American airgunners seem to have this fascination with silencers. Honestly, I think the root cause is Biblical in origin. What was the one thing that Adam and Eve just had to have? You got it: the Forbidden Fruit. Likewise, silencers are Forbidden Fruit to American airgunners.
Here’s why: Federal law requires that silencers be licensed. But that law applies only to firearms silencers. It doesn’t say anything about airgun silencers. There is, however, a rub: [The terms “firearm silencer” and “firearm muffler” mean any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler, and any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.]
That’s a direct quote from the federal law and what it means, basically, is that if something could be used to muffle or diminish the report of a firearm – even for just one shot – it could be construed a silencer under the firearms law. Basically it means that if you have an airgun silencer and it could be slipped onto a firearm as a silencer, you’ve got to get a license for it.
However, if what you are really interested in is quiet shooting (and not just Forbidden Fruit), there are several ways around the silencer issue.
The first is to choose an air rifle or air pistol that is inherently less noisy without a silencer. Most spring-piston air rifles and air pistols are generally quieter than precharged pneumatic, multi-stroke pneumatic, or CO2 powerplants. The reason is that relatively little air is used to propel the pellet out of the barrel of a springer, and it is the excess gas exciting the muzzle that generally makes most of the noise in a precharged pneumatic, multi-stroke pneumatic, or CO2 powerplant.
The Beeman R7 is a very quiet springer rifle, and so is the BSA Lightning XL (it has a permanently attached silencer that cannot be removed). Among pistols, the HW45 and the RWS 5G make little noise. None of them are dead quiet, but they are pretty subdued.
Another route to quiet is to purchase an air rifle or air pistol with a shrouded barrel. Since the shrouds are permanently attached to the airgun, they cannot be removed and used on a firearm without some serious machine work. As a result, you do not have to license it as silencer.
Among my first choices in a really quiet shrouded air rifle would be the Typhoon Whisper, the BSA SuperTEN Bull Barrel, and the Daystate Air wolf. When you shoot these air rifles, the loudest thing you hear is the hammer spring (which is inaudible to anyone but the shooter), followed by the sound of the pellet slamming into the target. All three are pre-charged pneumatic bolt-action multi-shot repeaters, fed by a rotary magazine, that launch ammunition at sub-sonic velocities. If you want a precharged pistol, the FX Ranchero is surprisingly quiet when shot on the low power setting, but not nearly as quiet as the three shrouded PCP rifles.
Finally, if you absolutely have to have a silencer, here’s the legal route: you can go to your local firearms dealer, fill out the application, pay the fee (last I heard, it was $200) and then pay several hundred dollars more for a quality firearms silencer which you can then fit to your airguns.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott