Finding the best 5.56 suppressor online
It may seem counterproductive to buy a suppressor online, but in many ways, it is a much better experience than dealing with a local dealer through the whole process. The main reason it makes sense to buy a suppressor online is that you have the kind of availability that you wouldn’t ordinarily have through a single local gun store.
Other than that, the process is quite straightforward to buy a suppressor as long as you are a law-abiding citizen in good standing with your State and the Federal Government.
This article will take you through the basics of understanding which suppressor is the best, and what you should expect regarding the suppressor market, the history of the laws governing suppressors and the process to get one, once you have decided on the perfect suppressor for your specific needs.
The list of the best 5.56 suppressors
Suppressors have been able to improve the shooting enjoyment of rifle shooters for many years. The idea of sound suppression is more about safety than it ever was about tactical advantage for the normal mainstream shooter. The following choices on the list of the 5.56 suppressors will help to accomplish the above considerations. We have chosen only the best of the best for the 5.56x45 platform. In this case the most popular platform is the AR and other clones. But the universal thread sizing of (generally) ½” – 28 makes the use of these suppressors on many other platforms possible, through the use of adaptors or custom threading work.
Best 5.56 Suppressors
SureFire SOCOM556-MINI Sound Suppressor
Length: 5 inches
Weight: 14.5 ounces
Diametter: 1.5 inches
SureFire is an original purveyor of suppressors in the United States. It is one of the first to create a mission capable suppressor for mass distribution. It has had a voice in shaping the landscape of suppressors over the past two decades. They offer a high-quality product that has a long life and a lot of versatility. This is a 5-inch-long, lightweight suppressor for use on shorter barrels weapons.
- Short and lightweight
- Long history of providing quality devices
- Great customer service generally
What this is best for: For short barreled rifles that need to remain short, this is an excellent choice. The overall build quality and quick detachment make this a very nice suppressor for those types of weapons.
Advanced Armament M4-2000
Length: 6.625 inches
Weight: 17.6 ounces
Diametter: 1.5 inches
AAC (Advanced Armament Corporation) offers a very compelling argument for value priced suppressors for those who are getting into the game for the first time and need something reliable, and effective at reducing sound and flash signature. AAC builds these suppressors to a very high standard and it allows the suppressor to be used in a full auto operation.
- Value priced
- Built well for the money
- Quick detachable
- Same sound reduction as other top tier products
- Doesn’t offer some of the advanced features of more expensive suppressors
What is this best for: Those who are first time buyers that want to play in the suppressor arena, but don’t want to spend a ton of money.
Operators Suppressor Systems - HELIX 5.56 IFM6 suppressor
Length: 8 inches
Weight: 22.8 ounces
Diametter: 1.5 inches
This is an interesting offering in the landscape of suppressors in the United States and abroad. The innovative design has the potential to change the way we think about the holistic effect of silencers on our shooting environment. The concept of reduction of blowback through the straightforward travel of gasses through the engineered flow chamber, versus through traditional baffle designs, means that the amount of backpressure is reduced. This creates a better environment for sustained shooting and offers a cleaner bolt and chamber. This design was chosen above traditional designs in pair with the HK weapon system for the CSASS program for the U.S. Army (Compact Semi Automatic Sniper System). It has legitimate credentials.
- Much less blowback
- Less difficulty to tune the rifle for use with any cartridge or for any cyclic rate/gas setting
- Quickest direct connect suppressor without additional modifications
Why it is recommended: It’s not only a suppressor that suppresses sound. It’s a suppressor that does away with many of the issues that come along with the choice to run a suppressor. It’s cleaner, easier to use and has more failsafe’s than other options.
What you need to know before you buy your first suppressor
We’re going to use a bit of liberality and hyperbole to explain some important aspects to owning a suppressor.
The National Firearms Act of 1934, created a barrier to buying a sound suppression device. This is in stark contrast to the process prior to enaction of the legislation. At the time before the NFA, a citizen could walk into a hardware store, or general-purpose store, and purchase a suppressor for use in the field hunting, or on the farm or even for self-defense.
