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Suppressors vs. Silencers: Understanding the Terminology preview image
Jul 31 2023
9 min read

Suppressors vs. Silencers: Understanding the Terminology


Suppressors, also commonly known as silencers, are popular gun accessories that help reduce the noise and recoil of a gunshot. While the two terms may seem to suggest different products, they actually refer to the same thing. In this article, we’ll clarify the terminology, discuss their legal status, and delve into the pros and cons of these firearm accessories.

The goal here is to ensure you are confident in your decision-making process when deciding which suppressor or silencer is right for you. With years of experience in the firearm industry, I’m here to help guide you in the right direction.

So let’s get started and explore the essential aspects of suppressors vs. silencers and why understanding the terminology matters.

Overview of Suppressors and Silencers

suppressed 45 pistol
Photo credit: Creative Arms
Gun suppressors reduce the sound of gunshots by trapping and releasing expanding gasses, resulting in a quieter shooting experience.

Suppressors, also known as silencers, sometimes referred to as “cans” or “mufflers,” are cylindrical tubes that attach to the muzzle of a firearm.

They can reduce the sound of a gunshot by as much as 30-40 decibels, making it much more manageable for the shooter and those nearby.

Suppressors and silencers are becoming increasingly popular among hunters and recreational shooters who want to enjoy their shooting activities without inflicting pain or annoyance on nearby individuals.

You’ll often see suppressors and silencers used in professional shooting circles and even military scenarios, as they provide the shooter with a tactical advantage by reducing their sound signature and making them harder to detect.

Suppressors and silencers are legal in most states, though some states, like California, require a special permit or registration before owning one. It’s always best to check with your local laws on suppressor and silencer ownership before purchasing one.

Function of Suppressors: How They Work

psa 5.7 rock review with holosun 407k yhm suppressor and surefire light

Suppressors and silencers work by trapping and slowing down the expanding gas that is created when a bullet is discharged. This allows the noise of the gunshot to be dispersed over a longer period of time, resulting in a much quieter sound.

The most common type of suppressor or silencer is made up of an inner core surrounded by baffles that trap the gas and slow its expansion.

As you can see, suppressors and silencers are quite effective at reducing noise levels, but they do have some drawbacks. They can add additional weight to firearms, making them more difficult to maneuver or balance when shooting.

Key Functions of Suppressors and Silencers

Suppressors and silencers are two terms often used interchangeably to refer to devices designed to reduce the sound and flash of firearms. While there may seem to be differences between them, they actually refer to the same thing.

The differences in terminology stem from their historical usage and misconceptions about their function. To avoid confusion, we will use the terms suppressors and silencers synonymously in this section.


The primary purpose of suppressors and silencers is to reduce the sound of a firearm by decreasing the intensity of the sound waves produced when a bullet is fired. They can also help reduce the visible flash that is produced when a bullet is fired.

Suppressors and silencers are used in various settings, including military and law enforcement, for stealth and concealment, as well as by hunters and sports shooters to reduce the noise of their firearms and protect their hearing.


Silencers gif

Suppressors and silencers work by capturing and diverting the gases that are produced when a bullet is fired, which helps to reduce the sound of the gunshot.

They often use a combination of sound-absorbing materials and expansion chambers to reduce both the sound and the flash of the gunshot.

The sound-absorbing materials help to dissipate the sound waves produced when a bullet is fired, while the expansion chambers help to slow down and cool the gases that are produced, which reduces the visible flash.


In the United States, suppressors and silencers are regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and require a special license to own and use.

This license is obtained by paying a tax, submitting fingerprints and photographs, and undergoing a background check, which can take several months to complete.

Suppressors and silencers are legal to own and use in most states, although there are some states that have restrictions or outright bans on them.


Suppressors and silencers can reduce the sound of a gunshot by 20-40 decibels or more, which is enough to make shooting more comfortable and protect the shooter’s hearing.

However, this is not enough to make the gunshot silent. The effectiveness varies depending on the specific device and the firearm being used.

Size and Weight

Suppressors and silencers vary in terms of size and weight. Some models are smaller and lighter, while others are larger and heavier due to the additional sound-absorbing materials and expansion chambers needed to reduce both the sound and flash of the gunshot.

This can make certain models less practical for specific types of firearms, particularly those that need to be lightweight and easy to maneuver, such as handguns or rifles used for hunting.


Suppressors and silencers require maintenance to keep them functioning properly. This typically involves cleaning the device after use to remove any buildup of dirt, debris, or carbon residue.

Some models may require more maintenance due to their more complex design and the use of sound-absorbing materials that can become damaged or deteriorate over time. This can include regular cleaning, as well as replacing or repairing any damaged parts.


Suppressors and silencers are designed to be compatible with various types of firearms, including handguns, rifles, and shotguns. Some models may require additional modifications or adapters to be compatible with certain firearms, which can add to the cost and complexity of using them.


The cost of suppressors and silencers varies, typically ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the quality and features of the device. The cost is also influenced by the fact that they are regulated under the National Firearms Act and require a special license to own and use.

