Friday, June 15, 2007

This Is Not A Suppressor

I have a .22 suppressor; and it’s the best thing in the world for making non gun people say “Oh god that’s so cool can I try it?”, especially women who are afraid of guns.

Part of the problem with getting new people into shooting, especially with women and kids; is the noise and flash of the discharge. Once you're used to it, it's fine; but it can be intimidating and scary for first timers, or people who are sensitive to noise (and that includes a lot of women and kids).

THe problem is, the best way to reduce the noise is with a suppressor; and they are expensive and a pain in the butt to buy, because of the national firearms act of 1934. They ARE legal in most states, but there's a $200 transfer tax that you have to pay, you have to get local law enforcement to sign your paperwork, and then you have to go through a background check that can take months.

...and of course that's jsut MOST states. theres about 20 states ban or significantly restrict some Class III items(that's NFA regulated items like suppressors, machine guns, short barreled rifles and shotguns, and AOWs). 12 states (CA, HI, KS, MO, IA, MN, IL, MI, NJ, NY, MA, and RI) all ban suppressors outright for everyone but law enforcement.

But they're so damn fun, and useful; and honestly, the whole "criminals use silencers to conceal their crimes" thing is just a load of bull. SUppressors don't work like in the movies; it's not jsut some "pfft" of air and no sound at all. WIth most suppressed weapons, in most calibers, there's still a significant sound signature, especially indoors; but a well suppressed weapon wont hurt your ears if you fire it without hearing protection.

Heck, they're so fun and useful, that I actually need to replace my Walther P-22. I’ve managed to shoot it so much, that it’s loosened up a heck of a lot. Without the can it’s no problem, but it gets so dirty while firing with the can on that after a few mags through it it becomes a jammomatic.

I’m thinking of replacing it with the SIG mosquito; which still looks and feels like a full size gun for training purposes (in fact more so than the P22), and is of higher quality and durability than the Walther.

Alright, so, suppressors are expensive, hard to get, and may be illegal where you live; what can you do that will help reduce the crack and flash for a new shooter?

Well, you can't SUPPRESS the sound; but you can REDIRECT it. Using something called a "free air expansion chamber" you can focus the sound of the shot forward, away from the shooter; which doesn't reduce the overall noise of the shot, but it makes it quieter for the shooter, and people standing beside or behind them.

Here’s a little trick. Take a piece of waxed or glossy printed smooth faced cardboard, about 12” long, and wrap it into a cylinder about two inches in diameter. Don't use a paper towel roll unless you dip it in lacquer or epoxy first, because it WILL light on fire otherwise.

Using strapping tape or duct tape, bias wrap two layers around they cylinder to reinforce it. Then insert an inch thick stack of tightly fitting leather, neoprene, or cardboard washers into one end, with an inside diameter a tiny bit smaller than the outside diameter of your .22 rifles barrel.

Slide it over the muzzle of .22 rifle with a barrel at least 18” long. You need to make a tight and stable gas seal with the muzzle centered in the tube, and the tube parallel to the line of the bore, leaving at least 10” of free air in front of the muzzle.

Load with light subsonic rounds, and shoot.

It isn’t a suppressor, or anything close to it; what it DOES do, is RADICALLY reduce the sound signature to the rear. Essentially the sound of whatever gasses and unburned powder are left, can only expand forward; and should be mostly expended to the point they are below supersonic by the time they reach the end of the cylinder.

You are not in fact suppressing the sound at all. This is not illegal. All you are doing is making it so that the only people who hear anything louder than a BB gun are downrange.

You generally have to shoot the light subsonic loads through at least an 18” barrel, for it to work. The heavy subsonic loads use a full powder charge under a much heavier bullet than standard (50gr vs 35gr) to slow the bullet down, and there may still be a substantial amount of unburned powder and unexpanded gasses by the time the bullet leaves the barrel. The same is true in a shorter barrel.

You can tell if it will work by firing the gun (without the muzzle attachment) in the dark with the load you are intending to shoot; and seeing if there is very much muzzle flash; and if so what the diameter and length of the flash is.

Ideally there will be no visible muzzle flash excepting a little tiny ball right at the muzzle. If the flash is more than 2” or so in diameter and 4” long, the muzzle device will be FAR less effective. If the muzzle flash is more than 4” in diameter, or more than 6” long, it will barely work at all. There will be some significant effect of course; but it wouldn’t be enough to shoot without any hearing protection, which is the goal here.

