The Difference Between a Suppressor and Silencer Explained

Gun laws are constantly changing and it can be very confusing to know what exactly is allowed. For instance: Can I have a silencer on my gun? What about a suppressor? Is there even a difference? These are great questions and when it comes to buying a gun silencer or suppressor this article will help you understand the differences. (source)

The only real difference between a silencer and a suppressor is the name. The purpose of a gun silencer and suppressor is to suppress the sound and reduce the muzzle flash of a shot. No silencer or suppressor can completely silence a shot from a gun but they are very effective in muffling the noise.

There is so much more that we need to know before purchasing a silencer or suppressor, and in this article, I will help you learn the ins and outs of owning a silencer. In the rest of this article, I will use the words “suppressor” and “silencer” interchangeably as they are the same thing.

Are Silencers/Suppressors Legal?

The first question that we need to be sure to answer is whether or not it is legal to own a silencer to put on a gun. The truth is that it is legal, however, there are some requirements that need to be met before someone can buy a silencer.

In 1934 the National Firearm act was introduced in the United States. The NFA required that if certain guns were to be owned, the federal government would require you to pay a tax and register that gun. The NFA mainly focused on heavy weapons but also included the ownership of suppressors.

This means that for you to own a silencer, you must comply with all the same requirements associated with the National Firearm Act. Here are the requirements that must be met: (source)

  • You must be at least 21 years old
  • There is a $200 BATFE transfer tax that must be paid
  • You must be a legal resident of the United States
  • Must be in good legal standing and able to own a firearm
  • Must live in a state where suppressor ownership is allowed

Although federally there are no laws making it illegal to own a suppressor, gun laws vary from state to state and you may not be allowed to even possess a suppressor in some states. Here is a list of the 10 US states that do not allow citizens to own silencers: (source)

  • Vermont
  • California
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • New Jersey
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota

Although these states do not allow you to own a silencer for your gun, some states like New York and Hawaii may allow the ownership of silencers for police in certain circumstances. Each state’s specific laws are different and though you may be allowed to buy a silencer in your state, it would be wise to research your specific state’s laws to ensure you are in compliance.

In the United States, we enjoy the freedom that we have to bear arms. Sometimes laws like the NFA can seem like they are restricting those freedoms. The truth is however that accessories like suppressors can make guns much more deadly. For you, me, or any other responsible gun owner this is not a problem, as we do not have any malicious intent involved in owning a gun. The sad reality though is that not all people have that same decency with their firearms.

When in the hands of the wrong person, a gun with a suppressor can be very hard to detect. So although these laws may add a few extra layers of nuance, they are designed to keep us safe. They allow us to keep these types of guns in the hands of responsible citizens and out of the hands of criminals.

Can you Make a Silencer?

Whether you buy a suppressor at a gun shop or choose to craft it yourself, it is considered to fall under the same laws. It is illegal to own an “unmarked” silencer in the United States. However, you can use the same process mentioned above to register and pay taxes for your homemade suppressor. Someone attempting to craft their own suppressor must first get legal approval before they manufacture it.

There are also many laws that prohibit the alteration of suppressors because they say that it changes the capability of your gun. Many places require that in order for you to modify your suppressor, you must go to an authorized dealer. Each part on the suppressor should have a serial number allowing the suppressor to be tracked in the case of a crime.

Although it is legal to make your own silence,r it is probably wise to do some research into what you are allowed to do with that suppressor before you spend time and money creating it. For more info about the laws surrounding suppressor manufacturing and ownership visit this article from Legal Beagle.

It is also smart to be safe when it comes to crafting your own suppressor. It is reported that each year about 500 people are injured accidentally by firearms. (source) With that being said it is important that any accessories you place on that gun are not going to result in a misfire or any other kind of premature explosion. You obviously don’t want that to happen, so it is important that if you decide to create your own suppressor that you know what you are doing. Here is an article I found that shows a simple way that you can create your own suppressor.

How Much is a Tax Stamp to Buy One?

According to the National Rifle Association, the cost to buy a “stamp” from the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives is going to be about $200. This is also commonly called a tax stamp. There may be a transfer fee that is also applied when you fill out the paperwork to be approved to buy a silencer.

