You’re packing for a big hunting trip. Good camo? Of course. Tough boots? Obviously! Suppressor? Absolutely.
I’d argue that a good can is just as important in many facets of hunting as your camo jacket or boots, here are all the reasons why.
First off, what is a suppressor? The original patent by Hiram Maxim called these sound-reducing devices silencers, which is still the legal title used on the ATF paperwork required to make or buy one, even if the industry standard term “suppressor" is more technically correct. You’ll likely hear both terms used interchangeably, as both are correct in a sense.
A suppressor is designed to affix to the end of a gun’s barrel, capturing and slowing the blast of high-pressure (and temperature) gasses that exit the barrel right behind the bullet.
A suppressor attaches to the barrel by one of two methods. Either as a Direct Thread (DT) where the suppressor screws directly onto the barrel or with a Quick Detach (QD) interface.
With a QD can, there’s a mount attached to the barrel (usually a flash suppressor or muzzle brake combined with the mounting threads). The suppressor screws onto the mount and has some locking mechanism, whether mechanical or friction lock.
A direct thread can is usually simpler and lighter, but is susceptible to damage on the thread mating surface.
A QD can is easier to swap between guns, faster to remove, and eliminates the chance you’ll permanently damage your threads just by putting the can on.
You can buy or build a suppressor, after filing and getting approval on ATF form 4 or 1, respectively. Either way, there’s a little paperwork to fill out and a $200 tax for transferring or creating a suppressor.
The big difference is in the wait, where approval times for form 4 transfers can run up to a year, but e-filed form 1’s to create a can are often approved in two weeks or so.
Hunting rifles are loud, and every shot without adequate hearing protection causes damage that accumulates over time. Reducing the noise level at the shooter’s ear to below 140 dB will prolong your hearing for life.
Protect the hearing of those around you
Whether you’ve got an old hunting buddy, a young hunter you’re showing the ropes to, or a loyal dog, you’re also protecting their hearing.
There are a few reasons suppressors can increase your accuracy. The muzzle blast of chaotic, expanding gasses and particulate that normally passes the bullet in its first 12" of travel out of the barrel, is largely contained in the suppressor.
Suppressors are well known as recoil reducers, as they spread out the recoil impulse over a longer period of time. Removing the sharp kick associated with larger calibers reduces shooter flinch.
The drastically reduced muzzle blast also decreases the shooter’s flinch reflex.
Finally, having the suppressor on the barrel has been shown to reduce barrel harmonics, increasing the mechanical accuracy of the rifle.
Simply put, if you shoot a group without your can on, then another with it, in the vast majority of cases the suppressed group will be smaller.
When you remove the muzzle blast, you’re left with the supersonic crack that follows the round downrange (assuming you’re not using subsonic rounds, more on that later).
The muzzle blast is very distinctive and makes it easy for an animal to locate the hunter. The supersonic boom is far less directional, confusing animals and making them hesitate while deciding which direction to run.
In that moment of hesitation, a follow-up shot can be taken, possibly doubling your take for the day if that second buck or hog can’t quite make up his mind.
Not every hunting trip is a one-shot affair. Plenty are multiple days or even weeks long, with a few friends or family members harvesting a number of deer, moose, hogs, or predators.
Why announce your presence to every animal within miles? Why spook every animal in the valley, making it harder for everyone else to get on some game? In some areas of Alaska, a gunshot means the grizzlies head towards you, looking for an easy meal if they get to the deer first. Reduce your sound signature!
Without a suppressor, you’re left with a few less-than-ideal options.
Do you hunt with ear protection in, reducing the likelihood you’ll hear your prey (or hunting partner’s communications)?
Or do you hunt with naked ears, suffering permanent damage when you take that critical shot?
With a can on, you can hear what’s going on before and after you shoot.
A good hunting suppressor is likely to be titanium, as reduced weight is more important than durability during heavy sustained fire.
As such, you’re looking at around 11-14 ounces hanging off the far end of your barrel. A steel can is likely to be nearly double that weight.
There are plenty of hunts where that weight is negligible. If you’re chasing a buck in some high alpine, or a mountain goat at altitude, that weight is worth a moment’s consideration.
That ~12 ounces hanging on the end of your gun affects your gun’s balance. The longer your barrel, the more leverage the can has against you, and the more forward-heavy the gun will be.
This is also true when you have the rifle slung on your shoulder, as the rifle then becomes top-heavy as it rides, making it prone to rotating around your shoulder.
If you walk with one hand on your sling or on the rifle’s stock, it’s a non-issue, but worth mentioning.
A good hunting rifle can is usually going to run between $700-$1000, plus the government’s $200 transfer tax.
While you can save money building your own, there’s both the technical difficulty that limits most and the lack of warranty support if something goes wrong.
If you’re a machinist, DIY may be best for you. Otherwise, a commercial can is likely to be far better than what you’re going to make in the garage.
No, an oil filter or 2-liter soda bottle is not going to remotely approach the effectiveness or durability of a commercial can.
A quality suppressor is an investment, just like that beautiful scope you affixed to the rifle. Treated right, the scope and suppressor both are likely to last decades.
Two Tales of Hunting Suppressed
To illustrate the above benefits, here are a couple of select stories from my own experiences hunting with, and without a suppressor.
Wolves at the door
My brother and I were at our rustic family cabin in remote Alaska. Hiking through the woods and muskeg patches, we were out later than we wanted to be. As daylight weakened by the moment, we found ourselves stuck between two packs of wolves coming from different directions.
As they closed in, I dropped the closest wolf with a shot from my suppressed .223. The pack was confused, running in every direction except away. That 30 seconds of confusion bought us time for follow-up shooting opportunities.
