Ever seen a kid on his birthday all hopped up on caffeine and sugar? That is about how I looked when my tax stamps for suppressors were approved. I have always enjoyed shooting with them, and the way the government has turned bat-spit crazy I figured I might as well buy a suppressor while it is still permitted. I ended up purchasing two. Go big or go home.
I settled on a Gemtech .30 caliber suppressor and an Innovative Arms .22 Long-Rifle model. In my previous life while working for Uncle Sam, I was impressed by the durability and wide-spread use of Gemtechs. The steel tube on the Gemtech means it is an extremely sturdy-feeling product. If low on ammo, I suppose it could be used as a bludgeoning device—although it would not be my first choice. Another huge selling point with the .30 cal can is that one can suppress just about anything measuring smaller than .30. Smaller bullets fly through a larger suppressor just fine. Just ensure the correct threading is applied to the rifle’s muzzle and you are in business. If the barrel is already threaded then an adaptor can be applied. I just ordered one for my AR-15, which is much more economical than buying a separate suppressor and is still extremely effective.
The Innovative Arms suppressor is aluminum. While steel .22 cans are available, it is extremely difficult to hold a pistol on target with something that heavy attached. Sure, a steel suppressor may hold up for a few more years, but I do not have the time required to develop Popeye arms just to shoot a pistol.
The good folks at my local Class III firearms dealer, Southeastern Armory, talked me through many of these options and were extremely knowledgeable in navigating the nightmare of federal nonsense required to order, purchase, possess, or even sniff a suppressor. Yes, at this point I am implying that the government is a huge pain in the you-know-what, but we have all known this for a long time.
At the range, I elected to shoot the .22 LR first. I mounted it onto my Walther P22. As seen in the picture, it is a handsome set-up.
“Looks like you’re a little James Bond wannabe,” my buddy said at the range.
The pistol functioned remarkably well, firing 200 rounds of Remington sub-sonic without a glitch. This put my largest concern to rest, it was functional. The ammo/suppressor combination did change the strike of the round, about three inches low at ten yards. However, by simply changing my hold, I was soon dropping respectable groups into the 10-ring. The sight picture also proved something to which I would need to become accustomed. While the sights did clear the top of the can, I had to make myself concentrate on them. The suppressor just makes things look different.
I was extremely happy with the performance of the .22 suppressor on both my pistol and rifle, but the system I assembled around the Gemtech put it to shame. After fairly extensive reading, I settled on the .300 Blackout for my first suppressed center-fire rifle. The round’s extreme popularity and diversity was a huge selling point for me. Also, the fact that the round was designed to be subsonic was appealing.
The platform I selected was the Ruger American Ranch Rifle with a Leupold 2-7 power optic. I liked the extremely short 16” barrel as I would be adding almost a foot of suppressor to the end. The accu-trigger and picatinny mount for optics were also nice. Fit and finish were not beautiful, but at its price-point of under $400 they could be forgiven. Finally, I preferred the bolt action to the added noise of an automatic action slapping away, adding unwanted noise.
How did it shoot? Fantastic. The little rifle stacked bullets like a bench gun while firing 220-grain Sig Elite Performance ammunition. I kid you not. I had to walk down to the 100-yard target to ensure my eyes were not playing tricks on me. Working the bolt proved noisier than the discharge of the rifle. I heard the hammer fall at each shot. Add the complete lack of recoil, and the rifle proved the most fun shooting experience I have had in years.
Adapting to the dramatic parabolic arc of heavy, sub-sonic bullets was a bit different, but the basics of ballistics still apply. At 100 yards the 220-grain bullets I shot dropped nearly six inches. To overcome this, I sighted in at three inches high at 50 yards. This made the amount of drop out to 100 yards manageable in a point and shoot scenario—think about sighting for a 300-yard center-mass hold with a .270. I will state the obvious in that while point and shoot scenarios are the most common, I prefer to use a rangefinder if at all possible as there is a lot of vertical movement when shooting subsonic loads.
Of course, there is always the option of shooting a supersonic bullet through a suppressor. To me, this is not optimal as the crack of the round is still rough to the ears. Yes, the primary noise of the powder charge is eliminated, but a bullet breaking the sound barrier carries more decibels than is comfortable without hearing protection. What does that mean? I don’t know. I guess I just bought really expensive hearing protection. Don’t judge me.
And that really is one of the most pleasant things about shooting with suppressors. My friends and I can shoot all day long, converse like adults—or as close to adults as we can—and not have to worry about our ears ringing for the next two days.
On another note, it is amazing how many friends I made at the local gun range. Folks I never met seemed to gravitate towards me. They liked hearing my technical and tactical tidbits of knowledge, some laughed at my jokes and even more liked trying out my new toys. Hey, my personality is not that great. I know what they were after. Suppressors attract new range friends like a new double-wide attracts classy girls in a trailer park.
So how do you come to own a suppressor of your very own? Honestly it is not that hard. It takes a little money and patience, but is not as daunting of a task as what I first assumed. First, establish a trust. This enables others to use/hold your suppressor should anything happen to you. There are several good options for this from searching online to working with your local attorney. I went the online route and got a blanket trust document for about $100.
Next, figure out what you want to shoot quietly. This is almost as fun as shooting our very own suppressor—almost. I would encourage looking at establishing as much diversity as you can. If you like shooting suppressed pistols and carbines then consider a .45 suppressor. Remember, smaller bullet goes through bigger hole. On the other hand, big bullet through small hole ends badly.
And finally, wait. This is the hardest part. As you are working with the federal government expect a process that should take weeks to turn into months. According to some of my friends, the feds have gotten better. Tax stamps for suppressors used to take over one year to process. Now they have “streamlined” the process to about a six month wait time. Still too long, but better than they were.
To sum up, I am completely satisfied with the quality and function of the suppressors that I purchased. While there are more features associated with some systems like quick attach and adaptors for multiple calibers, I knew what I wanted. Also, there is something to be said for simplicity. I have heard more than one story about quick attach systems not being put on correctly causing bullets to rip through the baffles of suppressors. Of course, this does not mean that the system was at fault, but the more bells and whistles involved, the more that can go wrong.
So what is next in the works for CPT Whirley’s collection of cans? Looking into the crystal ball of ballistics, I would say that a .45 caliber can may be next. I would like to be able to suppress all of the pistols that I have. Do I need to? That is debatable. Can I? Sure can. Just takes one can—and a bit of patience.