How Do Silencers Work?

Most people know what a gun silencer is thanks to how common they are in Hollywood blockbusters.

It’s almost a cliche to see a hero (or villain) sneak into a building and muffle their gunshots by adding a silencer to their gun.

How Do Silencers Work?

With their silencer in place, our protagonist can take out all of the bad guys without the risk of blowing their cover.

However, gunshots make a very loud and distinct noise that is hard to miss. What does a silencer do to muffle this sound?

What is a gun suppressor? How exactly does a gun silencer work? 

In this article, we will look at what a silencer does and how they operate in real life.

How Does A Gun Fire Bullets?

Before looking into how a silencer works, it’s important to explain how the gun itself works and how a bullet is fired.

The exact mechanism can differ from gun to gun, but the basic system behind a bullet being fired remains the same.

A bullet cartridge consists of three different parts and all three are needed to fire a gun. The first part is the primer and when you pull the trigger on a gun, the primer is hit with a firing pin and is ignited.

The primer then ignites the second part of the cartridge, the propellant. As this lights, it generates immense energy, and pressure and this propels the final part, the bullet, out of the barrel of the gun.

As the bullet leaves the barrel it is accompanied by a rush of gas.

What Is The Difference Between A Silencer And A Suppressor?

You may hear people refer to both a silencer and a suppressor and wonder if there is a difference between them or if they refer to the same attachment.

Some people define them differently and say that while a silencer literally silences the sound of a gunshot, a suppressor is used to eliminate muzzle flash instead.

However, this isn’t the case. Even the best silencer can’t silence a gun completely and instead just suppresses the noise.

As you may have guessed, this means that the two terms do refer to the same thing and are interchangeable. Suppressor is the more correct term but silencer is more popular.

Does A Silencer Slow Down A Bullet?

Older silencers could slow down the velocity of a bullet as they often included a rubber gasket inside.

The friction produced from the bullet touching this rubber resulted in a reduction of velocity and slowed the bullet down.

In general, modern-day silencers do not slow down a bullet at all themselves. However, many gun owners opt to use a different type of ammo with a silencer and the bullets themselves travel slower.

These sub-sonic and reduced powder cartridges fire more quietly as they have less powder in them and by having less powder, they naturally travel slower.

How Do Silencers Work?

How Do Silencers Work?

As we stated before, nothing can truly silence a gun, but you can still attach a silencer/suppressor to a gun to dampen and muffle the noise of a gunshot.

When a gun is fired without a silencer attached, the gas produced by the ignition of the propellant leaves the gun barrel in a densely concentrated cloud and this produces the loud bang associated with gunshots.

The way a silencer works is by dampening this gas. Inside the silencer is a tube with small holes through which some of the gas can escape.

The gas is then diverted through baffles, which slows down the gas and allows it to cool a little. With the gas now cooler and escaping at a slower pace, the noise of the gun firing is reduced.

How Much Can The Sound Of A Gunshot Be Reduced?

Despite what the movies say, a silencer/suppressor will not render a gunshot silent. It will reduce the noise of a gun firing though, so the question becomes how quiet can a gunshot become?

Studies have shown that the average noise of an un-suppressed handgun is around 161 decibels. Adding a suppressor to the same type of handgun can reduce the volume of the shot to 128 decibels.

This may not appear to be that great of a reduction, but sound is measured on a logarithmic scale, so it’s a more impressive reduction than first thought.

By comparison, the volume of a regular conversation is around 60 decibels and thunder comes in at around 120 decibels.

Possibly the most important aspect of the reduction in volume is that it brings the volume to below 140 decibels, making the sound of a gun firing safer for the ears.

Are Silencers Legal?

Under the National Firearms Act, it is legal to own a silencer/suppressor in 42 of the 50 states.

The eight states where they are illegal are California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia.

Connecticut and Vermont allow private citizens to own a silencer but prohibit the use of them for hunting.

In the other states where they are legal, several processes must be completed such as paying a $200 federal tax payment and passing a thorough background check.

Before purchasing a silencer, it is best to confirm what the laws and regulations are in your state or municipality as they can differ.

Final Thoughts

Although silencers do not actually completely silence a gun, they can greatly reduce the noise of a gun firing.

They do this by cooling down the gas produced when a gun fires and allowing it to escape more slowly.

Suppressors are a more accurate name, but due to their popularity in action movies, many people call them silencers.

If you’re looking to purchase a silencer/suppressor for your own private use, make sure you check that they are legal in your state or municipality and comply with all legal requirements.

Matthew Osborn

Matt is an entrepreneur who has created and successfully exited multiple companies and brands. Now, he dedicates his time to Legionary, where he produces content on guns, family, and freedom.

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