Can a pillow work as a silencer? [and other silencer myths]

After my article on sniper myths, I decided to probe into some more shooting myths about firearms and shooting. This time I focused on myths surrounding suppressors, or silencers, whatever you prefer to call them. One of the most prominent myths in the silencer industry, and one I have seen countless times on TV – that you can use a pillow as a silencer.

A pillow will not work as a silencer. A pillow might reduce a handguns sound report from around 160dB to 150dB decibels, a mere 10dB reduction that makes no audible difference. A real silencer will reduce a gunshot by around 30dB. Furthermore, using a pillow as a silencer is likely to jam up the mechanism of the firearm as it ejects the empty casing.

A criminal would be better off using a hammer if they want to operate silently. Using a pillow would do nothing to silence the firearm, and they will be left with a jammed up firearm, rendering it useless after just one shot that the whole neighborhood would have heard.

9mm handgun bieing fired through a pillow as a silencer and gets jammed up.

The film and gaming industry is littered with silencer myths, some completely false, some plausible, and surprisingly, some completely true! Let’s look at another silencer myth, made popular by one of my favorite games, Call of Duty.

Does an oil filter work as a suppressor?

While this shooting “myth” was made famous by the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, I have seen people on YouTube attaching oil filters to their firearms as suppressors for years before that. You will be surprised to find out that there is some truth to the so-called myth that an oil filter works as a suppressor.

An oil filter does work as a suppressor, and it does a good job at it too. A 9mm round fired through an oil filter is reduced from around 160dB to around 130dB, a 30dB reduction, better than some silencers on the market today. However, it will not be as durable as a real silencer and will need to be replaced often.

Making a silencer out of an oil filter involves a lot more than simply screwing it onto your gun. It requires drilling a hole through the center for the bullet to pass through. Some say you can just shoot a hole through the filter, but I would feel safer drilling a hole beforehand. A person will also need an adaptor that matches the barrel thread to the thread of the oil filter.

Moreover, if you are in the United States, you will have to obtain a form one from the ATF to do this legally, and this will require you to have the filter engraved with a serial number and pay $200 to the government. Legally, you are not allowed to assemble the filter-silencer until you have received your form one, which can take up to 12 months. Form ones are not transferable to another silencer, so when it is worn out, you will have to do the process all over again.

While an oil filter can work as a silencer, there are some caveats. Instead of metal baffles like in real firearm silencers, an oil filter has paper baffles and will only last a limited number of shots. Also, the diameter of the filter will be larger than a silencer and it will be impossible to see your target through your sights.

Honestly, if you are going to go through all that paperwork and expense, you are better off buying a real silencer that will last you a lifetime, and you will only have to do the form one application once. If you live in a country where silencers are not regulated, then this could be an affordable, fun, and effective method to silence your firearms.

Will a soda bottle work as a silencer?

Here we have another movie myth. This time from a scene in the film Shooter starring Mark Wahlberg, where he shoots at the bad guys from a boat using a soda bottle as a silencer. This looks really cool, and even realistic, but will a soda bottle really work as a silencer?

While a soda bottle will work as a silencer on a small-caliber rifle such as a .22 rimfire shooting subsonic ammunition, the difference will be very subtle. A soda bottle will do nothing to silence a larger caliber firearm and it will probably explode in pieces when a shot is fired through it.

Can a potato work as a silencer?

This one came out of nowhere! It was pretty difficult to find the source of this myth, but I eventually tracked it down to a myth from the 1920’s and more recently was featured in a 1992 gangster film, where a guy is shot by a thug who used a potato to silence his handgun, but can a potato really work as a silencer?

A potato will not work as a silencer. In fact, attaching a potato to the end of your barrel may be dangerous. If it does not destroy your firearm, a potato might reduce the sound of a .22 rifle by about 5 dB, a difference so small that is not even noticeable by the human ear. The potato silencer is a myth dating back to the 1920’s, that has been spread by Hollywood.

By drilling a hole through the center of the potato, attaching it to a low caliber firearm such as a .22 rimfire, and by using subsonic ammunition, you might be able to slightly reduce the sound of the gunshot, but it won’t be much and it’s hardly worth the risk.

Realistically, you’re more likely to destroy your barrel and have bits of potato blown into every nook and cranny, while doing little to nothing to suppress your firearm.

A potato being used as a silencer in the 1992 fiml South Central.

Do silencers reduce damage?

Why is it that when I attach a silencer to my weapon in video games the damage bar goes down? Do silencers really reduce damage in real life?

Silencers do not reduce the damage, velocity, or range of a bullet. In fact, it has been shown that silencers actually increase the velocity of the bullet ever so slightly, which in turn will increase the damage the bullet inflicts on its target. However, if subsonic ammunition is used, then the slower moving bullet may inflict less damage on the target.

A bullet is propelled through a barrel by expanding gasses. The longer those gasses are contained behind the bullet, the faster the bullet will travel by the time it leaves the barrel. When a silencer is attached to the end of the barrel, the expanding gasses are contained behind the bullet for a longer time, which in turn accelerates the bullet for longer, essentially increasing its velocity. Higher velocity means more damage to the target.

In some instances, subsonic ammunition is used. Subsonic ammunition travels slower than normal ammunition, which means the bullet will not break the sound barrier. That means the sound of the gunshot is suppressed even more. However, the slower moving bullet will inflict less damage to its target.

Do silencers affect accuracy?

Silencers do affect accuracy for the better. Gasses escaping the barrel as the bullet exits are slowed down, causing a more controlled release rather than a violent expansion. This less violent release can reduce the amount of turbulence around the bullet, making it more stable in flight. This is known to have a positive impact on the accuracy of the bullet.

Silencers may cause a point of impact shift. This means that the bullet will have a different point of impact when the suppressor is attached compared to when it is not. As long as the shooter knows by how much and in what direction the bullets point of impact shifts when the suppressor is attached, they can simply adjust their rifle scope to compensate for that.

Whether you experience point of impact shift or not, a silencer will not degrade the accuracy of a firearm.

Do silencers work like in the movies?

Silencers do not work like in the movies. Silencers only reduce the sound of the gunshot enough to make it safe for human ears. The gunshot is still audible, especially when using supersonic ammunition. Modern silencers, used in conjunction with firearms designed to be silenced with subsonic ammunition can be incredibly quiet, but never like you see in the movies.


A pillow certainly does not work as a silencer, and will more than likely jam up your handgun. Likewise, a soda can will do little to silence a firearm, despite what Hollywood portrays, and potatoes are the last thing anyone should ever attempt to use as a silencer.

Silencers do not reduce damage either. In fact, if you want to get technical about it, a silencer will add more velocity to the bullet, which means it will inflict more damage to its target. Furthermore, a silencer will not have any negative effect on the accuracy of a firearm. A silencer is designed to slow the expanding gasses as they leave the barrel. By slowing these gasses, these gasses cause less disturbance to the air around the bullet, giving it a more stable path and thus increasing the accuracy.

Lastly, silencers do not work like in the movies. Silencers do well to reduce the sound of a gunshot, but nothing like in the movies. If you fire a silenced weapon in your house, everyone, including your neighbors is going to hear the thud and know something is up. A silencer simply takes a gunshot from deafening to hearing safe.

This article was fun! I learned a lot about silencers during my research for this article and some of the answers suprised me. Did any of these myths surprise you? Let me know, and if you have any other myths that you would like me to cover, please leave them in the comments section below!

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