I am unsure when the term “force multiplier” came into use, but unlike many trendy phrases I think it is a good one. The concept is a military one, but it is useful in any endeavor. The basic idea is that we find something that makes us more effective than our competition whether in business, sports or combat. A force multiplier can be having more knowledge, better tools, strategy, or tactics or the ability to deceive. Another term for force multiplication might be competitive edge. A force multiplier can allow an apparently weaker opponent to triumph in the end over a larger force.
As preppers, we should always be looking for force multipliers. They allow us to leverage scanty resources in the event that things take a wrong turn. The concept also asks us to consider how we spend resources as we prep. We should ask, before making any purchase, whether the item in question provides an advantage and, if so, how much of one.
As I looked at my preps, I concluded that there were three things we didn’t have that would enhance our abilities. The first was body armor. Body armor can allow you to stay in the fight longer which could be decisive and certainly magnifies our abilities.
Next came night vision. Improved awareness is a tremendous force multiplier. It can enable us to hunt at night, when animals such as hogs are very active. It can keep us from being surprised by enemies. Night vision was a critical tool in many U.S. military victories over the last 25 years and led U.S. commanders to prefer fighting and moving in the dark when our opponents were blind.
Another item on my agenda is sound suppression for firearms. There are a lot of reasons to use suppressors on guns, and please note that I write “suppressors” not silencers. They reduce noise, but they cannot eliminate it, particularly for the supersonic ammunition used in centerfire rifles and many handguns.
Dramatically reducing noise, which a good suppressor can do, makes us less obvious. This is important for many purposes. First, it protects our hearing and senses are vital. Next, it can allow us to practice shooting in areas we could not otherwise use due to noise. For hunting, it is less likely to spook game or attract undesired attention from someone who might wish to steal from us. For self-defense, it can help us keep our position concealed and allow us to operate with surprise.
There are some disadvantages to suppressors, of course, as there are to any tool. They are still illegal in some states, and they are controlled by the National Firearm Act and may only be sold by Class III dealers. Paperwork must be filed with the federal government, and you must buy a $200 tax stamp for each suppressor.
Before filing the federal papers, you have to obtain approval from a local chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) or establish a legal entity to own one. Since many CLEO’s will not approve of the unwashed masses owning such devices, the most popular method these days it setting up a gun trust to own the suppressor. A trust does not require a CLEO signature. You could also establish a corporation, but this is more complex legally and may have tax ramifications. Either approach, in my view, is best done with the help of an attorney who is familiar with the process. There are many who advertise gun trusts online and the costs run from $100 to $200 for a basic trust. I would seek one I could meet in person. A trust can be established on the spot in less than an hour.
Once you have a trust, corporation, or agreeable CLEO, you have to decide which suppressor to buy before filing the paperwork for the purchase. The tax stamp is specific to that one suppressor. The first course of action is lots of Internet research to narrow the field down. Suppressors come in a bewildering number of variations from many makers. Caliber is obviously critical, as putting a .45 through a .22 suppressor won’t work well. The suppressor has to have the capacity and strength to handle the amount of gas coming from the muzzle. One meant for a .22 long rifle will have issues if you put it on a .223. Some suppressors can handle multiple rounds. Usually one meant for a more powerful and larger cartridge can work acceptably with a smaller one. Many people, for example, who buy one for a .308 Winchester also use it on their .223 rifles. The one for the .308 will have to be bigger and heavier, but since these things are expensive and painful to obtain, versatility is good.
There are different ways to mount them. Some simply screw onto the end of a threaded barrel or you can attach a quick detachable mount (QD) to your weapons so you can move it from one to another. Thread sizes vary, and you have to know which ones your guns use.
There are different types of construction and material choices that affect weight and size as well as durability. Steel is heavy, so many suppressors use titanium or aluminum along with some steel components.
Some suppressors can be disassembled for cleaning. The industry consensus is that suppressors only used with centerfire rifles never need to be taken apart, while those used with handguns and rimfires need frequent cleaning as their ammo is dirtier, and they don’t develop enough pressure and gas to flush the grime out.
The $799 MSRP Mystic X piqued my interest, as it seemed to be one of the most versatile suppressors on the market. It can handle more than 50 cartridges that include .223, .300 Blackout, and 7.62x39mm, as well as .22 long rifle and virtually all handguns up to 9mm or .357 in caliber.
The mount system is interchangeable, which allows it to be adapted to most weapons. It can be used with the recoil boosters required to make most semi-auto pistols work with suppressors. Liberty is willing to make custom mounts and also has an adapter that allows it to work with an assortment of QD mounts that will attach to flash hiders or muzzle brakes. All of this adaptability does come at additional cost, as you have to pay extra for the mounts, but if you can only afford one suppressor it can certainly help.
