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Why Would Anyone Want to Hunt With a "Silencer?"

A columnist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was baffled as to why hunters might want to use a suppressor with their firearm. Keith Wood supplies the answer in this latest edition of "BullShooters."

The Question
In response to a comprehensive gun rights bill that was recent passed in Georgia, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman made the following statement:

“It will now be legal in Georgia to hunt with weapons equipped with silencers. Why? I do not know. I do know that suppressing the sound of gunfire in the woods will make it more difficult for hikers, birdwatchers, farmers and other outdoorsmen to know that active hunters are out there.”

Mr. Bookman claims to want to know “why?” Well, here are some good reasons.

The Facts
1. First of all “silencers,” which are more accurately described as “suppressors,” do not render a gun’s report silent. Like the muffler on a car, a suppressor reduces the noise signature from the discharge of a firearm to a more reasonable level. You see, Mr. Bookman, guns are loud—loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss. While most shooters wear hearing protection on the range, many hunters don’t wear earplugs or muffs when hunting because it makes it more difficult to hear an animal’s approach. A suppressor can reduce the risk of hearing damage associated with discharging a firearm. When my children are old enough to be exposed to hunting, I hope that I will be able to legally equip their rifles with suppressors to protect their hearing.

2. Suppressors reduce recoil and muzzle blast. High-powered rifles (such as those used for deer hunting) produce a great deal of muzzle blast and significant recoil, neither of which is conducive to good shooting. Humans are susceptible to the “overpressure event” of a gunshot, which can cause a flinch when the trigger is pulled: the body knows what’s coming and it reacts to protect itself from the perceived danger. Suppressors reduce the recoil and muzzle blast therefore making rifles easier to shoot accurately: less recoil and blast, less flinch. This means an increased likelihood of an accurate shot, which means a quick and humane demise for the game animal.

3. Even suppressed, guns are still loud. The vast majority of hunting cartridges produce supersonic muzzle velocities, which means that even suppressed, they produce an audible sonic “crack” or “boom.”

Let’s look at a practical example.  One of the most common deer hunting rounds in the U.S. is the .30-06. The cartridge has been around since before World War I and remains the “All American” big game round. It is used by hundreds of thousands of hunters each season. The .30-06 produces a sound signature of approximately 158dB out of a 24” barrel. On the decibel scale, the smallest audible sound (near total silence) is 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. A sound 100 times more powerful than near total silence is 20 dB. A sound 1,000 times more powerful than near total silence is 30 dB. A good suppressor, such as an Advanced Armament Corporation’s $1050 762-SDN-6, reduces a supersonic rifle’s report by about 25dB. That means that equipped with a suppressor, our .30-06 will still produce a noise level of around 133dB. So how loud is that? A lawnmower is 90 dB, a car horn is 110dB and a rock concert is 120dB.

The Lame Policy Argument
The author’s final statement is that "suppressing the sound of gunfire in the woods will make it more difficult for hikers, birdwatchers, farmers and other outdoorsmen to know that active hunters are out there.” Beside the fact that we just established that the suppressed gunfire will still be louder than a car horn, jet engine or rock concert, there is another reason why this is ridiculous. Shotguns are impractical to suppress so we’re talking about rifles here—in Georgia, that means that we are hunting deer. Based on his comments, I am assuming that Mr. Bookman hasn’t done a lot of deer hunting. Deer are prey animals with an excellent sense of hearing. Loud noises put deer into flight mode and send them running for cover, which is why we deer hunters don’t go firing-off a bunch of rounds to let birdwatchers know that “active hunters are out there." In two decades of deer hunting, I can count the number of times that I’ve fired more than a single shot on one hand.

As a journalist, I’m sure Mr. Bookman has access to databases such as Lexis-Nexis.  Perhaps he can do a search and tell us how many birdwatchers have been shot by hunters in the 30 states that allow the use of suppressors for hunting big game or varmints?

The Call
I’m calling “BullShooters" on this one. Mr. Bookman’s comments are devoid of facts or a rational policy argument. Suppressors are a safe and effective tool for hunters and shooters and pose no increased risk to society. Georgia’s legislation does nothing to legalize the ownership of suppressors, that is still strictly-regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 which requires a $200 fee, fingerprinting, and background checks beside the nearly yearlong wait for an approval.

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55 Responses to Why Would Anyone Want to Hunt With a "Silencer?"

chowmene wrote:
September 24, 2014

i've heard stories about a gunshot being a dinner bell to bears in alaska. they hear a shot and they know lunch is being served. silencers might help there.

