Introduction to Suppressor Ownership
INTRODUCTION TO SUPPRESSOR OWNERSHIP
The long wait is over, and your new suppressor is finally in your hands. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and neglect a few important things about silencer ownership. In this article, we will address frequently asked questions and provide insight on important, but often overlooked, aspects of suppressors.
Aside from any additional accessories purchased, two things will make their way home with you upon approval. One is the suppressor, and the other is an approved Form 4. The approved Form 4 (also referred to as the tax stamp) is proof of the tax paid transfer and approval by the BATFE. It's important to keep the original copy safe, usually wherever you store other important documents. A copy of the Form 4 should be with the suppressor at all times. The vast majority of owners will have a physical copy in close proximity, either on their person or in a nearby bag or case; however, some clients choose to keep a digital copy in PDF format on their phone. There's a chance at some point you may be asked to provide proof of the approved Form 4, and it's really up to the individual owner on how they wish to handle the encounter.
Who can possess the suppressor is dependent on how it was filed with the BATFE. Suppressors can be transferred to an individual or to a legal entity, such as a trust or corporation.
If you transferred as an individual, you are the only one who can legally possess the item.
With a trust, each responsible person of the trust is allowed to use and possess the item at will. It depends somewhat on how the trust is written, but most trusts allow the Settlor, Grantor, Trustee, and Co-Trustees to share the item. Successor Trustees and Beneficiaries are generally not able to possess the item since they have no power or rights in the trust until the responsible parties become incapacitated or pass away. Do read over your trust in detail to ensure you are familiar with the specific roles of each member.
A suppressor can also be transferred into a business, where owners or managing members can possess the items. An employee of the business is also able to use the suppressor with written permission. It’s important to keep in mind the suppressors are assets of the company, which can complicate things if the company changes ownership.
While only the individual transferee or a responsible person of a trust or corporation can legally possess the item, others can certainly use it while in your presence. Letting a buddy at the range shoot it is perfectly fine, so long as the owner is present and in control over the situation.
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and NFA firearms are no exception. The rumors of the ATF being able to visit anytime, do yearly inspections, or have access to your personal property at will simply aren't true. It is important to keep in mind that while the suppressor is legally yours on a federal level, state laws still apply and not all states allow suppressor ownership. Suppressors can be traveled with and across state lines so long as it's in a suppressor friendly state. However, this is not the case with short barrel rifles, short barrel shotguns, or machine guns. Those items will require approval from the ATF with a 5320.20 form before crossing state lines. Flying with a suppressor is very similar to flying with any other firearm. They will need to be declared and checked in a locked container. It can be problematic should a flight be diverted and land in a state that is not suppressor friendly. Make sure when evaluating travel plans there is not a high likelihood of spending time with your baggage in a state where suppressor ownership is not legal.
Mounting a suppressor is either done through a direct thread method, or a quick detach system. With a direct thread suppressor, it simply screws down onto the threaded barrel. Make sure to not use any crush washers, and ensure the suppressor seats firmly against the shoulder. No wrenches or tools are necessary to tighten everything down, but it should be fairly snug. Direct thread suppressors can back off, especially under hard use. Use a bit of caution to make sure the suppressor is correctly attached while shooting. Quick detach mounts require a bit of extra work for the initial installation, but generally provide for faster attachment and less chance of the suppressor working its way off the barrel. Every manufacturer has unique methods, so it's important to consult your suppressor-specific manual.
Most muzzle devices require 25-30 foot/lbs of torque, and once again make sure to not use a crush washer. Flash hiders are able to be torqued on and don't require indexing, but most muzzle brakes do require timing. With any muzzle device that requires timing, use a high quality shim set or peel washer per the manufacturer’s recommendations. If desired, a drop or two of Rocksett may be used, but use it sparingly.
After mounting the suppressor to the installed muzzle device, ensure the lockup is secure and the attachment was done properly. Occasionally, the threading on a barrel is done improperly and may result in the suppressor having a baffle or endcap strike, so it is important to check the alignment. A visual inspection from the breech end is usually sufficient, but you can also use an alignment rod to verify concentricity. For more information about the differences between a flash hider and muzzle brake, please read our blog here -
Silencers get very hot, very quickly. Failure to realize this will result in severe burns and damage of anything the suppressor comes into contact with. Never attempt to touch or dismount a hot suppressor, and be aware of what the suppressor may touch. Tables, cases, jackets, seats, and numerous other items have been destroyed by a hot suppressor resting against them.
