Caliber Sizes: Choosing the Right Suppressor
When you purchase a suppressor and take a look at your Form 4 with its National Firearms Act (NFA) tax stamp, you will notice box 4c lists “caliber or gauge.” This is a very important box for a number of reasons, as it lets the shooter know what diameter the suppressor is intended for in regard to the gun’s caliber.
However, the bullet caliber size only tells a part of the story. Just because a suppressor might have a rifle caliber size of .30 caliber does not mean that every .30 caliber rifle cartridge is safe to fire through it. The same goes for handgun caliber sizes. Some handgun suppressors will not accommodate every type of round with a smaller handgun caliber size.
We’ll get into more specifics below, but here’s a quick compatibility cheat sheet to show you what suppressors in our BANISH lineup work with what calibers:
Rimfire cartridges that are .22 caliber and smaller. This includes .22 Hornet, .17HMR, and even 5.7×28.
Smaller centerfire rifle calibers such as .223/5.56, including all calibers that are .224” and smaller, including rimfire.
Larger centerfire rifle calibers up to .308/7.62, including small rimfires up to .300 Weatherby.
Larger centerfire rifle calibers up to .308/7.62, including small rimfires up to .300 Remington Ultra Magnum.
Large centerfire rifle calibers up to .338 Remington Ultra Magnum, including (but not ideal for) small rimfires.
Centerfire pistol cartridges up to .45 ACP and 10mm, including small rimfires and even subsonic 300 Blackout.
Large centerfire rifle cartridges up to .338 Lapua and .45-70 Government, including smaller centerfire pistol and even rimfire cartridges.
Larger centerfire rifle calibers up to .308/7.62, including small rimfires up to .300 Remington Ultra Magnum.
Table of Contents
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY CALIBER OR GAUGE SIZES?
A rifle or handgun’s caliber size refers to the outside diameter of the bullet or the inside diameter of the barrel through which the bullet is fired. This handgun or rifle caliber diameter also refers to the measurement of the inside diameter of a firearm silencer, although it might be slightly larger than the handgun or rifle’s caliber size.
This measurement may be given in inches or millimeters, but for ammunition measurement purposes, the handgun or rifle’s caliber size will be often given in thousandths of an inch. For example, a 9mm handgun will fire 9mm ammunition but the bullet caliber size for that case will be 0.355” in diameter. People often confuse caliber for chambering.
The firearm’s chambering may be 9mm Parabellum (also known as 9mm Luger or 9x19mm) but there are also other 9mm cartridges known as 9x21mm, 9mm Makarov, or 9x18mm which will not chamber in the same firearm even though they share the same caliber size. The 9mm Makarov or 9x18mm actually uses a slightly wider bullet caliber size measuring 0.365” instead of 0.355” to further confuse things.
Gauges are similar to calibers, but they relate to shotguns. Common gauges you may see are 12, 16, 20, and 28 gauge. A 12 gauge shotgun has a bore diameter of 0.729”, or 18.5mm. So where does the number 12 come from? The 12 means that a dozen lead balls of 12 gauge diameter would be required to add up to one pound. The same holds for the other gauges: 16 gauge needs 16 lead balls of 16 gauge diameter to add up to one pound. This also means that shotgun gauges run opposite what you would normally think. That is, a 12 gauge barrel is bigger than a 28 gauge barrel.
DIFFERENT CALIBER SIZES
You might think it’s easy to break down bullet caliber sizes by whether the caliber is designed to be used with a handgun or a rifle. That seems logical on its face, but with rifles chambered in what were traditionally pistol calibers and pistols chambered in what were strictly rifle calibers at one time, those lines have completely blurred in recent years.
It is therefore important for the buyer of a suppressor to understand what these mean and more importantly not to get hung up on bullet caliber sizes.
COMMON BULLET CALIBER SIZES
The most common round in the United States (except when panic buying is in full gear) is the lowly 22 Long Rifle, or 22LR. Its name can be a source of confusion to novices, as its name implies use in a “long rifle” yet it can be fired through pistols and revolvers as well as rifles. Due to its small size, availability, and low noise signature, it is often the first caliber for most shooters, and probably the most useful and least expensive.
