March 26, 2021
Suppressors are one of those accessories that don’t get the attention they deserve. There is some additional paperwork to own one, and the wait turns a lot of prospective customers away. But the performance and safety benefits are worth it.
Hearing damage, once done, cannot be reversed, and the effects are cumulative. The older I get, the less interest I have in shooting a firearm lacking a suppressor because I’ve begun to experience the effects of hearing loss, albeit mostly from my time spent overseas in the military. Suppressors also make shooting more enjoyable by eliminating muzzle blast, which can result in as much misery as recoil.
However, a suppressor also represents an investment in time and money. The ATF paperwork and wait times make them difficult to sell later, so buying a suppressor is a commitment, often for life. The question then becomes, “Which suppressor to buy?” In my opinion, SilencerCo’s new Omega 36M is the best answer when the customer desires one suppressor that can support many firearms.
The Omega 36M is a balanced suppressor that achieves the ideal blend of strength and weight for its construction, and offers a modular design that allows the shooter to attach just enough suppressor for the job at hand. The materials found in the Omega 36M include Cobalt 6, Inconel, 17 4 stainless steel and titanium.
Cobalt 6 is an expensive alloy to make, but it is supremely durable when exposed to heat, pressure and the effects of erosion. Those reasons are why SilencerCo selected it to be the first baffle in the Omega 36M’s stack, or the baffle that sits closest to the muzzle.
When a bullet leaves the muzzle, the gasses are at the highest pressure that the suppressor will encounter and, with that pressure, comes small bits of unburned powder. The pressure and unburned powder act like a sandblaster, and the first baffle in the stack absorbs the brunt of that abuse. No material endures the abuse better than Cobalt 6.
Every baffle after the blast baffle is made from Inconel, another exotic alloy that comes to us from the space industry. Those old enough to remember the space shuttle will likely remember the engines and cone shaped nozzles at the back. Much of those parts were made from Inconel 718.
Inconel also handles a suppressor’s heat and pressure well. In fact, the suppressor issued to the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) for more than a decade is made almost entirely of Inconel. Inconel also has the advantage of being manufacturing friendly. It doesn’t crack when shaped into baffles and allows SilencerCo to produce a premium and consistent baffle that offers a lifetime of service.
The spacers between each baffle are made from 17 4 stainless steel. This material is lighter than Inconel, and almost as durable. It’s used in a position where it doesn’t take any abuse to capitalize on the weight savings advantage.
Lastly, a titanium sleeve is precision welded over the baffle stack. Titanium is a light material and it adds a lot of hoop strength to the suppressor, ensuring it can pass off any abuse a firearm can create (aside from a belt fed machine gun).
As much as SilencerCo’s material selection mattered while engineering the Omega 36M, the modularity is where the magic will happen for many of us. There are so many options on how to mount a 36M, and what platform it can be mounted on, that it’s easier to think in terms of categories.
The quick explanation is that the 36M can attach to any handgun with a properly threaded barrel with a 9mm size bore or smaller. It also attaches to any threaded barrel rifle with a .35 caliber bore or smaller. The user also has the option of running it as short as 5.1 inches or as long as 7.65 inches. The longer a suppressor, the quieter it becomes. When testing the Omega 36M, I used firearms ranging from a 9mm pistol up to a bolt action .338 Lapua Magnum, and it handled each platform without issue.
The 36M’s threaded blast chamber accepts various muzzle devices or can be attached by direct thread. The threads are SilencerCo’s “Charlie” pattern, so choosing from the Charlie Direct Thread Mount, Charlie ASR Mount, Charlie 3 Lug Mount, or the Charlie Piston Mount is the first step. The piston mount attaches the 36M to a pistol, and the three lug mount adapts it to a pistol caliber carbine (PCC). (Rifles generate enough heat to anneal the spring in a three lug mount, so don’t put one on a rifle.)
The Charlie Direct
Thread and Charlie ASR Mount work for attaching the 36M to a rifle. The direct thread mounts allow the 36M to fit everything from the most common U.S. thread pitches, to several metric thread pitches, as well. The ASR Mount works with muzzlebrakes and flash hiders.
