How Suppressors Affect Accuracy
The question surrounding a suppressor’s impact on a firearm’s accuracy has been around since the introduction of these devices in the early 20th century (Brief side note: in case you didn’t know, silencers have been around for more than 100 years).
Because it’s such a pervasive topic, we decided it was high time to address it. We’re going to answer your questions about what impact a suppressor can have on accuracy and what you can do to remedy the situation – or if you need to remedy it at all.
Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:
Table of Contents
Do Suppressors Affect Accuracy?
The short answer is yes, suppressors do affect a firearm’s accuracy – but not always how you might expect. Sometimes, your gun’s accuracy might get worse when you attach a suppressor; other times, you’ll actually see your accuracy improve.
If you see a change for the better, that’s great. If you see a change for the worse, don’t worry. We’ll address a number of ways that you can fix it.
But first, let’s take a look at why a suppressor can affect your rifle’s accuracy through something called “barrel harmonics.”
Suppressors’ Effects on Rifle Barrel Harmonics
For the sake of this conversation, we’re going to assume that you’re using a high-quality firearm that was designed and assembled by people who both know what they’re doing and care about sending a high-quality product out to the consumer. If your gun is junk, then none of this applies.
Your firearm’s barrel is a finely tuned piece of metal, and it’s actually quite flexible in ways that are too small to see with the naked eye. Any outside impact on the barrel can change how it moves and performs. This performance is referred to as “barrel harmonics.”
It’s also why most guns made today have free-floating barrels to help minimize the impact of any pressure that could be put on the barrel and thereby impact the harmonics. This includes a handguard, a rest, etc. If a handguard is pressing on the barrel or you’re shooting with the barrel directly on a rest, it changes the way the gun’s barrel moves and can have an impact on barrel harmonics and performance.
The same goes for attaching a suppressor. You may not be able to see it, but even the smallest amount of added weight from a suppressor changes how your barrel sits at rest and how it moves when being fired. As a result, there will be some change to your barrel’s harmonics.
What to Do If You Feel Your Accuracy Slipping when Using a Suppressor
If you’ve got everything squared away and your gun-and-suppressor combo is properly set up, you’ll actually find that your accuracy will most likely improve. Part of this is due to the lower recoil you feel from the suppressor doing an extra job besides lowering decibels.
If, however, you experience a decrease in accuracy, don’t freak out. There’s a number of things you can check to see if they’re the culprit.
Ensure proper alignment of threads
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating. Make sure that your suppressor is properly aligned on the threads of your barrel. Any cant or cross-threading that leads to improper alignment – no matter how small it may be – will have an impact on your accuracy. Go ahead and take the suppressor off and inspect its threads and your rifle’s threads and then put it back on, taking care to make sure they’re mated properly.
You should be good to go if your barrel is factory threaded or was done after the fact by trained professionals, like Threading Central.We can help with Barrel Threading
Consider your ammunition
Certain loads and bullet weights perform better in certain guns. This is true regardless of whether you’re shooting suppressed or not, and it could be due to the twist in your barrel’s rifling and how that impacts the bullet’s performance. It may be that you need to switch to a different load or grain weight when shooting suppressed to ensure that you’re getting the best performance out of your equipment.
Resight your scope
You might find that even though your rounds aren’t hitting where they were before attaching a suppressor, they’re still grouping well – just not in the same place. You could simply resight your scope to this new point of impact. If you plan on switching between suppressed and unsuppressed shooting frequently, this can be a bit of a pain, but it’s definitely an easy fix to consider.
Use a thread adapter if needed
It’s possible for the threads on your gun and your suppressor to be properly machined with no issues and yet they still don’t play well together. It’s also possible that the threads on one or both of your tools aren’t quite right. This doesn’t mean you need to shell out more money for a new barrel or suppressor. Instead, you can try using a thread adapter to act as a sort of mediator between the two. The adapter may be able to even out the inconsistencies between the two components.Thread Adaptors
Other possible solutions
First and foremost, make sure that your suppressor is properly attached to your host firearm. A loose suppressor can definitely lead to accuracy issues.
Check your barrel’s crown to make sure that it is properly finished and without any burrs or defects that could be impacting the bullet right as it leaves the muzzle. Some guns leave the factory with rough crowns; it’s unfortunate, but it happens. Issues can also happen after leaving the factory, too. The crown can be damaged if the gun is dropped or banged on something. If you accidentally did this, make sure to check the crown.
If the bullet is being adversely affected by damage or other imperfections to the crown, you’re going to have accuracy issues whether you’re running suppressed or not. You’ll need to address this before anything can be improved. No amount of thread adapters or resighting is going to help.
Another thing you should do is check your suppressor’s baffles and make sure they’re properly aligned. Most, but not all, suppressors with removable baffles have indexing points to ensure they’re properly aligned when you reassemble it. Still, mistakes can be made and you must be sure that everything is lined up properly.
If there’s an alignment issue, it can lead to clipping or striking of the baffles. This is caused by bullets impacting the baffles, and your performance is going to suffer until you get the suppressor fixed. Don’t ignore this or try to remedy it yourself. Continued use after a baffle strike is dangerous and should be addressed by the manufacturer.
Do Suppressors Affect Range or Velocity?
The short answer is yes. The more nuanced answer is … yes, but not enough to matter.
It’s generally accepted that a suppressor will actually increase the velocity of your rounds. However, that increase is often negligible. We’re talking maybe 10-15fps. Unless you’re using a top-notch chronograph, you won’t notice that difference and it’s definitely not something to write home about.
The same goes for a suppressor’s impact on a bullet’s range. You might see a slight deviation from the established normal of shooting unsuppressed, but it really isn’t enough to matter.
If you’re going to be taking shots at really long distances that require absolute precision, then it’s best to spend your time practicing with the exact rifle, round, and suppressor that you’ll be using so that you know exactly how all three of them will perform together.
Suppressors and POI Shift
Remember when we talked earlier about barrel harmonics? If you skipped ahead to this section, go back up top and read about barrel harmonics.
Any time you add something to the end of your rifle’s barrel, you alter the point of impact. It doesn’t matter if it’s a flash hider, muzzle brake, or a suppressor; they all act on your barrel. No matter how light your suppressor or other muzzle device may be, weight is still weight.
As a general rule, shorter and/or thicker barrels will be less susceptible to this kind of POI shift, but it’s not a guarantee.
More Questions? We Can Help
There are a lot of variables to take into consideration on this topic – far more than we can address in this post – but don’t fret it! We’re here to help! We’ve been selling silencers for more than 15 years and a big part of that is helping consumers understand what’s going to work best for them.
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can discuss your guns and your cans and try to troubleshoot the issues. Or, we can discuss your guns and what you’re looking to do and get you set up with the right can for the job.
Take advantage of our interest-free payment plan and then let us ship your new silencer right to your door once it’s approved!Shop Suppressors