Getting a suppressor is not nearly as intimidating as it seems. It’s expensive, yes, but it doesn’t have to be incredibly complicated. Most retailers, whether brick-and-mortar or online, will have an established process for a customer who wants to buy a suppressor, and for the most part you just follow their process and you’ll be good to go.
There may be options that they don’t tell you about though, such as getting an NFA gun trust. We’ll talk about what that is in this article, along with the basic steps that you should expect when you’re working with a gun store to purchase your first suppressor.
Can I Get a Silencer Online?
Yes. Purchasing a suppressor online is 100% legal in every state that allows people to own suppressors. Buying online can be a more convenient way to do it, but you’ll have to rely more on reviews about suppressors than your own personal experience.
Most gun stores that have built-in ranges to shoot in will have a few suppressors on hand that you can rent and shoot with to see what you think. For the most part, you probably won’t learn anything that you can’t glean from YouTube and Rumble, but if you have a niche case it can be a valuable thing to do.
The ATF Regulates Silencers
I know this comes as a massive shock, but the ATF classifies suppressors under the National Firearms Act, which is why they are referred to as an NFA item. What this means is that you have to jump through all sorts of legal hoops (including registering your suppressor with the ATF) in order to purchase one.
If you’re thinking, “That doesn’t make any sense. All a suppressor does is make a gun quieter,” you would be correct. It doesn’t make any sense at all, but for now it’s the law, so if you want a suppressor, you’ve got to play the game.
If you want to buy a suppressor, there is a process you need to follow, which we have outlined below.
How to Buy a Silencer [Step-By-Step Guide]
Step #1 – Ensure You’re Legal
In terms of your personal eligibility, if you’re eligible to own a firearm to put a suppressor onto in the first place, then you will not be barred from purchasing and owning a suppressor. The only exception to that I’m aware of is that you have to be 21 years old to get a suppressor, so if you’re in a state that allows you to purchase your own firearm before that, you’ll still have to wait to get a suppressor.
Even if the Federal government is cool with you getting a suppressor, you might live in a state that does not permit it. As far as I’m aware, the only states that don’t currently allow individual ownership of a suppressor are California (of course), Delaware, D.C. Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
There are a few legal issues you need to be aware of and comply with by the time you receive your suppressor, like who is and isn’t allowed to use the suppressor and whether you have to be present when it’s being used, but you can address many of those by using an NFA gun trust, which we’ll talk a bit about in the next steps.
Step #2 – Choose What You Want
When you’re buying a suppressor, it’s important to note that as long as you have the necessary adapters, most suppressors built for a certain caliber will also work for smaller calibers. You won’t get quite as much suppression on smaller calibers than the silencer was designed for, but it will still be much better than unsuppressed.
This means you have a choice: spend a lot of money on multiple suppressors to get maximum suppression on every single firearm, or spend less (but still a lot) on just one or two suppressors that can give you passable amounts of suppression on all of your guns.
How to Buy the Suppressor
You also need to choose how you want to purchase the suppressor. Doing so as an individual is the simplest and requires no additional paperwork. The caveat with this, though, is that no one else is ever allowed to use the suppressor unless you are physically present. For some people that’s just fine.
If you ever want to be able to lend your suppressor to someone, though, you’ll want to transfer ownership of the suppressor into an NFA gun trust. What this does is allow anyone who is listed on the trust to use the suppressor. Getting into the minutiae of how the trust works is out of scope for this article, but each person who wants to be on the trust needs to be background checked as well.
You can also buy the suppressor as a corporation after you’ve gotten your FFL license and SOT to purchase and sell NFA items.
Step #3 – Put Down the Money and Fill Out the Forms
Whenever you buy a suppressor you’ll be required to pay for a one-time $200 tax stamp. This is a lot like other sales tax; you only have to pay it once at the time of purchase. That $200 will be due at the time of purchase, which can happen on-the-spot at the gun store or immediately on the website.
After you pay for the suppressor and the tax stamp, you’ll then need to fill out all the forms. If you’re just buying as an individual, there won’t be as much to fill out. If you’re going to use a trust, it gets more complicated.