The ability to assemble the 36M in both long and short configurations is a level of customization that is becoming increasingly popular. When used on lever or bolt action rifles, the shorter configuration helps to keep the rifle portable, while the longer configuration reduces noise. This means the owner can use the longer suppressor for a relaxing day at the range and then use the shorter version on the next hunt.
When mounting the 36M on a semiautomatic rifle such as an AR 15, the shorter suppressor is quieter at the shooter’s ear than the longer version. How? The longer version does a better job of reducing noise at the muzzle, but the additional backpressure pushes more gas out of the ejection port and makes it louder at the shooter’s ear.
The Omega 36M is designed to be equally functional on both semiautomatic and bolt action rifles, which was not as easy to engineer as you might think. A suppressor designed for a bolt action rifle will have a small expansion chamber (i.e., the area inside the suppressor between the rifle’s muzzle and the first, or “blast,” baffle). That same suppressor will also have baffles spaced throughout the suppressor to disrupt as much gas as possible. This makes for a quiet suppressor.
However, a suppressor designed like the one described above also generates a lot of backpressure, meaning that gas is forced back down the barrel towards the receiver. Instead of the pressure inside the barrel dropping to zero when the bullet leaves the muzzle, pressure remains and escapes with the cycling of the bolt on most semiautomatic rifles. (This is why ammunition in the magazine gets so dirty when firing a semiauto rifle with a suppressor attached.)
The fix for semiauto rifles is to make a bigger expansion chamber and use fewer baffles in the suppressor. The suppressor won’t be as quiet, but it’ll do a better job of keeping backpressure reasonable. Backpressure on a direct impingement rifle has the added negative effect of increasing bolt speed when the rifle cycles. Too much bolt speed and the rifle will malfunction.
SilencerCo went through this delicate balancing act several years ago when they designed the Omega 300, the world’s most ubiquitous suppressor. No single suppressor has sold as many units as the Omega 300 ($1,130). A big reason why the Omega 300 is so popular is for its ability to provide great performance on both bolt action and semiautomatic rifles.
The Omega 36M capitalizes on the Omega 300’s performance but adds modularity. If you pulled the baffle stack out of an Omega 300 and an Omega 36M, they would look almost identical. Both use Cobalt 6 and Stellite for the blast baffle and then use Inconel and 17 4 stainless steel for the remaining baffles. The number and spacing of the two baffle stacks are similar.
The difference is the Omega 36M consists of two suppressor sections that thread together, and the bore is opened up to .36 caliber. Additionally, the 36M’s titanium outer tube is welded in place instead of glued and threaded.
Test Data & Analysis
I made the trip to visit SilencerCo’s facility in West Valley City, Utah, to compare the Omega 36M against some of their older and more established suppressors. The performance table documents my results. The numbers show just how modular the Omega 36M is and how shooters can use that modularity to tailor the 36M to their intended application. The data from the 16 inch direct impingement AR 15 best illustrates this.
SilencerCo lists the Omega 36M performance in the short configuration as metering 139.9 decibels at the muzzle and 141.6 decibels at the shooter’s ear. I did the same indoor test on the same equipment with the same rifle, suppressor and ammunition. My results measured 137.6 decibels at the muzzle and 145.4 decibels at the shooter’s ear. The only difference was that SilencerCo used the .36 caliber endcap that ships on the suppressor, while my test used a .22 caliber endcap that can be purchased from SilencerCo as an accessory.
The smaller aperture on the endcap does a better job of trapping the gas in the suppressor and quieting things down at the muzzle. However, that gas has to go somewhere, so more of it exits the ejection port and generates more noise at the shooter’s ear. If I was going to shoot the 36M on an AR 15, I’d use the .36 caliber endcap because I want it as quiet as possible at my ear and don’t care as much about noise at the muzzle. For maximum suppression at the muzzle, the .22 caliber endcap would be the top choice. Either way, the 36M gives you the option to decide.
The Omega 36M was Guns & Ammo’s 2020 Suppressor of the Year, and for good reason. No other suppressor on the market can hush more firearms with as many customizable configurations than Omega 36M. It has modular attachment methods, two length configurations, and endcaps to fit most calibers. The so called “one and done” solution is this.
Enjoy articles like this?
Subscribe to the magazine.
Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine