Silencer Central: Suppressor Buying Simplified
Suppressors protect our ears from the dangerous high-frequency sound waves that are an unfortunate natural byproduct of firearm use. They’re the most effective flash hiders on the market. They make a shot far less likely to spook a hunter’s quarry. They cut felt recoil considerably. They can often even make your gun more accurate.
Not to put too fine of a point on it, but silencers are awesome, and the fact that our government intentionally discourages their ownership and use by way of an onerous application process and what amounts to a $200 sin tax is an absolute travesty.
Yet despite all these benefits—and the best efforts of their manufacturers, the American Suppressor Association and publications such as this one—silencers are still the segment of the firearm industry most shrouded in mystery and misinformation. To this day, every single article I’ve ever written within the realm of suppressors has elicited well-meaning, but ignorant, comments from readers along the lines of, “Why are you running this? Don’t you know that suppressors are illegal?”
No, in actuality, they’re now lawful to own in 42 states (basically all but the vehemently anti-freedom ones that you’d expect to be holdouts), and are permitted for use while hunting in all but two of those.
Under the current system, three impediments to suppressor ownership exist—the $200 tax stamp, the long wait (sometimes in excess of a year) while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) processes the transfer, and the complicated procedure itself that falls under the National Firearms Act (NFA).
But Silencer Central, a South Dakota-based suppressor manufacturer and dealer, is doing its best to remove that latter obstacle by demystifying the process and making the ordeal simpler and less labor-intensive. Just select the right suppressor for your needs, trust Silencer Central to handle the paperwork and then wait for the “can” to be delivered right to your door.
Brandon Maddox, a pharmacist who truly fell in love with hunting after experiencing the difference that a silencer makes in the field, founded the company as South Dakota Silencer back in 2005 after his own poor suppressor-buying experience convinced him to pioneer a better way. So seemingly daunting was the process that his local gun store actually tried to talk him out of the sale because its staff didn’t want to bother with their end of the necessary paperwork.
Maddox immediately began the task of getting his own license, and committed himself to becoming an expert in the patchwork of state and federal regulations that unfortunately governs suppressor ownership, while also constantly staying breast of evolving ATF interpretations.
He started small, mostly working local gun shows, but the business has steadily grown through the years, to the point that its sphere of operations has now expanded to the national level, a reality that prompted a name change—to Silencer Central—in August of 2019. Today, the 75-employee company is federally licensed to sell suppressors in all 42 states where their use is legally permitted.
Its website offers not only the manufacturer’s own Banish line of silencers, but other makers’ products as well. And while many rifle models these days come threaded from the factory for compatibility with a suppressor, for those that aren’t, Silencer Central’s in-house machine shop can thread your muzzle for you and then ship the barrel straight back to your house for the very reasonable price of $80 ($100 if you also want a quality thread protector included).
Here’s how suppressor buying typically works: You do the research and determine what you need, then you visit a local Class 3 dealer (not all FFLs can sell or transfer NFA items) to discuss what makes and models it is able to get shipped in that meet those requirements. Once you decide on a specific silencer, you will begin the requisite paperwork, and will likely have to pay completely for the can, the tax stamp, the dealer’s transfer fee and sales tax for the purchase, all up front.
But before you can take custody of your silencer, the transfer must be approved by, and the suppressor’s serial number must be registered with, the federal government—a wait that, once submitted, varies according to ATF’s current workload from a couple months to nearly two years. Until this approval comes, “your” suppressor will reside with the dealer.
You can choose to transfer the title of the suppressor to yourself as an individual, you can form a trust and transfer the silencer to that trust or you can transfer it to a legal entity, such as a corporation. There are benefits to each path, and the process varies a bit depending on your choice. Although some of the advantages offered by a trust were rendered moot by the enactment of ATF Final Rule 41F in July of 2016, most of the experts in firearm law I’ve spoken with still favor their use.
This is because trusts allow for shared possession of the suppressor in question, they avoid the tax requirements of transferring through a corporation and they tend to expedite the approval process. Also, if you register the can to yourself as an individual, in the unfortunate event of your death, survivors will have to jump through some extra hoops to be able to transfer it out of your name—not so with a trust that can have multiple trustees.
Just be aware that should you choose to go this route, while legal services exist that will happily craft the trust documentation for your use, you can expect to pay an additional $100 or more for the convenience.
Regardless of your decision, the forms are a confusing pain, and you’re going to be providing passport photos and fingerprint cards to ATF. Also, your local chief law enforcement officer will need to be notified of your pending purchase.
Unless you’ve really planned ahead, this likely means that you will have to leave the dealer, complete those tasks and the required forms, and then return at a later date for final submittal of your packet—and the clock doesn’t start ticking until this is all completed and is in ATF’s hands. Months later, once your Form 4 is approved, your dealer will notify you, and after one last trip to the FFL, you can finally take your suppressor home.