This is a serious thing: suppressors weren’t an issue from a law enforcement perspective prior to the 1934 law. Just about any store that sold hardware or more than just groceries in a diversified retail floorplan (like a department store), would sell the average Joe a silencer/suppressor.
At that time over the course of a few years, there was a string of criminal activity from “celebrity criminals” and organized crime figures; Al Capone and his gang perpetrated the Valentine’s day massacre (on February 14, 1929). Bonnie and Clyde traveled across the country kidnapping and killing several law enforcement agents and police officers and participated in highly publicized bank robberies and police standoffs involving high powered machine guns and sub machineguns from about 1932-1934.
John Dillinger was a media sensation (in 1933 and 1934 ). The criminals were seemingly able to wield machineguns with impunity (forget the fact that guns were generally stolen from police stations). The legislators and police officers demanded a change in policy that would neuter the ability for criminals to win in the headlines. The media was portraying the criminal activity as the wild west, and it was, sort of. This is where the 1934 NFA came into existence.
As a result, there is a thing called a tax stamp. It acts as an exemption to the ownership of prohibited items covered by the 1933 laws. It costs $5 to get an AOW any other Weapon tax stamp exemption. It costs $200 to get a suppressor Tax stamp exemption. This is one of the “perks” of the laws that are “afforded” normal law-abiding citizens, and it requires the Government to perform a background check to ensure you are not a danger in having ownership of a prohibited item. The sound suppression devices are among the most mundane parts of the law.
Because of modern day demand for suppressors, and the fact that the tax stamp doesn’t present a revenue stream to the agencies involved in the background check (therefore few resources are dedicated to the process), the process can take many months to clear the individual to receive a tax stamp and subsequently own a sound suppressor.
There is a relatively easy form and compliance aspect to engage in to start the process. Generally, any FFL dealer can walk you through the process of owning a suppressor. The time involved in getting a tax stamp is mostly waiting. In a competent gun shop, you can get your paperwork and any trust work (if needed) done in a half an hour.
The rest of the time is simply waiting time. Generally, when you buy a suppressor online, you get a form 3 and a form 4 filled out and then you wait your time. NOTE: the total time to receive a tax stamp and complete the transfers necessary to take possession of a suppressor can exceed 12 months, though that is at the extreme end of the waiting period, all-in.
What is a form 3?
A “form three” is the paperwork required by the ATF (bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) to log and track the transfer of a prohibited device per the NFA (National Firearms act of 1934 with later addendums from 1968’s GCA – Gun Control Act) from one approved FFL (Federal Firearms Licensed) dealer with a(n) SOT (Special Occupation Tax) to another.
In the case of a suppressor, the difficulty in stocking suppressors from a monetary and liability perspective makes it hard for most local dealers to stock a wide enough variety of suppressors as to make it interesting to most serious silencer shopping consumers. Hence the reason why it makes sense to buy online, and why the Form 3 is needed, generally (though there are some esoteric nuances involved that could under certain circumstances make that statement not entirely accurate).
What is a Form 4?
A “Form Four” is a basic application form for the user, to apply for a tax stamp to exempt them from the “prohibition” on that purchase. It will allow the background check and is the application for the ownership of the device/item (this is slightly different in a gun trust setup, but it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss such nuances). The form 4 is not an easy document to fill out until you read it line by line a few times. We suggest you familiarize yourself with the language on the form.
What you should know if you have already bought a suppressor
This gets easier, if you buy a second or third suppressor. Not because you do not have to go through the process and the waiting period (every purchase requires the same waiting period/approval process), but because you have already experienced the learning curve of navigating the NFA/GCA and the ATF. Also, you can usually have your already properly filled out paperwork resubmitted with minimal changes to ensure you have the right stuff done without the hassle of having to do as much work.
Why the suppressor makes sense for an AR 15
The sound of a high-powered rifle, like the AR 15 is massive. The idea of a suppressor on the firearm often doesn’t make sense for normal shooters. There is a line of reasoning however, that will help you to understand why the suppressor can and does make sense for many mainstream shooters of the AR 15 or other 5.56x45 or .223 Remington guns. A suppressor can bring the sound of a rifle shot down to the level of about 138-140 dB, which is in the “safe” range.
