Common misconceptions about suppressors

suppressor on RISE Armament's RA-315

Largely thanks to Hollywood and the media, many Americans associate suppressors with the criminal use of a gun. That's too bad, especially given the value they offer to sportsmen and those who might be affected by the extreme sound of gunshots.

Suppressors can be a valuable addition to standard firearm use. Consider a day at a gun range, for example; the continual sound of gunshots can become deafening, even with your hearing protection. While suppressors don't offer full relief from that sound, they do lessen it. 

People who have never heard suppressors in action, though, think they're illegal devices used to reduce gunshots to whispers. To learn the truth (and the facts behind it), read on.



Many people believe suppressors are illegal throughout the United States, but that's not the case. That said, they are strictly regulated in the 42 states where they're legal. To purchase a suppressor, the states require a background check, fingerprints, considerable red tape, a long waiting period, and a one-time tax.

Myth: Suppressors Silence Weapons

Although they're also known as “silencers," suppressors don't actually silence a gun. Instead, they reduce the sound of a gunshot and can be an important safety precaution when it comes to protecting your ears and the people's around you. 

Depending on the firearm, suppressor, and ammo, a suppressor can reduce the sound of a firearm by up to 30 decibels. Many who fear suppressors worry that if a gunman used a suppressor during a mass shooting, people wouldn't hear the shots, which would increase the victim count. However, that's not the case. Even with a suppressor, the shots would be heard easily.

An unsilenced semiautomatic rifle registers at approximately 165 decibels. With a suppressor, that drops to approximately 135 or 140 decibels — or a sound level similar to being on an aircraft carrier deck. As a baseline, once sound reaches a level in the upper 70 decibels, it can become annoying or even painful for the average human. Even suppressed, guns are noticeably loud.

Suppressors can be a great piece of safety equipment for firearm enthusiasts and are particularly important at gun ranges. They can be valuable additions to the common safety precautions of earplugs and earmuffs. Earmuffs only reduce noise by 20 to 30 decibels, and earplugs alone are even less effective. By combining the three  earplugs, earmuffs, and suppressors  the noise around a gun range can drop to around 100 decibels, which is comparable to the sound of a tractor. While suppressors don’t provide complete silence, they do offer a great reduction.