Friday, November 30, 2012

Time for Silence

KRISS .45 ACP SBR with Defiance Suppressor
I've been shooting since I was around 12 years old.  Today I have what my doctor calls "serious hearing loss".  I technically need hearing aides but being only 44 years old I'm reluctant to do what my doctor suggests because of vanity.

There's no cure for hearing loss, the only remedy are devices that make hearing a bit easier.  That's why preventing hearing loss is critical.  In the case of sportsmen like me that means always being diligent to wear proper hearing protection and to always have several sets with me in the car, gear bag and on the reloading bench -- for easy access.

However, many sportsmen don't always wear hearing protection.  While hunting many, if not most, hunters don't wear hearing protection so they can hear whats going on around them.  They figure, as I once did, that a few shots from a shotgun, rifle or handgun won't be so bad.  Unfortunately for me and countless others we are very-very wrong.

Hearing loss can occur at 85db of sound.  A typical conversion takes place at around 60db.  Headphones on an iPod set to max volume can generate about 100db of sound, enough to cause permanent hearing loss.  A clap of thunder that's close by can generate 120db, more than enough to cause hearing loss.  A gun shot creates anywhere from 140-190db depending on the type of weapon.  Obviously exposure to firearm discharges can cause extreme hearing loss in short order if proper hearing protection isn't used.

How many times have you had "ears" on while shooting a rifle and the seal on the headphones was broken slightly by your face being pressed against the stock?  When you fired you probably noticed a ringing in your ear where the seal was slightly broken.  How many times have you had ear plugs in and fired a round only to realize the ear plug wasn't properly seated and the sound of the report was uncomfortable?  How many times have you gone to the range and your buddy was a little quick on the trigger and fired a round before you had your ears completely on?  Even with hearing protection you can still have incidents where you unintentionally ring your ears and cause permanent hearing loss.  These incidents add up over the years to where you wind up like me, with a constant ringing in my ears that I can hear over my cat purring, who is lying at my feet as I type this.

When the NFA was enacted it regulated short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, machine guns, destructive devices, any other weapon and suppressors.  Despite the fact suppressors weren't commonly used by criminals, they were still added to the list of regulated items because the do-gooders in Congress didn't feel we should be trusted with such things.

To this day suppressors are rarely used in crime.  As a matter of fact, I can't recall the last time a national news story related to gun violence reported a suppressor being used.  Some may argue that's because the NFA laws are working.  People who hold this opinion obviously know nothing about how simple suppressors are to make.  If a criminal possesses an IQ above their own shoe size they would realize an illegal suppressor can be fashioned literally in minutes from a 2 liter bottle or with a little more effort a bicycle pump.  They are simple devices to make and despite such devices being very crude they are still effective at muting the report of a firearm.  That means there is little interest by criminals to use such devices so regulating them so heavily becomes even more asinine.

It's worth mentioning that using a suppressor in the commission of a crime carries a mandatory 30 year federal sentence, more than many people get for murder or rape.  There are only about 30 federal prosecutions related to illegal suppressor ownership per year and around 200 prosecutions by states each year.  These are typically possession charges and the people prosecuted aren't involved in other types of crimes, their only crime was being dumb enough to make a suppressor for fun not realizing they were breaking a very serious law.  Doing things like what you see in this video, which to you may seem harmless, can land you in federal prison for a minimum of 10 years or a maximum of 30 years.

It's also worth mention that many presumably less free countries in Europe that more heavily regulate private ownership of firearms have no restrictions what-so-ever on the use of suppressors.  In many places outside of the US it's considered rude to discharge a non-suppressed firearm.

There are efforts underway by the NRA and other organizations such as the American Silencer Association (ASA) to make suppressors easier to acquire for average shooters and also to make them legal for hunters.  Many states already allow suppressors to be legally used for hunting of all game animals.  To me such initiatives are derived from common sense and shooters across the country should get behind such movements.


  1. Not sure how it will pass with hunting. Seems like its a big offense to hunt game animals with a silencer, even if you have the tax for it. I mean you can only have 2 shells for migratory birds here in Texas (+ 1 in chamber). Some states you can't even put out fed for deer. So, this whole idea of not having to big of an advantage over the game...might not pass. Although, if you really thought about it...silencers are still loud enough to scare off the game (esp a pack, if one goes down they'll all run) Also, if you wanted to be really quiet you have to use sub ammo, which reduces your range, so makes up for it. But, people who pass laws don't think into things, but I do hope one day they will and we can actually have silencers without jumping through all the hoops today.

  2. I live in New Jersey and of all our ridiculous laws I think making suppressors illegal to possess or use makes the least sense. If public safety was really their goal and they examined the facts and listened to input from the shooting community then politicians would be more apt to making suppressors mandatory instead of banning them outright. We're working to affect change here, but enjoy your cans those who live in freer states than I.

  3. Elden, I don't think he's advocating the use of silencers by hunters to gain an advantage over game. He's talking about using them to protect their hearing, and possibly not to annoy people that live in the area. Although, don't you still need protection from the sonic boom?

  4. Elden, follow the link provided in the article. A number of states already allow the use of suppressors for hunting all legal game. The NRA is actively pushing this in other states as well.

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