How does a Suppressor work?

Although Silencer is a common name for what is more accurately described  as a Suppressor, the first thing you should know is that it’s impossible to “silence” a firearm. Not that Hollywood has done the firearms community any favors with this than it has with any other portrayal of firearms. Here are a couple facts that can put suppressor performance into perspective:

Got that? So we are looking at a sound reduction range of 20-30%- making a gunshot about as loud as a lawn mower. That hardly warrants a label like ‘Silencer’ IMHO. So what are these devices like in real life and how do they work?

A suppressor has a few key components: 

  • Tube that contains the entire device
  • Barrel Attachment end (one end of the tube)- this could be a ratchet, spring retention assembly or simple standard machine threads  
  • Baffles or Baffle Core – a series of stages inside the tube that supress the gun’s report. This is where the magic science happens
  • EndCap- this is the other cap on the tube that projectiles exit


 Those key parts of a suppressor come together to work like this:

  • The suppressor is attached to the end of the barrel of the host firearm 

Now for a little background to help explain the next part:

When a shot breaks the explosion that propels the projectile through the barrel results in a blast of hot gases at high pressure that also exits the barrel of the firearm. This explosion is most of the "BANG" you hear. 
  • The projectile exits the end cap of the suppressor through the hole in the center. 
  • As the hot gasses pass through the end of the barrel and into the suppressor (which is a larger tube than the barrel and thus a lower pressure space)they get trapped into the baffles- you see the projectile is spinning from the barrel rifling and will continue on its trajectory through the center of the suppressor. However gasses -especially when under pressure- will flow wherever there is space.
  • That’s how baffles work- they work with the lower pressure space inside the suppressor tube to create dead-ends and spaces that trap the gasses resulting from gunpowder ignition. Trapping these gasses also traps SOME of the noise associated with cartridge ignition.
The photo at the very top of this post show some of the different baffle designs out there- yet all of them basically do the same thing. The photo below shows gasses traveling through a suppressor pretty well:
And for the money shot here is a slick video of a SilencerCo can on action via X-Ray :

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