Are Silencers Used For Hunting? Yea, Right.

Now that a bill which removes gun silencers from the list of weapons that are strictly regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 has cleared a House Committee by a party-line vote, both sides in the gun debate are gearing up for what will no doubt be a contentious and loud debate when the bill gets to the House floor.    It should come as no surprise that most of the truth-stretching about silencers is coming from the pro-gun side, because they have a lot more to gain if silencers are dropped from the NFA list.  Anyone can go to Amazon, for example, and purchase a light or a laser which fits on a gun; this would be the case with silencers as well.

silencer             Our friends at The Trace tell us that since 2010, the number of NFA-registered silencers has increased from 285,087 to 902,805, a serious problem if you believe that silencers can somehow be linked to the rate of gun violence which during the same five-year period has not gone down but is actually trending somewhat up. But like everything else in the gun business, using national data to understand how, why and where people own and use anything having to do with guns hides important local and regional differences which need to be explained and understood.

Back in 2010, there were an average of 5,700 silencers registered in each of the 50 states, but seven states (AZ, FL, GA, IN, PA, TX, VA) were the location of 47% of all registered silencers at that time. At the beginning of 2016, the per-state average had increased to 18,056, but these 7 states alone still accounted for nearly 44% of all registered silencers owned. Last year these same seven states issued 3,677,143 hunting licenses, which was 23% of hunting licenses issued by the 50 states. The state which issued the most licenses, Texas, sold 1,132,099, or 7% of the national total. But Texans own 18% of all the registered silencers in the U.S., and the number of silencers in the 7 silencer-rich states represent twice the percentage of all silencers than the percentage of hunting licenses issued by these same states.

Wait a minute. I thought the whole point of owning a silencer was to use it when you go out into the woods to take a crack at Bambi, right?  If that’s the case, how come silencers outpace hunting licenses by a margin of two to one?

What seems to be lost in the silencer debate, and the anti-silencer contingent seems to ignore this issue as well, is that in order to put a silencer on a gun you have to replace the standard barrel with a threaded barrel or the silencer simply won’t work. And while some of the silencer companies have started selling threaded gun barrels in addition to the silencers themselves, unless the gun you want to silence is of modular design, which happens to be only about 10% of all current handgun models along with variations of the AR-15, buying a silencer means buying another gun. This is particularly true when it comes to standard bolt-action or semi-auto hunting rifles because the barrel in most cases is welded to the receiver, so you can’t just pop out one barrel and pop in another the way you might do it with a Glock. When was the last time that someone went hunting deer or high-flyers with a Glock?

The bottom line is that the argument for silencers based on the idea that they are nothing more than a new accessory for hunters is simply not true. And the folks who are trying to prevent the gun industry from turning silencers into a product that is no different from a flashlight should be pointing this out. You can certainly find a story here and there about how a gun with a silencer was involved in this crime or that, but the threat represented by silencers is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the crimes and injuries caused by guns.


11 thoughts on “Are Silencers Used For Hunting? Yea, Right.

  1. It would be interesting to do a deeper dive on who is buying silencers and for what. Taking the devil’s advocate position for a minute, I suppose each hunter could have bought two silencers, one for the modular black deer rifle and one or two for the shotgun with the easily swapped barrels.

    I sort of doubt that though. My hunch is people buy silencers for the same reason they buy other gun stuff: because they like to buy gun stuff. As Mike said, its a lot easier to put a silencer on the barrel of a modular gun where the barrel pops off such as a 1911 or Glock. One would have to seriously maul my Model 70 Winchester. But making silencers easy to buy is one way to also sell threaded barrels for all those Glocks, Berettas, Springfield Armory, and Rock Island hi cap pistols.

    Bottom line is that aside from your local Wise Guy enforcer, silencers/suppressors have been a miniscule part of gun violence and I my gut feeling is not much would change or there would already be a thriving black market for these things. But that is a hunch, not data. The GVP community is getting spun up on this topic well, because silencers are portrayed in the media as entirely associated with mob hit men or Eastern European spies. Silencers, as the pic above shows, make a handgun kinda hard to conceal and require additional hardware investment. So sure, if they are taken off the NFA list there will be more around and statistically, some will be misused. But is this the case of the tail wagging the dog? The basic problem is the misused gun.

  2. The Bloomberg anti-gun groups have also stretched the truth beyond belief. Looks like you have bought into their propaganda and talking points…..

  3. My experience, suppressor are most popular with people who shoot a lot.Hearing issues are additive. Nearly any rifle barrel can be adapted. They not welded on. With a lot of guns overall length is a factor, not the ease of attachment. Mainly, this is so far about economic class. Rich people have suppressors. Poor people, never.

    • My 84 year old stepdad still shoots a lot. We got him electronic sound cancelling earmuffs. I got some too so I could hear range commands and other folks on the firing line at the range, where we police ourselves. I think they were about fifty bucks and work with all my guns.

      The suppressors I have seen are screwed on. I suppose one could thread the end of a traditional hunting rifle but suspect this would severely depreciate the gun. As you say, those with money to burn will have at it. But those with money to burn don’t usually commit crime.

      This is a manufactured issue. To the suppressor and gun manufacturers, its a way to sell more stuff. To GVP folks I think it is a distraction from bigger issues because they see this in a dog whistle sense.

  4. Imho, aesthetics are always a factor with any expensive purchase. A suppressor just looks wrong with blued steel and a wood stock. They go perfectly with a black rifle. The movies get this. Watch A. Sniper.

  5. ” I thought the whole point of owning a silencer was to use it when you go out into the woods to take a crack at Bambi, right?”. I’ve NEVER heard the argument in support of suppressor as the “whole point.”

    • American Rifleman uses hunting as an example of the usefulness of silencers in a 2015 article “5 Reasons to Consider a Suppressor” by Jeff Johnston – Tuesday, December 15, 2015

  6. Barrels are definitely NOT welded to the receiver, and most any modern rifle can be threaded for a suppressor for a reasonable cost. I’m surprised how many rifles and pistols are coming out threaded as standard issue. Look up Kimber Montana 2017 models. To me, the biggest advantage of suppressors is less noise for the neighbors when I shoot up- I mean around- the house, and less complaining from the inlaws when I shoot on the shared 165 acres. If most hobby shooters used suppressors, it would reduce the negativity of our anti-gun neighbors. I love guns, but I get tired of my neighbor 4 doors down who empties 4 mags in a row while I’m watching the sunset.

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