In 1902, the first successful, commercially available suppressor was invented by Hiram Percy Maxim. Maxim was an American inventor, graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and son of Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim – inventor of the first portable, fully automatic machine gun: the Maxim Gun.
The Maxim Silencer, patented in 1909, was a tubular device attached to the barrel of a firearm which reduces noise and muzzle flash when fired. It was regularly advertised in sporting goods catalogs where it was available for mail order. The Maxim Silencer was marketed to all sportsmen and intended to enhance the shooting experience by reducing the risk of hearing damage and noise pollution.
At the same time, silencers and mufflers for internal combustion engines were being created using the same noise reduction techniques. Maxim took advantage of this and founded his own company, Maxim Silencers, Inc. in 1912. While the Maxim Silencer began Maxim’s success, his company still remains, over 100 years later, as a leader in exhaust, heat recovery, and emissions control silencers.
To suit the needs of multiple riflemen, the Maxim Silencer was available in every rifle caliber from the .22 to the .45, except for large caliber Winchester and Remington models which were furnished with custom attachment devices. Maxim designed “silencers” for auto-loading rifles as well as any single shot rifles, repeating rifles, carbines, and single shot target pistols of any make or caliber.
Today, suppressors are still administered and regulated in the U.S by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which oversees the application process, criminal background checks, and taxes. Their own publications show growth from 2010 to 2015 of 285,087 registered silencers in private hands to 902,085, which is a 317% increase. States also have laws governing private ownership of silencers; at this time, silencers are legal for private ownership in 42 states and legal for hunting in 40.
BENEFITS OF SUPPRESSORS
Suppressors reduce the noise of a gunshot by an average of 20 – 35 dB, which is roughly the same as earplugs or earmuffs.
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Exposure to even a single unsuppressed gunshot can, and often does, lead to permanent hearing damage.
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Although it can still be heard, suppressed gunfire helps mitigate noise complaints from those who live near shooting ranges and hunting land.
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Suppressors reduce recoil and help decrease muzzle flinch. These benefits lead to improved accuracy, better shot placement, and more humane hunts.
LEGALITY AND OWNERSHIP OF FIREARM SUPPRESSORS
Firearm suppressors are regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, which is a branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). NFA items can be registered to an individual, a living trust or a corporation. To legally purchase or possess a firearm suppressor you must:
Be at least 21 years of age to purchase a suppressor from a dealer.
Be at least 18 years of age to purchase a suppressor from an individual on an ATF Form 4 to ATF Form 4 transfer (contingent on state laws).
Be at least 18 years of age to possess a firearm suppressor as a beneficiary of a trust or as a member of a corporation (contingent on state laws).