Photo courtesy of SilencerCo.
With the right caliber, in the right places, the short answer is "Yes, you can hunt deer with suppressors" But ...
By John Geiger and Paul Rackley
Deer hunters should see suppressors as a blessing. You can save your hearing and kill deer ethically. Yet you are changing your hunting tool when you attach or screw on a suppressor. And regulations are changing as well, so double-check your state regs before marching out into the field suppressed.
POINT OF AIM Vs. POINT OF IMPACT
While suppressors can increase firearm accuracy in general, partially because of the reduction of recoil and sound flinch, most firearms have some degree of point-of-impact shift when adding a suppressor. In most cases, this is a minor inconvenience of 1 or 2 M.O.A. (about 1 or 2 inches at 100 yards), which can easily be fixed by re-zeroing the rifle. Any firearm/suppressor combination with more than a small shift at 100 yards needs to be examined by a gunsmith to ensure the threads are concentric with the bore.
A gunsmith is also needed if point of impact shifts from shot to shot, as this may indicate a major issue that could result in a baffle hit. Typically, though, shot-to-shot changes are a symptom of quick-detach mounting systems. The technology of quick-detach systems has improved greatly, but those looking for true accuracy should stick to direct-thread suppressors.
Regardless, when adding a suppressor to a hunting rifle, shooters should always spend significant time firing at the range before heading to the woods.
When you shoot unsuppressed, there are two loud noises you hear: gas expansion out of the muzzle and sonic boom during the flight of the bullet. Suppressors muffle the first noise, but what about the crack you hear as the bullet passes the sound barrier? You can mitigate that by shooting subsonic loads.
The combination of a suppressor and subsonic bullets seems like a match made in heaven. It's so quiet that often the loudest sound is the bolt carriage slamming shut for the next round or the bullet hitting the berm. But hunters need to be careful here.
To stay under that 1,125-fps speed-of-sound threshold, hunting bullet manufacturers must reduce the amount of propellant. But speed kills and is key for terminal devastation and bullet expansion. Energy equals weight times speed squared. Without speed, manufacturers increase bullet weight to get downrange energy when the bullet hits the target.
A 220-grain bullet helps, but it cannot replicate that violent, damaging initial wound channel that happens when your supersonic bullet hits the deer's body.
If you are determined to go the suppressed-subsonic route, go with known hunting bullets in your cartridges, like Hornady's A-Max or Winchester's Subsonic Power Point. And get closer to your game. That Hornady sub round is a good one, yet it only gets a mediocre 467 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards. As a comparison, your 178-grain .30-06 A-Max -- a typical supersonic round — gets a walloping 2,646 fpe at 200 yards.
The number thrown around as a minimum associated with deer and energy is 1,000 fpe. But with a good bullet made to expand at low energy, 467 fpe at 100 yards is an ethical shot in our book.
THREAD OR NEW GUN
As suppressors gain in popularity, more firearm companies are introducing models with threaded barrels. However, there are still countless firearms that hunters have been using for years.
This means that folks interested in obtaining a suppressor for hunting have to decide whether to purchase a new gun or thread a favorite. This can be a difficult decision because of the cost of a new rifle. Threading a barrel is less expensive, but it has to be done correctly -- threads concentric to the bore with a square shoulder -- to prevent a baffle strike. Also, take care when you are deciding which gun. Some rifles can lose significant value, particularly guns that are popular with collectors in original condition.
Threading doesn't typically hurt value on newer hunting rifles -- purchased new in the last decade -- but be sure to do some research before sending grandpa's old deer rifle to a machinist. However, there are companies that make aftermarket barrels that come threaded, or can be threaded, for those who really want to put a suppressor on an old favorite.
Photos provided by SilencerCo.
3. Recoil Reduction
When the pressure of the round leaving the barrel is decelerated and evenly diffused over the length of a suppressor, you're left with less felt recoil.
If Sir Isaac Newton dealt in firearms and not falling apples, he'd spell out the specifics of how mass times acceleration equals the punch to your shoulder. Suppressors can save you a sore shoulder the next day.
2. Location Concealment
Suppressors can increase your chances for a hunt with multiple kills.
A suppressed shot at the hog or coyote in front of you has a lesser chance of spooking other game that may be momentarily out of sight.
Your sound signature is displaced and the chances of game turning wary from your initial shot can add hours to an otherwise short hunt.
8. Number of States Allowing Suppressor Hunting
Currently, there are 32 states that allow the use of suppressors for hunting.
Florida is projected to join the list this year, and though usage is not universal across the board, the efforts of organizations like the American Suppressor Association
are making it possible for more people to have the option available.
You can find detailed information on the regulations of participating states, approved methods and the species legally allowed to be harvested by contacting your state department of wildlife.
4. Improved Follow-Up Shots
Muzzle blast is disorienting, recoil is jarring. Suppressors reduce both, making it easier for you to quickly get back on target and send another round down range.
The extra milliseconds you take to compose yourself after the kick of a .308 can mean the difference between dropped game and a long blood trail.
We don't hunt in a vacuum.
Our public land honey holes are oftentimes within earshot of nearby homes, and that anti-hunting neighbor adjacent to your private property plots ways to disrupt your passion every time you fell a pheasant.
Suppressors cut back noise pollution and can at least help keep you, audibly, out of the black books of detractors.
And when our European neighbors, who sport Draconian hunting and firearm restrictions when compared to the U.S., legally require
the use of suppressors for purposes of etiquette, we can agree that the option
to use one in the states is, at the very least, something to think about.
7. Choice for Introducing Newcomers
When introducing shooting to a newcomer, at some point in your lesson you'll obviously have to show them how to fire the gun. The report and recoil is second nature to you, but your recruit will be on edge wondering if they can handle all of that when they get behind the gun.
Suppressors are a great way to reduce that cusp of fear and ease the shooter into the sport. You spend less time getting over that initial hurtle and spend more time focusing on procedure and technique.
6. Increased Accuracy
Looking through the scope with the safety on and your finger off the trigger, your breathing is easily managed. Once you flip the safety off and begin depressing the trigger, everything changes.
This phenomenon is due to your anticipation of the 'flinch. ' Your brain is preparing your body for the bang and kickback once that trigger goes click — quickened breathing, increased heart rate, tensed muscles.
Get your brain used to the reduced recoil and muzzle blast of a suppressor and those crosshairs magically tend to float less.
5. Industry Advances
In the past, the limited number of market options justifiably caused concerns over efficiency, reliability and usability.
Today's market offers a plethora of options that deliver as promised. And, as of this summer, wingshooters no longer have an excuse. SilencerCo, located in West Valley City, Utah, now offers sportsmen the Salvo 12
, the world's first 'commercially viable shotgun suppressor ' capable of shooting all sizes of birdshot.
You can now enjoy potting birds wherein the action of your gun is louder than the report.
Yes, suppressors are expensive. Especially ones of quality craftsmanship.
But so are the electronic hearing devices designed specifically for hunters. The cost of a pair, an extra set of batteries, replacement components and, let's say, an unexpected repair starts to make one finite purchase of a suppressor a viable option.
For those who don't want to consider using either, the need for hearing aids in your later years can cost upwards of $3,000. Your hearing is priceless.
1. Hearing Protection
The most self-explanatory reason.
Imagine a champagne bottle. Shake it up and thumb the cork and you'll get a loud pop. Pull the cork out slowly with even pressure and there's little more than a cough and a fizz.
Suppressors depend on roughly the same concept. For most designs, as the round passes through a series of internal baffles and expansion chambers, the effect of high-pressure gases and the vacuum release of the round leaving the barrel is diffused and slowed, condensing muzzle blast. The result is reduced sound waves impacting the ear.
All it takes is one discharge to permanently damage an unprotected ear. Simply put, suppressors are an effective, precautionary safety measure.