Vincenzo P. Squillante wrote:
August 25, 2014

David: Not necessarily. I was hog hunting in Texas in March 2014. I shot a boar with an unsuppressed 45-70 govt. which is hugely loud. While I was walking to recover the boar, a whole slew of additional pigs came in to the area 26 yards from where I stood. So, I shot another one. Then, they all took off. You never know what's going to happen so, it pays to be quiet, even after the shot.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn wrote:
July 02, 2014

While Mr. Wood's use of quotation remarks around the word 'silencer' is a not-so-subtle way to disparage that term the fact is such a term is both appropriate and accurate. Mr. Wood has own employer (the NRA) to thank for this clarification. In the NRA's authoritative 'NRA Firearms Fact Book,' second edition, revised on page 95 the organization's description of such devices is always 'silencers,' never 'suppressors.' The text further explores silencers and also notes that there will remain a sonic boom when a high-powered cartridge exceeds the speed of sound, which most such cartridges do. This sound cannot be abated, the NRA's manual says. Which is why, the NRA document also says, 'most silenced arms use smallbore, pistol or reduced-velocity rifle ammunition.' It also must be noted that silencers have no practical application with revolvers, shotguns and muzzle-loading arms. There is further need for would-be purchasers to note one just does screw on a silencer and forget about it; they require maintenance. That is on top of their expense as well as the required hoops to jump through in order to purchase and own. If a person is willing to go through that hassle, pay that kind of money and deal with a product that frankly is being oversold, then by all means, go for it. I won't stand in your way. Just don't try to fancy the talk that these devices should be called one thing when both the NRA and manufacturers rightfully use the historically employed and just as accurate 'silencer.'

James Burdette wrote:
July 01, 2014

I small game hunt with a legally owned suppressed .22 and I will hunt big game with a legally owned suppressed .308 as soon as my NFA form comes back (but it's only been 2 years so I might miss a few more hunting seasons).

mikeb wrote:
June 23, 2014

A few years ago while archery hunting a wilderness area, I encountered three ladies that were backpacking. They observed my bow and inquired if it was 'hunting season'. I replied yes, and one immediately asked if 'they were in danger?'. I said no, and asked 'why would you be in danger?' She said 'well, don't hunters just shoot at everything that moves?'. I explained that is not at all the case no matter what the hunting season. Apparently, we have a long way to go to help educate non-hunters on what really goes on with hunting.

Mike Holmes wrote:
June 23, 2014

I use a suppressed .44 magnum carbine to kill feral hogs on the Texas coast. I hand load subsonic ammo to make the gun even quieter. This also reduces the power, ,and thus the range - both of which add to the safety of a firearm used in 'populated' areas. I save my hearing, don't disturb my neighbors, and do not spook the game as much. The report of a suppressed firearm does not sound like that of an un-suppressed one, and the source of the shot is harder for game to pin point. With 300 - 335gr bullets fired at roughly .44 Special velocities I get great penetration on hogs out to as far as 75 yards, sometimes killing two with one shot. It is not TV or movie quiet, but silent enough to negate the need for ear protection.

John wrote:
June 22, 2014

Dan, I visited Sagamore Hill in 1999 and heard the story of TR's use of a suppressor, to avoid bothering his neighbors. The park ranger said it was a 30-30, IIRC. Lee said a 'federal officer' told him, not TR. Presumably that story (given it's about TR, it's probably a true one) has been passed down since 1919 or before, no time machine needed. As to Mr. Bookman, does he think hunters waste ammo on warning shots all day long? Here's some logic: if it's hunting season, hunters are in the woods, no warning needed.

RG wrote:
June 21, 2014

I'm a 63 year young hunter. I just hunted in New Zealand with a suppressor for the first time. The reduced recoil and lessor muzzle report more than offset the extra few ounces the suppressor added to the rifle's carrying weight. I doubt I would have ever thought about using a suppressor but now that I have I will be considering adding one to my Georgia deer rifle.

Bob wrote:
June 17, 2014

In Europe noise suppressors are considered just good manners on the part of hunters.