It’s also important to remember that this stamp is required for each silencer that you make or purchase. So if you own multiple suppressors you may be looking at a pretty hefty price tag. Luckily the fee for a tax stamp is just a one-time fee and it is not required on a regular basis. (source)

You may also arrange for what is called a trust, that allows your silencer to be used by anyone who is legally listed as a “trustee.” Many people who own businesses go this route as it allows them more freedom with what they are allowed to do with their suppressors without having to buy a stamp. This process can tend to be a little bit more pricey and you should expect to pay anywhere between $100-$500 in legal fees. (source)

How Long is the Waiting Period?

Along with the price of buying a suppressor, there is also a waiting period that one must go through before being approved to buy and use a silencer. Many people say that it should only take about 3-4 months to be approved by BAFT, however, some people reported that it took up to 11 months for them to receive approval.

Because silencers have the capability to make your guns highly dangerous, BAFT does a very in-depth background check on each person that submits an application. This may make the time you wait much longer, especially if they find things in your background check that require further investigation. Once you receive approval it will come directly to the dealer who is then allowed to issue you a suppressor.

This can be a very long process, but if you truly want a suppressor for you gun, it will be worth the wait.

Can a Silencer Fit on Any Gun?

“Any gun” can be a very broad classification, and I am sure that there are some guns out there that would not be able to handle a suppressor. However, there are many different kinds of silencers that can be bought for your gun. Here is a list of just a few: (source)

  • Rimfire Suppressor ($200 – $450) – These suppressors are made to work really well with suppressing sound. Now, I know what your wondering, Isn’t that what suppressors do? Well, yes, but these suppressors are specifically made to reduce the sound as much as possible. If you have ever seen a gun with a suppressor in a movie it was likely a rimfire suppressor.
  • Pistol Suppressor ($400 – $800) – I think the name makes this one pretty self-explanatory. These suppressors are created to fit on most of your general handguns. These suppressors are nice because they are small and relatively lightweight making them easy to carry and move around. Although they do a good job of reducing the sound that your handgun will make, these suppressors are also very good at reducing the amount of recoil that comes from your gun when it shoots.
  • Rifle Suppressor ($500 – $1500) – These suppressors are designed to fit on most rifles. Because rifles have very high levels of temperature and pressure, it is important that a suppressor can handle those things. These Suppressors are designed perfectly to be able to handle the power that rifles have. With the way that most of these suppressors are designed, they are not very easy to clean because they cannot be taken apart like most other gun accessories. With these suppressors, you can either buy a threaded version or go with the “quick detach” version which allows for quick removal.
  • Multi-Use Suppressor ($600 – $900) – These suppressors are designed to be able to fit many different kinds of guns. Like many other multi-use products you will buy, they are very versatile, but it is not very likely that they will provide you with the exact specifications that your gun may need. Like I mentioned previously, rifles require certain specifications due to the way that they function. Although this may be a cheaper option, it will be well worth your time to think about your specific gun and whether or not a multi-use suppressor would even work in your situation.
  • Shotgun Suppressor – ($1200) Obviously these suppressors are going to cost you a bit more. This makes sense considering that shotguns can tend to be very loud and anything that is designed to muffle their sound is likely created out of a lot of material. Unfortunately, there are not many options when it comes to shotgun suppressors on the market. Generally, when people own a shotgun, they don’t seek to muffle the sound and so the demand for these types of suppressors is very low.

Within each of these categories of silencers, there are probably a hundred sub-sections that could be also considered. Each gun is built differently and your manufacturer may have suggestions into what is the best for your type of gun. Some gun makers will only allow their products to be placed on their guns, therefore you may not have many options on which ones to buy. It would also be wise to consider what you want to accomplish by buying a suppressor for your gun. Do you want to focus on reducing the noise? or just simply controlling the recoil? Different silencers do different things and knowing your expectations can be very helpful.

Do Silencers Really Make Guns Silent?

Despite having the name “silencer,” you are not going to find very many suppressors that are going to completely block out the noise of your gunshot. As much as we would like it to, it probably isn’t going to be possible to re-enact your favorite James Bond scene where he silently fires a shot to kill a bad guy. This is often portrayed in movies as to how suppressors work. The main purpose of suppressors is not to completely silence the gun, but just to muffle it.

An average bullet travels at 1700 miles per hour. (source) Even with our best technology, it is tough to keep a piece of metal that is fired out of a gun that fast completely silent. When we think about it that way it is kind of cool the amount of noise suppressors can help us to reduce. Though they may not be completely silent, it will help you avoid very extreme amounts of noise that can sometimes come from a gunshot.


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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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