We often get asked questions about sound suppressors, the laws regarding their legal ownership, and why you would want one. Let's explore some information about them.
- While often called "silencers", sound suppressors do not completely silence a firearm, or even make it as quiet as the laser-like "pew pew" heard in movies. The community of people that own suppressors take offense to calling them "silencers", and instead prefer "sound suppressor", "suppressor", or "can" for short. Don't be confused by the terminology for sound suppressors and flash suppressors, even though they may both be called "suppressors" in context. Often, rifle sound suppressors mount with a special "quick detach" flash suppressor.
- Suppressors are commonly called "Class 3" firearms, because a Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealer must hold a current Class 3 (dealer) Special Occupational Tax (SOT) receipt in order to deal in them. So "Class 3" is a bit of a misnomer. Another, more correct, term for suppressors, as well as short barreled rifles, is "NFA". NFA refers to the National Firearms Act of 1934, which first instituted the rules for owning such items.
- Owning a suppressor is legal in 39/50 states, including Colorado. There is no "license" needed to own one. In order to take possession of one, from a dealer or private seller, you must submit paperwork and fingerprints to the ATF for a background check, and pay them a $200 "stamp" tax for their effort. This $200 is in addition to the cost of the suppressor itself. The paperwork routinely takes 3-8 months to be completed, and you can not take possession until then. The paperwork requires that the "Chief Law Enforcement Officer" (CLEO, e.g. police chief or sheriff) sign, basically as a '60s era background check, to attest to you not being a criminal prohibited of owning such a thing. However, in liberal areas (e.g. Denver), CLEOs will simply refuse to sign the paper, on principle, and you must move up the chain of command.
- Quality modern suppressors typically reduce the sound level of a firearm by 30-37 dB. To put this in perspective, most shooters' hearing protection products muffle the sound 19-33dB.
- There are two major causes of firearms report: the rapid "uncorking" of high pressure gas from the muzzle, and the supersonic boom of the high velocity projectile. Suppressors only reduce the sound of the expanding gases.
- Suppressors usually reduce felt recoil, and improve accuracy. Yes, you read that correctly. Win-Win.
- In some European countries, it's actually considered rude to shoot without using a suppressor. In those places, while owning firearms isn't very common, a large portion of those who do also own suppressors.
A resource to get some more information is Advanced Armament Corps.' (AAC's) excellent website CanU: Silencer University.
Paladin Lead Delivery Systems is an FFL and Class 3 SOT holder. We deal in the full line of sound suppression products from popular manufacturers such as Yankee Hill Machine, AAC, AWC, and Surefire, as well as many others.