DAVID wrote:
June 04, 2014

I watch a few of the hunting shows on TV, and I often wonder why, before a hunter shoots whatever from hiding, they all are whispering. After the 30-06 has been discharged, and the quarry is slain, why do they keep whispering? Would,t the report of the rifle have scared anything else away? LOL

Wayne wrote:
May 14, 2014

This entire columnist's story is just liberal rhetoric with no teeth or truth whatsoever. Lies and deception chocked full of misinformation. Why are the anti-gun morons so full of crap? Suppressors have been legal to own since the NFA act was imposed in 1934...you just can't walk in and buy a suppressor. You go thru a complete background screening process both locally and federally, pay an extra $200. plus for stamp, pictures, fingerprints, local sheriff has to sign off and transfer fees, and then wait up to and over a year to take ownership of said suppressor. What rock have you libgressives been hiding under??? Funny thing is, you morons always have input or commentary about something that isn't even a fart of your said imaginations...hint: turn the damn TV off and get some exercise and teach your loved ones how to defend themselves, one day you'll wish you had. I'd much rather punch a moron in the mouth.

Matt wrote:
May 14, 2014

Well written article. Some people are really clueless as to why 'silencers' are used and what it is they do. They hear the word silencer and think of the scenes from action movies where the guy is sneaking around silently killing people with his stealth gun. It's unfortunate that people's inability to educate themselves on things like this will ultimately lead to it being prohibited. Just because they don't understand it and it's scary, nobody should have them, right?

Dan wrote:
May 14, 2014

Comment from 70 year old Lee Lincoln who says he rode his bike 20 miles as a little kid to T Roosevelt's home in NY: You were born approximately 1944. TR died in 1919. Must have been a time machine bike.

Ed Harold wrote:
May 14, 2014

I wear two hearing aids resulting from too much gun noise. No ear protectors only are practical at the range.

Marylandbob wrote:
May 13, 2014

Why not allow suppressors, especially on weapons that are bigger than .22 rimfire caliber?- after all, a suppressed 30.06 rifle will still be louder than an unsuppressed .22 long rifle, and the quieter .22 has long been permitted! The weapons used on a typical hunt will NOT become 'Silent' by use of such suppressors, as they will only reduce the muzzle blast to more tolerable levels, and do NOTHING to eliminate the sonic shock wave that is also produced by modern high-velocity hunting rounds!

Dennis Davis wrote:
May 13, 2014

You would be less likely to scare all of the game away using a silencer especially when squirrel hunting or deer hunting. Lets say you were hunting close to your house or neighborhood. You would be less likely of disturbing some stupid liberal , that complains every time he hear's a sound.

Ron wrote:
May 13, 2014

Don't think that AZ has approved the use of suppressors yet but I hope they do sometime soon. I spent 30 years in the army, most of it as a cannon artilleryman so my hearing is pretty well shot (no pun intended). A suppressor would be a help in protecting what little hearing I have left.

mark wrote:
May 13, 2014

I wish we had them in mass I could see them being used in avalanche area so no one gets killed

Douglas wrote:
May 13, 2014

The quote should be, 'Why Would Anyone Care If Hunters Make Their Guns A Little Quieter?'

Mike wrote:
May 13, 2014

Wait.. BOOKMAN was against the new GA law? No.... seriously? BTW... Bookman is a complete tool.... just sayin'

Chris wrote:
May 13, 2014

Bill- That could very well be the dumbest post I've read in a long time. Did you read this article?

Abides wrote:
May 13, 2014

@ Bill, Ha ha, you aren't a hunter- when you threw in the pretentious 'longbow' nonsense it was evident. 'but it does require a more developed skill set' Ha. New Zealanders and Europeans have been using silencers for hunting for decades. Its not viewed as protecting the hunter from the sound, its viewed as protecting the bird watcher from having his sense of tranquility disturbed. Just sayen'...

georgc wrote:
May 13, 2014

In response to a previous comment about lawyers not making good hunters because they would shoot their foot off; Politicians then, would make even worse hunters, because they shoot their mouth off all of the time without even a gun!

vance pace wrote:
May 13, 2014

Bookman is an idiot on so many subjects, this is just the latest

Bill wrote:
May 13, 2014

If you don't enjoy the report from a firearm then use a long bow, it has been done for quite a long time but it does require a more developed skill set. I used to spear fish using scuba, the noise was an issue under water so I learned to free dive. You can't imagine a hunt where you are in as much jeopardy as the game. Just saying.........

JB Miller wrote:
May 13, 2014

I use a suppressor because my guns are LOUD. Suppressors protect my hearing. I have a muffler of my car for the same reason. I am suprised OSHA doesn't require them.

barry biggs wrote:
May 13, 2014

While I have no real objection to hunting with a supressor, generally supressors do not help the accuracy of the weapon. Also the thing adds considerable weight at the end of the barrel and also increases the overall length of the weapon. These are all things to be considered with respect to the hunting area.

