We’re still dreaming of the day when suppressor ownership is legal in all 50 states. Thankfully, great progress has been made in recent years and it is now legal to own a suppressor in 42 of the 50 states.
Making suppressed hunting legal in states where it is legal to own a suppressor has been equally taxing, but also very rewarding. To date, it’s legal to hunt with a suppressor in 41 states.
The most obvious benefit of hunting suppressed is safety, particularly when it comes to protecting your hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common affliction for hunters. A lot of this comes from hunters forgoing hearing protection year after year for their entire hunting career so that they can hear their surroundings. After all, hearing nature around you is one of the best parts of hunting.
A secondary benefit is that it protects the hearing of your hunting companions. There’s nothing better than sharing an elk hunt with your friends or family, but it can easily be tainted by the sound of an unsuppressed gunshot. Maybe it won’t bother them right away, but over time, it will.
Animals like varmints or predators will go into hiding when they hear a gunshot, so a suppressor is almost a necessity in these instances. Some game animals like deer or elk may completely avoid an area if they are alerted to gunshots. We have seen this firsthand with small game such as ground squirrels that go into hiding for hours after the sound of the first shot and on other occasions not changing a thing because we were shooting suppressed.
Along with not disturbing the game in a given hunting area, suppressors also let you avoid disturbing local residents. Remember, not all hunting is done in the vast majesty of elk country. It may be small in the grand scheme of things, but a decrease in noise complaints is a good thing for everyone.
In this guide, we’re going to dig into all things hunting with a suppressor, including why you need to have one on your next elk hunt.
WHY HUNT WITH A SUPPRESSOR?
As we mentioned, in addition to protecting your hearing, a suppressed firearm allows you to use your unencumbered ears to listen for elk bugling, communicate with fellow hunters, and avoid alerting predators. Quite simply, it allows you to be fully aware of your surroundings from a hearing perspective.
In 2015, Montana Governor Steve Bullock of Montana said it best in a letter to the Montana Speaker of the House, stating: “Suppressors mitigate the sound of a shot, but do not silence it. The use of suppressors for hunting, when hunters cannot wear ear protection because they need to be aware of their surroundings, can help protect against hearing loss. This is especially true for our younger hunters, even those who are not actually hunting but are accompanying their parents in the field.”
Hearing protection in the form of muffs or plugs is as effective but only while being worn. In the field, it is important to be aware of your surroundings, especially in bear, mountain lion, or rattlesnake country. The hunter can easily become the hunted without the situational awareness that hunting with a suppressed firearm offers.
BENEFITS OF HUNTING SUPPRESSED
In summary, suppressed hunting offers a number of benefits that you may have not considered. Here’s a list of those benefits:
- Protect your hearing
- Protect the hearing of others
- Maintain awareness of your surroundings
- Enjoy sounds of nature, like elk bugling
- Avoid disturbing other game
- Reduce noise complaints
- Reduce recoil
IS IT LEGAL TO HUNT WITH A SUPPRESSOR?
Suppressors are legal to own in 42 states. Only one of those 42 doesn’t allow hunting with a suppressor, and that’s Connecticut. So, if you’re a suppressor owner and a hunter in Connecticut, get in touch with your state legislators and let them know it’s time to join the other 41 suppressor legal states that also allow hunting. Hunters’ voices in the other states made the difference in the other states and they can make the difference in Connecticut, too.
WHAT CAN I HUNT WITH A SUPPRESSOR?
In terms of what you can hunt with a suppressor, the sky is virtually the limit so long as you’re in one of the 41 states where suppressed hunting is legal.
As with all types of hunting – suppressor or otherwise – it’s still a good idea to check with your state and local game laws every year to make sure that things haven’t changed.
Part of the thrill of elk hunting is the challenge. These majestic animals can give even the best and most experienced elk hunter a run for their money season after season. Therefore, any extra leg up you can get on them is welcomed when you’re out on the hunt.
Using a suppressor will keep your sound signature down so that you don’t disturb the rest of the herd when making your shot. This is especially important if, for some unfortunate reason or another, you miss your first shot. The less noise your rifle makes, the better chance you’ll have of getting off a second shot.
Since most elk hunting involves carrying all of your gear with you on the hunt, many hunters try to pack as simple and light as possible. This means that hearing protection often gets left behind. It’s not that a pair of electronic muffs are heavy; it’s simply that they’re one more piece of equipment to carry around. With a suppressor on the end of your barrel, you can protect your hearing without having to keep track of an extra piece of equipment.
