Hunting

A Practical Guide to Hunting with Suppressors

A Practical Guide to Hunting with Suppressors

Although getting suppressor ownership fully legalized has been a chore, allowing suppressed hunting in states where it is legal to own them has been equally taxing. And for what? Well, hunting with a suppressor is one of the safest and most rewarding pastimes you can have in the woods, on the prairie, or wherever you go hunting.

The most obvious benefit of hunting suppressed is safety, particularly when it comes to protecting your hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common affliction for hunters. A lot of this comes from hunters forgoing hearing protection so that they can hear their surroundings.

A secondary benefit is that it protects the hearing of your hunting companions, be they dogs or your fellow hunters.

Non-game animals like varmints or predators will go into hiding when they hear a gunshot, so a suppressor is almost a necessity in these instances. Some game animals like deer may completely avoid an area if they are alerted to gunshots.

Along with not disturbing game, suppressors also let you avoid disturbing local residents and livestock. It may be small in the grand scheme of things, but a decrease in noise complaints is a good thing for everyone.

In this guide, we’re going to dig into all things hunting with a suppressor – here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:

Why Hunt with a Suppressor?

As we mentioned, in addition to protecting your hearing, a suppressed firearm allows you to use your unencumbered ears to listen for game, other hunters, livestock and predators. Again, it allows you to be fully aware of your surroundings from a hearing perspective.

We found this best put forth in a 2015 letter from Governor Steve Bullock of Montana to the Montana Speaker of the House, stating: “Suppressors mitigate the sound of a shot, but do not silence it. The use of suppressors for hunting, when hunters cannot wear ear protection because they need to be aware of their surroundings, can help protect against hearing loss. This is especially true for our younger hunters, even those who are not actually hunting but are accompanying their parents in the field.”

Hearing protection in the form of muffs or plugs is as effective but only while being worn. In the field, it is important to be aware of your surroundings, especially in bear, mountain lion, or rattlesnake country. The hunter can easily become the hunted without the situational awareness that hunting with a suppressed firearm offers.

Another benefit of suppressed hunting is that the suppressed shots do not disturb game or varmints that you are intending to hunt. We have seen this firsthand with ground squirrels going into hiding for hours after the sound of the first shot and on other occasions not changing a thing because we were shooting suppressed.

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Benefits of Hunting Suppressed

In summary, suppressed hunting offers a number of benefits that you may have not considered. Here’s a list of those benefits:

  • Protect your hearing
  • Protect the hearing of others
  • Maintain awareness of your surroundings
  • Avoid disturbing game or varmints
  • Reduce noise complaints

While legal to own and use for shooting in 42 states, suppressor use while hunting is restricted to some degree in at least a few states.

Here are all the states that allow hunting with a suppressor as of this writing:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

What Can I Hunt with a Suppressor?

As stated previously, only two states where silencers are legal have restrictions on hunting suppressed: Connecticut and Vermont. It is legal to own a suppressor in these states but illegal at the present time to use them for hunting. Aside from that, the sky is virtually the limit for hunting in other states where suppressed hunting is legal.

A few states used to have some restrictions on hunting with a suppressor. Montana immediately comes to mind as this suppressor-friendly state would only allow suppressor use for varmint hunting. Thankfully, the law was changed a number of years ago and hunters in Montana are free to use suppressors on all game animals as well as varmints.

Deer Hunting

Deer and even elk or antelope hunting is greatly enhanced when using your suppressor. This is because most rifle suppressors offer a reduction in recoil. You may not need a 300 Winchester Magnum for a White Tail deer on the East Coast at 50 yards but in the western states, the mule deer are larger and often taken at greater distances.

This holds true for bigger game animals such as Elk, Pronghorn Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, and Caribou. These animals have incredible hearing and the sound of a gunshot will keep them out of an area for weeks at a time.