The fixed barrel adapters cost $95 while the recoil booster used with semi-auto handguns runs $155. You can use a pistol with a fixed barrel adapter as long as the threads are right, but it probably won’t function reliably.
The final adapter is the Highly Adaptive Taper Engagement (HATE) Ring that allows the Mystic X to be screwed onto a Silencerco Multiple Accessory Attachment Device (MAAD) QD mount. These run about $300 and allow the suppressor to be easily and quickly attached to a muzzle device, such as a flash hider or muzzle brake. There are four variants of the MAAD adapter, and each works with a specific brand of muzzle device. This is a slick system, since you don’t have to take anything off to mount the suppressor. Further, I really like having a flash hider when shooting without a suppressor, and this makes it easy to keep one in place. Unfortunately, this is the most expensive route, as the HATE ring runs $90 and you still need a flash hider and the MAAD mount. Compatible flash hiders and muzzle brakes run around $90.
The biggest questions about suppressors are how quiet are they and how much does the bulk and weight affect the handling of your firearm? Let’s deal with the easier second question first. The Mystic X weighs 10.5 ounces and is 8 inches long and 1.375 inches in diameter. The Mystic is a very light suppressor, thanks to its titanium shell, and that helps handling. I was surprised at how little it bothered me when mounted on an AR15. It was, however, very apparent on a Glock. I suspect a steel framed pistol, like a 1911, would balance better, as there is more weight in the frame to counterbalance the mass at the end of the barrel, but it will still be very muzzle heavy. It isn’t practical, however, to use it with a holster, certainly not one for concealment. Another handgun issue is that it will block standard sights. You can get taller sights, but then the pistol is somewhat compromised for normal use in a concealment holster.
The quiet question is complicated. There is the issue of how much sound pressure is generated when one fires a gun and how much noise the suppressor can get rid of. How the sound is measured matters. Sounds come in a wide range of frequencies, and to meaningfully measure it we need to do so with an instrument that hears similarly to the human ear. Suppressors may be more effective in some frequency ranges than others, and if the meter doesn’t measure the ones we hear the way we hear them, you could have one that meters well but still sounds loud.
Meters that accurately measure gunfire sounds are expensive and complicated to use properly. The standard is to place a microphone one meter from the rifle, perpendicular to the barrel and even with the muzzle. The surroundings will affect the reading. A hard surface will reflect more sound than an absorbent one. Air temperatures can affect readings as can moisture. To accurately compare two suppressors, all of the variables must the same.
Sound level is given in Decibels (dB), a unit of measure for sound among other things. The curious thing to me is that it is logarithmic. That means going from 50 to 100 does not double the sound. Instead, going from 1 to 10 doubles the apparent sound level to most listeners. In theory, we should be able to hear a sound of around 1 dB. Normal conversation is around 60 dB while a whisper is 30 dB at six feet away. Sounds of over 90 dB begin to endanger our hearing with sustained exposure. Gun fire is bad stuff and well over the pain level of 125 dB. Permanent damage can be done with a short-term exposure of 140 dB, and that is what a .22 long rifle can produce. A .223 makes twice as much noise at 150 dB, and a .30-06 or .308 can double it again to over 160 dB.
Some suppressor companies rate their products for how many dB’s they remove, while others give a sound level for various calibers. Take these readings with a grain of salt when you make comparisons. The manufacturer is probably giving the straight poop according to their measurements, but the next guy might be using a different meter and be shooting in a rock quarry while the first guy is using a padded sound chamber. Their measurements will probably be consistent across their own product line but often can’t fairly be compared to someone else’s.
Liberty is in the how much does it take away camp and says the Mystic reduces sound by about 33-38 dB across the various platforms you can hang it on. That appears to be a very respectable performance when compared to other suppressors.
Yet another quiet issue is that each suppressor has its own sound quality. One may remove more of the low frequencies, while the next cuts out more of the high frequencies. Where you shoot and the state of your hearing can affect how quiet they sound. If you shoot in a very reflective environment for high frequencies, the one that cuts those better might sound quieter. If you blew your high frequency hearing away before you learned about hearing protection, then the one that cuts the low frequencies may sound better since you can’t even hear the high ones. The best bet, if you can, is to shoot multiple suppressors before making your choice; see which one sounds best to you in your likely environment using your weapon.
