By Brent Miller, Northeastern States Director, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation
For the past five years I’ve had the privilege to work alongside our friends at the American Suppressor Association to eliminate restrictions on firearm suppressor ownership and use afield. Although I’ve put countless thousands of rounds downrange through suppressed firearms in that time, I had never used one afield, until recently.
When most people think of firearm suppressors, they immediately think of James Bond and other Hollywood heroes (or anti-heroes) who screw on a can before engaging in typically nefarious affairs. The resulting shot is often portrayed as either completely silent, or very near to it. In reality, however, suppressors don’t come anywhere close to completely silencing a firearm – just as a car muffler does not completely silence the sound of an engine. Actually, firearm suppressors work in a very similar manner as the muffler on my Tacoma does, by trapping rapidly expanding gasses and allowing them to cool more slowly. In short, Hollywood hasn’t done any of us in the policy world who are working to normalize the use of this hearing-protective technology any favors.
Once people have the opportunity to see (and more importantly hear) suppressors first-hand they are shocked at how different they are from what they’ve been programmed to believe about the technology. Most quality suppressors on the market today will lower the sound signature of a gun shot by 20-35dB depending on a suite of conditions. This offers recreational shooters and hunters approximately the same level of hearing protection as a set of quality ear muffs.
While I have never fired a shot on the range without ear-pro, I (as with most hunters) seldom wear hearing protection while hunting so that I can maintain my situational awareness. This means that every time I’m firing a round while hunting I’m risking permanent hearing loss. There’s a reason why nearly all of the members of my local fish and game club who are of retirement age are wearing hearing aids.
The rifle I was using on my hunt in Georgia is a sweet little unit from DRD Tactical, chambered in .308 Win. With SilencerCo’s Saker screwed on the front, the decibel rating came in at just under the 140 dB the Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers to be “hearing safe” for an impulse noise. In plain terms, I was able to shoot several hogs with a .308 and did not have my ears ring for three days, as I’m accustomed to with that particular round.
The other truly striking realization that I had while on this hunt was how very wrong those who say that hunting with suppressors will increase poaching are. This is an argument that we run into time and time again while advocating for their use afield in states across the nation. All of the 20 hunters that were on this trip were using suppressed rifles in chamberings including .223 Rem./5.56 NATO, 6.8 SPC, .308 Win., and the increasingly popular .300 Blk. While hunting I could hear shots ring out from all corners of the 7,600 acre property we were hunting and it became immediately apparent that the “Hollywood effect” is driving these poaching concerns as well.
Unfortunately, despite making significant strides on suppressor policy in recent years, there are still ten states that do not allow you to use them while hunting, and eight states where ownership is prohibited. CSF will continue to work alongside the American Suppressor Association and our other partners in the years ahead to make these prohibitions a thing of the past. With the numerous positive benefits this technology provides for sportsmen and women, and no negative attributes to speak of, its high-time all hunters and shooters are afforded the opportunity to protect their hearing as they choose.