The 22 Long Rifle is what’s known as a rimfire cartridge. This means that during the firing sequence, a striker or firing pin impacts the rim of the cartridge instead of a primer to ignite the powder in the case. You may see reference to rimfire suppressors, and these are ideal for use with 22 Long Rifle ammunition. Over the past 10 years, most rimfire suppressors will also handle rimfire magnum length cartridges such as 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (22 WMR) or 17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire). A few can even handle .22 caliber centerfire rounds on the smaller side such as 5.7x28mm, 22 TCM, or 22 Hornet.
The next size up in bullet caliber is for those suppressors labeled in the rifle caliber size as 5.56 or .223. For the most part, these are intended for rifle calibers like 223 Remington or 5.56 NATO. These are the most common calibers for AR-15 rifles, carbines, and pistols. This size suppressor will comfortably handle the rimfire calibers previously mentioned as well as the smaller centerfire rifle calibers like 5.56 or 223.
.30 CALIBER AND UP
In general, the bulk of .30 caliber suppressors are intended for use on rifles chambered in 308 Winchester or 7.62 NATO. By default, they will handle everything that a .223 caliber rifle silencer can handle with the addition of 300 Blackout in supersonic and subsonic loads, as well as .30 caliber rifle cartridges with lower pressures, such as 30-30 Winchester and 7.62×39. Usually, rifle calibers with smaller diameters such as 270 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, or 6.5 Grendel can be fired safely.
Many .308 caliber rifle suppressors are actually rated for 300 Winchester Magnum, 300 Weatherby Magnum, and even 300 Remington Ultra Magnum. It is of extreme importance to determine if a suppressor will tolerate rifle calibers such as these before they are fired.
Another caliber increasing in popularity for the long-range shooter is the .338 rifle caliber size. Typically regarded as the Cadillac of any line of suppressors, these models were built for the mighty 338 Lapua Magnum and can handle any rifle caliber size with a smaller diameter from rimfire 17 caliber cartridges up through all the belted Magnum rifle calibers as long as the bullet diameter does not exceed 0.338 inches or 8.6mm.Shop .30 Cal Suppressors
POPULAR HANDGUN CALIBER SIZES
One of the most popular pistol caliber sizes is 9mm. If measured in inches, this would be 0.357”. Therefore, a suppressor in this diameter can safely fire 9mm, 380 ACP, and 38 Special, plus all smaller calibers.
Despite the names of the cartridges, a 38 Special and 380 ACP have diameters that fit within 9mm/0.357”. The “38” and “380” designation comes from the outside diameter of the loaded cartridge. This goes back to the latter part of the 19th century when gunsmiths converted black powder cap and ball revolvers to a pistol caliber which used a heeled bullet that had the same diameter as the loaded round. So, when the 38 Colt was lengthened to become 38 S&W Special, they kept the “38” moniker for familiarity. The 380 ACP has a similar origin in that it evolved from the now obsolete pistol caliber 38 ACP and the cartridge name came from the outside diameter of the round measured at the neck.
Most 9mm suppressors can handle rifle caliber sizes like 300 Blackout, 300 Whisper and 350 Legend in subsonic loads because the pressures are much lower. Some of the better-made ones will handle 357 Magnum or even 35 Remington because they are the same caliber size. It is advised to consult the manufacturer before trying these rounds to protect the shooter as well as the suppressor and ensure that it’s safe to fire these types of rounds.Shop 9mm Suppressors
Another popular pistol caliber is the .45 caliber. As you could imagine, .45 caliber suppressors are intended for pistols chambered in 45 ACP. Many will handle smaller pistol calibers such as 9mm, 38 Special, 40 S&W, and 44 Special as well as the 300 Blackout or 350 Legend in subsonic form. Certain .45 caliber suppressors can tame the 10mm, 44 Magnum, or hotter 45 Colt loads, but this should be confirmed with the manufacturer.