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Coyote Hunting

Whether you consider them to be varmints or predators, coyotes are some of the most intelligent and cagey animals to hunt. They recognize gunshots for what they are and even the youngest or most naïve of these creatures will keep a smart distance in spite of your best predator calls once they hear one. To sum it up, like their cartoon namesake, they are wily.

Hunting coyotes with a suppressed hunting rifle will allow a varmint hunter to be able to make short work of them in the least amount of time.

Varmint Hunting

Prairie dog and ground squirrel hunters often benefit the most from the use of a silenced hunting rifle while varmint hunting. Animals such as these are well aware of what gunfire means and a large group will retreat to their burrows until they no longer hear gunfire.

A suppressed hunting rifle will allow you to maximize your efforts when you need to take them out in a small amount of time. It will allow you to take shots at them for hours on end, if that’s your intent.

Feral Hog Hunting

Another animal with excellent hearing and one that knows the sound of gunshots for what they are is the feral hog. These animals have bred to out of control numbers in the wild and are a pestilence when it comes to agricultural, property, and other forms of damage. Suppressed hunting rifles are a necessity when taking out packs of them.

Best Suppressors for Hunting

There are a lot of suppressors designed with hunting in mind that all share the same characteristics. You want it to be quiet, but also lightweight and preferably either a direct thread or TOMB style mount. Versatility and the ability to share it among different host guns is always a plus. We took a quick overview of a rimfire suppressor and a few centerfire cans.

One of the best small game and cartridge rifles in the US is the Ruger 10.22 and when suppressed, these tack drivers are extremely quiet. Even more so with the Gemtech Mist-22 installed. The Gemtech Mist-22 is an integrated suppressor/barrel that keeps your rifle compact without adding the extra length of a standard can.

The Coastal Xtreme Duty Suppressor (XDS) is a direct thread mounted silencer for hunting rifles chambered in 223 Remington/ 5.56mm or similar calibers like 22 Hornet. It delivers outstanding sound suppression utilizing the Coastal Gun V-Tech baffle design. It can be used safely and comfortably without hearing protection.

One of the most versatile suppressors in the world is the BANISH 30. A fully user-serviceable suppressor, it works with all of your rifle calibers from .17 HMR to .300 Weatherby. Testing shows that BANISH 30 reduces the report of a 308 Winchester by as much as 34 decibels. It is made from a strong, Titanium alloy for unmatched durability, at an extremely lightweight.

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If you are looking for a very robust Magnum class suppressor for hunting, we recommend something on the order of the Elite Iron Sierra. At 9.5″ long it tames cartridges as mighty as 338 RUM, 338 Lapua Magnum or 375 H&H (Holland & Holland) cartridge rifles.

Frequently Asked Questions

As beneficial as suppressors are to the hunter, one would think that they would be easier to come by. Here are some frequently asked questions that may help you understand the buying process as well as their capabilities.

How can I buy a suppressor?

You may have heard of the onerous paperwork involved with buying a suppressor and some dealers are known to take advantage of this and actually dissuade customers from buying a silencer. At Silencer Central we make the entire process of buying a silencer extremely simple. We started selling silencers on the gun show circuit and talked face to face with hundreds of hunters and shooters for real-world feedback on products, so we can help you make a more informed buying decision.

We take all the formalities out of the paperwork. We will set up a FREE NFA gun trust for you to better protect the ownership of what is really a lifetime investment. When everything is completed we ship the silencer directly to your door.

Additionally, we realize that not all hunting rifles ship from the factory with threaded barrels for silencer attachment. We offer a barrel threading service to help with this issue as well.

Do suppressors affect performance or accuracy?

This is a bit of a mixed bag. In general, suppressors improve performance and accuracy. The right suppressor will lessen felt recoil and eliminate noise flinch, making your silenced hunting rifle more accurate.

However, attaching a suppressor will often change the rifle’s Point of Impact (POI). Often this shift in POI is minimal and can be corrected by adjusting the optic or iron sights. The important thing to remember is that if you sight your rifle in without a suppressor, you will need to re-zero with the suppressor attached.