So while suppressors and silencers are often used interchangeably, it’s important to understand that they are synonymous terms referring to the same thing.

stag 15 pursuit pistol barrel with suppressor

Suppressor/Silencer Pros & Cons

  • Reduces noise pollution
  • Protects hearing
  • Improves accuracy
  • Reduces coil
  • Improves communication during shooting
  • Adds weight to the firearm
  • Can affect firearm balance
  • Can be expensive to purchase
  • May require additional paperwork or licensing
  • Can cause additional wear on the firearm

Environmental and Health Benefits of Suppressors/Silencers

Prolonged exposure to loud noises, such as gunshots, can cause permanent hearing damage. Using suppressors or silencers can significantly reduce the risk of hearing loss for both the shooter and those nearby by lowering the decibel levels of gunfire.

This helps promote safer shooting practices and protects the hearing of all individuals involved.

But there’s more than just hearing protection that you can benefit from. Let’s go over some of the other advantages of using these handy accessories.

Reduced Noise Pollution

Suppressors and silencers help decrease noise pollution in shooting ranges and hunting areas. This reduction in noise can have positive effects on local wildlife, as excessive noise can disrupt their natural behaviors and habitats.

Additionally, the lower noise levels can improve the relationships between shooting enthusiasts and nearby residents, who may be disturbed by loud gunfire.

Customization and Aesthetics

banish 45 suppressor on cz p10 best 9mm suppressor


Suppressors and silencers are available in various designs, materials, and finishes, allowing shooters to personalize their firearms to match their preferences. This customization can give a unique look and feel to the firearm, enhancing the overall shooting experience.

Improved Aesthetics

Some shooters may find that suppressors or silencers improve the overall appearance of their firearms. These devices can give a firearm a sleek, tactical look that is often associated with specialized military or law enforcement weaponry.

Training and Tactical Advantages

cmmg dissent with suppressor laying in snow

Improved Accuracy and Recoil Management

Suppressors and silencers can help reduce muzzle rise and recoil, allowing for better control and accuracy during shooting. This advantage is particularly beneficial for novice shooters looking to improve their shooting skills or experienced shooters seeking to maintain their precision.

Enhanced Communication

In group shooting scenarios, such as training exercises or hunting expeditions, the use of suppressors or silencers can improve communication among team members.

Reducing gunshot noise levels makes it considerably easier for individuals to communicate clearly and effectively without the need for shouting or using hand signals.

Stealth and Concealment

For tactical shooting or hunting, suppressors and silencers provide an added advantage of stealth and concealment.

Thanks to their ability to reduce both the sound and flash of a gunshot, these devices make it more challenging for adversaries or prey to detect the shooter’s location, giving the shooter a tactical edge.

By carefully considering these factors and understanding the practical implications, shooters can make a more informed decision about whether to invest in a suppressor or silencer for their firearm.

Other Alternatives to Consider

If you don’t want to purchase a suppressor/silencer, there are other options you can consider. Firing a gun in an enclosed area, such as a soundproof range, can help reduce the noise levels of your firearm.

Additionally, some firearms come with built-in noise reduction technology which is designed to dampen or deflect sound waves away from the shooter and bystanders. Lastly, using subsonic ammunition instead of standard ammo can also help minimize firearm noise levels.

It’s important to note that none of these alternatives will be as effective at reducing noise levels as suppressors/silencers—but they could be viable solutions if you’re on a budget or don’t want to invest in either type of sound suppression device.

Ultimately, the decision as to which type of noise reduction accessory is right for you will depend on your needs and preferences. Be sure to consider all the factors outlined above before making a final decision.


Is a silencer the same as a suppressor?

Yes, silencers and suppressors are merely two different ways to describe noise reduction accessories.
Such devices help reduce the sound levels of a firearm when fired. Depending on their design and construction materials, you can expect varying levels of noise reduction effectiveness.

Are silencers legal in the US?

Silencers are legal in many states in the US but are regulated by federal law under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and require a special tax stamp and registration.

Can all guns use silencers?

No, the firearm must have compatible threads on the barrel to attach the silencer, and some guns, such as revolvers, cannot use silencers due to the design of the cylinder.


Noise suppression accessories are a great way to reduce the loudness of a firearm when shooting. While suppressors and silencers both achieve this purpose, it is important to note that they are actually the same device, with the terms being used interchangeably.

Consider factors such as effectiveness, price, legal restrictions, and ease of use before deciding which noise reduction accessory is right for you. Additionally, take into account other aspects like environmental benefits, customization options, and potential tactical advantages that come with using suppressors or silencers.

Choosing the best suppressor or silencer for your needs is important, so make sure to do the necessary research and compare all the options available. By doing so, you will be better equipped to make an informed decision and enhance your shooting experience.

Brady Kirkpatrick photo Brady Kirkpatrick is the founder of, the #1 online gun search engine. Recognizing the challenges of finding the right firearm at the right price, Brady built a platform to simplify the process, comparing prices across hundreds of online dealers and providing valuable content from trustworthy bloggers. His commitment to user-centricity and innovation has shaped into a comprehensive resource for gun enthusiasts. In addition to Gun Made, Brady has also lent his firearm expertise to an array of renowned publications, such as The Truth About Guns, CrossBreed Holsters, Cheaper than Dirt, 19FortyFive, We Are The Mighty, and many others.


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