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What would silencers look like without the NFA?

Ruger 10/22 With Gemtech MistOver the last couple of months I've started to wonder what standard firearms would look like if they were regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA). For example, look at the existing pistols from Glock, Smith & Wesson, or Springfield Armory and you'll see dedicated models for just about every purpose: Do you want a small/single-stack version for concealed carry?  No problem. Are you looking for a long slide version for competition use?  They've got you covered. Need a convenient holster-able side arm, a home defense pistol, or something with a threaded barrel for your suppressor?  Check, check, and check. I even own different color combinations of my favorite pistols that I've collected over the years. The same is true of rifles of just about every type - just look at the Remington 700 and you'll see more than 100 different combinations of styles and calibers.

Now, Let's Look at the Silencer Market

Because suppressors are regulated under the NFA, customers tend to want a one-model-does-it-all solution - especially on their first purchase.  As a result, suppressor companies often focus on models that are a 'Jack of all trades, master of none'. Personally I think this do-it-all trend can be a good thing - up to a point.  In reality, it's the free market reacting to government intervention. The problem is when a first-time buyer gets their .50 caliber suppressor home and shoots it on an AR15.  The results are invariably disappointing because the bore size is just too big to be effective - and they don't realize the full benefit of shooting suppressed. Because suppressors are so awesome, I suspect the market would be significantly different if it weren't for the NFA. Here is a short list of things I think would change:
  • Most firearms would include an integral suppressor that was tuned specifically to that weapon's purpose
  • Suppressor modularity wouldn't be as important, and the focus would shift to making the best suppressor for a single purpose
  • Prices would be significantly lower - I suspect they'd be more in line with the price of a flashlight (ranging from just a few dollars to several hundred)
Even with the NFA, the suppressors designed and built in the United States are the best in the world.  The reason for this stems directly from the fact that our gun market is so healthy - which helps offset the burdon of being regulated under the NFA.

Imagine the Firearm Market if it were under the NFA

Modular FirearmJust take a few seconds to imagine what the firearm market would look like if it were regulated the same way as the silencer market.  Imagine how you, as a customer, would react if you had to wait 6+ months to get a new pistol. In that imaginary world, I suspect there wouldn't be dozens of models of M&P pistols dedicated to different purposes.  Instead, you'd see a surge in popularity of interchangeable barrels & slides - and you wouldn't be able to buy additional parts without sending them back to the manufacturer for replacement. Firearms, in general, wouldn't be tuned to specific purposes; and we'd see more models that did an OK job of everything instead of an excellent job at just one task. We'd be interested to know how you think firearms would look if they required a $200 tax stamp and a multi-month waiting period.  Please chime in with your comments below.

Conclusion

As the silencer market grows, it will continue to attract more and more attention from federal regulators - which we've already started to see with the newly enacted ATF 41F rule change.  This is why supporting the American Suppressor Association is so important. Just remember to balance versatility vs efficiency when you start looking to purchase a suppressor - it's easy to go too far down the one-silencer-does-it-all path, and you'll often find the results to be pretty disappointing.

17 responses to “What would silencers look like without the NFA?”

  1. areekalaan says:

    Don’t forget about arbitrary rifle / shotgun barrel lengths. People would be chopping and threading rifles left and right.

    My 22lr pistols with their relatively short barrels keep bulk pack ammo subsonic. A 10/22 with a 3 or 4 inch barrel and a suppressor would be shorter, lighter, and handier, and quieter than a regular 16 inch barreled rifle.

  2. Drew says:

    I would think if weapons were held as nfa items that the systems would go corrupt and crime would increase. I have no problem paying a 200.00 tax stamp for an item just take away sales tax. On top of that I would still pay 200.00 for a tax stamp for a suppressor if they just switched to a nics background check and I was a same day approval.

  3. Pod says:

    The NFA was originally supposed to apply to all firearms, but the Feds realized they couldn’t do it without a massive uproar. So, the NFA was the first example of the government “doing something” about the firearms issue. They regulated the low-hanging fruit so it would appear they “did something”.

    Now, as far as suppressors if they weren’t NFA items, it would be exactly as you describe. There’d be a whole mess of specialized cans and prices would be lower. New Zealand is a good example actually. NZ’s firearms laws are actually quite liberal compared to their more hellbent neighbors to the west (but are still a hassle), and suppressors in NZ are just accessories available by online purchase. You can pick up a simple can for under $NZ 200. There’s also quick and dirty cans that’ll last for maybe 200 rounds. Suppressors are commodity items there. The irony though is there’s no innovation in their suppressor market, since the items are no big deal. There’s no Silencerco in NZ, for example.

  4. i would love to be able to purchase a silencer for my self and granddaughter as we both love to shoot,but i am 58 yrs old and on disability and do not see or hear as well as i did when i was young .a lot is to do with age and not taking care to use hearing protection when i did shoot in my younger days along with jobs that were very noisy,I do not want the same future for my granddaughter so i do try to set a good example for her after seeing the mistakes i made by not using hearing protection .i make her use hearing protection when we shoot now,but although i live on a small fixed income ,i would love to find a way for her (15) to be able to own and use a silencer because she loves to hunt and took a nice 8 point this year . but with my limited income ,i just can not afford to purchase a trust ,then pay a 200.00 tax, pay for a silencer and then have a long wait period to get to use it with her ,the whole process seems to be a money racket for all involved especially the NFA. sorry for the rant.

