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Silencerco Sound Check

The Ruger 22/45 Lite is a fun, accurate and quiet handgun, especially with a suppressor.

10/22/2012

For years now, reduced-weight aluminum upper assemblies have been manufactured by various companies for use with the popular Ruger Mark III and 22/45 pistol frames. Many of these uppers have the added bonus of a threaded barrel for sound suppressors or other muzzle accessories. While these after-market units have proven to be reliable and accurate, they also add $300 to $400 to the price of the gun. Wouldn't it be simpler to buy the pistol ready-to-go out of the box? Ruger has (finally) decided to provide its customers with just such a pistol.

It’s easy to find plenty of reasons to be excited about the release of Ruger's new 22/45 Lite polymer-framed pistol fitted with an aluminum upper. It was fun to take it to the range and run various .22 Long Rifle loads through it, and 22/45 Lite proved to be just as handy, accurate and reliable as the other members of the 22/45 family, but with a 10-ounce weight reduction. However, there is one feature of this pistol I was especially keen to put to good use, namely, the threaded barrel. 

While just about any semi-automatic handgun has the potential to be fitted with a sound suppressor, .22 Long Rifle pistols can be made especially quiet. This is due to the nature of the .22 Long Rifle cartridge itself. First, this cartridge is loaded with small, lightweight bullets that usually leave the barrel at sub-sonic speeds. This eliminates the sonic pop that accompanies super-sonic bullets. Second, the .22 uses a small powder charge. Less burnt powder means a reduced amount of hot, high-speed gasses slamming into the atmosphere to produce a loud bang. In short, the noise of a .22 pistol can be efficiently muffled with smaller and lighter sound suppressors because it makes less noise to begin with.

In order to find out just how quiet a .22 pistol like the threaded-barrel 22/45 Lite can be with a suppressor attached, I contacted Mike Pappas at Silencerco, one of the premier manufacturers of sound suppressors in the United States. As I explained to him the kind of information I was looking for, he made an interesting suggestion. Why not simply bring the 22/45 Lite  to the Silencerco sound laboratory and test fire it for myself? That way I would learn firsthand how various .22-caliber suppressors performed with this particular pistol. First-hand testing is important because sound levels, using the same ammo and suppressor, usually change from pistol to pistol. It was a gracious invitation that I was happy to accept.

After arriving at the Silencerco facility in West Valley City, Utah, and receiving a tour of the high-tech manufacturing and finishing stations, I was led to the sound testing area. There Mike and a technician walked me through the suppressor testing process. For the test, they had six .22 caliber sound suppressors: a Silencerco model, two from Silencerco's subsidiary SWR and three competitors’ models. The 22/45 Lite would be fired using CCI Standard Velocity 40-grain loads, which is the industry’s standard load for checking noise reduction in sound suppressors attached to .22 pistols.

It's important to note here that when sound levels are represented in decibels (dB), the increases in sound intensity is expressed in a logarithmic scale. The smallest audible sound (near total silence) is represented as 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. A sound 100 times more powerful than near total silence is 20 dB. A sound 1,000 times more powerful than near total silence is 30 dB. This means changing a sound from 150dB to 140dB is a more significant reduction in noise intensity than reducing 50dB to 40dB. For comparison, normal conversation is typically about 60 dB, lawn mowers 90 dB and jet engines at 120 dB. Gun fire rocks the eardrums at 140 dB or more. Since hearing loss can occur with sounds of 85 dB or louder, reducing the impact of gun noise on the ears with hearing protection, or sound suppressors, is a good idea.

With the muzzle set at a specified distance from a digital microphone, testing started with a total of ten consecutive shots fired and digitally recorded without a suppressor attached. This first string formed a test baseline. It showed the high, low and average decibel level for the 22/45 Lite pistol when fired "noisy." This same test was performed with each suppressor attached to the pistol.

But reducing the noise produced by a pistol is only part of the formula for constructing a useful sound suppressor. As well as being quiet, the suppressor must also preserve, if not improve, accuracy. Mike pointed out that this is a tricky line that suppressor manufacturers have to walk with each unit they design. The more they work to preserve accuracy, then the noisier the suppressor will be. If the suppressor is made to be too quiet, the constriction and movement of the propellant gasses within the suppressor will wobble the bullet and wreck the accuracy.

One option is to over-build the suppressor, but then you get a unit that is too large and heavy to be practical for use on a firearm. So manufacturers strive for a golden balance of features to produce suppressors that are quiet, accurate and handy. With this in mind, we added a bit of accuracy testing to the process. This provided an opportunity to see what a 10-shot group from 25 yards would look like, and to have a bit more time to see how each suppressor altered the feel of the 22/45 Lite. All of the decibel reduction and accuracy results are represented in the table below.

