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Understanding Gun Suppressors: The Science Behind The Silence

The intriguing world of firearms often brings to the forefront devices that appear mysterious to the uninitiated. One such device is the gun suppressor, often colloquially referred to as a "silencer." But how do these devices manage to reduce the loud report of a gun? 

The Anatomy of a Gunshot Sound 

Before understanding how suppressors work, it's essential to recognize the elements that contribute to a gunshot's noise. Primarily, there are three contributors:

  1. Rapid Gas Expansion: When the gunpowder inside a bullet cartridge ignites, it releases high-pressure and high-temperature gases. These gases force the bullet out of the barrel at high speeds. As these gases exit the muzzle, they undergo rapid expansion, creating a loud explosive sound.

  2. Bullet's Sonic Crack: Bullets traveling faster than the speed of sound create a sonic boom, much like supersonic jets. This sonic crack adds to the overall noise of a gunshot.

  3. Mechanical Noise: The moving parts of the gun, like the slide of a semi-automatic pistol or the bolt of a rifle, create a mechanical noise, though it's less significant than the other two sources.

How Suppressors Make a Difference

There are three main ways that a gun suppressor can make a difference:

Cooling and Controlling the Gases

The primary function of a suppressor is to provide a space for the hot gases to expand and cool before they exit the gun's muzzle. Inside a suppressor are a series of baffles, which are barriers that deflect and redirect these gases. By forcing the gases to take a longer, more convoluted path, the suppressor allows them more time to cool and lose pressure. As a result, when they finally exit the suppressor, their expansion is less violent, thus reducing the loudness of the gunshot.

Velocity Control

While standard suppressors don't influence the bullet's speed, some ammunition, known as subsonic ammunition, is designed to travel slower than the speed of sound, ensuring no sonic crack is produced. When used in conjunction with a suppressor, these rounds can significantly reduce the noise of a gunshot.

Mechanical Noise Reduction

Some advanced suppressor designs, especially those for specific rifles, can reduce the mechanical noise to an extent by influencing how the gun cycles. However, this noise reduction is minimal compared to the reduction of the explosive report.

What Suppressors Don't Do

While movies and TV shows often depict suppressed guns as whisper-quiet, this portrayal is far from reality. Even with a suppressor, most gunshots are still quite loud, comparable to a car door slamming. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, suppressors cannot eliminate the sonic crack if the bullet is traveling faster than sound.

Contact a local gun store to learn more and to buy gun suppressors.