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So you want to venture into the wonderful world of NFA but aren’t sure where to start or how to buy a suppressor? I was in the same place not too long ago.
This will be a first-time how-to guide into choosing how to buy your first suppressor, finding a SOT to filing paperwork to the not-so-wonderful wait, and then finally taking possession of your very first suppressor.
I had made up my mind several years prior that I would get into suppressors and other NFA (National Firearms Act) items but had always found a reason to put off the deep dive into that side of the gun world.
There was the fact of dealing with the ATF (Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) and the seemingly complicated stacks of paperwork that HAD to be filled out correctly, background checks to be completed by the FBI, and not to mention the legal entity of a trust that would have to be created to possess an NFA item.
Then there was always a new rifle, shotgun, or pistol that would grab my attention, and therefore my hard-earned cash would quickly disappear.
Then came the wife… and the twins.
I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
Least to say life happens.
After a few years had gone by, my firearm interest started to swing back to suppressors and away from filling multiple gun cabinets. I started to look for some basic info and was pleased to find that the world of suppressors had grown exponentially in the time between.
Criteria for Choosing a Suppressor
There were several different makes and models available for all kinds of hosts.
This brings us to my list of questions that must be answered when purchasing your first suppressor, the host weapon(s).
- What do you enjoy shooting the most?
- Do you like shooting pistols?
- How about a rifle?
- Did you know they even make a suppressor for shotguns? Who knew!?
Once you decide what type of firearm you want to suppress, you need to determine what caliber.
There are many different choices to make here. In my research and previous knowledge, I had learned that certain calibers suppress better than others.
Calibers that readily travel under the sound barrier will always sound better out of a suppressor.
It’s the same principle as a jet flying at Mach speed above you vs a crop duster putting along out of your local airfield.
The slower, the quieter.
With all this in mind, I knew that I had several pistols and a pistol caliber carbine (PCC) that I would thoroughly enjoy shooting suppressed.
This decision steered my search to suppressors that would work for both of these applications.
Caliber / Host
When deciding on how to buy a suppressor it’s imperative to know what gun your suppressor will be attached to. The nice thing about many suppressors is they aren’t just for one caliber. You can use them on multiple guns in multiple calibers.
For example, I run a .30 caliber suppressor on my 5.56 AR-15 and my bolt action 6.5 Creedmoor.
You can purchase adaptors for nearly any suppressor on the market to make changing between firearms effortless.
One exception to this is .22LR; you do not want to run .22LR through a non-serviceable suppressor. This means if the can doesn’t come apart so you can clean it, don’t shoot 22LR through it.
.22LR suppressors are so reasonably priced I highly recommend buying a dedicated .22LR suppressor for your .22 guns.
In today’s gun world availability is almost the most important aspect of what to buy.
Many dealers can’t get certain brand’s items and are back-ordered for months and often don’t even know how long it will be till they restock.
Suppressors are a hot commodity with all the talk about raising the tax stamp price to try to limit gun owners’ access to them.
Choosing a Suppressor Brand
Once you have determined your host(s) you can then move on to the next step, which for me was brands and availability.
Depending on the political climate of the time you find yourself searching in it will greatly determine what is available.
If you have your mindset on brand X but nothing from brand X is available you might find yourself in a pickle.
I kept an open mind at the time as I knew virtually nothing about the different manufacturers so it was a clean slate for me.
I started by making sure the ones I considered had a decent size operation and would be around in the future should any warranty work be needed.
You can apply some of the same principles for buying a car here.
Once I had the manufacturers narrowed down, I began looking at accessories.
Suppressor Accessories Options
People rarely talk about all the accessories. There are many different attachment points, direct thread, QD, tri-lug, boosters, and all the thread pitch options.
I ended up going with a manufacturer that also has cross-company support in this area.
The more, the merrier in this case.
My suppressor came with a direct thread mount, but because it could/would be used on different firearms I opted to purchase a QD mounting system that uses lugs on the muzzle device and a ratchet system in the QD point that is attached to the suppressor.
This way I can shoot the suppressor on one gun then (carefully when hot) remove it with a quick couple turns of my wrist and then attach it to another gun just as fast.
What should my Suppressor Cost?
The very last thing I considered when determining how to buy a suppressor was the price.
Once you make it to the point where you are looking into buying suppressors, you should know about investing in your interests.
It is wise to save up for a while and not go into it on a whim.
You can expect to pay an extra two hundred dollars to the federal government plus however much money it takes to set up your firearm trust on top of whatever the cost of the suppressor may be.
For some people, this is a bigger deal than others. For me, it was huge.
Having said that I would advise not to compromise on quality as opposed to saving a few bucks here or there.
Because this hunk of metal is literally registered to you for the rest of your life it may be wise to not cut corners.
Know what you want and stick with it. Make a purchase that you know will last for a lifetime.
This brings us to the legalities of how to buy a suppressor.
I will preface by saying I am no lawyer.
I found that after researching a few different avenues I would keep it simple.
Simplicity is king when it comes to things like getting NFA items.
The good people at Silencer Shop have made the legal process as dirt simple as possible. There is a list to follow to get all the requirements checked off.
I highly recommend following their guide as I did. They have an app to download to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
I also opted to use Silencer Shop to purchase my suppressor. This kept things as streamlined and simple as possible.
SilencerShop also offers some options for setting up the trust if you want to use the Trust option.
There are other companies, so don’t pigeonhole yourself if you don’t want/need to.
As I said, I chose to keep everything as streamlined as possible. The next step is finding a SOT for the silencer to be sent to as you will not be able to take possession of your silencer directly.
Your SOT will receive the suppressor on an ATF Form 3.
My SOT was already set up as a Silencer Shop dealer which was perfect for me.
Once you have selected the suppressor and selected your SOT, you must make sure your ATF Form 4 and all of its requirements are completed.
Here again, SilencerShop comes to the rescue.
If you have spent any time in and around gun stores, you may have noticed a kiosk set up bearing the Silencer Shop logo.
On the odd chance that you haven’t, Google is your friend
You can walk up to these wonderful machines, fill out the required information, and even roll your own fingerprints for submission to the ATF and FBI.
Beyond this, you will have to attach a passport-style photo of yourself to complete the paperwork.
The Silencer Wait…
Once all the appropriate paperwork has been completed, you’ve made the transaction, and your SOT has received the suppressor on Form 3.
You must then send off your check, and the dreaded wait begins.
This is, unfortunately, the longest perceived period of time you have ever experienced in your life.
If possible, try and forget about your investment and be surprised when your SOT calls and tells you to come and pick it up.
For me, this just wasn’t possible.
You can download some apps to help keep track of the time as it slowly ticks away if you do choose.
You will have two major dates, with one more important in the end than the other.
How long does it take to buy a Suppressor?
Let us talk about some important data points, namely, dates.
First, you will have your submitted date.
This is the day your paperwork, and two hundred dollar check are sent to the ATF.
Check Cashed Date
Unfortunately, the ATF seems to take their sweet time in cashing the check.
The day they get around to cash your check for the tax stamp is the more important of the two.
This is the start of your countdown.
Can you use your suppressor while you wait?
It is worth noting that some SOTs will allow you access to your suppressor while you wait.
If they have a range, they may allow you to shoot it and even take the included muzzle device, but you can’t remove it from the premise until the stamp comes back from the ATF from doing whatever it is that they do.
This helps tremendously when anxiously awaiting permission to exercise your God-given right as a US citizen.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take them home until they are finished.
Before you know it, though, your phone will ring, and you’ll be able to take possession of your suppressor.
Once you get home, have fun, but buyer beware, the NFA world is addicting!