Hunting with a Suppressor: The Greenhorn Edition

By: Joe Mullin, New Enlgand States Senior Coordinator

Coming from New England, the ownership and use of firearm suppressors, which is standard operating procedure for many hunters and shooters in other parts of the country, often attracts some raised eyebrows, especially where I live – Massachusetts. Thanks to countless misrepresentations in Hollywood and the media, suppressors – also referred to as silencers, cans, or mufflers – have an infamous and misleading reputation for making the report of a discharged firearm virtually inaudible. To separate fact from fiction, I figured there’s no better way to bust a myth than to test it yourself. After using suppressors both in the field and on the range, I can say with certainty what suppressor enthusiasts already know: that suppressors are not only audible far beyond what you see on TV, but also valuable tools for anyone that enjoys hunting, recreational shooting, or both.

As the American Suppressor Association states, “Even the most effective suppressors, on the smallest and quietest calibers (.22 LR) reduce the peak sound level of a gunshot to between 110 – 120 dB. To put that in perspective, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), that is as loud as a jackhammer (110 dB) or an ambulance siren (120 dB).”[1] With this in mind, suppressors do provide the benefit that their name entails, decreasing the noise of a gunshot by an average of 20 – 35 dB[2], though not going so far as to “silence” it. For hunters and recreational shooters, who commonly spend countless hours at the range with their firearms, suppressors offer a method of hearing protection to protect against noise-induced hearing loss and conditions such as tinnitus. Banning an instrument that serves to not only protect the firearm operator, but also those within nearby proximity (including hunting dogs), seems to defy logic. Despite this, several states in the Northeast prohibit suppressor ownership entirely, including Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. In both Vermont and Connecticut, it is legal to own and use them for recreational shooting purposes, but not for hunting.

My personal experience with suppressors came through demonstrations while working for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), though they always took place aiming downfield at a shooting range. It wasn’t until after the 16th Annual National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses Sportsman-Legislator Summit in Greensboro, Georgia, that I was able to put a suppressor to use while pursuing game. Several CSF staff members took part in a post-event hog and deer hunting trip at Salt Log Outfitters, where our firearms and suppressors were graciously provided by Daniel Defense and the American Suppressor Association.

Prior to heading into the field that first morning, I had been outfitted with a .308 DD5 V4 Hunter, which was equipped with a DD Wave suppressor. As a resident of Massachusetts, I understood that I would not be able to own or possess a firearm like this in the Bay State, or even its suppressor, so I was obviously ecstatic to have the opportunity in Georgia. With my equipment in hand, the guide took us to our respective stands and the hunt officially began.

That morning proved to be quite active, as numerous young deer walked out into the fields to graze at their leisure. While I would normally have taken a shot on some of them back home, I remained respectful of the ground-rules and harvest guidelines of the property and left them to continue growing into mature bucks.

As daylight started to fade, the action increased dramatically. About an hour before dark, I repositioned myself to scan the area behind me when I noticed a dark shadow slowly grazing along the wood line. Admittedly, I’d never seen a wild hog up until that point, so it may have been average for a Georgian, but to me its stature was enormous against the brush. I got its distance at 120 yards with my rangefinder; “manageable” I thought to myself. As I repositioned my body into a more appropriate shooting position, I held the firearm up and rested it on the side of the stand, slowly squeezing the trigger.

Muscle memory was expecting the abrupt blast and kick from my .308 Remington Model 700 from back home, causing me to momentarily freeze following the first shot. The muffled sound from the discharged round and the light tap on my shoulder from the recoil were unusual and unfamiliar. My body was conditioned to the harsh recoil it normally experiences following the shot of a high-powered rifle. However, shooting suppressed had lessened the kick and softened the report.

Putting a suppressor to work in the field and having the opportunity to witness the many benefits that it offers has left me with the impression that shooting an unsuppressed rifle is bordering on uncivilized. While they are prohibited in Massachusetts, this hunting trip has further shown me why suppressors should not only be legalized in the state but encouraged. Any arguments to the contrary are based on myth and misunderstanding.

On January 4, former Co-Chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Representative Jeff Duncan (SC), introduced H.R. 95 – a reintroduction of the Hearing Protection Act (HPA). If enacted, H.R. 95 would improve access to suppressors by removing them from the purview of the National Firearms Act (NFA) while maintaining a background check process. By removing the unnecessary red tape that is currently in place due to the NFA, hunters and recreational shooters alike would benefit through a more expedited system in which they can acquire equipment that ultimately prevents hearing loss and for many, makes hunting and recreational shooting a more enjoyable experience.

CSF will continue its fight toward not only legalizing suppressors in the remaining eight states in which they are illegal but we will similarly advocate for permitting their use while hunting. Regarding my hunt in Georgia, I’m thankful for companies such as Daniel Defense and partners such as the American Suppressor Association, who allowed me the opportunity to hunt with a suppressed firearm, and advocate for expanded suppressor use throughout the nation.

 

Mullin was feral hog hunting in Georgia in 2019

with a .308 DD5 V4 Hunter equipped with a DD

Wave suppressor.

 

[1] American Suppressor Association. Hearing Protection. Accessed on April 20, 2020. https://americansuppressorassociation.com/benefits-of-suppressors/hearing-protection/.

[2] IBID.


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