Now, for comparison, here’s the difference that Silencer Central makes: First, you call the company and discuss suppressor options with a sales associate until you decide on the right model. This employee takes your information and enters it into the system. You can also buy directly online.
Company software creates personalized ATF paperwork for you, and a state-specific gun trust comes free with every suppressor purchased through Silencer Central. The paperwork is then sent to you, either digitally via DocuSign or by hardcopy through the mail, for your signature. Ink and a set of fingerprint cards is mailed to your residence, as are instructions on how to take a passport picture using your cell phone—so both of these steps can be accomplished from the privacy of your own home.
You then send the fingerprints and paperwork back to Silencer Central in a pre-addressed envelope supplied by the company, and email your photo to the sales associate. Once received, your fingerprints and photographs are scanned into the system and saved for use with future purchases—so you’ll never need to repeat those steps—and you are notified by email (and SMS) that your packet has been received. Prior to submittal, your completed paperwork is reviewed by Silencer Central’s compliance team, and then emailed to you, along with your NFA gun trust.
Silencer Central then submits your application and notifies state law enforcement of the transfer for you, and not only provides monthly updates on your status, but also ATF’s email address and phone number so you can check on the progress of your application yourself. If approval takes longer than is the current norm, the system flags it and a representative contacts ATF for an explanation.
Once approval has been received, you are notified, and final documentation is sent for your signature—upon receipt of which your suppressor is shipped straight to your front door. So well-oiled is the procedure that—once the company has your fingerprints and picture on file—the staff can often submit a packet on the same day that the customer places the order. And while having an email address and/or a camera-capable cell phone will certainly help accelerate the process, neither is necessary to complete a Silencer Central order.
Ultimately, your wait time isn’t too much shorter, and you’re still out the cost of a tax stamp, but by using Silencer Central to purchase a suppressor, your leg work is reduced to virtually nothing—as is your stress level—and you get a free trust to boot.
Further sweetening Silencer Central’s process is its interest-free installment plan that allows patrons to split the cost into four equal payments—meaning you’re not left empty-handed, and out the entire cost of the suppressor, for a year or so while the wheels of government slowly turn.
Sure, its process is a major step forward, but how is Silencer Central’s product? Five models currently populate the manufacturer’s Banish line, and they address most of the suppressor industry’s most popular segments—a .22-cal. rimfire, a .223-cal. center-fire, two .30-cal. rifle cans (one direct-thread and one quick-detach) and a .45-cal. pistol silencer. I worked with Maddox to get a Banish 30—the company’s .30-cal., direct-thread rifle model—sent in to NRA Headquarters for testing and evaluation.
The concept by which a suppressor functions is actually quite simple: Following the ignition of a cartridge, the resulting propellant gases are moving exceedingly quickly, at incredibly high temperatures, and they exit the firearm’s muzzle all at once.
A suppressor provides an additional chamber in which the gas can expand, allowing it to both cool and slow down somewhat before it reaches the open air—an effect that is amplified by a series of successive baffles within the silencer that disrupt the flow of the gas as much as is possible before it exits. Since the human ear is only sensitive enough to interpret a gunshot as a single, loud impulse, lengthening the duration of that sound reduces its peak intensity and, by extension, the damage it can cause to the relatively fragile structures of the ear.
American Rifleman’s protocol for evaluating the effectiveness of a suppressor requires the use of a sound meter, in this case a Larson Davis LxT1, to measure the average volume (in dBs) of a five-shot group through the silencer at two points—2 ft. from the muzzle of the firearm and 6″ from the shooter’s ear.
The procedure is then repeated through the unsuppressed host firearm (using either the gun’s bare muzzle or the included quick-detach mount, depending on the design of the specific silencer being evaluated) in order to establish a baseline by which we can determine just how much sound suppression is occurring. Between each shot fired there is a three-minute cooldown period, and, whenever possible, both a subsonic and a supersonic load is tested through the suppressor.
The Banish 30 in its entirety, from its body tube and its baffles to its mount and its end cap, is composed wholly of titanium (as is the majority of the Banish line)—and, as a result, it weighs considerably less than most suppressors of similar size. It’s a modular design that employs eight baffles in its full 9″, 13.1-oz. configuration, and six baffles in an abbreviated 7″, 10.8-oz. mode.
The only real downside to suppressors is that the added weight, affixed as far forward on the gun as is physically possible, can render the host firearm unwieldy, but the Banish 30’s all-titanium construction largely mitigates that issue—particularly in its more compact layout. It measures 1.5″ in diameter, and its direct-thread mount is threaded 5/8×24 TPI, the industry standard for .30-cal. firearms.
