Supressors Current State of the Technology – Part 5

  • In Part 4 of this series of articles, I dealt with some of the salient points of pistol caliber suppressors. I addressed mounting options and the recoil booster or LID.In this segment of the series, I’ll list a number of companies that have done pioneering work in the industry. All of these companies are small businesses that achieved success through innovation and perspiration. All of them, with some exceptions, began life in a garage or a tiny shop. Regrettably, they’re not global competitors because of restrictive ITAR regulations and business constraints outside their control. Their products are exceptional and their customer service world-class. You will hear them bashing each other’s products from time to time but that’s the entrepreneurial spirit; its effect has been an industry wide improvement in fabrication and materials.

    It’s impractical, if not impossible, for me to list every suppressor manufacturer in the United States – they seem to be springing up everywhere- and my objective is to provide the reader with only a survey, not a directory of manufacturers.

    I’m also omitting EU designers and manufacturers – and there are many excellent suppressors made in the EU.

    I had a difficult time coming up with this list because there is no reliable source of market share and financial strength data; any claim of market position by the companies is not authoritative, and needs to be taken with a grain of salt. So, my criterion is subjective at best and reflects my opinion, and my opinion alone. The only systematic approach that I could take is to order the selected companies by longevity.

    If I have offended someone by omitting your company or product, take two aspirin and call me in the morning. Rest assured that my decision is driven by practical constraints and does not make a negative statement of your product or company.

    Before getting into the list, I’d like to deal with a topic that will come out in my survey, the concept of sound measurements and the decibel or db.

    When dealing with point sources of sound pressure – such as the muzzle blast of a weapon – we measure sound pressure in decibels or db (SPL). Saying that a sound is 130db is a meaningless statement when dealing with a point source acoustic impulse, so sound levels should always be presented as ndb (SPL), for example 85dbSPL.

    Individuals designing transducers, for acoustic reproduction, describe the transducer efficiency using a 1000HZ square wave at 1mw of power. In reading their specifications you’ll see that the transducer produced 80dbSPL or 85dbSPL, for example, so it follows that the transducer producing the higher ndb (SPL) is the more efficient, given the reference signal.

    The next thing that I’d like to do is give you a feel for what a decibel is without getting into a mathematical treatise. A decibel is always referenced to a 1 milli-watt and it is a logarithmic scale and not linear. The example below should help you visualize the decibel

    If I inject a 1milli-watt 2000Hz signal into a black box and I measure a .5 milli-watt 2000Hz signal on the output side of the black box, the black box has provided 3db of attenuation. If I then apply the .5mw 2000Hz output to the input side of the black box, my output will be .25 milli-watts, and we say that the original signal has been attenuated by 6db.

    A good rule of thumb to have in the back of your head is that every 3db of attenuation approximately halves the power. On the other hand, if I measure the output at 2 milli-watts 2000Hz then the box has provided a 3db gain.

    Saying that a suppressor provides 130db of attenuation is not a story that tells the entire tale. Variability in ammunition from lot-to-lot and round-to-round accounts for errors and I’ve yet to see suppressor specifications published as 130 ± xdb of attenuation. In fact, most measurements are made with less than 1o data points, so take published measurements with a grain of salt.

    I believe that all suppressor sound signature attenuation level measurements should be taken in an anechoic chamber and the data should be stated as follows:


    Unsuppressed: ndB (SPL)

    Suppressed: ndB (SPL)

    Attenuation: n ± x dB

    Data points: y

    Under no circumstance should attenuation values be your sole deciding criteria. Remember that a sound pressure meter is not the human ear, and the human ear is very sensitive to frequency and phasing. The point that I’m making is that shifting the phase of an acoustic wave may have a greater impact on our ability to detect the noise source than its amplitude.

    The last point that I’d like to make is that many suppressor manufactures do not like discussing sound signature attenuation referenced in dB; their reluctance to quote dB of attenuation should not be a disqualifier.

    With all of the above behind us, the table below represents my choices of top producers.

    Company Began Life Notes WEB Site
    Knight’s Armament 1982
    AWC Systems Technology 1983
    Ops Inc 1988
    Gemtech 1993
    SWR 1994
    AAC 1999 Made suppressors a commercial success
    Surefire 2003
    Yankee Hill Machine Co., Inc  2005


    In the weeks to come, I will Blog about each of these companies and their products.

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