There are also health reasons to use a suppressor. How many old shooters do you know who use the words “WHAT?” or “HUH?” several times during a conversation? This isn’t a coincidence; it is a result of long-term hearing loss. In most industries, safety monitoring organizations mandate the use of hearing protection in noisy environments such as construction sites, mills, assembly lines and automotive garages. Sound suppressors not only bring sound below the threshold of pain, they bring it below the threshold of damage. Even though most people wear hearing protection at the range, most do not while hunting and will suffer hearing damage at some point in their lives.
How Do I Purchase One?
Along with intentional, and politically motivated, distortions about the use of sound suppressors, there is an enormous amount of bad information in circulation regarding their legalities. Under Federal law they are perfectly legal. They are purchased by a lawful owner or dealer in National Firearms Act firearms and, if you live in a state that allows their possession and use, it is a simple and straightforward process that will test your patience more than it will affect your wallet. (Since we are only discussing Federal law, please research the laws in your state for specifics.)
A good comparison to use in the process of buying and owning any NFA firearm, sound suppressor included, is the purchase of an automobile. When you buy a new car or truck you fill out a title application that is submitted, and a new title is generated reflecting you as the lawful owner. There is a one-time title fee and it is never due again (unless you sell the item and the new owner pays to have the title changed to his or her name.)
There is no “Federal Silencer License” or “Annual Silencer Permit” but only this single-time transfer of title to you. The title fee (transfer fee) is $200. The price of the suppressor itself can vary from $150 to $2,000 depending on the caliber, materials and manufacturer. There are sound suppressors for every budget.
The application for purchase of a sound suppressor is referred to in the firearm industry as a “Form 4.” This form has information about the current owner and the device you are purchasing, among other things. It must be signed by your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) stating that you are breaking no state or local law by taking possession of the device you are buying, and it is accompanied by a few fingerprint cards and a check to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE) in the amount of $200.
The FBI will check your fingerprints to make sure you are eligible to own the device, the BATFE will research the device making sure it is legal and you are buying something acceptable for you to own. Upon completion the new title will be issued in your name, and the suppressor belongs to you. There are no unannounced 4 a.m. visits by federal agents demanding to see it, and no further paperwork to complete. It is just a title and nothing else.
Also, thanks to standardized threading and/or different adapters, one suppressor may be moved from one firearm to another within the owner’s possession. Depending on the model and the manufacturer’s recommendations, suppressors may also be used on a gun chambered in a different, smaller caliber.
So there you have it, far from their infamous Hollywood image. Once you sort through the misinformation out there, sound suppressors can be a real asset to responsible shooting and are actually reasonably economical to own given their advantages.