Suppressor Review: Ten Popular Models
Choosing the right suppressor for a gun is challenging. After all, it’s not like you can test fire one in...
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):
|Silencer||Weight (ounces)||Length (inches)||Diameter (inches)||Measured Sound Level (pistol)||Measured Sound Level (rifle)|
|AAC Aviator 2||4.1||6.44||0.995||114.2||116.9|
|AAC Element 2||4.9||5.25||0.995||N/A||117.3|
|Bowers Group USS 22||8.7||6.5||1.02||114.8||112.3|
|Griffin Armament Checkmate||5.6||5.81||1.0||119.7||115.2|
|Mack Brothers Vapor||4.3||5.44||1.02||+||+|
|SureFire Ryder 22-S||5.3||5.5||1.0||N/A||112.4|
|Tactical Soluctions Axiom||6.1||5.86||1.0||117.3||116.9|
|+ The Vapor is new on the market, so no independent testing numbers are available||++Factory reported numbers|
Testing and Results
So which suppressor is the quietest?
That’s really a tricky question. Would you measure that by the readings on the sound pressure level equipment, or subjectively by the human ear? Different suppressors have different “tones,” so lab equipment results may differ from what you hear. Also, your choice of gun and ammunition makes a huge difference in the perceived sound of one silencer versus another.
That’s why I got ahold of all ten suppressors and shot them repeatedly from the new Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory pistol.
I also tested the suppressors on a Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact. With its shorter barrel (compared to the Victory), velocities were even lower—far below the speed of sound. I shot the suppressors on a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 Pro Series rifle as well.
For ammo, I used two loads: American Eagle High-Velocity 38-grain Copper Plated Hollowpoint, and CCI’s new Suppressor 22LR 45-grain ammunition. While the American Eagle will break the speed of sound when fired from most rifles, the CCI Suppressor ammo, which is designed to be subsonic from any handgun or rifle, was noticeably quieter. It’s also specially formulated to minimize fouling in your suppressor.
It was a real challenge trying to discern differences between them, so I found myself going back and forth between various models over and over. The best I could do was to categorize the ones that sounded the “quietest” into three groups, and even that was inexact, I’m sure.
The “quietest” group to my subjective ear measurement included the Bowers Group USS 22, the Surefire Ryder 22-S, and the Griffin Armament Checkmate.
In the middle, I placed the SilencerCo Sparrow, the YHM Stinger, the AAC Element, the Tactical Solutions Axiom, and the AAC Aviator.
I placed two in the group that sounded ever so slightly louder in terms of muzzle blast. Those were the Mack Brother Vapor and the Gemtech GM-22.
To help identify the subjective noise level of each model, I’ll note the “quiet rating” according to my ear using a five-star system, with five stars being the quietest. I should note that all were pleasingly noise-free and hearing-safe. Shooting almost any kind of .22 ammo through a pistol will result in subsonic velocities, so you won’t even hear the crack of the mini sonic boom as the bullet travels down range.
Here are the results:
Subjective Quiet Rating: ++++
The Aviator offers light weight and quiet performance at a very aggressive price. While other models might feature all stainless or titanium construction for extreme durability, the Aviator is affordable and lightweight. The tube is machined from aluminum, as are all the of baffles, except one. The baffle closest to the muzzle is made of stainless steel so it can handle the initial blast of high-pressure hot gas without eroding over time. Farther down the stack, the abuse diminishes, so AAC is able to use lighter and less expensive aluminum baffles.
The Aviator is not small. In fact, it’s one of the longer suppressors in this roundup. That’s because AAC wanted quiet, so they added room for extra baffles in the tube. However, you’ll be surprised when you pick this one up. It’s shockingly light at just 4.1 ounces by my digital scale. That’s the second lightest of the entire bunch tested here.
As you might expect from the price, the internal baffles are unshrouded, so to get them out easily you’ll need to stay on top of cleaning chores. And one more thing: The Aviator is rated for .22LR only. If you want to shoot other calibers with an AAC model, check out the Element 2 below.
