According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there are just under 600,000 silencers registered in the U.S. as required by the National Firearms Act. With the current backlog of 74,000 applications for NFA classified guns, that number is rapidly growing.
Why? Silencers are polite. While they don’t hush gunshots to whispers as depicted in the movies, they do reduce the ear-damaging noise of a gunshot to safer levels. When folks are using silencers at a shooting range or training class, students can easily hear range commands. New shooters avoid the tendency to flinch away from the loud bang when that bang is muffled. Neighboring homes and businesses will also appreciate the reduction of noise.
Depending on your configuration and ammunition choice, you may not need hearing protection at all. As hearing damage is permanent, be sure to carefully review the performance specifications of your silencer and ammunition choice before leaving the hearing protection in your shooting bag.
I’ve got a well used Beretta 92FS that’s been one of my perennial favorites. I love the feel, the weight, the balance and how softly it shoots even +P 9mm loads. You could say it fits me like a glove. It’s also been the most reliable handgun in my safe. It eats any and all types of 9mm ammunition and never jams. Ever.
Whether intentional or not, the Beretta 92 is a perfect handgun for use with a silencer. The barrel naturally extends past the front of the slide - enough for a competent gunsmith to cut threading so a silencer can be mounted. The open-top slide presents even more forgiveness for proper cycling, with which a silencer can interfere.
For these reasons, I decided it was time to suppress this bad boy.
Because of my insatiable need to tinker with gun configurations, I wanted to get a silencer that was multi-purpose - one that could be used on different caliber handguns and even a subsonic rifle. For this reason, I elected to acquire a SilencerCo Octane 45. Getting the .45 caliber version meant that my silencer would be a tad longer and heavier, but on the positive side, I could use it with .45, .40 S&W, 9mm, .380 and even .22LR handguns. This one is even rated for use with a 300 AAC Blackout subsonic rifle. Talk about versatility!
While I could have sent my Beretta 92 barrel and slide to a company like Gemtech or Tornado Technologies for threading, I elected to acquire a second factory barrel from Tornado that was pre-threaded. This way, I’ve got the original barrel and a second for use with a silencer. One thing to note. If you choose to have your existing barrel threaded be sure that you have it done by a company or gunsmith with a proven track record of barrel work. If the threading is not perfectly squared, your silencer will be mounted slightly off center, and you run the risk of a bullet strike. Not only is this potentially dangerous, it’s a great way to destroy your investment, the $200 tax and the months waiting.
Once my new threaded barrel arrived mounting was a snap. The SilencerCo Octane uses replaceable pistons with different thread specifications for different pistol mount options.
The Octane 45 (and the Octane 9mm for that matter) is about 1.375 inches in diameter so it will obstruct the default factory sights on the Beretta 92. Unless you’re into bullseye target shooting, no worries. Shooting with both eyes open works just fine, and your brain helps transpose your target with the obstructed sights in front of your dominant eye.
But I like to tinker. So I added Crimson Trace LG-402M Mil-Spec Lasergrips to my Beretta 92. I suspected that the position of the laser would allow the beam to go right past the silencer body, and sure enough, it did. There is no interference whatsoever between the laser beam and silencer body. In any condition except bright daylight, this provides an excellent, and ridiculously fun, sighting solution.
How does it work? Beautifully.
I’ve been using this setup with standard and subsonic 9mm ammo. The SilencerCo Octane 45 does a great job of quieting the gunshot to somewhere around 130 decibels. Standard 9mm ammunition is usually supersonic, so while the gun blast is muffled, you will still hear a small sonic boom from the bullet breaking the sound barrier.Things really get interesting when you use subsonic ammunition - that with a muzzle velocity of less than 1,100 feet per second give or take.
I’ve been testing Winchester’s Train and Defend 147 grain 9mm with great results. Both the Train (full metal jacket) and Defend (hollow point) bullets have a listed muzzle velocity of 950 feet per second - well below the speed of sound.
While I don’t have high-tech audio equipment to accurately measure sound and pressure, I can tell you this is a pleasant shooting solution. Instead of a harsh bang, you’ll hear more of a muffled whoosh type sound. The “feel” is also different, perhaps from the muzzle blast being captured within the Octane's baffles. It’s a very mellow experience. I highly recommend it.
Since I can’t stop tinkering, I think the next project will be to sweet talk the folks at Beretta on getting a PX4 Storm SD Type F. It’s a full size .45 ACP with an elongated barrel just screaming to be threaded. That SilencerCo Octane 45 should complement it quite nicely.
I think this will make for an interesting trial with a suppressor, don't you?