Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sorry for Absence & Very Quiet Thoughts

Been humping it on the new series as well as getting in some SHOOTING GALLERYs and COWBOYS...not much time left for blogging!

My friend Don Worsham, who has been suspiciously quiet of late, sent me an interesting email question yesterday — if suppressors (like the Gemtech Outback pictures) are so simple, why are they so expensive? The follow-up question was that if suppressors were moved from the $200 tax stamp to the $5 AOW stamp, would their prices decrease?

Good questions! I think there's a multiple part answer and it's tied to the present primary source of demand, the military. Modern suppressors are ultra-light masterpieces of exotic metals and computer-modeled chambering, because of the military mission design parameters:

1) Ultra-lightweight, for ease of carrying.
2) Ease of attachment; quick on; quick off.
3) No change of zero on the weapon.
4) Effective with modern military weapons and cartridges up to and including the .50BMG and new generation long-range sniper systems.
5) Minimal, if any, maintenance required.

All those design parameters results in a can that requires much more precision machining, especially on the quick-detach, and the use of metals like titanium — always pissier to deal with than aluminum or steel — and future development in ceramics and other exotics to meet weight goals. Secondly, suppressing cartridges like the .300 Win Mag, the .338 Lapua and the .50 requires more R&D time into baffle/chamber design, including what we uninformed might think of as "trial and error." Several suppressor designers have told me that designing the interior landscape of a suppressor is as much art as science, understanding the flow, delay and routing of gasses through that little tube.

With the military as the primary customer, there was/is simply no demand to create a lower-cost, less sophisticated product for civilians. As I've mentioned before, when I was in New Zealand a few years ago, you could pick up a "gun muffler" in a hardware store for around $25 USD. They were aluminum tubing threaded at both ends and used a replaceable baffle system and a slip-on/clamp down connector for a barrel, low-tech but perfectly serviceable for a .22, especially on a long gun.

Should we succeed in moving suppressors to AOW class, I believe there would be tremendous development in what I think of as "mid-range" suppressors, thread-on units for .22s (both handguns and rifles), less exotic "civilian" versions of military 9mm, .40 and .45 handgun suppressors and, especially, a boom in affordable suppressors for the AR-15 system.

You would, for instance, see readily available 14-inch uppers with permanently attached flashhiders (herefore NOT an SBR) that would do double duty as the attachment device for a suppressor, like the SureFire or some of the other systems (I'm thinking Gemtech Piranha system). The function of the AR system suppressors would not be maximum noise suppression but simply throttling down the noise and blast enough to "civilize" the short-barreled carbines. what's the possiblity of any of this coming to pass? According to RealClearPolitics aggregate poll this AM:

Obama 47/9% McCain 42.4%

So I'd say we have about a 42.4% chance of moving suppressors to the AOW category...hell, I'd say a 42.4% chance in keeping our ARs for that matter! I suspect in the new Socialist Workers Paradise that the Dems and their running dogs in the MSM have planned for us, wider availability of sound suppressors isn't going to be high on the list of acceptable ideas.

In other more cheery gunny stuff, my pals at Paladin Press have rerelased THE EARLY JEFF COOPER COLLECTION, four short books the Colonel wrote in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The titles include Fighting Handguns, Custom Rifles, Guns of the Old West and Handguns Afield. All the books feature new introls by Thell Reed, another legend in pistolcraft.

Man, I totally memorized those books back when I was a kid! Getting a new set of them was like finding a bunch of old friends. If you've never ready these books, you need to jump on them right now!


DonWorsham said...

Beware the quiet man...with a suppressor.

Anonymous said...

Suppressors sure would be neighbor friendly, might help keep a lot of ranges open. I've been following along about the new seasons shows but it's a long time since you've said anything about the 50cal show. still on? the mushroom

Anonymous said...

Dumb ? time I guess: What's "AOW" catagory? And why is that important? What else is AOW?

Eric said...

AOW = Any Other Weapon. See this Wikipedia article for an overview of the National Firearms Act:

Anonymous said...

Actually, since Congress will be Dem no matter who the president is, there is a zero % chance of getting mufflers AOW status.

Anonymous said...

While we're dreaming, let's do one better and just make all suppressors Curio and Relics.

cm smith said...

re: the Cooper books from Paladin.

NOW you tell me. I just spent $60 for an original Fighting Handguns!

Thank you to Paladin for this.

What we need next -- a collection of Cooper's articles from Guns & Ammo.

chris said...

I think that the other thing you overlooked about moving them to AOW status would be the cheaper materials failing... right now, silencers rarely if ever blow up... you loosen the specs and you will see a lot more of that... just a thought

Anonymous said... all things, the economy of scale comes into play. The fact that you can get a marvel of electronics like a cell phone almost free with your breakfast cereal is directly related to the fact that there's no barrier to getting them to the enduser (well, that and onerous monthly plans on the back end...)

But a suppressor, only *slightly* less regulated than black tar heroin, is not going to be found in pallet loads at the local Wal-Mart.

If manufacturers were allowed to sell hundreds of thousands of them to the civilian marketplace without restrictions, of course you'd see mass manufacturing techniques/volume pricing on their raw materials, and thus get retail pricing that isn't now really feasible for most small NFA manufacturers that are either working in their garages or subcontracting their products to job shops in small numbers.

The 'larger' manufacturers like Gemtech have overhead of lots of CNC machinery (some of which might cost as much as a house) and the people to run them, which translates into costs of doing business and your end price of the item.