Deer hunting is greatly enhanced when using your suppressor. This is because most rifle suppressors offer a reduction in recoil. You may not need a .300 Winchester Magnum for a whitetail deer on the east coast at 50 yards but in the western states, but mule deer are larger and often taken at greater distances. Therefore, a bigger caliber may be more beneficial. The same holds true for other game animals such bighorn sheep and caribou.
Even if you’re using a rifle with lighter recoil for whitetail deer and don’t need the recoil reduction, it’s still nice to have the reduced sound signature to protect your ears.
Whether you consider them to be varmints or predators, coyotes are some of the most intelligent and cagey animals to hunt. They recognize gunshots for what they are and even the youngest or most naïve of these creatures will keep a smart distance in spite of your best predator calls once they hear one. To sum it up, like their cartoon namesake, they are wily.
FERAL HOG HUNTING
Another animal with excellent hearing and one that knows the sound of gunshots for what they are is the feral hog. These animals have bred to out of control numbers in the wild and are a pestilence when it comes to agricultural, property, and other forms of damage. Suppressed hunting rifles are a necessity when taking out large numbers of them to protect crops and other things that they like to destroy.
Prairie dog and ground squirrel hunters often benefit the most from the use of a silenced hunting rifle while varmint hunting. Animals such as these are well aware of what gunfire means and a large group will retreat to their burrows until they no longer hear gunfire.
A suppressed hunting rifle will allow you to maximize your efforts when you need to take them out in a small amount of time. It will allow you to take shots at them for hours on end, if that’s your intent.
BEST SUPPRESSORS FOR HUNTING
There are a lot of suppressors designed with hunting in mind that all share the same characteristics. You want it to be quiet, but also lightweight. Versatility and the ability to share it among different host guns is always a plus. We took a quick overview of a few different centerfire suppressors.
If you want a suppressor that was purpose-built with hunting in mind, then the BANISH Backcountry is one you should give serious consideration. It only weighs 7.8 oz and is only 5.5” in overall length. It’s also rated for use all the way up to .300 Remington Ultra Mag (RUM), so no matter what your choice for elk hunting, the BANISH Backcountry can handle it. The goal is to pack in ounces and pack out pounds, and the Backcountry will help you do just that.
One of the most versatile suppressors in the world is the BANISH 30. A fully user-serviceable can, it works with all of your rifle calibers from .17 HMR to .300 Weatherby. Testing shows that BANISH 30 reduces the report of a .308 Winchester by as much as 34 decibels. It is made from a strong, titanium alloy for unmatched durability at an extremely light weight.
If you are looking for a suppressor that can handle pistol calibers such as .45 ACP as well as large rifle calibers such as .45-70 Government, give the BANISH 46 a look. Made of titanium and Inconel, the BANISH 46 provides the ultimate combination of durability and weight reduction. The BANISH 46 weighs only 16.3 oz in the short configuration of 7.9”, and 20.4 oz in its 10” configuration.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
As beneficial as suppressors are to the hunter, one would think that they would be easier to come by. Here are some frequently asked questions that may help you understand the buying process as well as their capabilities.
HOW QUIET ARE THEY, REALLY?
Actually measuring sound reduction with a suppressor can be tricky. We have all seen the various decibel rating charts, but they only tell a part of the story. The actual level of sound reduction and the sound meter, itself, can be affected by humidity, barometric pressure, altitude, and echo.
In general, hunting with a suppressor can lessen the sound of most gunshots by anywhere from 25 to 35 decibels, depending on the silencer and caliber in question. This is below the threshold for most hearing protection commonly worn in or over the ears. If you hunt with dogs, it protects their hearing as well.
The other item of note here is that the vast majority of elk hunting rifles (bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, single-shot) make the best suppressor hosts because the sealed action means there is no gas leakage. A silenced elk hunting rifle will truly live up to its name in this regard.
HOW DO I BUY A SILENCER WITH SILENCER CENTRAL?
Silencer Central takes the formalities out of the paperwork with our digital process. You select the right suppressor for your firearm and let our expert compliance staff handle the paperwork which is emailed to you to digitally sign. With the fingerprint kit, taking your prints and passport-style photo can be accomplished from the privacy of your own home. To make it even easier, we offer a 4-month, eZ-Pay option so you can pay for your silencer in installments. Our free NFA Gun Trust (a $249 value) is set up for you to better protect the ownership of what is really a lifetime investment. Once approved, you receive notification via email and text message, and we ship the silencer directly to your doorstep.
