Suppressor 101 Part 1: Rimfire

My desire to own a suppressor has increased quite a bit since learning more about them, and getting to try them out.

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I don't profess to possess any sort of expertise in the area so sound suppressors. In fact, the only things I knew for sure about suppressors before working with Andrew Hyder of Vance Outdoors were:

  1. Sound suppressors don't silence the sound of cartridges being fired. They "suppress" the sound to varying degrees so that hearing protection is not needed when firing guns so equipped
  2. Sound suppressors can be expensive
  3. Sound suppressors require the purchase of a $200 Federal "Tax Stamp" to own. Wait time to get Federal approval to take possession of a suppressor is anywhere from six to nine months.

Because of items 2-3 above, I never had a great to desire to own one. That desire has increased quite a bit since learning more about them, and getting to try them out.

Andrew Hyder is the resident expert on sound suppressors at Vance Outdoors. He agreed to familiarize me with suppressors, and what better place to begin than with a suppressor for .22 rimfires since the .22 rimfire can be suppressed more completely than any other cartridge due to its low level of power. Hyder told me that with right suppressor system and a bolt action .22 rifle, the total sound signature is reduced to the strike of the firing pin when fired outdoors. When fired from semi-automatics the mechanical sound of the action cycling is about the only sound that can still be heard. I was eager to learn more.

When we met at the Vance Outdoors Alum Creek range, Hyder had what he feels is the best .22 caliber suppressor on the market-the SilencerCo Sparrow 22. I say ".22 caliber" rather than ".22 rimfire" because the Sparrow 22 also accommodates the marvelous FN 5.7x28 mm centerfire cartridge.

Hyder explained why he favors the SilencerCo Sparrow 22 above the many other models and brands available on the market. Here are his reasons:

  1. It is full auto rated
  2. It is the only "can" that uses a single baffle with half sleeves, which greatly simplifies disassembly, cleaning, and maintenance
  3. It uses dual "O" Rings and can only be reassembled one way
  4. It can go tens of thousands of rounds of shooting without cleaning
  5. Its narrow diameter doesn't require tall suppressor sights
  6. Weight is only 6.5 ounces

I fired the Sparrow 22 on the range using two different Smith and Wesson firearms-an M&P 15 .22 AR15 and an M&P .22 Compact pistol. I used a test mixture of CCI ammo-.22 LR 40 grain lead hollowpoint Subsonic ammo, 45 grain Subsonic solids, and Hi-Speed copper coated JHP ammunition.

Here is an important point. In order to keep rounds fired from suppressed firearms of any type as quiet as possible, one must use subsonic velocity ammo through them. Any bullet traveling above the speed of sound will make its own micro "sonic boom" while enroute to the target. While the muzzle blast itself is blotted out, the bullets path isn't. There was also one other interesting point to be discovered.

I have on a couple of occasions fired suppressed firearms outside-one of them being a 5.56 AR15, and was very impressed by it. No hearing protection was needed, but indoor shooting proved to be slightly different.

I tried the suppressor and the M&P rifle first-without hearing protection-using the subsonic ammo. The Sparrow 22 worked as advertised. All I heard was a "pffftt" sound when firing, but I also heard a fairly loud "bang", which I initially thought was carryover noise from the other pistol bay. Hyder told me it was the sound of the bullet hitting the metal range backstop. I am already have some age-related hearing issues, and the sound of the bullet hitting the backstop was uncomfortable. It probably won't bother younger shooters as much. When I fired the CCI Hi-Speed loads, the muzzle sound was again non-existent but the even louder metal bang of the backstop forced me to put hearing protectors back on. When shot outside into dirt or soft targets, there is zero bullet sound impact sound.

Both weapons functioned fine (although not all .22 semi-autos will when using subsonic ammo) and the Sparrow 22 stayed almost cool to the touch. No glove was required for removal. Hyder was right. The Sparrow 22 was the suppressor I would purchase for a .22 or 5.7x28. SilencerCo also makes centerfire pistol and rifle suppressors as well as one for shotguns. For Part II I will be reviewing centerfire suppressors.

Hyder wanted me to let you know that Vance Outdoors is working on renting out suppressors to test on the range so prospective customers can get a personal feel for them. Watch the website for more information.