Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Hunting

Suppressors-Good for Our Hearing . . . and The Shooting Sports

Thursday, November 17, 2011

When I was growing up in the 1970s, I shot as often as I could and never considered hearing protection. I recall when I was 5 years old, my father and his friend handed me a two-inch .357 Magnum and challenged me to hit a Montana coyote on the far hillside. I launched all five shots and, to the joy of my audience, came remarkably close to ending the coyote's rabbit-munching days. Needless to say, the experience left my ears ringing for a while and I wondered if they would ever return to normal.

We hear the same story from countless hunters and shooters who might not realize that a lack of hearing protection can result in lasting hearing loss--until it's too late. Billions of dollars are spent every year in our healthcare system for hearing loss conditions, such as shooting-related tinnitus. Fortunately, the days of sophisticated electronic hearing protection are upon us. These little battery-powered marvels amplify the good sounds (range commands) while still providing a significant degree of protection. The truth is, however, that even with quality devices like these, shooting can still cause damage to our hearing.

Sound suppressors attached to firearms (less accurately called "silencers" in federal law) are an additional tool available to help protect our hearing and are quickly gaining in popularity throughout the country. Although few may realize it, suppressors are not a new innovation. The Maxim Silencer Company opened its doors more than a century ago. Teddy Roosevelt is reported to have used one on his Winchester Model 94 at his Long Island home in order to avoid disturbing his neighbors while dispatching varmints. However, recent advances in technology and manufacturing capabilities have made them more available and appealing to the shooting masses.

Unfortunately, too many Americans (including some gun owners) still fall victim to the unfair portrayals by Hollywood. Although "silencers" are almost exclusively put in the hands of James Bond or assassins on the silver screen, in reality suppressors are commonly used by hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens who appreciate the many benefits of reducing harmful sound. They are virtually never used in the commission of crimes today, and criminal misuse carries severe penalties. The sound-suppressing devices don't make firearms silent but they do help mitigate the otherwise damaging and disturbing noise.

Our society is full of devices that muffle sound to prevent hearing loss and noise pollution--firearm sound suppression is no different.

While American gun owners don't often point to Europeans as providing an example that should be followed, their use of suppressors is an exception. In many of the countries "across the pond," the use of these noise-attenuating devices is actively encouraged. Buying "moderators" (their term for suppressors) from a hardware store is often no different than buying a hammer or a screwdriver. They are not always subject to the same draconian regulation that they are here in the United States.

A number of companies currently provide state-of-the-art suppressors to the shooting community, including SilencerCo/SWR (top), Advanced Armament Corporation (above) and GEMTECH (below).

Firearms are usually defined as a weapon by which a projectile is discharged by gunpowder. Strangely, suppressors are also considered "firearms" in the United States and regulated pursuant to the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA). In order to acquire a suppressor, a purchaser must complete the appropriate NFA paperwork, undergo a background check, find a licensed dealer authorized to conduct the transaction and pay a one-time $200 tax for each device.

Recently, Michigan became the 39th state to legalize suppressor possession. The 11 states that prohibit their possession and use, along with many other states that bar their use during specific activities such as hunting, are essentially mandating that firearms produce as much inner-ear-destroying noise as they possibly can. This doesn't happen with cars, motorcycles, airplanes, air conditioning units, dishwashers, construction equipment or anything else that comes to mind. There is no logical reason for firearms to be singled out when it comes to our desire to make things quieter.

While hearing protection during routine shooting practice is arguably the most important benefit suppressors offer to civilian shooters, there are a number of others that deserve mention. Without a doubt, they help many shooters increase accuracy. Humans have a primordial fear of loud noise that contributes to the most common cause of missed shots--trigger flinch. The less noise a gun produces, the less likely a shooter is to flinch just before the shot breaks. Felt recoil is another contributor to flinch and the weight of suppressors helps to reduce this. More accurate shooting in the field means fewer wounded and lost animals--a good thing for hunters and wildlife.

Noise complaints are causing closures of shooting ranges, informal shooting areas and hunting lands throughout the country. This is a trend the NRA and its members spend untold resources fighting. Increased use of suppressors on ranges and hunting lands will work to decrease these detrimental complaints. It is worth noting that keeping his target shooting from disrupting neighbors was what motivated Hiram Maxim to begin the country's first commercial production of suppressors.