Additionally, we realize that not all hunting rifles ship from the factory with threaded barrels to attach to your silencer. Silencer Central’s in-house machine shop can thread your rifle for you and ship the barrel straight back to your house.
In addition to stocking popular brands, we also offer BANISH multi-caliber suppressors, a 100% titanium and user-serviceable line exclusively built to our demanding specifications.
SHOULD I PURCHASE A SILENCER USING AN NFA GUN TRUST?
At one time, it seemed like purchasing a suppressor by means of using an NFA Trust was the only way to go. This was mainly to avoid wait times from local law enforcement, obtaining fingerprints, photos and, in some extreme cases, chief local law enforcement figures would flat out refuse to sign any NFA paperwork. Much of this is no longer an issue due to an ATF ruling a few years ago that stated the CLEO only needed to be notified of silencer purchases.
However, an NFA gun trust is not a bad thing to have for estate planning purposes, particularly if firearms and silencers are involved.
HOW LONG ARE WAIT TIMES?
Perhaps the biggest drawback to buying a suppressor is the long wait time to go through the FBI background check. The background check is not long in and of itself, but the time it takes for the application to complete the entire ATF approval process is definitely longer.
At times, trusts can be quicker than individuals but at other times this dynamic can change. E-forms filed online are quicker than paper forms filed by mail. Over the years, we have seen approval times as short as 9 days and as long as 27 months. As of this writing, suppressor approval wait times are running about 270 days.
DO SUPPRESSORS AFFECT PERFORMANCE OR ACCURACY?
This is a bit of a mixed bag. In general, suppressors improve performance and accuracy. The right suppressor will lessen felt recoil and eliminate noise flinch, making your silenced hunting rifle more accurate.
However, attaching a suppressor will often change the rifle’s Point of Impact (POI). Often this shift in POI is minimal and can be corrected by adjusting the optic or iron sights. The important thing to remember is that if you sight your rifle in without a suppressor, you will need to re-zero with the suppressor attached.
Some suppressors will need this every time you reattach if they are the QD (Quick Detach) type that attaches to a flash suppressor or muzzle brake. If you are going the direct thread or thread over muzzle brake (TOMB) route, the shift will be negligible unless you are shooting at extremely long ranges ( greater than 1,000 yards).
WHY IS THERE A $200 TAX STAMP?
In 1934, due to concerns about high-profile bank robberies and interstate crime sprees from Depression-era criminals, Congress passed the National Firearms Act. This was the first major piece of gun control legislation passed in the United States.
Although the original intent was to outlaw specific types of firearms, including all handguns, legislators decided to tax them out of circulation by imposing a $200 transfer tax.
The reason why the NFA tax is $200 is because that was the retail price of a Thompson submachine gun in 1934. It was intended to be a 100% excise tax on a firearm that caught the public’s imagination. When adjusted for inflation, that tax today would be $4,500. This is a reason why silencer development languished for so many years until the 21st century.
Products affected by this tax were machine guns, short-barreled rifles (SBR), short-barreled shotguns (SBS), and, of course, suppressors. Firearms that were not quite short-barreled long arms and those that were disguised to not look like a firearm were classified as Any Other Weapon (AOW) and subject to a $3 tax.
The NFA has undergone some minor changes over the past nine decades, including raising the AOW tax from $3 to $5 and changing the SBR length from 18” to 16”. There have been a few attempts by lawmakers to deregulate silencers and remove them from the purview of the NFA, but as of this writing, there is still a $200 tax on this safety device.
READY FOR YOUR FIRST SUPPRESSED ELK HUNT?
Hopefully, by now you have a better understanding of what to look for in a suppressor for hunting. Weight and length are a factor especially if you must walk a few miles on your first suppressed hunt. You also want one that will reduce sound to a comfortable level and maybe even help in the recoil department.
Armed with the knowledge laid out here we hope we can get you ready for that first suppressed hunt. A suppressor is as important to a hunter as a quality firearm, skinning knife, or optic.
The key to having a great hunt is to do your research, hire experts and guides. Let Silencer Central be your suppressor “hunting guide” and redefine the way you buy a silencer. We deliver silencers the simple way. You select your silencer; we manage your paperwork, and your silencer is shipped directly to your doorstep. It’s the service that’s unheard of.
Call our silencer specialists at 888-781-8778 to get started on your next suppressor purchase or visit SilencerCentral.com to buy online.