A suppressor cover is not necessary, but if you choose to use one, it is important to know the difference between the two types. There are two types of suppressor covers to mitigate heat, and both will perform very specific tasks. The more common type is a mirage cover. Mirage covers are designed to negate mirage off a warm suppressor, and are best used with high magnification optics and a very slow schedule of fire. They will melt and burn if the suppressor gets too hot, and they are not designed for semi auto or rapid schedules of fire. Less common, but still produced, are covers made for higher schedules of fire to reduce the chances of a burn or property damage from a hot suppressor. Keep in mind that these may also insulate the suppressor, causing heat to be retained much longer.
As with any change to a firearm, confirmation of zero is important. Suppressors will generally change the point of impact since barrel harmonics have been altered. There may be a noticeable difference in the point of impact between suppressed and unsuppressed firearms; however, this change is repeatable and consistent.
Cleaning a suppressor may or may not be necessary, depending on the ammunition used. Centerfire rifle suppressors are generally not user serviceable and do not need to be cleaned. The exception is using cast lead projectiles, which will cause lead to build up and potentially degrade the performance of the suppressor. For this reason, cast lead is not recommended to shoot out of sealed suppressors. This is also why cleaning rimfire cans is a necessity. They don’t have to be spotless, but a rimfire suppressor should be cleaned every 500-2000 rounds, depending on the type of ammunition used and manufacturer’s guidelines. For example, the stainless steel baffles of the Dead Air Mask can be cleaned by use of a solvent bath, tumbling in stainless steel media, or cleaned by an ultrasonic. Ultrasonic cleaning should only be done with stainless steel baffles. This method is effective, but may damage other types of materials (such as aluminum) over time and may damage the finish to some suppressor tubes. Pistol suppressor cleaning is a divisive topic, and most users will never have to service a centerfire pistol silencer. While it is not absolutely necessary, many pistol cans are serviceable and the baffles can be cleaned if desired. Any moving, mechanical part on a suppressor or mount should remain clean and lubricated to ensure proper function.
Some suppressors can also be run wet, using an ablative material such as water or clear wire pulling gel. By adding 5cc of water or gel to the suppressor, it can tame down first round pop and make the suppressor perform slightly better. However, there are downsides to this, and it is important to know if the suppressor you intend to use can be run wet. One downside is that it is extremely dirty to the shooter. Expect to be sprayed with a black, carbon filled mist. A second downside is the potential for a catastrophic failure of the suppressor. A wet suppressor has much more pressure than a dry one, and can cause unsafe pressure levels primarily with rifle cartridges. Most rimfire and pistol suppressors can be run wet, but a user should never use any ablative material with a centerfire rifle suppressor.
Subsonic rounds are available for some calibers, which can enhance the experience of shooting a suppressed weapon. Subsonic projectiles utilize a heavier projectile with a slower velocity to stay under the speed of sound, eliminating the sharp crack from a shot. It is important to know that although they are quiet, many calibers do not have a subsonic load that will allow a semiautomatic firearm to function properly. The common calibers for subsonic use are 22LR, 9MM, 45ACP, and 300 Blackout.
While suppressors quiet down a firearm a substantial amount, additional hearing protection should still be considered. OSHA defines “hearing safe” as a 140dB or below impulse noise. “Hearing safe” should probably be interpreted as “much less immediate and severe hearing damage.” Prolonged exposure to even suppressed fire can still cause hearing damage, although at a much slower rate than unsuppressed fire.
RUN DOWN / TAKEAWAY
We believe suppressors are an invaluable tool to enhance your shooting experience and we hope you find the same with your new arrival. Capitol Armory stocks all suppressor related accessories necessary to mount, use, and enhance your new suppressor. If you have any questions about your purchase, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to assist with any questions or recommendations to maximize the effectiveness of your new suppressor.