We Tested 27 Rifle Suppressors: Here’s What We Found
September 25, 2019
It isn’t easy to get 27 different rifle suppressors together for a test session. In fact, until the ATF made it faster for wholesalers and manufacturers to transfer silencers to dealers, such a test would have been a nightmare of paperwork and logistics.
We went ahead and got a bunch of leading .30 caliber rifle suppressors together and asked one simple question. “How well do these .30 caliber suppressors work on .223 rounds?” After all, we know they work well on .30’s, but can they properly suppress a smaller round too?
What we found was pretty surprising. Because Silencer Central maintains a private, military grade sound testing lab, we knew our results would be widely studied, so we wanted to make sure we did it right. Using two premium bolt action rifles, and 27 different silencers, ranging from the Varminter 4.0 (now the BANISH 30 multi-caliber suppressor) to leading competitors, we found that yes, you can get meaningful results with a .30 caliber suppressor on a .223 rifle.
But first, let’s contextualize a few things to make the comparison test easier to understand.
How Quiet are Suppressors?
Suppressors don’t create the Hollywood whisper quiet “puff” of gunfire. Instead, they reduce the sound of gunfire to something that is hearing safe. Now, a lot of variables impact how loud a gun sounds. The caliber and weight of the bullet, how fast it is moving, how fast the powder is burning, and even the length of the barrel. We can generalize around popular types of ammo, out of common barrel lengths to show how loud a gun is “normally.”
When you put a suppressor on your gun, you are equalizing many of those variable factors. The suppressor contains and slows down the gas that leaves the barrel, which makes for a quieter report. In fact, it is exactly the same idea as an automotive muffler. The earliest suppressors and car mufflers used the exact same technology!
Sound is measured in decibels, or dB. A near total whisper is 0 dB, while 140 dB noises can cause instant damage to your hearing and subsequent hearing loss. Long term exposure to loud noises over 85 dB can cause hearing damage as well. In other words, extremely loud noises can instantly damage hearing, while repeated exposure over a period of hours to very loud noises can also damage hearing.
This brings us to gunshots. You’ll never get two identical measurements of sound from a gun, as even humidity and temperature cause changes in measured sound. However, for practical purposes a string of measurements is sufficient. We found when testing 27 different suppressors, that even when fitted with a suppressor, a .308 rifle ranges from a bit over 134 decibels (hearing safe) to over 147 decibels (instant hearing loss).
For context, a police car siren is about 120 dB, an alarm clock about 80 dB, and a car horn around 110 dB. Note the further you are away from the sound source, the quieter it is. So while a siren is 120 dB if you are right next to it, it quickly reduces in sound the further you are from it.
In reference to firearms, a Ruger 10/22 rimfire rifle with no silencer (suppressor) installed registers at 140 db. You will want to purchase a silencer that registers below 140 db.
An unsuppressed .308 running a 20” barrel will produce about 170 dB of sound. That is extremely dangerous to hearing. As you can see, depending on the type of suppressor chosen, you get anywhere from around 23 to 36 dB sound reduction. Not quite the whisper-quiet weapon of choice for the assassins that Hollywood and the anti-gun complex would have you believe.
Why Use a Silencer if it Doesn’t Silence the Weapon?
This is an excellent question, especially since silencers are heavily regulated and often are more expensive than the gun you are using. However, since 1909 American hunters and sport shooters have understood that even a modest reduction in noise is better than none at all. You often also gain public goodwill from quieter shooting sports. Plus there are technical considerations.
Hunting with Suppressors Can Improve Accuracy
Remember how we said suppressors slow down gas at the muzzle? Well, that helps with accuracy. One of the first things people notice when using a silencer the first time is how much recoil and muzzle climb is reduced. That’s because the silencer is preventing the gasses that cause felt recoil and muzzle climb from doing anything but drop in pressure and vent directly out of the front of the gun.
This means that the forces that cause felt recoil are diminished at the same time the gas is prevented from pulling the barrel as far up as it normally would. Leading to better accuracy as the shooter is not tensed up expecting recoil. Also allowing more time for shooting without getting tired or worn out from the recoil of the gun.
Accuracy in shooting makes for more humane and efficient hunting. Nobody wants to hunt with an inaccurate gun, and using a silencer makes you a better shot in the woods when it counts the most.
