The Best Calibers for Suppressors

The Best Calibers for Suppressors

The Best Calibers for Suppressors


The Best Calibers for Suppressors


According to their portrayal in movies and TV, the chief purpose of suppressors (aka “silencers”) is quiet, quick mafia assassinations, silently dispatching the guards in a casino, or storming a jungle compound in camouflage face paint. And whenever suppressors are used, they make that whisper-quiet spit-hiss noise that you wouldn’t hear in the next room. Of course, the reality is quite a bit different in most ways. For one, suppressors do have a place outside of the TV and film world of secret agents and covert warfare.


At firing ranges in Europe, for instance, suppressors were not only common but often required to minimize noise pollution. The same principle has inspired tens of thousands of gun owners in the United States to purchase suppressors. They have also become increasingly popular for hunting. That popularity raises a few practical questions. First, why are suppressors becoming so popular? And, if there some calibers (and loads) that are better suited for use with suppressors (and there are), what are they?


.45 ACP vs. 9mm Ammo for Suppressors


The name of the game for suppressor-effectiveness isn’t actually the size of the caliber, it’s the speed of the bullet. Bullets that break the sound barrier, supersonic, are less effectively suppressed than subsonic rounds that don’t. Which means, a bit counterintuitively, .45 ACP ammo is more traditionally subsonic, making it more effectively suppressed than 9mm ammo, which is traditionally supersonic. (Although there are a number of subsonic 9mm loads.)


During World War II, the British took full advantage of the .45 ACP being subsonic by producing the “De Lisle carbine,” a commando carbine fitted with an integrated (internal) suppressor for their special forces. It is reported to be one of the quietest firearms ever produced. The difference is that a bullet breaking the sound barrier produces a pronounced crack that a suppressor can do nothing to suppress. That’s not to say that suppressors are rendered useless by supersonic ammo, their effectiveness is simply limited by it.


The “Old” Pistol Calibers and Rifles


Before the “hotter” 9mm loads, and other more modern calibers, subsonic ammunition for handguns was traditionally the norm. As such, the handguns with which suppressors tend to naturally be most effective are the “older” calibers: .22 LR ammo, .25 ACP ammo, .32 ACP ammo, .380 ACP ammo, and, of course, .45 ACP ammo. (Again, if you prefer or only own a 9mm pistol, there’s terrific subsonic 9mm ammunition available.)


A great option for suppressed rifle shooting is .300 AAC Blackout. The Blackout is the result of military brass looking for a subsonic caliber that could be effectively suppressed but packed a solid punch for close-range combat. The 5.56 NATO cartridge and its civilian cousin, the .223 Remington, are traditionally supersonic and therefore less effectively suppressed. (Although, once more, subsonic 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington cartridges are available.) That has made the .300 AAC Blackout an extremely popular suppressed hunting load for mid-to-large-sized game at medium distance. Since situational awareness, including uninhibited hearing, is often important to hunters, it’s clear why suppressed hunting is becoming as popular as it is.


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3 years ago
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The Architect
2 years ago at 6:33 PM
In deed suppressors or the loosely worded “silencers” are imperative to saving ones hearing, they are also especially great when hunting. Muffling the noise when hitting a boar while in a group of other boar will certainly spook the pack having them scatter but some may just run towards the hunter instead of away not knowing the direction the threat is coming from. In some cases never hearing the shot and simply not running at all confused at what’s happening, giving a good hunter opportunity to bag more. Also very importantly to me is if and when I have to fire my gun at an intruder in my house, I’m not bothering an entire neighborhood at two in the morning or whenever. It’s truthfully an upgrade to a firearm. All firearms should have suppressors in my book. However some suppressors on some rifles hinder performance and range unfortunately plus paying a tax stamp for nothing of two hundred dollars is down right theft and a con game posed by the ATF. Once everyone insists on suppressors then we can oust this antiquated law ripping law abiding citizens off and saving a large amount on hearing aids to boot. Unless you like taking the time to find your ear plugs while a burglar is breaking into your house. It’s basic sense to operate a safe firearm that won’t hurt you in the short or long term. Smaller more affective noise mitigation devices are needed for conceal and carry purposes as well.
2 years ago at 6:46 PM
I own several suppressors. Obviously, the closest you can get to "Hollywood" is with a subsonic .22. I shoot a Bersa .22 semiautomatic with a Dead Air Mask suppressor using CCI Suppressor .22LR. Very quiet and reliable. Shooting .22 Shorts with a Remington 552 with a threaded barrel is also very quiet and accurate. Would not recommend shooting Aguila .22 primer only rounds through a rifle as it can become stuck in the barrel.
2 years ago at 6:46 PM
Hi Greg, I’m kind of out of time phase with when this thread was active, but I was curious if you’ve had any misfire issues with your Bersa? Either before, during or after firing suppressed? Thx for any info you can provide.
Sj Sastry
2 years ago at 7:02 PM
I really like this article. It was very informative. It opened my eyes to why 223/556 ammo did not sound suppressed when using a suppressor. Lot of it is common sense but still a very good article.
Robert Loudermilk
2 years ago at 12:03 PM
Thank you for this article. I am thinking about a suppressor for a 30.06. I didn't know about the subsonic ammo.
2 years ago at 12:03 PM
A subsonic .30-06, .308 shoot the same bullets as a .300 blackout and use a lot more powder to do it. Outside of a close range , slow , low noise bullet, the practicality of owning one is very limited. My suppressor is rated up to .300 Ultra Mag. Probably the worst investment in firearms gear I ever made. Sits lonely in the safe.
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