If the .45 caliber pistol silencer is an older model, it may not be able to withstand a steady diet of 9mm supersonic rounds. In general, 45 ACP is a subsonic round and 9mm is not unless specifically stated on the ammo box.
While .46 caliber isn’t actually a specific type of cartridge, the slightly larger diameter allows it to be used on all .45 caliber cartridges and smaller, as well as some larger rifle calibers. These are calibers like 450 Marlin, 454 Casull, 458 SOCCOM, and 45-70 Government.
These are intended for use on 50 BMG rifles and anything smaller in diameter. While one of these suppressors might seem as if they can perform well on everything you own with a threaded barrel, their size often makes them less than ideal for a lot of smaller caliber firearms such as a rimfire rifle, for instance.Shop .45 ACP Suppressors
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SUPPRESSOR FOR THE CALIBER SIZE
It might seem like a no-brainer to simply choose the caliber size of a suppressor to match the caliber size of your gun. This makes sense for some shooters, but not for all. There are shooters who rely on a handful of caliber sizes between their rifles and pistols. If all of those needs are met by a 9mm pistol caliber size suppressor and a 5.56 rifle caliber size suppressor, then the choice is easy. Yet there are a lot of shooters who have a wider spectrum of rifle and pistol calibers.
If suppressors were more easily obtainable or did not come with a $200 tax stamp involved with the purchase, most folks would simply buy a rifle or pistol suppressor of the caliber sizes that they need and call it a day. Unfortunately, that is not currently the case in the United States.
The answer is simple for those starting out: find the right rifle or pistol caliber sizes that give the most options to the shooter. To this end, we recommend a quality rimfire caliber suppressor, a .45 pistol caliber suppressor, and a rifle caliber size suppressor in .30 capable of handling the most powerful .30 caliber rifle you plan to shoot.
The .30 caliber sized suppressor will work on 5.56 caliber rifles and other cartridges such as 30-30 Winchester or 243 Winchester. A modern quality .45 caliber pistol sized suppressor will handle 45 ACP, 9mm, and even subsonic 300 Blackout. Some shooters have tried bigger suppressors intended for larger .50 caliber rifles on all their firearms, but as we mentioned earlier they are often a bit unwieldy or too weighty to use on some rifles as well as most pistols.
After a basic battery of rifle caliber and pistol caliber suppressors, a dedicated shooter can and should diversify for better performance, whether it is a rifle caliber suppressor for use in precision rifle shooting competition where weight is a factor or a machine gun collector where a suppressor that can handle the volume of full-auto fire is needed.
For a truly diverse pistol caliber suppressor, we recommend the BANISH 45. This is a modular suppressor in .45 caliber that uses different pistons based on the thread pattern of the host firearm. It can handle everything from rimfire to 45 ACP including subsonic 300 Blackout.
As for a diverse and modular .30 rifle caliber suppressor, you cannot go wrong with either the BANISH 30 or BANISH 30-GOLD. The BANISH 30 can be assembled in two lengths, 7” or 9”, and is a direct thread model that uses an adapter to go down to 1/2×28” threads and is rated to 300 Weatherby Magnum. The BANISH 30-GOLD is a fixed size of 9” in length but it uses a QD mounting system and is rated to 300 RUM.
Always remember that while the gun caliber size is important when buying a suppressor, it is equally important to consult the manufacturer with regard to the power threshold, especially when it comes to rifle caliber suppressors. Some suppressors may be fine for certain calibers with regard to rifles, but there may be minimum barrel lengths as considerations.
A number of manufacturers give a minimum barrel requirement of 10.5” with rifle calibers such as 5.56 NATO or 308 Winchester because the excessive blast and flash signature can cause premature wear on the baffles of the silencer, regardless of caliber.
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Like all things in life, there’s always something more to learn. Hopefully, the information in this article helped answer a lot of your questions. Of course, it’s also possible that it brought some new questions to mind that you hadn’t thought of before. Or, we might have overlooked your question altogether. Whatever the case, we’re here to answer any and all of your questions.Order Your Suppressor Today!