Suppressors Help Make Hunting Safer
Suppressors have surprising safety benefits for hunters. One of the biggest is that they help hunters maintain situational awareness. Hunters often have to choose between wearing hearing protection that denies them the chance to hear game, predators and other important wilderness sounds, or risking their hearing when they shoot a game animal.
Silencers eliminate that problem by reducing the sound of a gunshot to hearing safe levels. Doing away with the need to wear bulky hearing protection instead of sacrificing your situational awareness in the woods in order to protect your hearing.
In many areas, dangerous predators have learned to associate the sound of gunfire with a dead animal and come looking for easy meat. A suppressed gunshot, while still quite audible has not become associated with a kill, and many hunters in areas with large amounts of predators prefer hunting suppressed.
Using Suppressors Reduces Noise Pollution
The earliest suppressors were promoted as noise pollution reducing devices. Much like mufflers on cars, suppressors make noisy devices more pleasant to be around. Teddy Roosevelt was fond of using a suppressed rifle for pest control around his upscale mansion. Today, with urban sprawl moving housing closer to many once isolated shooting ranges, the need for polite, quieter shooting is more important than ever. Plus, it’s just plain nice to have a quiet shooting session.
The same goes for hunting. Even though suppressed gunfire is still audible over great distances, popular hunting areas are made less noisy through the use of suppressors. This reduces stress on wildlife, and on non-hunters who may be in the area.
When used at an indoor range or in a self defense situation, the reduced noise of a suppressed firearm further protects your hearing in a situation where the sound of a gun is normally greatly amplified.
Suppressors Double as Flash Hiders
Suppressors do more than just muffle sound and reduce felt recoil. They also double as a flash hider.
Because suppressors contain and cool superheated gas leaving the muzzle, they effectively reduce the visible flash that is seen by the shooter. This protects their night vision and is important when hunting in low light conditions.
Which States Allow Hunting with a Suppressor?
At this time, hunting with a silencer is legal in the following 40 US states: AL, AK, AR, AZ, CO, FL, GA, IA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NV, NH, NM, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV, and WY. Only two of the 42 states have banned hunting with a suppressor, CT and VT. Because gun and suppressor laws can quickly change, we suggest you consult your state representatives to ensure hunting is legal in your state. You may also reference our up-to-date map below to understand where you can hunt with suppressors.
Our Suppressor Db Level Comparison Test
Testing Method and Equipment
Silencer Central uses only military grade test equipment for accurately measuring sound. This kind of gear is extremely expensive and only made in a few precision labs around the world. We spared no expense. After investigating the finest sound measuring equipment, we assembled our sound testing lab with the following meters and devices:
- Brüel & Kjær (B&K) Impulse Precision Sound Level Meter Type 2209
- B&K Condenser Microphone ¼” type 4136
- B&K Pistonphone type 4220
- B&K ½” Pre-amplifier
- B&K barometer
- Plus various approved adapters and fitters.
Brüel & Kjær are a Danish firm that specializes in building only high precision sound measuring and testing instruments. We did not hesitate to equip our lab with their tools.
To get real feedback, we shot real world guns outdoors where they are most likely to be used. This allowed us to measure sound reduction in exactly the kind of setting our customers would be using their guns. We chose a pair of popular bolt action hunting rifles as suppressor platforms. The Remington Model 700 in .308, and a Tika T3 .223 varmint rifle. For ammo, we chose bulk Winchester brand ammo from Walmart in order to test with what is most commonly used in these suppressed hunting platforms.
We fired ten rounds through each suppressor to get an accurate average of the sound from each gun. This allowed for variables like slight differences in manufacturing on the rounds, the effects of the gun and silencer heating up when fired multiple times, and reflects real world sport shooting and hunting rates of fire.
The Effects of Temperature and Humidity on Sound
While it might seem desirable to test under extremely controlled conditions, this doesn’t allow for an understanding of how suppressors perform outside the lab. After all, nobody is hunting elk or coyotes in a lab.
Temperature and humidity play important roles in how sound is measured and heard. Because sound travels through air, anything that impacts the density of the air also impacts the loudness of a given sound. A gunshot fired on a hot, humid day will measure differently than a gunshot on a cold, dry night.
By conducting our tests outside, we got a more accurate feel for what shooters experience when they are using their rifles and silencers. Of course, we tested in the middle of summer but it serves as a reasonable baseline for outdoor silencer performance.
Using a .30 Suppressor on a .223 Rifle
For better or worse, suppressors are expensive items that come with the added expense of a tax stamp. We’d love to sell you a suppressor for every caliber you own but we know that not everyone wants to buy that many suppressors.