The top performing suppressor of that day's testing was the SWR Spector II, with an average noise reduction of 39.5 dB and a single 10-shot group of 2.5 inches at 25 yards. A very close second place went to the Silencerco Sparrow with a 35.23 dB noise reduction and a 2.5-inch group. Both of these suppressors offer the advantage of being rated for multiple calibers. This allows the same suppressor to be switched from your .22 Long Rifle pistol to handguns and rifles chambered in calibers.17 HMR, .22 Mag. and 5.7x28 FN.

But if I was forced to pick a favorite, it had to be the SWR Warlock II. Even though it came in third place on accuracy and noise reduction testing, it's a feathery-light suppressor to work with. Since it is dedicated for use with .22 Long Rifle only, the overall weight of the unit has been reduced to just 3 ounces. Adding almost no weight to the muzzle, it was a perfect fit for 22/45 Lite pistol.

Suppressors for firearms are legal, but require the filing of paperwork with the ATF, and the payment of the $200 tax stamp. If, however, you go through this process, you can attach the suppressor to any firearm that it is rated for, including the Ruger 22/45 Lite, and fire away.

Spector II Multi-Caliber Sound Suppressor
Manufacturer: SWR; www.swrsuppressors.com
Calibers: .22 LR, .17 HMR, .22 Mag, .22 WMR, .22 Hornet, FN 5.7X28
Length: 5.98”
Diameter: 1”
Weight: 6.8 ozs.
Finish: Black Oxide
Materials: 17-4 Stainless Steel, 316 Stainless Steel
Mount: ½ x 28 Threads
Decibel Reduction: 41dB (Listed)
Suggested Retail Price: $399

Suppressor Results

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22 Responses to Silencerco Sound Check

Mike wrote:
January 03, 2013

I have a little problem with their statement that a 3.75" group without a suppressor is accurate at 25 yards. Sounds poor to me.

Cliff in Florida wrote:
December 02, 2012

Is firing through a large box on a bench which is designed to reduce the sound still a "silencer" if it is not attached to the firearm?

New Citizen in FL wrote:
November 22, 2012

Alonzo - the 10db change represents a doubling of the perceived sound intensity. The actual sound pressure is in fact 10x. Our senses (both hearing and sight) respond to increases with a logarithmic proportion as the author states. A doubling of the sound pressure is actually a 3dB change and is about the minimum change we are capable or perceiving.

Sparks in FL wrote:
November 04, 2012

Word to the wise in reference to Aguila SS Sniper 60gr ammo. Due to the weight/length of the round, optimal twist for it is 1/9, as opposed to 1/16, which is the standard for all modern .22s. While I've never sprung for a 1/9 barrel, my extensive personal experience is that the round works just fine in some .22s (both rifle and pistol), but performs dismally in others. As it relates to suppressors, before you send one downrange through your brand new suppressor, test the round in the your gun for accuracy WITHOUT the suppressor. If it performs within reason, you're probably ok to attach the can. If your rounds are all over the paper, it means that the first time you fire one of them through your suppressor, it will likely take some of the suppressor internals with it. Trust me on this; I learned the hard way....

Alonzo wrote:
November 03, 2012

Not to weigh in on the significance of each 10db change, I always thought that each 10db was a doubling of the sound pressure. Not a 10X change.

kelly wrote:
October 30, 2012

As far as I know, the only people who know you have a suppressed weapon at BATFE, your sheriff, and the state LE agency. The feds will know where to find you, but hopefully, not the bad guys.

John D. wrote:
October 27, 2012

I have been interested in getting a suppressor for some time now. From looking at the results it seems the suppressors dropped the noise from gun shot level down to jet engine level. This still seems kind of high, but I guess it is only for a very short duration. Would I still need ear protection? How much of this is due to the supersonic speed of the bullet? I would be interested in seeing how much lower the sound levels would be with the various subsonic ammo on the market now. I currently shoot 22 CBs with a bolt gun without ear protection and it is less noise then some air guns I have. If I shoot the same ammo out of a revolver or semi auto the noise seems much greater. I suspect what I hear is the escaping gas being closer to the shooter. P.S. the CB ammo will not cycle a semi auto, but subsonic ammo, like the 60grn Aguila, will.

fred wrote:
October 27, 2012

after buying a supressor Are you on alist so every body knows you have one. city,state,etc. Do not want somebody breaking in my house to get it. fred

Jeff B. wrote:
October 26, 2012

To G.M.: The $200 stamp is a one time tax for each NFA item (supressor, SBR, Full-auto). Each time you buy another, you pay a new $200 tax for that new item. Waiting periods for ATF review/approval can take 4-8 months, but my first one was approved in 3.5 months.

Richard Brinkman wrote:
October 26, 2012

The $200 tax is one time, not annual.

Jim wrote:
October 25, 2012

The $200 fee is a one time thing, per device. The ATF takes their sweet time issuing the subsequent 'tax stamp'. It's about 6 months, at the moment.

