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What Is the Difference Between a Silencer & a Suppressor?

Updated April 17, 2017

Silencers and suppressors both have specific roles in gun technology. A silencer is meant to do exactly that--silence the weapon as it fires a bullet. A suppressor is used to suppress the muzzle flash and air discharge as a bullet leaves the barrel. Both have pros and cons and can be used in specific situations.

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Silencers and Suppressors

Silencers and suppressors are used to make a firearm stealthy. A silencer is meant to cancel all the noise, while a suppressor by default will cancel some noise, but is meant to hide the flash of a firearm. Due to the fact that both will cancel out noise, the terms silencer and suppressor are commonly and inaccurately interchanged.

Benefits of a Silencer

A silencer prohibits the noise from a gunpowder explosion from leaving the weapon. The only noises heard from a weapon with a silencer is the action of the extraction chamber discharging a spent shell and loading a new one.

Disadvantages of a Silencer

Silencers do not silence the bullet as it travels through the air and breaks the sound barrier. Silencers are also extremely expensive and require special paperwork as well as a tax paid to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Benefits of a Suppressor

Suppressors can limit or eliminate the muzzle flash of a weapon, which can provide an advantage in situations with low light where a flash would give away your position.

Drawbacks to a Suppressor

Suppressors do not and are not meant to resist the noise of a weapon in the same way as a silencer. Suppressors do allow noise to escape the weapon and also can come loose during operation.


Both suppressors and silencers should only be installed by a competent gunsmith. Catastrophic failure can result from a silencer or suppressor that is improperly installed and can cause death or serious injury.

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About the Author

Will Chandler is a corrective exercise trainer in Wilmington, NC. He has a Business degree from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Chandler has trained everyone from athletes to seniors since 2004. Chandler is an off road enthusiasts who practices welding and 4x4 fabrication.

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