I overheard a conversation at the gun shop the other day, the customer asked his friend why snipers don’t use silencers. His friends replied that a silencer on a sniper rifle would be pointless because silencers don’t actually silence the gunshot. He was correct to say that they don’t completely silence the shot, but that’s not the real reason why snipers don’t use silencers. Why don’t snipers actually use silencers?
Snipers don’t use silencers when they are not mission-critical because they are heavy and bulky. Snipers already carry a ton of equipment, so anything not essential will be left out. Some countries’ units do not have access to silencers because of the high cost or because their current weapon systems aren’t compatible.
Silencers give snipers a huge advantage by suppressing the actual gunshot (even only by a little, but enough) and by subduing the muzzle-flash that can give away the sniper’s position.
Using a silencer in the role of a sniper depends on the requirements of the mission, the terrain, and other factors.
If using a silencer is appropriate, the sniper will absolutely make use of a silencer. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the reasons a sniper would decide not to use a silencer.
A silencer adds weight and bulk to the sniper’s equipment
Silencers for large caliber rifles used by snipers are large and heavy. These silencers measure up to 13 inches and weigh upwards of 4 pounds. That might not sound like a lot while you’re sitting in your comfy armchair, under the air conditioner, playing Call of Duty, but it’s a completely different story for soldiers working in the hottest places on Earth. Carrying upwards of 100 pounds of equipment over dozens of miles of difficult terrain. That is why a sniper will only take what is considered mission-critical equipment.
Older weapon systems are not compatible with silencers
Another reason why some snipers don’t use silencers is that most older weapon systems are not compatible with silencers, and their units cannot afford to issue new weapons or even modify their existing ones to accept modern silencers.
In recent years, countries such as the UK and the US have started to modify their older sniper rifles such as the M24 to accept silencers. Fast forward to today, the US recently signed a contract for new sniper rifles that are designed to be silenced, giving them a huge advantage over others who do not have access to this kind of technology. In fact, the use of silencers is even being extended to infantry to be used on their M4 service rifles.
The use of a silencer is not always mission-critical
This is going to be the biggest deciding factor whether a sniper will use a silencer or not. A sniper’s decision to use a silencer is not based on preference, but rather the many variables each mission presents. Some reasons a sniper would opt to use a silencer or not would be:
- Will the sniper be firing from deep cover inside buildings? Using a silencer in this situation would be beneficial when firing a large caliber rifle such a .338 Lapua or .50 BMG would be damaging to your hearing, even with ear protection on.
- Will the sniper be taking shots at night? While all rifles give an obvious and audible sound signature that can’t be eliminated completely, the use of a silencer would greatly subdue the muzzle flash. A sound signature from the sniper’s rifle would indicate your general direction to the target, however, a muzzle flash would pinpoint your exact location to the target.
- Will the team be moving a lot, or will they be static? A silencer makes the rifle front heavy on an already front heavy weapon, rendering the rifle unwieldy. If the team are in a static position where very few shots will be taken, then they may opt to make use of a silencer, however, if the sniper team is attached to an infantry squad, they will be moving a lot and taking many shots from awkward positions while constantly moving, the might opt not to make use of a silencer.
Silencers are expensive to buy and maintain
Silencers for large caliber rifles cost as much as $2,800 each, and only last a limited amount of rounds before needing to be serviced or replaced. In addition, existing weapon systems will need to be modified to accept these silencers, adding additional cost to this endeavor.
After the silencers have been purchased and equipped, the snipers will have to use them in training. Bearing in mind that it’s not unheard of for a sniper to fire as many as a million rounds over the course of his career, meaning that one sniper will easily burn through many silencers in his service, and they will need to be either refurbished or replaced around every 100,000 rounds.
Running silencers is an expensive operation and for many countries, this is simply not affordable.
Do silencers affect accuracy?
Adding a silencer to a rifle has no significant effect on the rifle’s accuracy, but it will change the bullets point of impact. The shooter will have to make adjustments in his rifle scope to compensate for that. Switching between shooting with and without a silencer will constantly change your point of impact.
This is not ideal while in the field because the sniper will have to constantly switch between two sets of data based on whether the silencer is attached or not. So, when planning a mission, the sniper will decide if he will either use a silencer or not and stick with one option.
Many claim that snipers don’t use silencers because the sound of a supersonic bullet will mitigate any effect the silencer has on the gunshot. While there is some truth to the fact that a silencer won’t suppress the sonic crack as the bullet breaks the sound barrier, anyone who has ever fired a large caliber rifle with and without a silencer will tell you that it does indeed make a huge difference.
Having said that, snipers do in fact use silencers when it is appropriate. Silencers help to subdue the muzzle blast, especially while firing indoors, and almost completely mitigate muzzle flash that can pinpoint the sniper’s exact location!
Silencers are commonplace among snipers and are used by many snipers all over the world. However, it is not practical to use a silencer all the time. Silencers are heavy and bulky to carry around and make the rifle large and unwieldy when attached. So each mission is going to require its own setup, and there are times when a sniper will not use a silencer, and there are times when the use of a silencer will be critical.
Silencers are also expensive and are not compatible with just any weapon system. For this reason, many countries simply cannot afford to equip their snipers with silencers, even if they wanted to.
Have you heard any rumors regarding silencers? Do you shoot with or without a silencer? Or, have you ever served as a sniper and have something interesting to add? If so, please leave a comment below!