Suppressor Laws: The Definitive Guide
Is it Legal to Own a Suppressor?
Right out of the gate, the answer to everyone’s first question – “are silencers legal?” – is yes. Yes, it’s legal for you to own a suppressor! They are not mythical objects made up of Unobtainium.
The answer to everyone’s second question – “Don’t I need a special permit?” – is no. No, you do not need a special permit (or a secret handshake) to buy a suppressor, but you do have to follow the law. Essentially, if you’re legally able to buy a gun, then you’re legally able to buy a suppressor. Of course, it’s a bit more nuanced than that, but we’ll get into all of those details a little bit later in this article.
As long as you abide by and are in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws (states do vary, more on that coming up), then you can absolutely purchase and possess a suppressor and enjoy all of the benefits that come with owning one – or two, or three, or – you get the idea.
We’re going to walk you through just about everything you need to know about silencers, including where you can legally own a suppressor, what laws govern suppressors, where can you hunt with a suppressor, how to buy a suppressor, legal requirements for owning a suppressor, benefits of hunting with a suppressor, and where you can find any information about suppressors that we might have inadvertently left out.Shop Silencers >>
Before we move on, though, it’s important to reiterate the most important part of this entire article: yes, it’s legal to own a suppressor.
Oh, one more thing before we continue: it’s important to know that technically, both “silencer” and “suppressor” are correct terms and this article uses both of them interchangeably.
Use the links to navigate the guide and learn more about suppressor laws:
It’s Legal to Own Suppressors in 42 States
As was hinted at above, there are state laws in addition to federal laws that apply to suppressors. As of right now in late-2020, it is legal to own suppressors in 42 states. The eight prohibited states include California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. (They’re also illegal in the District of Columbia, which isn’t a state.)
Suppressor Laws by State
Speaking broadly, federal laws of all kinds are applicable in all 50 states. Beyond that, each individual state has its own set of laws. This is no different when it comes to suppressors and the laws that govern them. For example, suppressors are regulated federally by the National Firearms Act of 1934.
Differences in state law are why 42 states allow civilian ownership of suppressors and eight do not. It’s also why of those 42 legal states, only 40 allow hunting with a suppressor. Which brings us to our next topic…
Which States Allow Hunting with Suppressors?
If you’re a hunter and a suppressor owner in Connecticut or Vermont, I’ve got some bad news. You live in one of the only two states where you can own a suppressor but not hunt with one.
Fortunately, the attitude toward the use of suppressors while hunting has been changing in a good way. Since 2011, 18 states have legalized hunting with a suppressor. Hopefully, the two New England holdouts will come along shortly.
Benefits of Owning and Hunting with a Suppressor
Whether it’s for target practice or to sight in your new deer rifle, you’d never head to the range without bringing along some form of hearing protection. We do this because we know the importance of protecting our hearing. Unfortunately, our mindset often changes when switching from the range to the treestand. A study done by the National Hearing Conservation Association found that 70% to 80% of all hunters don’t wear any kind of hearing protection when they’re in the field.
There are a lot of other benefits of hunting with a suppressor. Here are just five of them:
Reduce Noise Pollution
One of the great joys of hunting is being outdoors and enjoying the tranquility of nature. The report of a gunshot is loud. If you’re hunting on public or private land where you’re not the only one in the woods, the sound of a shot can spook game around you. If it’s your shot, those around you could be frustrated. Conversely, if it’s someone else’s shot, you could be frustrated by their spooking your trophy animal. And let’s not forget about any residents living within earshot. They’ll be thankful for the suppressor, too.Shop Rifle Silencers >>
Protect Your Hearing
It’s understandable that most hunters choose to forgo hearing protection so that they can hear what’s going on around them, but for every five years spent hunting, a hunter becomes 7% more likely to experience high-frequency hearing loss. Given that hunting is a lifetime pursuit for most people, that percentage can add up faster than you might think. Once your hearing is gone, you can’t get it back. You won’t be able to hear what’s going on in the woods – or anywhere else, for that matter. Using a suppressor allows you to both hear what’s going on around you and protect your hearing when the time comes to pull the trigger.
Every hunter knows that shot placement is key to a successful harvest. One of the easiest ways to improve the accuracy of your shot placement is by using a suppressor. This is because of physics. In addition to quieting your shot, a suppressor also reduces felt recoil and muzzle climb. When you’re able to greatly reduce all of those factors, shooters find their rifles easier to shoot. Easier shooting leads to easier accuracy which leads to easier hunting.
Improve Situational Awareness
Hunting with a suppressor can help protect others around you. There might be other hunters who are outside your line of sight but still within earshot. If you choose to wear traditional hearing protection, you might not know that those other hunters are there. It also helps protect your hunting partners, both human and animal. Your kids or grandkids can enjoy the sounds of nature without risking their hearing when it comes time for you (or them!) to take a shot. If your type of hunt involves dogs, using a suppressor helps preserve their hearing, too.