In my experience, the vast majority of .30-cal. suppressors on the market top out at a maximum cartridge rating of .300 Win. Mag.—but the Banish 30 is rated all the way up to .300 Wby. Mag. As Weatherby’s .30-cal. magnum generates a couple hundred extra foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle compared to Winchester’s, this makes the Banish 30 just a bit heartier and more versatile than most of its competition. It is rated for limited full-automatic use with .22 Long Rifle, .223 Rem. and .308 Win.—the “limited” basically just meaning no belt-feds.
Silencer Central recommends re-tightening the Banish 30 onto the firearm’s muzzle threads after every 30 rounds fired, and I personally check after about every five discharges. But use caution; if firing supersonic ammunition, the suppressor will very likely be scaldingly hot by the end of a range session—as capturing the searing gases caused by ignition is kind of the whole point of a can.
Rare among center-fire rifle silencers, the Banish 30 is fully user-serviceable, and disassembly of the can just requires the use of an included Torx wrench and tool key to loosen and twist off the end cap. At this point, the two extension baffles can be removed from the front of the unit, and unscrewing the extension tube by hand frees up the remaining six baffles for removal.
There is no designated blast baffle—the one positioned first in the sequence and thus the one that sustains the largest blast of heat and pressure—and the Banish 30’s ability to be fieldstripped allows users to rotate the baffle order, potentially spreading the wear around and extending the suppressor’s service life.
Another perk of the Banish 30’s ability to be fieldstripped is its potential compatibility with rimfire ammunition, which is generally so dirty that its use in a suppressor requires frequent cleanings—something that can’t typically be done to sealed rifle cans. Yes, .22 Long Rifle-chambered firearms with 5/8×24 TPI barrels are few and far between, but the capability is there nonetheless, and adapters from 5/8×24 to 1/2×28 TPI are available.
Our testing protocol for center-fire rifle suppressors doesn’t include a cleaning requirement like our rimfire protocol does, (as most center-fire cans aren’t set up to do so), but in this case I decided to take advantage of the Banish 30’s user-serviceability by fully cleaning the unit between the testing of each load.
I also decided to test both the long and short configurations of the silencer, and it was thoroughly cleaned when switching between the two lengths as well. Maintenance of the baffles and the expansion tube consisted of a 30-minute cycle through Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Hot Tub sonic cleaner, followed by a quick wipe—and the body tube and end cap only required a brief brushing of their threads.
I’m not entirely certain that the Banish 30’s ability to be disassembled for maintenance is a necessity—my personal .30-cal. center-fire can is still plugging away after zero cleanings in several years of moderately hard use—but it’s nice to have that option. Suppressors become less efficient as they get dirtier and internal volume decreases, and I have to admit, there was a level of comfort to knowing at the beginning of a range session that the silencer was ready to operate at its mechanical best.
For my range work, I affixed the Banish 30 to a .308 Win.-chambered, 22″-barreled Mossberg Patriot Predator. I used SIG Sauer’s 150-gr. Elite Copper Hunting ammunition as my supersonic test load and Winchester’s 168-gr. Super Suppressed load as my subsonic choice. The supersonic SIGs averaged 155.84 dBs unsuppressed at the ear, and 136.88 dBs using the suppressor’s short configuration and 131.78 dBs using the full one at the same location.
That equates to an 18.96-dB reduction in the volume of the load using the shortened Banish 30, and an impressive 24.06 dBs of sound suppression through its longer version. On the subsonic side of the equation, the Banish 30 reduced the Winchester load’s report from 144.14 dBs unsuppressed at the ear to 121.34 dBs (a difference of 22.80 dBs) using the six-baffle configuration and 119.24 dBs (a reduction of 24.90 dBs) using all eight. Both of these figures were low enough that the subsonic bullets striking the steel backdrop downrange could clearly be heard.
Overall, these sound-mitigation results are excellent. And between its light weight and the modularity of its design, end users will have the choice of either prioritizing handiness by running the short configuration or maximizing effectiveness by using the long one—as well as the ability to change their minds at any time.
Point-of-impact shift was observed with both test ammunitions and both silencer lengths, but none were more than 3″ in any direction at 100 yds. At an MSRP of $979, the Banish 30 doesn’t come cheap, but this figure is well within the ballpark with the suppressor market’s few other 100-percent titanium, .30-cal. rifle options—as titanium is notoriously difficult to machine and hard to source.
Silencer Central has done the suppressor owners of the world a huge service. By taking stewardship of the paperwork, streamlining the fingerprinting, photography and law enforcement notification requirements, and supplying every single customer with a free gun trust, the company has simplified ATF’s convoluted NFA process to the point of making it a complete non-issue for qualified, prospective buyers. And, if you’re unhappy with your purchase in any way, the company will buy it back from you.
If that results in more firearm owners having the opportunity to personally experience the many benefits of these wonderful little tubes, and brings their use more mainstream acceptance and understanding, then the entire gun community wins. And I surely can’t be the only one who has literally dreamed of having a silencer delivered directly to my doorstep.