On the Accessories page, I briefly went over sound suppressors. This time will be more in depth.
A suppressor is the more accurate term for a silencer. This is an attachment that fits on the end of the barrel of a firearm and reduced the intensity of the sound.
It does not make the weapon silent.If you’ve never heard a gun fired in person, it’s hard to really appreciate how loud they can be. A large firecracker would be a fair estimate for a low powered handgun. A .22 pistol is actually pretty quiet, but a .44 Magnum is much louder than most fireworks you can get without a permit. Very few guns could be mistaken for a car backfiring.
What the silencer does is takes that loud BANG that makes your ears ring for hours, and reduces it to a loud thump, not much different from popping a balloon or hitting a pillow with a plastic baseball bat. Beating the dust out of a rug could also be a good estimate for the quieter ones.
That said, there are some suppressed weapons that reduce the sound so much that the only audible indication the gun has been fired is the click where the hammer falls. These are semi-automatic pistols chambered in 9mm, and referred to as “Hush Puppies.” Their intended purpose was the elimination of guard dogs.
Here would be a good time to note that most military weapons are not suppressed. Some police weapons might be, particularly if those weapons are used by SWAT teams or other groups that are normally involved in rapid entry into confined spaces.
Civilians MAY be able to own a suppressor, but it largely depends on where they live and the amount of paperwork they fill out.
That brings us to the other bit. Not all guns can fit a silencer. By default none can. For a gun to fit a silencer, the barrel must be machined to have threads on the outside, like a bolt. The silencer will then screw on. For most guns, this means getting a special barrel that is a little longer than normal and cutting threads into the outside of it. This will be an obvious modification to just about anyone familiar with guns in general.
Because the suppressor works by capturing gasses, the system must be closed to be effective. This limits the type of guns that make use of a silencer.
Single shot pistols of any type can use them. Most of these are likely to have many custom parts anyway. One example is the Remington XP-100 and all the various versions by other makers. This is basically a bolt action rifle with a short barrel in a pistol grip stock. Another is the Thompson Center Contender family, which uses a single shot break-action and is available in dozens of calibers from .22 long rifle, to 45-70 (which was a rifle used for buffalo in the old west).
Semi-automatics can also be used, but suffer some restrictions. For the weapon to function, there must be enough power to drive the slide back. This means it will be more of the baseball bat in the pillow sound than that quiet “puff” we hear on TV. To get the weapon actually quiet, it loses the ability to cycle automatically and becomes a single shot manual repeater.
A third option for a semi-auto pistol is to replace the standard recoil spring with a much lighter one that will allow the weapon to work quietly while still functioning. The problem here is that if the suppressor is not used, the weapon will be dangerous to the shooter.
With one nearly obsolete exception, a revolver cannot be effectively silenced. The gap between the cylinder and the barrel will leak enough gas to make it audible. I’m not sure how quiet one could be, but it will never be as silent as the semi-automatics and single shots.
Silencers on rifles is possible, but comes with a steep price. The bullet will end up dropping to a very slow speed right at the start. This will reduce range and power. The silencers will also need to be very large to be effective.