When it comes to this part of the process, my default recommendation is going to be to hop onto one of the sites that specializes in selling suppressors and just let them hold your hand through the purchase, paperwork, and everything else. They’ll help you understand what the forms are asking for and keep things as streamlined and simple as they can be.
Step #4 – Wait for ATF Approval
If you’ve submitted a paper form, it could be up to a year before you actually have your suppressor in hand. That said, according to the ATF at around the time of the writing of this article, it’s more like 180 days.
An important note here is that the ATF’s clock doesn’t start ticking until they deposit your payment, so if you’re measuring by when you submitted the paperwork, the time might be a little longer than even your pessimistic guesses.
There’s not really anything you need to do during this time, except for one thing, which is what constitutes step 5.
Step #5 – Get Any Needed Accessories
Since you have some time, you can use a little of that time to look into possible accessories for your suppressor. The main one I’d look at is a quick-detach (QD) adapter that can let you swap between guns quickly. You can also get your barrel threaded to properly accept the suppressor if you haven’t already done so.
Step #6 – Enjoy Your New Phase of Life
One of the funny things about suppressors is that after all the hubbub surrounding the process of getting one, your suppressor can be shipped directly to your house instead of needing to be picked up at an FFL. Once you’ve got the suppressor in hand, you can start to enjoy the benefits of that suppressor.
Chances are the reason why you want a suppressor is because you had the chance to shoot with one and have experienced why it’s so wonderful, but if you haven’t actually shot one before, prepare to have your mind blown. It is so much more comfortable to shoot, especially when using a medium or large bore rifle.
Silencer Laws: List of States Where Silencers Are Legal
Since suppressors are legal in 42 of 50 states, it would be much faster to list the states where they’re illegal instead of legal. Here’s the list:
- New York
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
If you don’t see your state on that list, then suppressors are legal there.
Sometimes yes. If you bought your suppressor at a local gun store, once they have it in stock you may be able to shoot with the suppressor at their store before your approval comes in. However, they cannot relinquish ownership to you until the approval comes back from the ATF, and the suppressor cannot leave their premises before then either.
Supposedly they make things faster. So far that seems to be the case, even though the actual wait times are still much longer than advertised.
Just about. The gun has to have a barrel that is compatible with the suppressor you buy, though. Most of the case this is just a matter of getting the barrel threaded to match, but it can get a lot trickier with handguns. The smaller the handgun, the trickier it will become.
Suppressors should last for a very long time. Some of the first generation of suppressors from a hundred years ago are still hanging around mostly functional, so we’re talking a while. The biggest threats to a suppressor’s lifespan are 1) heavy, sustained automatic fire and 2) improper installation.
A sustained high rate of fire can do the same thing to a suppressor as it does to a barrel – heat it up to the point where it starts to melt or deform. Improper installation can cause the suppressor to not be perfectly aligned with the barrel. In that case, your suppressor’s lifespan may only be a single shot.
No. The only exception to this is if you are an FFL with an SOT approval to purchase NFA items. In this case, the expectation is that you’ll be reselling any suppressors you buy, and the tax stamp would be assessed at the time of resale.
Currently, anywhere from 6 months to a year. With the ATF’s much-hyped e-file system, supposedly that time is going to continue shortening. It may, one day, get down as low as 90 days.
Suppressors are awesome. Shooting is fun without a suppressor, but having one makes it so much better. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them essential, because they’re certainly not, but once you’ve gotten used to shooting with one it’s really hard to go back to shooting without.
Remember, a suppressor won’t make your gun ‘quiet’ per se, which is why “silencer” can be misleading even if that’s their official name. All most suppressors will do is make the gun quiet enough that you won’t damage your ears if you’re standing nearby while one is shot.
Suppressors work even better on subsonic rounds, but even in that case the sound of the action of the gun makes noticeable snapping sounds. They’re very quiet compared to a projectile breaking the sound barrier, but they’re still clearly audible.