Doc wrote:
May 13, 2014

I've been recently diagnosed with tinitus and I would love to have a suppressor to work in conjunction with my ear pro. Haven't shot since my dx but will again on e I scrape the funds together for the fees. The less volume the better.

Nicholas Galante wrote:
May 13, 2014

In certain European countries it is considered rude if you do not have a suppressor on your firearm at the range, side not fired my .357 without hearing protection and had ringing in my ears for 3 days.

Josh wrote:
April 21, 2014

My only thoughts on this article is why does he assume that just because someone is hunting with a rifle they're hunting deer? Ever heard of hunting squirrels with a .22 rifle? What about hogs, there's lots of hogs in Georgia, and coyotes too. Most people use a rifle to hunt them... everything else I agree with

Gary wrote:
April 16, 2014

Why would want to drive a car with a muffler on it? Its common sense but I guess that eludes many people.

Steve wrote:
April 16, 2014

I wouldn't mind the silencers on guns why should they make all that noise anyway.

W. Lang wrote:
April 16, 2014

Wade mcc, if you live in a place that has that many tree rats that I can hunt them with a machine gun, sign me up. ridiculously fun. You should consider moving to Connecticut.

Kirk wrote:
April 16, 2014

This last Dear Season in Ohio I was in the field when another hunter decided to do target practice with his 223 letting 15 rounds go as I sat in my tree stand 200 yds away. First off everyone should obey the laws and have respect for others whether you a hunter or a bird watcher/hiker/exc.. Be mindful of the season and of all things find places that are suited to your hobby such as local parks or back yards with bird feeders in them. by the way it is illegal in Ohio to use rifles to hunt dear so the other hunter had no business telling me he had a dear in sight of his 223 but was just a little to out of range. I doubt he will be doing that again I reported him. As for a silencer I might have had a chance to get a dear that day if he had been using a silencer. The dear might not have bolted to the next county.

Knowledge Guy wrote:
April 15, 2014

The proper term is suppressor. The firearm is not silenced, but the sound is suppressed from 110 decibels to something less than 80. Most hunting rifles still have the supersonic crack of the bullet. No one is going to be sneaking up any evil dude guards and fttt! fttting! them away with out disturbing the neighbors. An 80 decibel boom will be easily audible at at least 100 yards. Just not painful to the ears at a 100 years, like a 7mm Rem Mag.

Jeremy wrote:
April 15, 2014

wade mcc -- They're REQUIRED in some places in Europe. The next question should be, 'Why not?'

Laurence wrote:
April 15, 2014

Supressors are an excellent idea. Teddy Roosevelt had them and shot them both while in the White House and when he lived in NY. It's not like the movies. A supressed 5.53 sounds like a .22 LR, not like a 'peww' but much easier on the ears and it doesn't damage hearing. They reduce recoil, so for someone who is recoil sensitive it means better accuracy. They also reduce muzzel flash, so the shooter is not blinded in lower light situations. I see no reason why there has to be a tax stamp and year long wait on what ammounts to a muffler.

James E Akin wrote:
April 15, 2014

Yes there are so called hunter that do take bursh shot. Not safe to be around them with or without silencers.

tighteye wrote:
April 15, 2014

In my state, it is legal to OWN suppressors (with required state & federal paperwork & fees) but use of them for hunting is NOT! Makes a helluva lot of sense, don't it. I can protect my hearing on the range but not in the woods? Gimme a break!

wade mcc wrote:
April 15, 2014

I think you just shot down my support for your magazine. come on guys silencers for hunting?! you could just as well said machine guns for squirrel hunting...both are just as ridiculous!

Gunluvr wrote:
April 15, 2014

Bookman's a longterm anti-gun rabblerouser here in Atlanta. It's no surprise that people like him who have never hunted or shot a gun in their lifetime don't understand the medical necessity of using a suppressor to save their hearing.

Peter wrote:
April 15, 2014

Hunting with a suppressor is an excellent idea. This means that a hunter can hunt without hearing protection that would other wise muffle important sounds like a human walking through the woods.

Semperfi66 wrote:
April 15, 2014

If you book a hunt in New Zealand and use the outfitter's rifles, virtually all of the first class outfitters use rifles with sound suppressors on them!! It keeps the sound down so less people are affected by the shooting noise, and the game does not run into the next lease from the sound. It is logical to me; obviously not to the liberal left weenies, though.