AAC Element 2
Subjective Quiet Rating: +++
The AAC Element 2 has a titanium, tube, while the baffles inside are made of stainless steel. The combination of these two materials gives the Element 2 a full-auto rating as well. The mount on the Element is a standard thread type, as with most rimfire suppressors. What’s different is that the mount is permanently affixed to the tube, so access to the interior is through the front cap only. AAC includes a nifty hand tool that allows you to easily remove the recessed muzzle cap for access to the guts. Inside are individual “K” shaped baffles, which are not contained in any sort of inner tube. This design is quiet; just be sure to take the Element apart every few hundred rounds and clean it thoroughly. The Element is compact and significantly lighter than many of the other models.
While the AAC Aviator is rated for only .22LR, the Element 2 can handle .22LR, .17 HMR, and .22 Magnum.
Bowers Group USS 22
Subjective Quiet Rating: +++++
In the utilitarian but functional category is the Bowers Group USS 22. The USS stands for “user serviceable suppressor.” This one is built like a tank and you can feel the increased weight compared to the other models tested here. At 8.7 ounces, it’s a full two ounces heavier than the SilencerCo Sparrow.
The USS 22 isn’t pretty, but it’s built to take abuse. It’s rated for the .17 HM2, .17 HMR, 22LR, .22 TCM, 22 Magnum, and FN 5.7x28mm, plus fully automatic fire in .22LR. It will handle velocities up to 2,400 feet per second. The machining isn’t fancy – the end caps look like regular flat-sided nuts, and you use a standard adjustable wrench to remove the end caps.
Inside are oddly shaped (in comparison to others) individual baffles. These were a pain to remove, and unlike the Surefire model, there was no included tool to get them out. You’ll want a wooden dowel to remove stuck baffles. You’ll also want to clean frequently to avoid that problem.
However, balancing out the heavy weight and high-end price was the performance. The USS 22 was, the quietest of the bunch to my ear.
Mack Brothers Vapor
Subjective Quiet Rating: ++
New at the premium end of the scale is the Vapor from Mack Brothers. This model is made entirely of titanium, so it’s durable and light. The titanium construction also means that it’s rated for the normal rimfire cartridges like .22LR, .22 Magnum, and .17 HMR, but can handle the snappier 5.7×28 centerfire, even with full-auto operation.
The individual interior baffles are shrouded, so the stack forms a tube inside of the suppressor body. The shielded design of the baffles helps prevent them from getting stuck after heavy shooting. When I removed the end caps, the entire stack of baffles fell out easily. Plus, each baffle has an engraved line along the side, which makes it easy to ensure that the baffles are aligned correctly for maximum sound suppression performance. When removed, the thread mount serves as a tool to remove the muzzle cap for cleaning.
I also have to note that the Mack Brothers Vapor is the most attractive of the bunch. The company went to the trouble to machine contours at both ends and on the thread mount. That makes the unit easier to handle and brings it a step above all the plain cylindrical tube models on the market.
Subjective Quiet Rating: ++++
The SilencerCo Sparrow is a whole lot of fun in a small package. It’s a .22LR design, although it is rated for the FN 5.7x28mm centerfire cartridge. If you’ve got a .22 LR, .22 Magnum, or .17 HMR, you’re in business. It will even handle a full-auto .22 LR, if you’ve got such a thing.
The Sparrow 22 comes with a standard 1/2×28 thread mount. Mounting the SilencerCo Sparrow was a piece of cake—just screw it on until it’s hand-tight. Because the Sparrow 22 is only one inch in diameter, it did not interfere with the standard sights.
The Sparrow deftly solves the problem of .22 silencers getting so dirty inside that you can no longer take them apart. The SilencerCo Sparrow 22 features an outer and inner tube. The grime cannot interfere with removing the guts from the silencer, because it’s all contained within the inner tube. The inner tube is formed by two “half tubes” that peel apart, even when filthy. It’s a brilliant design that allows for easy disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly.
Subjective Quiet Rating: ++
The very first thing you’ll notice about the Gemtech GM-22 is the weight, or more accurately speaking, the lack thereof. By my scale, it weighed in at just 2.6 ounces. The next lightest suppressor of the bunch was the AAC Aviator, and that was 4.1 ounces. The weight is a result of the all-aluminum construction. It’s also simple on the inside, with a one-piece baffle that slides out of the thread mount end.
It’s designed to handle the standard calibers of .22LR, .22WMR, and .17HMR, and will take full-auto operation for any of those. By my purely subjective sound level evaluation, the GM-22 was among the loudest here, but that’s not really a bad thing.
