Silencer vs. Suppressor, What’s the Difference?


If you’re really looking this up right now, then you’ve probably been corrected or seen some snob on a gun forum correct someone else, “It’s called a suppressor!” So what exactly is the difference between a “silencer” and a “suppressor?”

Spoiler: They’re The Same Thing

The black, tube like device that is placed on the end of a gun to silence or make it quieter, is known as either a silencer OR a suppressor. They are both perfectly acceptable terms for such a device.

Legally, It’s called a Silencer

Here’s the legal definition from the ATF:

The term “Firearm Silencer” or “Firearm Muffler” means any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for the use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler, any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.

Notice that the word “suppressor” is nowhere to be seen.

silencer vs suppressor

So What’s With The Controversy?

Why did some obnoxious person feel the need to correct me when I called it a “silencer?” Why did he insist that, “It’s actually called a suppressor,” and he also said, “There’s no such thing as a silencer!” Where the heck did that come from?!?

Right, so this adoption of the new term, “suppressor” stems from two strains of thought:

  1. It doesn’t totally “silencer” the gun, so it shouldn’t be called a silencer.
  2. If we call it a “suppressor” it might have a less negative stigma attached to it, therefore being un-banned in most states where they are banned.

“There’s No Such Thing as a Silencer”

I’m just going to say that this is completely idiotic, and anyone who ever uses this phrase is a moron whose only trying to appear smart. Yes, it is true that a “silencer” does not totally, completely, 100% silence your gun.

You will still hear the clank of the action, the hammer striking the firing pin, and the mechanical sounds of the gun operating. Sometimes the sound of the shot isn’t muffled completely, but say, on a .22, the silencer, uhh I mean suppressor, can be extremely effective!

But this idea that simply because the gun isn’t completely silenced, warrants the phrase, “There’s no such thing as a silencer” is completely moronic! Of course, it’s a term, a name for a device, not a descriptive factor, just a name!

By this strain of logic I can claim that, “there’s no such thing as flat screen TVs because they aren’t totally, 100% flat.” We should all start calling them, “thin screens” instead of “flat screens,” and I’ll go out of my way to correct everyone because, “there’s no such thing as a flat screen bro!” – Don’t I sound super smart and knowledgeable? No? Neither do people who insist on the use of the term, “suppressor” over silencer.

Feel free to use whichever term you like, we promise we won’t correct you…. unless you start spouting stupid nonsense and reasons why it should be exclusively referred to as a “suppressor.”

Maybe Silencers Will Be Unbanned If We Call Them Suppressors

Now, this sort of makes sense, however all logic and sense is lost in this reason as well because, frankly, the legislators do not care what YOU call them. Just because the law makers of this country are stupid does not mean they are THAT stupid, that changing the term of the device will make them see it differently from what it actually is.

This is really more wishful thinking than actually a logical, good reason to go out of your way to look like a jerk. If you want something un-banned, you need to put it to a ballot, go through a legislative process, get the NRA involved, etc… Do something practical, simply changing the term that people use within the gun industry will not help you.

How many times has a legislator referred to every and any type of gun as an “assault weapon” or a semi-auto rifle as a, “fully automatic killing device?” These people do not care what you call it, they do not care what you think of the device, they have one objective and that is to ban guns outright.

“A silencer by any other name is still a silencer.” – Shakespeare

Conclusion: They Are The Same Thing

Go ahead, call it a silencer or a suppressor, we don’t care! In fact, you should purposely call it a silencer just to see how these try hard, gun nuts will react to it! Weed out the “smart” guys.

If you go around correcting people because they call it one term over the other, then you are a pathetic jerk. The only logical conclusion I could come to, stems from a deeply psychological appeal, that is, that people desire praise and admiration. If correcting someone because of the term they use for a silencer will make you look smart, then they will make it a mission to correct everyone who uses the term silencer, because it makes them look and feel smarter.

… It’s a silencer!

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