Mike wrote:
April 15, 2014

It is astounding that the US laws regarding registration of suppressors have not changed yet. Suppressors are considered integral safety items for hunting in Europe and elsewhere. We have been informed by ATF NFA division that they have been refunded and will be restaffed. The effect of this will be reduced application process times in the coming months. For a quick link to ATF processing lead times, go to our website TacticalAcoustics.com, enter the CIV site, go to the Support page, and click on LEAD TIME ESTIMATES. This will bring up a CURRENT PROCESSING TIMES link button. Good hunting to you all this year! We've been using our suppressors in Colorado for quite a while now - what a difference! Tactical Acoustics

Paul wrote:
April 15, 2014

I have hunted in the Scottish highlands with a suppressed rifle where it is required so as to not scare the nice folks out for an evening walk. I find it amazing that a country with some of the tightest gun control is fine with a suppressor, but here in the good ole' USA it requires special licensing and permits!

Jeff Boehmke wrote:
April 15, 2014

I just used a 7mm mag equipped with a suppressor in NZ. I have shot the rifle before the suppressor and now. An amazing difference in felt recoil as well as a substantial noise reduction. It made this gun quite comfortable to shoot in comparison to past experiences. I would equip my rifles with one if they were easier to acquire.

Ollie L. Subscrip'tion wrote:
April 15, 2014

Look to New Zealand. They use suppressors for hunting in areas where there are campers, hikers, and hunters.

Dee Jay 700 wrote:
April 15, 2014

Another point, as a hunter you don't just shoot into the forest at anything that moves. It isn't really important for hikers to know someone is hunting. Do you think a hunter is going to just shoot a moving bush and think the deer has on a backpack? Obviously, whomever came up with this doesn't need to be writing hunting laws because if he went hunting he might kill someone. Untrained and inexperienced hunters from the city that have no skill is how hunting accidents happen. If you don't know any of this, you don't need to be hunting nor writing any laws concerning hunting and you personally should take a gun safety course and go with an experienced hunter into the forest should you ever wish to try because you would be a danger to hikers and campers and anyone in the woods. Politicians do not make good hunters nor should lawyers be making laws for hunting nor firearms. A lawyer would hurt someone, and probably himself by shooting his foot off.

John wrote:
April 15, 2014

Is it really necessary these days for suppressors to still be a NFA item? It is an established fact that are NOT silencers, and should be delisted and treated as regular firearm items. Keep them as a background check item but do away with the NFA fee and yearlong wait.

Dee Jay 700 wrote:
April 15, 2014

Yes, I hunt with a suppressor so that I do not spook all the animals for other hunters. I eat anything I kill for meat. It is a sport but one I use to support my family, not just to get the thrill of killing something. In fact, I don't get any thrill from it. I am sorry animals must die for me to eat but I do want meat. I prefer Elk but the license is expensive so I only get one about every five years when I can. You can't always get one specially since I am usually from out of state and came to hunt. It is rude to spook all the game for the other hunters. This is why many prefer a long bow or crossbow, they are silent. For your answer, Yes, I can definitely see the need for a 'silencer'. Anyone who does not know this is obviously a 'city girly boy' that doesn't have a clue and would starve to death if someone else didn't supply their food. Vegitarian is the old term for bad hunter.

js morris wrote:
April 15, 2014

I am stalking red deer in Scotland this fall. The estates there all use suppressors on their rifles. the Scandinavians also use suppressors. There is nothing evil about them.

Lee Lincoln wrote:
April 14, 2014

I'll be 71 years old shortly, and while living in Hicksville, NY as a child I use to ride my bike approximately 20 miles to Teddy Roosevelt's house. One day while walking around I noticed a small rifle leaning against the wall and I asked the Federal Officer if that thing on the end if the barrel was a 'Silencer'. He stated 'Yes'. I then asked why on a 22 caliber? He stated that his (Rooseverlt) nearest neighbor was approximately 3 miles away and he didn't want to disturb him with gun shots seeing how far noise can travel through the woods. He was just being respectful of his neighbors! Regards, Lee

Robert wrote:
April 14, 2014

What ever it takes to survive and keep your health is first on the agenda Tell the bureaucrat capitalists to go to hell. Teddy Roosevelt hunted with a silencer today the world is ****** by the scared capitalist that rule the world. US AMERICA STANDUP ALL YOU ARE DEAD

Chuck Henke wrote:
April 14, 2014

I agree with most of this response the one about deer taking flight is not accurate. I have watched deer out in a field with shooting all over and they don't run or move off. Sometimes when these deer are shot at not all run for cover.

Joe Texan wrote:
April 14, 2014

Typical of the quality of reporting from the Atlanta Urinal & Constipation.