A “louder” silencer in this group of rimfire suppressors still isn’t making a whole lot of noise.
If you’re looking for something small and light for pistol or rifle use, check this one out—you’ll quickly forget it’s there. Oh, one more thing. The exterior is Cerakoted for reduced infrared signature, just in case you need to be sneaking around.
Griffin Armament Checkmate
Subjective Quiet Rating: +++++
The standout feature of the Checkmate, which is designed for the standard rimfire calibers of .17HMR, .22 Magnum, and .22LR, is the quick-attach/detach mounting system. While most rimfire suppressors simply screw on to a threaded barrel, the Checkmate uses a three lug barrel adapter. Screw that onto your gun barrel and leave it there. To mount the silencer, slip the end over the three lugs, press together, and rotate a partial turn. Reverse the process to take the suppressor off. It’s a neat approach because when you shoot without the suppressor, the threads on your barrel are protected by the three lug muzzle adapter.
Also, you can buy multiple muzzle adapters (MSRP $30) and keep them on a variety of .22LR guns. That way, it’s easy to move the suppressor from one gun to another. If you prefer, you can order the Checkmate with a standard direct thread mount.
The Checkmate features a hard coat anodized outer aluminum tube and a single piece stainless steel baffle stack inside. Disassembly was easy. I was able to unscrew the muzzle cap by hand, even after a fair bit of shooting, and the guts came right out.
Surefire Ryder 22-S
Subjective Quiet Rating: +++++
The Surefire Ryder 22-S is distinctive—the beveled sides of the body are not only cool looking, but they also help you get a proper grip for installation and removal. Because it’s an all-stainless steel model, it’s rated up to full-auto operation for .17 Mach2, .17 HMR, .22 LR, .22 Mag, and .22 WMR calibers.
The baffles inside are shrouded, but I found that they get sticky inside the tube. After a long shooting session, they weren’t dropping out easily. Fortunately, Surefire includes a full-length rod tool designed to remove the baffle from the tube. Each of the baffles is clearly numbered, so it’s easy to put things back together in the correct order.
Even with its all-steel construction, the Ryder 22-S was in the lighter half of the ten models tested. Better yet, at least according to my unscientific ear, it was among the quietest as well.
Tactical Solutions Axiom
Subjective Quiet Rating: ++++
The Axiom is on the higher side of the price range of all the suppressors here, but after shooting and maintaining one for a while, I believe the difference is worth it. The suppressor body and interior baffles of the Axiom are made of titanium for strength and long term durability, and also to keep weight down. Surrounding the baffles is a stainless steel inner tube. That’s to ensure that the suppressor will easily come apart after heavy shooting. The concept is similar to that of the SilencerCo Sparrow, but the Axiom uses a one-piece tube that’s split so it separates just enough to remove the baffles. I really like the design and I did find that it came apart effortlessly.
Access to the guts is simple. Caps on both ends unscrew easily using fingers only, although the company includes a nifty wrench too. It’s rated for either semi-automatic or full-automatic operation with .22LR, .17HM2, .22WMR, .17HMR, .17WSM, .22 Hornet, and 5.7 x 28.
Yankee Hill Machine Stinger
Subjective Quiet Rating: +++
The YHM Stinger features aluminum and stainless steel construction: stainless on the inside for durability, and aluminum on the outside to save weight. It’s also rated for semiauto and full-automatic operation of rimfire calibers, including 22LR, .17 HMR,.22 Mag, plus the 5.7x28mm.
YHM takes a different approach to maintenance. The interior baffles are individually shrouded to create a sealed assembly. When the unit is assembled, gas and filth can’t escape the baffles and adhere to the inside of the suppressor body. I found the approach to work pretty well. After plenty of shooting, I unscrewed the end cap using the supplied hand tool and the baffles came right out. This is an easy model to maintain for sure.
Before You Buy
Decide what features are important to you and narrow down the field appropriately. If you need durability and multi-caliber flexibility, you may want to accept a heavier and larger model or, at least, a more expensive one made of Titanium. It’s fine to choose a lighter and less expensive model as long as you know the tradeoffs, like sacrifice of long-term durability. The good news is that there are plenty of models from which to choose, so you can find the right combination for your shooting needs. The sound of silence is more accessible than ever.