Moose and Bears and Deer
Years later in the same area, my oldest son (10 years old) joined myself, my brother, and a close family friend for a few days of hunting. After a couple of fruitless days of hiking all over the region, we stopped at the cabin to swap into dry clothes. Only a couple of minutes later, a bull moose walked by barely more than 200 yards from the porch.
As my son and I looked on, my friend dropped the bull in its tracks with a single shot from a Christensen Arms MPR in 6.5 Creedmoor at 223.1 yards. Shooting from the roofed porch, the shot was amplified beyond ear-splitting levels.
The shot was as great as the concussive slap from the muzzle brake was.
In such an exciting moment, the pain and tinnitus can be overlooked. When you’re left with an extra loud ringing in your ears for days, you might start thinking about getting a can. Especially before that ringing stops going away for good!
Best Suppressor For Hunting
The best suppressor for hunting will maximize those Pro’s discussed above, and minimize the Con’s.
So, we want maximum suppression and durability, but minimum weight and cost. Below are three great options for .30 caliber and smaller rifles.
Maxim Defense PRS Hunting Suppressor
While Maxim Defense is relatively new to suppressor manufacturing, they’ve already established themselves as precision manufacturers. Their lineup of PDW rifles has been making waves for years, as Maxim Defense commits to bringing more firepower in smaller packages.
Their PRS Hunting Suppressor features titanium construction with direct thread attachment and a monocore baffle design. This combines excellent strength with an incredibly light weight.
Designed for .308/6.5 Creedmoor, Maxim Defense advertises “drops sound to well below hearing safe levels, average measurement per MILSTD-1474D of 131.9dB on an 18" bolt action rifle, 6.5 CM,measured at the shooter’s left ear."
Not only that but the PRS Hunting Suppressor is also designed to reduce backpressure when affixed to a semi-auto gun.
One interesting point to note about the PRS Hunting Suppressor is that it has an outside diameter of 1.75" compared to the 1.5" outer diameter of the other two cans featured. As a general rule, the more internal volume a can has, the better it is at suppressing the muzzle blast. With the largest outside diameter, but the lightest weight of the three, and the least expensive is damn impressive.
Suppressed Armament Systems Reaper MX
My first foray into titanium cans was with the SAS Reaper Ti, now the Reaper MX.
An all-titanium can with either direct thread or quick detach TOMB (thread over muzzle brake) mount, the Reaper is a sealed unit. When using the TOMB (sold separately) you have the option of either a steel (3.4 oz) or a titanium (1.9 oz) muzzle brake.
While it’s rated for up to .300 Winchester Magnum, I started with this mounted to a .308 AR-10. It certainly brought the noise down quite a bit, but was a bit lacking in comparison to some heavy steel cans I had around at the time. Since then, it’s been moved to a .300 Blackout AR-15 SBR.
The Banish 30 by Silencer Central is a relatively new suppressor, but one that has been well received by the American market.
An all-titanium can, the Banish 30 is designed as a user-serviceable, multi-caliber suppressor from .30 caliber magnums and below.
Silencer Central reports internal testing results showing the Banish 30 reducing a .308’s report by 34 decibels. At only 13 ounces, that’s a lot of performance in a light package.
Ammunition Selection When Hunting Suppressed
When we’re talking ammo with regards to hunting with a suppressor, there are really only three kinds. Supersonic hunting ammo (traveling faster than the speed of sounds, AKA Supers), subsonic expanding rounds (traveling under the speed of sound, AKA Subs), and everything else.
If it’s a sub that doesn’t expand or a super that has a full metal jacket, it isn’t hunting ammo. Ethical hunting ammunition is designed for maximum lethality in the animal.
When we talk about hunting subs, we’re usually talking about something like Discreet Ballistics machined copper projectiles, designed to expand reliably down to 750 FPS.
Running subsonic rounds means your suppressor use is maximized, both by giving the suppressor less muzzle blast to tame and removing the supersonic crack associated with faster rounds.
Modern subsonic expanding rounds have changed the way people look at these bullets. Routinely used to dispatch tough feral hogs, these quiet rounds offer the hunter distinct noise advantages over wary prey. Hog hunters often get additional precious seconds to drop one or two more crop destroyers before they scatter.
It is important to note that subs drop an animal through a different mechanism. Expanding subs will make significant permanent wound channels like they were jagged, copper broadhead arrows. Shots that rely on the hydrostatic shock to shut down the central nervous system will not work with subs.
While hunting with supersonic rounds and a suppressor doesn’t absolutely maximize the suppressor’s effectiveness, the benefits are still very worthwhile.
Supers offer the highest level of lethality available in a rifle, and a suppressor retains all of its benefits to the shooter and the surrounding environment.
In nearly every example it is wiser and more ethical to shoot big game with a supersonic round. While the 8.6 Blackout using subsonic rounds has been used to drop Kudu and Cape Buffalo in Africa, the vast majority of hunters facing a grizzly, elk, or moose in North America are going to be better served with a large caliber round that’s moving at a high rate of speed.
For the most part, yes! In 40 states it is legal to hunt in some form with a suppressor. Check your local state laws to check the most up-to-date regulations there may be on game versus non-game animals.
California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island do not allow suppressor ownership.
While we work towards that glorious day when suppressors once again become an over-the-counter safety accessory, we should also enjoy the golden era of suppressor technology we live in now. The paperwork may be an (unconstitutional) pain in the ass, but it can be finished in a few minutes.
After that, you’ve got a suppressor that can bring you health and happiness for decades to come. Play your cards right, and it may help put more meat in the freezer as well.