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Silence is Golden: SIG Sauer Silencer Review

by Patrick Sweeney   |  September 23rd, 2013 6

I recently left Gun Abuse Central on a secret mission: to find out what was new and exciting at SIG Sauer. I fully expected to see new handguns and perhaps handle a few Stoner-based rifles. But what I found was even more interesting: suppressors.

Despite the Hollywood hysteria, suppressors are not verboten, not invariably used by contract assassins and drug dealers, and not a signal to others at the gun club that you have succumbed to the alien radio signals being transmitted directly into your brain. They are, in fact, legal to own and use in 39 states, and nearly 30 allow you to hunt or control vermin while using a suppressor.

Ear-Friendly fun
The market has been growing, and why not? In a world where a transferable machine gun costs more than a brand-new car, a suppressor is a bargain when it comes to fun. We are all subject to the stress of noise. If we can save our hearing and decrease the auditory impact of our ranges on the neighbors, we would be silly not to. For once, Europe is a good example here, where it is considered bad manners in many places not to have a suppressor on your rifle.
Look, I shoot for a living. I am often “plugged and muffed” on the line, wearing all the protection I can get. When I’m on a covered firing line, shared with multiple rifleshooters, I wish we all had silencers on our rifles to save our collective hearing. You can buy better glasses, arch supports and knee braces, but once any part of your hearing is gone, it is gone.
Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s get some terminology out of the way. The current vogue is to call the can on the end of your muzzle a “suppressor” and not a “silencer.” However, SIG Sauer takes the opposite tack. In the words of Ron Cohen, company CEO, “That’s what Hiram Percy Maxim called it, and that’s what all the federal statutes and paperwork call it. So that’s what we call it — a silencer.”

So that’s how I found myself on the range, left to my own devices with the current range of SIG Sauer-made silencers, the firearms on which they fit and a pile of ammo. I felt like a kid in a candy store. However, I did notice one detail. Whoever had pulled firearms out of the vault for me to test had grabbed semiautos only, save one — no doubt in the interests of preserving the company ammo supply. Because they were not worried about silencer longevity. More on that in a bit.

Different-Caliber Cans
The silencers on hand were a handgun can, a rifle/handgun rimfire can and two rifle silencers — one for 5.56 and the other for .30 caliber. Let’s start with the rimfire silencer, which can be used on handguns or rifles.

With an aluminum tube, high nickel-content baffles and hardened stainless steel endcaps, the .22LR silencer is light, if a bit bulky. If you are already a silencer user and accustomed to ultra-compact rimfire silencers, the size of the SIG rimfire silencer might seem a bit much. It is, however, lightweight, and the size is for a reason. More volume means greater sound decrease, and rimfire silencers get gunked up quickly and need regular cleaning. A bigger can is easier to disassemble and scrub clean. The handgun I was provided with was a very cool P220, fitted with a .22 Long Rifle conversion upper. Despite the size, the P220 never failed to function properly. The rimfire silencer will come with a disassembly tool, but I found that when I assembled it hand-tight, it stayed tight but could still be hand-disassembled. Well, I could take it apart by hand, but after I had done so I couldn’t handle my camera due to the gunk all over my hands. And just to make sure you can’t say no, the .22 silencer can be had with one (or all) of three different thread pitch backplates.

The 9mm silencer is also an aluminum tube, with high-nickel-alloy stainless baffles and hardened stainless end caps, but it is not meant to be disassembled. It is not recommend, nor does the company feel it needs it. The 9mm silencer was actually a bit smaller than the .22, but with the right ammo it is still ear-safe. Part of the 9mm ear-safe function is that it is designed to be run wet. A wet silencer is one that you add some liquid or gel to to increase its efficiency at dampening sound. You can run it dry, but it just won’t be quite as quiet. And if you start wet and keep shooting past having used up all the liquid or gel, it’ll still work; it will just have a few more decibels than if you stopped and gooped it again. Like its little/big brother, the 9mm suppressor can be had in two different thread-mount pitches. The 9mm silencer came on a P226 SAO, the new single-action SIG Sauer based on the proven P226.

In terms of noise reduction, incidentally, the 9mm silencer is rated at 128 to 132 decibels with 147-grain subsonic ammo. The .22 version is rated at 114 to 116 decibels with standard-velocity Long Rifle ammo.

The two rifle silencers were something else entirely. Made of steel, with high-nickel-alloy stainless on the inside, they are welded and sealed, never to be disassembled. They are also stepped, and the reason for that is simple. SIG Sauer had an end-user who wanted to fit the back end of the silencers under a free-float handguard, but wanted maximum efficiency. The step fits under common free-float handguards.

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