A final issue is subsonic vs. supersonic ammunition. Suppressors only deal with the sound that comes out of the muzzle. Supersonic bullets make a crack as they go by, and it is loud. Subsonic bullets don’t, and they are remarkably quieter than supersonic ones.
Down range sound is seldom measured, and it is important if one wishes to avoid spooking game or not bothering others. I noticed a difference just in being beside the weapon vs. shooting it. It was distinctly louder on the side.
I shot the Mystic with .22 long rifle in an AR with a conversion kit from CMMG and used three cartridges– CCI Quiet, Aguila Subsonic, and American Eagle High Velocity. The supersonic American Eagle made a loud crack, but it was significantly quieter than unsuppressed. There were no failures with it, but I still wanted hearing protection. The CCI and Aguila were quiet enough to not need protection. They were soft enough to hear the action operating. The CCI would not fully cycle the action, however, which is normal in this rifle while the Aquila had a couple of malfunctions. I think with some tweaking, the Aguila could be made to work.
Next up was a Glock 9mm, and it was also quiet enough with subsonic loads to skip hearing protection.
The .223 was a different matter. While it was quieter with the Mystic than without it, my ears needed protection.
The most interesting rifle may have been the DRD Tactical in .300 AAC Blackout with subsonic ammunition. The noise of the bullet impact on the berm was louder than the gunshot. You could hear the action operate. There was still a gunshot sound, but it was very quiet and ear safe, at least for a few rounds, which brings up one of the issues of hearing protection. Exposing your ears to long-term loud noise of about 90 dB can produce hearing loss just as exposure to a single .223 shot can. The damage can accumulate, so you don’t want much exposure before giving your ears a chance to recover. If you are going to shoot a lot, you should probably wear protection with all but the quietest loads.
I mentioned down range noise. While surroundings and other factors have a huge impact on how sound travels, it falls off quickly as distance increases. Every time you double the distance, sound level is cut to a quarter of the original level. That means if one shoots a suppressed .22 subsonic load, it will be less than half the volume of a conversational voice by the time it travels a mile. Without the suppressor, it will be double the sound of your voice in normal conversation. That means if one were to carefully choose a practice location that muffled and contained sound, it would be possible to shoot without attracting attention from any but the closest people. Hunting could also be done without much notice. Even if one were to use noisier rounds, there would still be a drastic reduction of the radius in which you could be heard. Reducing your conspicuousness can only improve your situation.
One thing I wasn’t able to verify was how the Mystic affects accuracy. Suppressors sometimes help and sometimes hurt accuracy, and there seems to be some magic involved with how it turns out with any particular gun, cartridge, and suppressor. Only careful testing will determine the results. There is usually a point of impact change, which is often predictable and repeatable but sometimes not. If you can take it on and off and still hit the same spot every time, that’s a good thing, Sometimes it doesn’t happen. In that case, it is best to give in and either not use that weapon/suppressor combination or dedicate the two to be married. Liberty has a FAQ on the subject.
For all of the positives, there is a downside to owning a suppressor. It makes you more conspicuous, legally, when you file all of that paperwork. That is a serious concern, and it’s one I have mixed feeling about as I debate whether to go ahead with purchasing one. I’m pretty obvious by this point in time, but I suspect that owning a suppressor makes one more obvious.
There are storage issues, too. You have to restrict access to it. Only you, or if you set up a trust, those on the trust with you, can get to it. You can’t loan it to a friend for hunting or target practice. Violating these rules has very serious consequences. You will need to get a lockbox that only authorized personnel can open.
Then there is the time element. It is currently taking about four months to get back the paperwork that allows you to pick up your suppressor. In the meantime, you have probably paid for it, and it is sitting in the dealer’s safe. There may also be a deadline if you go the gun trust route. The government is considering requiring all purchasers of suppressors (and automatic weapons) get CLEO approval, which would negate the gun trust approach. They promise they will make up their minds in December. That means time is wasting if you want one and expect to beat the December decision. Many feel the government will probably blink, just as it did on the M855 ammunition panic. I have no clue. I doubt, however, they would go back and make all prior approved gun trusts get CLEO signatures, even if they do start requiring them for the future. Stranger things have happened, however.
I haven’t made up my mind on this one. I think a suppressor is an extremely valuable tool, but the financial costs and paperwork are giving me problems. Given the potential for regulatory changes, I think I should make my mind up quickly. I have at least decided on the Mystic X, if I make the purchase. Its only drawback for my purposes is it can’t do .45 ACP or .308 Winchester, but I wasn’t able to find one that could do everything and still be as light and compact as the Mystic.
– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Eire