    • jeremy@silencershop.com says:

      Hopefully the ASA can continue to fight to expand silencer ownership rights and decrease the burden of the tax stamp. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  5. Hunter says:

    if firearms were regulated like other NFA item, not only would you be waiting for months on end to be able to take one home and paying the extra $200 for the tax stamp, but you would then need permission to take your firearm out of state to go hunting or to a shooting competition or even if you were just moving to a new state because of a new job. it would also outright ban firearms in certain states, like CA NY NJ MA, from ownership

  6. Motorcitymadman says:

    Corruption and ingenuity would happen. Every one would figure out a way to produce guns and gun parts for the most profit. If they ban them we would buy them on the black market and they would be just as good if not better. And the Government would run that too.

  7. James says:

    If all firearms were controlled by the NFA I sure would hope enough citizens would STAND up and fight the tyranny and tyrants that took control. George Washington didn’t sit on his couch and WISH things were different. He and the other founding fathers of this once GREAT and FREE country took control. Yes they knew the dangers of going against the tyrants of their day. They understood the difference of rights and duty. Unfortunately we as a nation have gotten soft and settled for our rights to be trampled.

  8. Alex says:

    If all firearms were under NFA I would not care because I would still be buying them regardless lol. Do I want that to happen hell no, but anything can happen soooooo buy em while you can and don’t bitch about price 🙂

  9. Roscoe P Coaltrain says:

    We wouldnt pay it and we would manufacture weapons in our garages. We would sell on the “blackmarket”, for a living. Just like dealing drugs. Sad but true. I suppose before that there would be a revolution to remove all federal regulation from America. So really, its a non issue. Cheers.

  10. Rick says:

    if firearms were treated like everything else on the NFA, besides the 6+ month wait and $200 tax stamp, a person trying to have a little extra safety and piece of mind after getting a restraining order on and an abusive ex now has to wait even longer. you would now have to request permission from the ATF NFA Branch to move your firearm with you to a new state and states that do not allow any NFA items would have an outright ban on all firearms in that state

  11. Motown Marty says:

    Without the “tax stamp,” there’d also be a market for used suppressors that would give someone cheaper, entry-level access and experience with the technology. Dealers and gun-shops want to offer pennies-on-the-dollar today because they have to spend another $200 for a stamp to buy back what they sold you before.

    • jeremy@silencershop.com says:

      That is correct. The cost of the stamp is an inhibitor to re-selling silencers. The resale value would likely be higher if there was not the $200 associated with it.

  12. Greg says:

    I think your article is spot on. And Motown Marty’s comment re the tax inhibiting resale is also correct. I subscribe to a UK Long Range shooting page and I noticed every rifle seems to have a suppressor. When I asked how that can be, in a place like the UK, they all laughed. Apparently suppressors are viewed as a health and safety item, necessary to protect the shooter and the public. If you buy a rifle, your examiner will likely ask you why you aren’t also purchasing a suppressor as well. Pretty sad when the “leadership” in the US is worse than UK gun control freaks. The Brits are correct re suppressors use, as are many European and Commonwealth countries who don’t have Hollywood writing their laws on those items. They all envy our freedom guaranteed by the 2A though. To man (or woman) they always say “never let what happened here happen in your Country.” Amen.

  13. Ben says:

    I can’t decide if the HPA would reduce profits for suppressor manufacturers or increase them. I think it will depend entirely on how the manufacturer responds to the changes in the market. The “premium” brands probably won’t change their prices much and will still see a massive uptick in sales. The newer and less well known brands I think will need to make some pricing and design adjustments. I think modular and multi caliber would quickly become much less important than price. The monocore design is pretty easy and cheap to make so I think we will see a massive influx of “pretty good” single caliber suppressors for quite cheap, especially in the pistol caliber models.

    The other change I believe we would see when HPA passes (notice my optimism there? We should be optimistic) is integral suppressors. Sig has already shown an interest in an integral design. You’ll see it first in popular modular weapons like the 10/22, Rem 700, AR15, and Sr25/AR10. I believe within weeks or months of it passing yout will see 10/22 and AR15 suppressed barrels and uppers. 300BLK is just begging for an integral design. And with SBRs still bwing on the NFA even after the HPA passes people will want the shortest setup they can get and still meet the SBR regulations. Since HPA does away suppressors being an NFA item you could build a 10.5″ upper with a 5.5″ suppressor on it and have the best of both worlds without dealing with the NFA SBR regulations.

    I suspect we within a couple of years we will see suppressors on just about every new design in the pistol caliber carbine world, a bunch of designs in the rifle world and a tremendous price decrease and availability increase in the 22lr side. It’s less easy to design a suppressor into a locked breech centerfire pistol (like silencerco’s design) but I think we will even see some innovative stuff in that area.

    That leads me to a question. Do you say you sell more centerfire rifle cans or more centerfire pistol cans? (excluding rim fire for this question). I’m curious how much that might change (if any) when HPA passes..

    • jeremy@silencershop.com says:

      The majority of silencers sold are 30 caliber rifle silencers. Partly because of the popularity of 308 and such but also a lot of people use them on 556 as well. I think you made some good points and would tend to agree with you.

  14. Douglas Phillips says:

    Any and all restrictions are infringements.

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