There are some aspects that should be understood when looking at this topic.
What is a silencer and what is a suppressor?
A silencer and a suppressor are the exact same thing, regardless of what some gun snob told you. The two terms are legal definitions that describe NFA controlled devices which exist to reduce sound in the firing of a firearm. Yes, it is true that there is no real effective way to silence a firearm to the shooter and keep the gun easily movable and useable. Therefore, the concept of a true “silencer” seems ridiculous. But the term “silencer” is a nationally recognized, federally legislated term, used to describe a substantially similar device to a suppressor.
A suppressor suppresses sound from the firearm of an exiting projectile. Neither a silencer nor a suppressor has the capability of fully mitigating the sound associated with a gunshot. They can generally bring the noise levels down to “safe hearing” levels, which is a term, in and of itself that is very misleading and not entirely accurate too.
The actual reduction in sound during shooting
The benefit of a suppressor on a rifle is twofold. Most importantly for most shooters, it removes the upper end of the sound of a gunshot from the equation. Because we are talking about the best 5.56 suppressors, we must point out that rifle rounds in this caliber are not subsonic. It is true then, that each round fired will eventually be accompanied by the crack of the sound barrier.
When a projectile travels at over 1125 feet per second, it becomes supersonic, and the change in air around the flying object creates a slicing effect and a cracking sound that showcases the moment at which the perception of the wind being broken by the speed of sound is audible in our ears.
The combined crack of the sound barrier, and the total sound of the gunshot are uncomfortable for shooters with sound protection in some cases. Without sound protection, this is potentially very dangerous and could lead to severe hearing damage.
For most users of a suppressor, the reduction of the report will make the shooting exercise much more comfortable. It will also make the sound harder to pinpoint. An example would be a sniper shooting at a distance of 400 meters – if they shoot and someone hears their shot out of an unsuppressed rifle, it will not be too difficult to determine the general direction of the shot’s origination.
Out of a suppressor, the resulting muffling of the report and the change in directional output of the gases released at the end of the barrel will make the shot hard to pinpoint without advanced equipment.
Reduction in signature in general
The same concept holds true for the reduction in signature. For those who would be shooting in the prone position would be likely to disturb dirt and debris at the ground level form a high-powered rifle. A suppressor will remove some of that visual disturbance to the benefit of the shooter when looking through optics or avoiding getting dirt all over their faces. Also, it would make pinpointing a shot harder as is the case for the sniper mentioned above. This is one major reason that the military employs suppressors for their snipers.
Concussion events from the firing of a high-powered rifle in an enclosed space is also a key benefiting situation. The concussion is minimized because of the redirection of gases and the moderation of some of the sound, though it is not a complete solution for concussive reverberation.
If we had to pick a single suppressor to use, it’d be the OSS Helix IMF6 Direct thread suppressor. But that’s not because it’s expensive and we like the novelty of it. It’s because the design is anything but a novelty. We recognize that OSS doesn’t have the widespread acceptance and long term history of SureFire or AAC (or other stalwarts that were not included in this list like SIlencerCo and GemTech – who are perhaps the most innovative companies over the history of modern suppressors – their lack of inclusion was for the purpose of length of content and practicality for the writing of this article). We also recognize that the same technology has been used by suppressor manufacturers since Hiram Maxim invented the suppressor.
That’s the difficulty of picking a “best of” list. To pick the best 5.56 suppressor, you need to acknowledge the antiquated technology with the newest innovations. And at the same time, you need to look at the bottom line: does it do what a suppressor is supposed to do? Does it perform that task well? And these suppressors have the performance, feature sets, and the history OR the innovation to make them the best in class for the purposes of this article. And that’s why we chose them. They’re all good at what they do, and the need is being met. We wish you the best, as you navigate through the process of purchasing your suppressor. Whether It’s your first Form 4 application or your tenth.
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