Good afternoon decibel disciples and welcome to the latest installment of TFB’s Silencer Saturday brought to you by our friends at Yankee Hill Machine. Since we are on the topic of decibels and hearing protection and ATF interpretations today, I thought a discussion on silencer definitions would be timely. For those of you who believe that the U.S. Government defines a silencer by a noise reduction level, you might be surprised to learn that’s not the case at all. Let’s take a walk down firearm regulation memory lane towards modern day reality.
Silencer Definitions – Real Life Vs ATF Law
A few weeks ago we celebrated the 150th birthday of our founder – Hiram Percy Maxim. His work towards inventing a device to quite the report of a firearm also defined the legal terms we use to this day: Silencer or Muffler. Sure, suppressor is a more technically correct term, but legally, the United State Government only recognizes silencer or muffler as the correct terminology. Don’t believe me? Try and find the word suppressor on an ATF Form 4.
Silencer Definitions – They’re Firearms!
Despite having no barrel, receiver, trigger or chamber, silencers are legally firearms. From time to time I fantasize about silencers being uncontrolled accessories that are obtainable over the counter (and they should be, by the way). But the pessimist in me wonders that if they were not classified as firearms, would they have been banned into non-existence without the protection of the Second Amendment? That’s a lengthy digression for another Saturday.
Silencer Definitions – National Firearms Act (NFA) Of 1934
Great, we’ve established that silencers are legally firearms in the United States, but we haven’t actually defined the term silencer or muffler. And neither does the historic National Firearms Act of 1934.
Silencer Definitions – The Gun Control Act (GCA) Of 1968
Blasting ahead to 1968, the Gun Control Act also does nothing to actually define a silencer.
Silencer Definitions – Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA) Of 1986
In fact It wasn’t until 1986 that we started to see an actual definition for the term silencer, and that was only because gun owners faced yet more regulations. FOPA 1986 (a GCA amendment) is when silencer parts, like a single baffle, became silencers on their own. That’s right, a single piece of a silencer is regulated as much as a complete machinegun – manufacture a single baffle without an approved Form 1 or possessing a manufacturer’s license and you face the same criminal penalties as if you had built an entire machinegun.
The term “Firearm Silencer” or “Firearm Muffler” means any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for the use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler, any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication. 18 U.S.C § 921(a)(24) – Definitions – https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/921
However, “any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm” still leaves us with an open-ended determination. In fact, I could design a silencer that actually makes guns louder, but because it was intended to make a portable firearm quieter, it’s still legally a silencer. On the other hand, I could design a flash hider that drops 6-10 decibels from a measurement at the shooters ear, but because I intended it to be a flash hider, it may not legally be a silencer.
Two examples of our latest definition come to mind:
XM177 Flash Hider/Moderator
While the XM177 flash hider/moderator does not reduce the report of a firearm at all, the ATF still classifies and regulates it as a silencer.
Certain Muzzle Brakes:
On the other hand, some muzzle brakes contain parts used in silencers, but since they were never designed or intended to be used to reduced the report of a firearm, they remain unregulated.
There is no magic decibel reduction number that determines a device to be a silencer. Repeal the NFA.
Have a great week everyone and we’ll see you next weekend for TFB’s Silencer Saturday.
Cheapest Gun/Silencer Combo That Works: Taurus TX22 and CCI Quiet Ammo – TFBTV
Published on Sep 13, 2019
In this episode of TFBTV, Hop tests the Taurus TX22 suppressed, and tests multiple types of subsonic ammo to find the best suppressor load. CCI Quiet Semi-Auto may live up to the name, but is it the best choice for use with a suppressor? Let’s find out!
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