Anyone who’s been around the firearms trade over the last decade or so has probably noticed that firearm suppressors have become a strong presence in the marketplace. Considering that suppressors remain a class III item, retailers must give serious consideration as to whether they want to handle them in their product line. Dealers who decide to handle class III products will need to be up to date with the proper licenses, laws and transfer procedures.
For those unfamiliar with firearm sound suppressors, they came about more than 100 years ago with the model 1909, which was introduced by Hiram Maxim as a way to reduce the noise and flash signature of a firearm. Generally speaking, the suppressor is a metal tube containing baffles designed to contain, slow and cool the firing gases emitting from the muzzle of the firearm, thus reducing the noise and flash report after a shot is fired.
The model 1909 was a muzzle-mounted suppressor, rather than an integral suppressor unit. It was marketed as the “Maxim Silencer” in firearms-related magazines at the time. Those familiar with firearms sound suppression realize that the gun does not truly become 'silent.' Instead the report becomes more muffled, and much of the final sound report depends on whether the shooter is firing subsonic or supersonic ammunition. Even though the performance was not perfect, the Maxim Silencer reportedly gained enough attention to be purchased by Theodore Roosevelt for some of his personal shooting activities.
But as time passed, shooters discovered a few shortcomings of the early muzzle-mounted suppressor. They could work loose during firing, affect the bullet's point of impact and become quite hot during extended fire. Being retailers in modern times, we all know that selling products with known problems is unacceptable. Thankfully, the sound suppressor has been further developed and has evolved into some highly reliable modern designs.
Currently there are suppressors that mitigate noise, flash and recoil for anything from a .22 rimfire to a .50-caliber BMG, and everywhere in between. "Cans,” as they have become known, frequently range in size from about 5 inches long and 1 inch in diameter to about 24 inches long and 2.5 inches in diameter.
Muzzle-mounted suppressors typically screw onto common muzzle thread sizes of 1/2-28 TPI or 5/8-24 TPI. Some cans butt up to the barrel shoulder behind the threads, and others have secondary barrel angles to sleeve over and seat against the suppressor. Some cans attach over flash hiders, which double as suppressor mounts. Other suppressor designs quick-attach and detach from a coupler threaded onto the barrel.
If your store operates a first-class machine shop or gunsmithing operation, these installations might be something you want to consider for extra income. However, if expert machine skills are not part of your operation, leave the job to the pros — any misalignment of a barrel and suppressor could result in baffle strikes and a dangerous bullet path.
Suppressor baffles are generally metal dividers that separate the chambers inside the suppressor. The type of material these baffles are made from tends to vary depending on the type of cartridges the can was designed for. Obviously .22 rimfire baffles will take much less abuse than cans designed for centerfire and full-auto firearms. It will be very important to know your chosen product line before recommending suppressor types and models to your customers.
If you decide to handle suppressors for your customers, and you have come to terms with all the regulations and licensing, then your next step is choosing a suppressor manufacturer. This is an area where you should never be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Improperly designed and poorly constructed suppressors can create dangerous problems for you and your clientele. Only choose proven professional manufacturers for your suppressor needs. Several that have earned reputations for quality include Gemtech, Surefire and Liberty Suppressors.
Since 2002, Dr. John Matthews, Barry Dueck and Ms. Ramona Barnes have brought the world’s top quality suppressors out of the Surefire Suppressor Division in Fountain Valley, Calif. Surefire is well known for their premium flashlights. This expertise in close-tolerance cylinder construction made the Surefire company a shoe-in for making suppressor cylinders. With well-tested designs and advanced metallurgy, they have been able to construct some of the best suppressors in the world today.
Surefire suppressors have become known the world over for high-performance sound attenuation, secure attachments systems, heavy-duty durability, minimal and consistent shift in the bullet’s point of impact, and combat-proven reliability. From .22 caliber through .338 Lapua magnum rifle suppressors, Surefire can stock your store's suppressor product line. (www.surefire.com)
David and Teresa Saylors of Liberty Suppressors have been manufacturing cans for more than 13 years in Trenton, Ga. Their business came to the top of the recommendation list when people were searching for the best custom-made suppressors currently available. Liberty Suppressor offers standard models for most rifles, plus custom-made cans for a wide variety of applications.
The Saylors offer a full line of suppressors, from .22 rimfire to magnum centerfire rifle cans, from muzzle-mounted to integral units — and all the way through custom application cans. During intense testing of Liberty products, they have all performed well and without failure of any kind. (www.libertycans.net)
Gemtech is one of the leading suppliers of suppressors for military and law enforcement customers, so their cans are battle-tested and engineered to tight specs. The company, which was founded by a group of suppressor makers back in 1993, offers cans in popular pistol calibers like 9mm and .45 ACP as well as centerfire calibers like 5.56mm, .308 cal. and 300 Blackout. (www.gem-tech.com)
Why Carry A Suppressor Line In Your Retail Store?
With the depiction of silencers as evil assassin devices shifting to a more practical concept of suppressors as a method to protect hearing and help with hunting, more shooting sports customers are looking into adding a can to their lineup. Logical people understand that crime comes from criminals, not from gear. Law-abiding people who want to protect their hearing — and be more respectful of shooters in the range bay next to them — may very well become repeat customers for you in the future if you offer a suppressor product line.
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Shooting Sports Retailer magazine.