Help! I'm Being Suppressed!

posted on December 11, 2014

I recently returned from Gunsite, where I had the opportunity to shoot a bunch of excellent firearms. I've done that before, and always enjoyed myself. Likewise, I've shot suppressed guns before, but never for extended periods and never while shooting a course of fire like those presented in Gunsite's Scrambler and Military Ridge. Nor had I previously shot suppressed .338 Lapua Mag. rifles. After a few days of these types of suppression, however, I don't think I can go back to shooting can-free rifles.

Owning a suppressor is actually a lot easier than people think. Yes, you must get a CLEO signature, fingerprints, etc. and pay a $200 tax for each unit, but they are legal in 39 states and the ATF has added personnel to the division that examines Form 4s (the form required to own an NFA-restricted item), cutting down wait times significantly. This is good news, because I need a bunch of cans now.

Why, you ask? It's simple: comfort. Not only do suppressors reduce the audible signature of a firearm to a level that won't damage your hearing (but still quite loud in the case of rifles firing supersonic ammunition), but they also drastically reduce felt recoil and muzzle flip. Normally, shooting a .338 Lapua Mag. is fun for about three rounds or so. Then, it hurts—not just the shoulder, but also the chest from the obscene concussion produced by the big round. With a suppressor on the rifle, however, all that disappears, and it becomes as pleasant to shoot as a 5.56 NATO AR (but quieter).

ARs also benefit from the addition of a can. Follow-up shots and transitions are much easier thanks to the muzzle basically not moving, and with normal ammo hearing protection becomes decidedly optional (provided you're outside).

Of course, if you really want to giggle, try shooting subsonic loads from a suppressed bolt gun at a steel target placed 100 yards downrange. You'll hear a muffled pffft followed by a significantly louder ting when the bullet impacts. We conducted an experiment, just for fun, to see the difference between supersonic and subsonic loads out of a suppressed .300 AAC Blackout bolt gun. The most amazing difference was less in the noise produced—which was significantly louder with the supersonic fodder—but in the drastic zero shift between the two loads. The scope was zeroed for the subsonic stuff, so holding center mass delivered constant hits. To ring the steel with the supersonic fodder, you had to hold at the "feet" of the popper target, or about 2 full feet below center mass.

No matter the ammunition, shooting suppressed rifles is both incredibly enjoyable and safer than shooting barbarically loud, unsuppressed guns. Now I need some cash so I can afford suppressors for my rifles and act civilized at the range.


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