John wrote:
October 25, 2012

Good Question g.m.york. The $200 tax stamp is a transfer fee you pay a single time to give you legal possession of the sound suppressor. The stamp is good for as long as you own the item. The fee, and all of the paperwork, is payed/filed again only if you transfer ownership the suppressor to another person. Silencerco answers a bunch of questions on their education page: http://www.silencerco.com/?section=Education&page=Ownership

Kevin wrote:
October 25, 2012

@g.m.york: that's a one time fee for each supressor you purchase.

Joel wrote:
October 25, 2012

The $200 tax is a one time thing. Sort of like paying sales tax on a pack of gum. A very expensive pack of gum.

Gary wrote:
October 25, 2012

The difference between 10 dB and 20 dB may only be 10 dB but if we are using Watts of electrical power its 20dBW (100W) minus 10dBW (10W) or a difference of 90 Watts. In the case of 40 dBW or 10,000 Watts a 10 dB reduction to 30 dBW or 1000 Watts is a reduction of 9,000 Watts. dB or decibel or one tenth of a Bel is a logarithmic unit that indicates the ratio of a physical quantity (usually power or intensity) relative to a specified or implied reference level. A ratio in decibels is ten times the logarithm to base 10 of the ratio of two power quantities.[1] A decibel is one tenth of a bel, a seldom-used unit. As previously stated by others a 10dB reduction in a large sound level like 200 dB is a much larger amount than that of a small level like 70 db.

B.M.C. wrote:
October 25, 2012

@ g.m.york The $200 is a ONE TIME fee. after you've paid that you don't have to worry about paying the federal gov't anymore for it.

Dana Luke wrote:
October 25, 2012

The author of this article has it EXACTLY right as far as his explanation of how the dB scale works. Picture this, 1 dB is one drop of water, 10 db is 100 drops of water, 20 db is 1,000 drops of water, 300 db is 100,000 drops of water. So, we put the various amounts of water in appropriate sized containers and then propose to dump one of them over your head. The 10 db (100 drops) will be a small annoyance, but the 20 db (1,000 drops) a head of wet hair, and the 30 db (100,000 drops) a major dousing, As the author states, 10 db at one end of the scale is much more significant than 10 db at the lower end of the scale.

g.m.york wrote:
October 25, 2012

Is that $200 fee / stamp a one time thing , or is it a yearly fee?

Steve wrote:
October 24, 2012

Hmmm. I don't 100% agree with all of Gil's statement, but the difference from 140 to 150 db is more significant than the difference from 40 to 50 db. Yes it is 10 times in each case, but starting at 140 db is already 10x10x10x10x10x10x10x10x10 more energy than 50 db. Use example numbers for clarity. If you give me a choice of you paying me ten times more than $1 or ten times more than $100,000,000, I know which I'd take... The amount of energy is ten times greater, but that is a very different quantity depending where you start. Not mentioned is the rough number of three decibels doubling the volume. So ten times the ENERGY is about 3-1/3 times the VOLUME due to the way our ears work. This is generally consistent throughout the scale. I believe Gil might unintentionally give people the idea that these suppressed .22's are louder than a Jet. Clearly not. Some jumble of letters government agency has decided 140 db for a short duration sound is the threshold for hearing safe. Short duration in this case being 5 milliseconds or less. All of these models exceed that suppression. The examples Gil used, mower, jet, etc., are continuous sound, a whole different ball game. This also explains why 150 to 140 is so much more important than 50 to 40.

KSCHIPEP wrote:
October 24, 2012

how can you disagree with a logarithmic scale?!

Aggie '11 wrote:
October 24, 2012

It is a drop by a power of 10 either way, but I think he meant that it's a more significant drop on an absolute scale. He said 0 dB corresponds to "near total silence", so it's not no-sound, but very close. Specifically, it's 10^(-12) watts per square meter. So 50 dB is 10^(-7) W/m^2, 40 dB is 10^(-8) W/m^2, 150 dB is 1000 W/m^2, and 140 dB is 100 W/m^2. Thus a drop from 50 dB to 40 dB is only a drop of 9*10^(-8) W/m^2, while a drop from 150 dB to 140 dB is a drop of 900 W/m^2. Whether or not that is significant in terms of how we actually perceive sound, I do not know.

Arnie wrote:
October 23, 2012

I totally disagree with Gil’s statement; “This means changing a sound from 150dB to 140dB is a more significant reduction in noise intensity than reducing 50dB to 40dB.” His premise is sound starts from zero and gets louder which it doesn’t. You can can’t have sound “10 times more powerful” of total silence. The db scale being logarithmic may be true but it’s consistent in how much it changes no matter if at 50db level or 150db level. A 10 db change at either of those base points is still 10 times reduction.