Some suppressors will need this every time you reattach if they are the QD (Quick Detach) type that attaches to a flash suppressor or muzzle brake. If you are going the direct thread or thread over muzzle brake (TOMB) route, the shift will be negligible unless you are shooting at extremely long ranges ( greater than 1000 yards).

How quiet are they, really?

Actually measuring sound reduction with a suppressor can be tricky. We have all seen the various decibel rating charts, but they only tell a part of the story. The actual level of sound reduction and the sound meter, itself, can be affected by humidity, barometric pressure, altitude, and echo.

In general, hunting with a suppressor can lessen the sound of most gunshots by anywhere from 25 to 35 decibels, depending on the silencer and caliber in question. This is below the threshold for most hearing protection commonly worn in or over the ears. If you hunt with dogs, it protects their hearing as well.

The other item of note here is that the vast majority of hunting rifles (bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, single-shot) make the best suppressor hosts because the sealed action means there is no gas leakage. A silenced hunting rifle will truly live up to its name in this regard.

Should I purchase a silencer using an NFA gun trust?

At one time it seemed like purchasing a suppressor by means of using an NFA Trust was the only way to go. This was mainly to avoid wait times from local law enforcement, obtaining fingerprints, photos and in some extreme cases, chief local law enforcement figures would flat out refuse to sign any NFA paperwork. Much of this is no longer an issue due to an ATF Ruling a few years ago that stated the CLEO only needed to be notified of silencer purchases.

However, an NFA gun trust is not a bad thing to have for estate planning purposes, particularly if firearms and silencers are involved.

How long are wait times?

Perhaps the biggest drawback to buying a suppressor is the long wait time to go through the FBI background check. The background check is not long in and of itself, but the time it takes for the application packet to make it to the agent conducting the background check and its return to the agent who ultimately completes the form can be significant.

At times trusts can be quicker than individuals but at other times this dynamic can change. E-forms filed online are usually quicker than forms filed by paper via mail. Over the years we have seen approval times as short as 30 days and as long as 27 months. As of this writing, NFA wait times are running between 5 and 10 months.

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Why is there a $200 tax stamp?

In 1934 due to concerns about high-profile bank robberies and interstate crime sprees from Depression-era criminals, Congress passed the National Firearms Act. This was the first major piece of gun control legislation passed in the United States.

Although the original intent was to outlaw specific types of firearms, including all handguns, legislators decided to tax them out of circulation by imposing a $200 transfer tax.

Firearms affected by this tax were machine guns, short-barreled rifles (SBR), short-barreled shotguns (SBS), and of course, suppressors. Although handguns were originally intended to be taxed in this manner, they were removed from the bill late in the legislative process. Firearms that were not quite short-barreled long arms and those that were disguised to not look like a firearm were classified as Any Other Weapon (AOW) and subject to a $3 tax.

The NFA has undergone some minor changes over its 86-year history, including raising the AOW tax from $3 to $5 and changing the SBR length from 18” to 16”. There have been a few attempts by lawmakers to deregulate silencers and remove them from the purview of the NFA but as of this writing, there is still a $200 tax on this safety device.

The reason why the NFA tax is $200 is because that was the retail price of a Thompson submachine gun in 1934. It was intended to be a 100% excise tax on a firearm that caught the public’s imagination. When adjusted for inflation that tax today would be $3,848. This is a reason why silencer development languished for so many years until the 21st century.

Ready for Your First Suppressed Hunt?

Hopefully, by now you have a better understanding of what to look for in a suppressor for hunting. Weight and length is a factor especially if you have to walk a few miles on your first suppressed hunt. You also want one that will reduce sound to a comfortable level and maybe even help in the recoil department.

Armed with the knowledge laid out here we hope we can get you ready for that first suppressed hunt. A suppressor is as important to a hunter as a quality firearm, skinning knife, or optic.

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