You could of course make the thing bigger to contain the larger blast; in fact if you make some very lightly charged 75gr .223 (just enough powder to cycle the action on an AR); you can make one of these things work on a long barreled AR as well (you need the heavy bullet in an AR to get the action to cycle; you can use a lighter one for a bolt gun); it would just have to be 3” in diameter and have 16 or so inches of free air in front of the muzzle. Also, obviously, it would still be a lot louder than a .22lr.

This muzzle device doesn’t work very well indoors, because channeling the sound forward is all well and good, until it reflects back at you from the walls, ceiling, and backstop.

If you want to take more effort, and make it more long lasting, use tin snips or metal shears (or for that matter, a sheetmetal shear) to cut the thing out of a sheetmetal at least thick enough to be as strong as the cardboard; and drill and pop rivet the tube together. Bias wrap the tube with a double thickness of fiberglass strapping tape (one layer biased one way, the other biased the other, and a piece double wrapped around each end to seal them on), and then dip the whole thing in vinyl tool handle dip.

Even with a strong sheetmetal you want to wrap them like this, because you don’t want the thing acting as a resonator. Dipping it in tool dip reduces the resonance even further, and gives it a finished appearance and greater durability. The heat of rapid firing will melt the tool dip pretty quickly though. You could also coat the outside with heat resistant truck bedliner, or stair tread coating etc...

For a bit more effort, and using a bit more in the way of tools you can also make the thing out of actual tubing; but again, you'd still want to wrap the thing in fiberglass tape, and coat it with something to reduce the resonance. Remember though, no baffling or sound absorbing materials can go INSIDE the tube.

Technically, as I said above, what you've just made is a free air expansion chamber. Remember, flash hiders, muzzle brakes, and free air expansion chambers are legal without an ATF tax stamp; making a suppressor is not.

What's the difference?

Well, first, a suppressor is any device that is explicitly designed to substantially reduce the sound of a shot. An expansion chamber doesn't reduce the sound, it just directs it away from the shooter. If that were illegal, then some muzzle brakes, some flash suppressors, bloop tubes, grenade launcher muzzle attachments, Golf ball launchers, really long shotgun barrels with light loads, etc... etc... would all be illegal as well.

From a technical standpoint; if a muzzle device has baffles or any other sealed chambers or constrictions in front of the muzzle, it's a suppressor; if it has no sealed constriction in front of the muzzle, it’s an expansion chamber.

This design is open to the air forward of the muzzle. Any sealed constriction at all in front of the muzzle makes it a suppressor. Drill holes between the constrictions and they are no longer sealed, and it’s legal again; but then it wouldn't do much to redirect the sound, it would just be a flash suppressor or muzzle brake.

DO NOT EVER put a cap or a baffle or washer or other constriction in the device forward of the muzzle; or you will have made an illegal suppressor. This is of course a felony.

In fact, don’t keep in your possession any spare soft washers with a .20 to .250 inside diameter, or hard washers with a .222 to .250 inside diameter (or anythign close to the diameter of the bullet you'll be shooting), that would fit snugly into the tube (or really anything that could be construed as a baffle or end cap); or you may get dinged for “constructive possession”.

Constructive possession, is where the ATF says that you "intended to make an illegal suppressor" because you have the parts to make one. Though that generally doesn’t stick, the ATF have been known to try anything, and they can still bankrupt you trying to get you on a bogus charge (and have done so to hundreds of law abiding citizens).

Oh, and it's also VERY important to note that in some states this would be an illegal muzzle device (states that don’t allow flash suppressors or muzzle brakes etc...).

It's simple, it's cheap, it's legal (at least federally) , and it works reasonably well. The only reason they aren't made commercially is because there's not a lot of profit in them, and there's a HELL of a lot of liability... plus the ATF might decide to bankrupt any company that made such a device by calling it a suppressor after the fact, like they did with the Akins Accelerator (they classified a guns STOCK as an unlicensed machine gun).

Hell, the ATF could decide to bankrupt YOU for that matter. They can say that you've made a suppressor, even if you haven't; and it's up to YOU to prove you haven't; and up to you to pay the gigantic legal bills to do so.