That’s why we wanted to see if shooting a .223 round through the larger .30 caliber suppressor would serve as a viable way to make a single suppressor work well on many guns.
Typically suppressors are optimized for a range of similar calibers. This is partly because they have to be engineered to allow passage of a given size bullet but also to contain the pressures of various rounds that use that bullet size. It is only reasonable then that people would want to see if smaller caliber rounds can also be adequately suppressed in a silencer designed for a bigger caliber.
Being able to buy one suppressor and use it on multiple rifles becomes a huge cost saver, reduces the amount of Federal paperwork required, and reduces the amount of gear you have to haul around in the field. Many times, hunters and shooters bring multiple calibers of rifles with them and quickly swapping a single suppressor is a huge benefit.
Shockingly (or not), we found that consistently good .30 caliber suppressors also make good .223 suppressors. In conjunction with those findings, we also determined that those not-so-great .308 suppressors also didn’t work well with .223.
Suppressor Test Results
Our tests showed 12 different suppressors that failed to drop .308 rounds to the 140 dB or lower threshold that is considered hearing safe. Of those 12, seven failed to achieve the same 140 dB or lower threshold for .223. It is worth noting that several suppressors were very close to 140 dB but didn’t quite make it. Different ammo, guns, bullet weights and other factors may bring these almost-there suppressors to below 140 dB.
15 other suppressors passed the hearing safe test with various levels of reduction all the way down to 134.55 dB on .308, and down to 132 dB on .223. In other words, the numerical majority of .30 caliber suppressors we tested are hearing safe for .308 or .223, proving the wisdom of buying one suppressor for multiple calibers.
What we Learned About the Suppressors We Tested
Not all suppressors are created equal. Some of the worst performing suppressors were all over the board on price, ranging from surprisingly very cheap ($200) to breaking four figures, while the better performing .308 suppressors are priced between $700 – $1000. Looking directly to price as a way to gauge performance is not the best course of action.
The best suppressors are generally made of 100% titanium. Titanium is an ideal material for suppressors as it is both lightweight and works better than steel or aluminium at cooling hot muzzle gas. This, of course, makes for a quieter gun. The BANISH 30 multi-caliber suppressor (formerly Vaminter 4.0) tested #1 in sound reduction when comparing weight and material, the lightest weight with 100% titanium. The Yankee Hill Machine Resonator, an all stainless steel suppressor, had the best overall test ratings with the most dB drop, which shows the value of excellent suppressor design.
Takeaways: What are the Best Suppressors?
The BANISH 30 multi-caliber suppressor (formerly Varminter 4.0) was among the absolute best performing, along with the Yankee Hill Machine Resonator which reduced .308 down to a mere 134.5 dB, and the TBAC Ultra 9, which drove .223 down to an impressive 132 dB. The BANISH 30 is the only one that comes apart to clean and tested even quieter when switching out front end caps (results not shown in this study). Lightweight titanium was also desirable by all users.
Where to draw the line at “best suppressor” after the top three is pretty tough though, as what is best on a raw numbers level may not be the best choice for a given individual. Weight, cost, size and sound reduction all play a role. Suppressors that mount onto a proprietary flash hider or muzzle brake may be desirable to some for ease of use, but can also hurt accuracy and drive up cost.
True multi-caliber suppressors like our BANISH 30 suppressor may be desirable to most, as they can be configured for any rifle caliber from .22 to .308 by simply changing the front end-caps. Plus, the BANISH 30 can be configured in different lengths based on shooter needs. Other .30 caliber suppressors are not able to be reconfigured or taken apart to clean by the user in this fashion.
Take a careful look at our chart and consider the factors that matter most to you. Cost, weight, size, sound reduction, and material; which elements matter the most to you?
Which Suppressor is Right for Me?
Along with “the one that fits any gun” the BANISH 30 multi-caliber suppressor, we carry a full assortment of suppressors by all leading manufacturers. Because every shooter has different needs, different goals and guns, choosing the right suppressor can be tough, even with an objective study for reference.
We are happy to work directly with you to match your needs to the right suppressor. Our industry experts will take your calls and answer your emails in order to match you with the perfect suppressor. We promise outstanding customer service and a personalized approach to making sure you get the suppressor you want and need. Call us at 888-781-8778 or email us at [email protected] and get started today!