American Suppressor Association Announces a New Noise Reduction Measurement Standard for Comparing Silencer Performance

by Tommy Grant

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One of the (not so) dirty little secrets about the noise reduction numbers suppressor makers use to sell their products is there’s no real objective standards for how to measure their performance. If you’ve ever shot with a can on your pistol or rifle, you know that using a silencer is much better and quieter. The question is…by how much?

There’s no great conspiracy at work here. The problem is that the industry has never been able to agree on how to measure their products’ performance. There are so many variables involved that assessing the effectiveness of a particular can (how many decibels of reduction it produces) or comparing two .30 caliber cans from two different manufacturers has been damn-near impossible.

The American Suppressor Association wants to change all of that. They’ve put a huge amount of time, money, and effort into creating and establishing an objective measurement process and standards for suppressor makers to use which will provide their customers with some meaningful information when buying their products.

The ASA held an industry summit here in Austin last week to roll out the new standards to its members. Representatives from just about every major silencer maker were there.

The ASA hired Stephenson and Stephenson Research and Consulting to develop the testing standards. The SASRAC wizards described the exhaustive process that went into developing the specific standard they arrived at, the incredible number of variables that they had to consider and control for, and their reasons they settled on the equipment and procedures they did.

The range of variables is primarily what has kept an objective standard from being adopted. Think about them for a minute. Indoors or outdoors. Type of gun. Height of the barrel from the ground. Barrel length. Barrel pressure. Caliber. Positioning of the microphones. Number of rounds fired. The list goes on.

The SASRAC scientists decided on using a universal receiver and proof barrel placed 1.2 to 1.8 meters from the ground and at least 3.5 meters below the ceiling if done indoors.

Two microphones are used for a variety of technical reasons — a quarter-inch mic and a half-inch mic, positioned exactly two meters from the muzzle (whether suppressed or unsuppressed) at a 45 degree angle. The SASRAC geniuses demonstrated their method at an indoor range north of Austin as the demonstration took place on a rare rainy day in the Texas capital.

I won’t go into all of the specifics here because it’s extremely technical and detailed. You need to be a certified boffin to understand it all, but they use a .308 round, shooting and measuring five unsuppressed rounds, five suppressed, and then five more unsuppressed. They even blow out the chamber after the first shot to control for first-round pop.

I’d never seen the sound signatures of either suppressed or unsuppressed gunshots so here’s what they look like. Notice that the initial spike from a suppressed round is not only lower, as you’d expect, but more of the sound is spread out over more time.

Once it’s all measured according to the specs and processed, this is the proposed label ASA and SASRAC have designed for use by the companies that adopt the new noise reduction measuring standard. The question, of course, is how many companies will do that.

It isn’t clear how many suppressor makers will adopt the new standard, but at some point, when enough do, the expectation is that customers who are shopping for a new can will wonder and ask why a particular company isn’t using the new standards. How many suppressor makers that will take is a matter of debate.

Later that evening, the ASA held a fundraiser dinner at the Texas State History Museum to raise money for the ASA Foundation, the arm of the association that litigates around the country to protect the right of Americans to own and hunt with suppressors. A good time was had by all and tens of thousands were raised to fight the good fight, battle against bills to ban cans (the most recent one bubbling up in New Mexico), and ensure that gun owners can protect their hearing with the best tools for the job.


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