In addition, the use of suppressors in a home defense scenario cannot be discounted. Shooting any firearm in an enclosed space, such as a hallway or small room, sends shock waves to your core. The tiny components of the inner ear get pummeled. Of course, prevailing in a life threatening scenario is the first priority, but it should not come at the cost of living the remainder of life with a significant hearing disability if it can be avoided.

Finally, those of us who have tried and failed to find an adequate way to protect our hearing while hunting can benefit from suppressors, especially while hunting in a fixed location such as a stand or blind where the extra weight is not a detriment. My current practice is to rest plugs in my ears so that my ability to detect the sounds of approaching game is not hindered. As I consider a shot, I fully insert them. Of course, things occasionally happen too quickly for me to implement my best laid plans and damage is done. Use of suppressors in these instances would certainly reduce the probability of harm.

Some will argue that the legalization of suppressor use while hunting will increase the incidents of poaching, but the experience of the many states that allow the practice clearly proves them wrong. Would these opponents mandate the use of the .338 Lapua with a muzzle brake in order for shots to be heard from the greatest possible distance? Is the diminutive .243 Win. Simply too quiet? As one suppressor advocate in Montana asked earlier this year during the legislative session, should all bow hunters be required to sound an air horn every time they release an arrow in order to alert any nearby wardens?

The reality is, the less muzzle noise heard by the non-hunting public, the better off we all are.

It's time that policymakers--legislators, wildlife commissioners and gun club board members--move to eliminate the laws, regulations and policies that discourage or prohibit suppressor use. In addition to decreasing the incidents of permanent hearing loss, it will help keep the shooting sports alive and well by decreasing the calls to close shooting areas and hunting lands. Suppressors may not be for everyone, but that's the best aspect of freedom--it is your choice.

TRENDING NOW
Illinois: Senate Passes Legislation that will Close Gun Stores

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Illinois: Senate Passes Legislation that will Close Gun Stores

Today, the Illinois Senate passed an amended version of Senate Bill 1657 by a 30-21 vote.  As amended, SB 1657 would exempt big box stores from its restrictions.

Brace Yourself: ATF Reconsiders Obama-Era Policy on Stabilizing Braces

News  

Gun Laws  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Brace Yourself: ATF Reconsiders Obama-Era Policy on Stabilizing Braces

News broke this week that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has reconsidered and “clarified” its Jan. 6, 2015 Open Letter on the use of stabilizing braces as shoulder stocks.

West Virginia: Governor Signs Pro-Gun Bills into Law

Thursday, April 27, 2017

West Virginia: Governor Signs Pro-Gun Bills into Law

Late yesterday, Governor Jim Justice signed two important pro-gun bills into law.

News  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Lawsuit Filed Against California's Assault Weapons Control Act

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) today announced it is supporting, along with the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), an important Second Amendment lawsuit challenging California’s newly expanded Assault Weapons Control ...

Illinois: Anti-Gun Legislators are Attempting to Sneak their Agenda into Unrelated Legislation

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Illinois: Anti-Gun Legislators are Attempting to Sneak their Agenda into Unrelated Legislation

Yesterday, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton proposed Senate Amendment 1 to his shell bill, Senate Bill 233.

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

“F” Stands for Fail: School Jeopardizes Student’s Future for Possession of Squirt Gun

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, April 21, 2017

“F” Stands for Fail: School Jeopardizes Student’s Future for Possession of Squirt Gun

Public education’s long-running “zero tolerance” war against anything that suggests the idea of a firearm (including, for example, clothing, gestures, toys, food, computer images, and favorable opinions of self-defense) has claimed another victim. This time ...

Oregon: Anti-Gun Bill Headed to Senate Floor for Vote

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Oregon: Anti-Gun Bill Headed to Senate Floor for Vote

On Monday, May 1, Senate Bill 719 is scheduled for a Senate floor vote.  Based on a California law enacted in 2014, SB 719A would create a so-called “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) that could ...

Research Shows Murders are Heavily Concentrated in Small Fraction of Counties

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, April 28, 2017

Research Shows Murders are Heavily Concentrated in Small Fraction of Counties

This week, a new report from the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) revealed just how concentrated murders are in the U.S. Citing county level data from 2014, researchers determined that a small fraction of all counties are ...

Illinois: Committees to Hear Anti-Gun Bills Tomorrow

Monday, March 13, 2017

Illinois: Committees to Hear Anti-Gun Bills Tomorrow

Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 1291 and SB 1657.  Additionally, the House Judiciary Committee will hear the crossfile of SB 1291, HB 2354.  Please contact members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees and ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.