How a Silencer Affects a Bullet (Velocity, Drop, etc)
What Is a Silencer?
Silencers, also known as suppressors, are attachable gun parts that reduce the sound intensity and muzzle flash of a firearm shot. They are muzzle devices, attaching to the same end of the barrel where the bullet exits the gun. Realistically, no suppressor is able to fully “silence” a shot, but modern attachments have become increasingly impressive.1 Silencers are actually really simple devices. Similarly to how a valve works, with the ability to release only minimal pressure at a time, suppressors reappropriate the explosive burst of gas from the gunshot so it is much thinner. Under usual circumstances, as the explosion from the gunshot exits the barrel, it creates a blast of energy that is extremely loud. With a suppressor, the pressure is released over a longer course of time and in sparsity, ultimately reducing the noise.
How Do Silencers Affect Bullets and Accuracy?
Some gun experts suggest a silencer may affect the overall efficiency and reliability of a weapon, especially when being fired rapidly. That said, the actual muzzle velocity does not appear to be affected at all. Mostly, the complaints lie in things like too much heat transfer building up from rapid fire. And despite the popular stigma that suppressors may negatively impact aim, accuracy is actually increased when a silencer is attached.2There are also many favorable byproducts of a suppressor, most notably being a shooter’s ability to better concentrate with less sound and muzzle flash. While there is a definite increase in accuracy, it may still be hard to detect in amateur shooting. The type of suppressor and material used to make the attachment can impact how effective it is, and how it affects a shooter’s accuracy. A suppressor’s weight and length also play a huge role in overall effectiveness.
The actual sound of a gunshot itself is essentially two columns of air collapsing back into themselves.3Suppressors essentially give the gas extra space to expand and escape. This occurs even around the bullet itself while it is being rocketed out of the barrel. The gas actually escapes faster than the bullet, which is also what lessens the sound of the blast. The gas pressure actually decreases at a slower rate with a suppressor, despite bullet velocity at the muzzle remaining the same.
It is also worth noting that some suppressors are lower in quality and will require more maintenance. Failure to maintain a suppressor can lead to dirt buildup and it can effect overall performance, as well as the bullet. Still, there are some suppressors (most notably rifle suppressors) which are not able to be disassembled and do not require cleaning.
Silencers Barely Affect Bullets
The idea of a suppressor would lead one to believe they have a rather significant impact on a bullet in terms of velocity, drop, or a shooter’s accuracy. However, the negligible increase or decrease in velocity from varying bullets, guns, and silencers is barely worth mentioning.4,5Ultimately, most gun experts agree that silencers do not affect the velocity of the bullet, but do affect bullet drop due to the weight of the barrel. This makes the suppressor an excellent attachment, as the gain most certainly outweighs any deficit! And the suppressor almost always enhances a gun’s shootability and the shooter’s shooting experience.
Disclaimer: Silencers are illegal in the following states: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
1Silencer Shop. Silencer or Suppressor. Retrieved from:https://www.silencershop.com/blog/post/silencer-suppressor/
2Gun Digest. Suppressor Effects. Retrieved from:https://gundigest.com/gear-ammo/suppressor-effects
3Paulson, Alan C (1996). Silencer History and Performance, Vol 1: Sporting And Tactical Silencers. Paladin Press.
4Accurate Shooter. Suppressors: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from:https://www.accurateshooter.com/gear-reviews/suppressors-what-you-need-to-know/
5The Truth About Guns. Ask Foghorn: Does a Silencer Effect the Velocity of the Bullet? Retrieved from:https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2012/05/foghorn/ask-foghorn-does-a-silencer-effect-the-velocity-of-the-bullet/
About the Author:
Mark Doberman, The Proprietary Gun Smith
The Proprietary Gun Smith is a marksman, expert gun handler, ammunition specialist, survival guru, and lifetime gun enthusiast. He owns (or has owned) nearly every legal firearm and ballistic available, has fired nearly every gun, and regularly consults professionally in the firearm world. He has studied firearms and similar tactical lifestyle for more than 40 years. In addition to writing for ArmoryBay.com, TheProprietaryGunSmith has guest written for more than a dozen other sites and/or magazines in the industry.
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