Choosing the right suppressor for a gun is challenging. After all, it’s not like you can test fire one in the store. Well, not without upsetting the sales staff. Heck, your store may not even have them in stock. So you may have to order a silencer sight unseen, then wait for months for Uncle Spendy to complete his approval paperwork. At least, he’ll send you a colorful tax stamp for all your trouble.
Add to that the fact that you’ll have to pay in advance and that suppressors are not easily returnable. The bottom line is that it pays to do your research thoroughly.
That’s why we thought it would be helpful to round up ten popular .22LR (and similar caliber) rimfire suppressors and compare them all at one crack. Why .22LR suppressors? They’re the most popular, according to our friends at Silencer Shop. Shooters buy more rimfire suppressors than any other type, perhaps because they’re just insanely fun! The low pressure and relative quiet of the .22LR round means that suppressed .22 rifles and pistols are really, really quiet. There are dozens of models on the market, but these ten will give you a good sampling of what’s out there.
What to Look For
First, you have to think about what features are important to you. Is it light weight? The quietest possible silencer? The flexibility to shoot higher pressure calibers like 5.7x28mm or fully-automatic operation? As with any product, suppressor manufacturers emphasize different features with different models.
WEIGHT: Some, like the Gemtech GM-22, are built for exceptionally light weight. You can use them on rifles, but the light weight makes them especially attractive on pistols because they have minimal impact on overall weight and balance.
DURABILITY: Others are built with durability as the primary feature. Inexpensive, lightweight models will use a lot of aluminum on both interior and exterior parts. Models built for long-term abuse, fully automatic operation, and more powerful calibers such as the 5.7x28mm, will generally use more expensive and heavier materials like stainless steel. You’ll also see more models using titanium, which is both incredibly strong and lightweight, on both interior parts and the body itself.
VERSATILITY: Speaking of calibers, while the same rimfire suppressors will work on both .22 rifles and pistols, always check with the manufacturer before using it on guns chambered for other calibers, even if those calibers are small as well. Almost all rimfire suppressors can handle the pressure of .22LR, .22 Magnum, and .17 HMR, but other calibers that use small bullets generate a lot more pressure. For example, the 5.7x28mm round can generate over 50,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, compared to less than 24,000 for the .22LR. In the summary on each model below, we note the calibers that each is designed to handle.
CARE: Another feature differentiation is ease of maintenance. This is particularly important for .22LR suppressors. Why? Because .22LR ammo is filthy dirty. Powder residue, carbon, and lead goo quickly coat the inside of suppressors. If you never clean a .22 suppressor over the long haul, it will eventually feel like a brick from all the lead gunk inside. From a more practical sense, that same buildup tends to “weld” interior parts together as it accumulates and hardens. For this reason, you should plan on disassembling and cleaning your .22 suppressor every few hundred rounds. (In the review of each model below, we’ll talk about the internal construction. Some models have clever features that help prevent internal parts from becoming fused together.)
CONSTRUCTION: Let’s cover one more thing before we get started: Baffles. These are the interior parts that disrupt the flow of hot gasses coming out of the muzzle. Suppressors reduce noise by channeling, redirecting, and slowing down this gas eruption. By the time the gas exits the suppressor, it’s not only moving more slowly, it’s cooler. The end result is less blast noise. You’ll see that some models use a single assembly as a baffle, while others use a stack of separate baffles to perform the suppression function.
Since I had all the suppressors here at once, I measured the weight and dimensions the old fashioned way: with a ruler and digital kitchen scale. Not knowing how manufacturers determine their specs, I figured I would get good comparative data by doing it myself. You might see a little bit of difference in my weight figures versus those published on manufacturer websites. Most likely, that’s because these models have been used, so dirt and lead residue may cause some variance. (The way I look at it, my figures are realistic, at least!)
Measuring sound pressure levels is pretty sophisticated stuff. Not only do you need tens of thousands of dollars of special equipment and microphones, but you also need to tune and calibrate all this electro-gizmo-jazz properly if you’re going to get accurate measurements. As I wasn’t keen on spending that much coin on sound gear and a year at Auditory University, again I enlisted some help from the folks at Silencer Shop. As the biggest retailer/wholesaler of suppressors, they’ve done their own measurements on much of this gear in their own labs. The measured sound level numbers for pistols and rifles listed here are their results, not manufacturer specs.
Here’s how the models stacked up (list is in alphabetical order):