooter type games helps keep my fingers nimble and (when played on the most challenging levels) helps keep the reflexes sharper… I find that some RPGs where a lot of thought processing must be used also helps keep the mind sharp… I live a pretty full life and STILL find time to play games, it fills the time I would have spent watching TV programming that is no longer watchable…

  14. When you attach a silencer in cyberpunk you lose something like 5% damage as a trade off for stealth. The real issue here is it doesn’t give the option to switch to sub-sonic rounds like for instance Sniper Elite 3 does. Also there is no sonic crack when fire through a suppressor in game. So one has to assume that all the ammo in the game is already sub-sonic (most likely due to the laws in 2077 that ban full power ammo for safety.) but still should be no damage penalty. However integrally suppressed guns often times has a shorter barrel than the non-suppressed version this would account for damage loss.

  15. If you’re going subsonic then a lot of these rifle rounds have similar ballistics to pistol rounds – which can explain the theoretical fake game reduction in “damage.”

  16. I used to make suppersor for a shotgun with 4ft of electric conduit and drill a bunch of holes in it. Worked good if you hand loaded down a bit, I guess in a pinch you could take out some of the powder and shot, stuff some toilet paper to take up the space in the wad and recrimp the shell by hand, never tried skeet loads but that too.

  17. I’m all for video games making silenced guns less effective. The wider this trope spreads, the more likely the average gun grabber will think silencers make guns worse, and the less hard they will fight efforts to deregulate them.

  18. games are stupid just give kids guns instead of toys and raise them to be normal instead of weirdos

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