Carry Less Gear
Suppressors let you bring less gear into the woods. If you choose to hunt unsuppressed and wear some kind of hearing protection, then those earplugs or earmuffs are just one extra thing for you to remember to pack and haul in and out of the woods. Suppressors generally reduce the sound of a gunshot from 20-35dB. This is roughly equivalent to the reduction you get from earplugs or earmuffs. You might be thinking that a suppressor is just an extra thing to remember, pack, and haul, too, but most people take to the woods with their suppressor already mounted on the muzzle of their gun. Therefore, it’s just an extension of your rifle and not an extra item on your checklist.Shop BANISH 30 >>
How to Buy a Suppressor: A Step-by-Step Process
The idea of buying a suppressor might seem daunting at first, but it’s really not much more involved than buying a firearm. Like we said before: generally speaking, if you can own a firearm then you can own a suppressor. We’ve outlined six simple steps for suppressor ownership.
1. Find out whether silencers are legal to own in your state.
As we’ve already covered, 42 of the 50 states allow suppressor ownership. The eight that do not are California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island – and the District of Columbia.
2. Select the suppressor that’s right for you.
Variety is the spice of life, and the suppressor life is spicy! As suppressors have become more popular and accepted by mainstream gun culture, the number of available options has expanded greatly. Thankfully, Silencer Central has a top-notch team who know suppressors forwards and backward. Don’t hesitate to reach out by phone or email and someone on staff will be happy to answer any and all of your questions.
3. Decide how you’d like to register your silencer (trust, corporation, individual).
There are some nuances to each of the ways you can register your new silencer. An NFA trust is the most common way people choose to register because of the ease it allows when it comes time for estate planning. (Bonus: 100% of silencers purchased through Silencer Central qualify for a free gun trust!) If the silencer will be used for business purposes and your business is a corporation, you can register it that way. However, the corporation has to stay active to keep this method legal. You can always choose to register the silencer to yourself as an individual. There’s less paperwork involved than with a trust, but it places a lot of burdensome limits on the silencer’s use by others. Since Silencer Central offers free and easy trusts, it makes the most sense for you to go that route, but the decision is up to you.
4. Buy your silencer and tax stamp.
While the cost of your silencer will vary depending on which one you choose, the cost of the tax stamp does not change. When you buy your suppressor, you’ll also buy a tax stamp for it. If you buy more than one suppressor, either at the same time or in the future, then you’ll need another stamp. Unfortunately, the tax stamp isn’t a “one and done” deal. It’s a “one (suppressor) and one (stamp)” deal.
5. Let us handle the paperwork.
We want your buying experience to be as easy as possible. That’s why we will email you your application pre-filled with your information to review and digitally sign. After you sign your documents, we will send your application to the ATF. Once the FBI completes your background check and the ATF issues your tax stamp, we can mail your new silencer directly to your front door.
6. eZ-Pay: Pay while you wait.
Buying a silencer has never been easier than it is right now with Silencer Central! We let you start your ATF paperwork and pay your silencer off over three months while your application processes. Just pay 25 percent down, and 25 percent a month for the next three months, and pay your silencer off while you wait for ATF approval. By the time your purchase is paid off, you’re already well underway in the wait for approval. You can even include the cost of your tax stamp in the eZ-Pay program and set up recurring monthly payments on your credit or debit card to make paying off your silencer easier.
Legal Requirements for Owning a Suppressor
Just as there are legal requirements for owning a firearm in the US, there are also legal requirements for owning a suppressor. Thankfully, they’re very similar and, generally speaking, if you’re able to legally own a firearm, then you’ll be able to legally own a suppressor.
Here are the requirements for owning a suppressor in the United States:
- Be at least 21 years of age to purchase a suppressor from a dealer.
- Be at least 18 years of age to purchase a suppressor from an individual on a Form 4 to Form 4 transfer (depending on state laws).
- Be at least 18 years of age to possess a suppressor as a beneficiary of a trust or as a member of a corporation (contingent on state laws).
- Be a resident of the United States.
- Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm.
- Pass a BATFE background check with a typical process time of 8 to 10 months.
- Pay a one-time $200 Transfer Tax. (You’ll need a stamp for each suppressor.)
Ready to Learn More?
At Silencer Central, we are passionate about compliance, knowledge, and community education in firearm sound suppression. With more than 15 years’ experience in the industry, we are the nation’s largest silencer dealer. We’re also the only one licensed in all 42 suppressor-legal states that can sell, process, and ship your new suppressor directly to your front door.
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.
Our experts are ready to help you by phone at 888-781-8778 or online, Monday through Friday from 8:30am – 5pm, and Saturday from 12pm – 3pm (CT).