How quiet can you be?
by B.B. Pelletier
Many years ago, I was of the opinion that a silenced handgun made virtually no noise when fired. Then, I bought a legal silencer and discovered that silencers do not completely silence the report of firearms. Since then, I’ve researched the silencer issue in much greater detail and have come to the conclusion that what a silencer can really do is often offset by the false expectations of shooters without previous silencer experience.
After that, you might think that today’s report is about silencers, but it’s not. Instead, I’m going to talk about what the word “quiet” means and how it fits into airgunning. Silencers (or moderators or any other word that means the same thing) never completely silence the report made by a gun. Some of the best ones do a lot, but none of them are ever entirely silent.
But for airgunners, that isn’t the entire question because our guns make noises that a silencer cannot address. To put it simply, no matter how good your car’s muffler is, it still won’t do much about the noise made when the doors slam shut.
Spring-piston guns generate more noise in their powerplants than they do at the muzzle. Trying to silence a springer is pretty futile. On the other hand, a PCP powerplant makes very little noise at all. So, this is an airgun that can be silenced most effectively.
Some specifics, please
The TX-200 Mark III is a very quiet spring-piston air rifle. The muzzle report is silenced by a baffled shroud that the barrel sits in. But that addresses only about one-quarter of all the noise the rifle produces. The remaining three-quarters of the noise comes from the piston slamming forward inside the compression chamber and the coiled steel mainspring rattling around when it does its thing. A TX-200 has a very close-fitted powerplant, whose parts have very little room to move around, apart from the room they must have to push the piston forward, so they don’t have any room to make a lot of extraneous noise. That’s the real reason why a TX-200 Mark III is so quiet.
But the average springer is not built to the same tight specs as a TX-200. A powerful spring rifle made for hunting will have looser tolerances, and a much louder discharge sound, as a result. However, I’ve done some testing in the past that reveals some very enlightening results. When I was testing the Beeman R1 rifle for the chapters of the R1 book, one of the things I did was tune the rifle several different ways. The most powerful tune I installed was also the quietest, as it turned out. The Venomac Mag 80 Laza Glide tune produced over 22 foot-pounds in my R1, yet it both felt and sounded as though it was far weaker. However, that tune also removed almost all vibration from the powerplant, and that afforded me the chance to see what a difference a tightly fitted powerplant can make to the noise issue.
Most of today’s super-magnums have lots of play in their powerplants, with the result that they make a lot of noise when firing. And, it’s noise that cannot be silenced by anything. Before you buy a spring-piston airgun, thinking that it has to be quiet just because it is a springer, consider what I’ve said here.
On the other hand, a weaker spring gun powerplant makes less noise just because the parts inside the powerplant are not making that much racket. They don’t have to be fitted tighter to do this, either. So an IZH 60, and an Air Venturi Bronco are both very quiet airguns, just because they don’t rattle violently when fired. They aren’t fitted tighter than the big magnum rifles, but their parts just never get thrown around as harshly, which makes all the difference in the world.
Crosman Corporation did something very important in reducing the noise a powerplant makes. They used a gas spring they call a Nitro Piston in place of a coiled steel mainspring. They also put the barrel inside a baffled shroud. Instead of tightly fitting all the individual moving parts, Crosman went with a technology — the gas spring — that by its very design is fitted tighter and is therefore much quieter than the conventional spring-powered piston gun. The epitome of their efforts can be found in the Benjamin Legacy, which uses a Nitro Piston, has a shrouded barrel and is also low-powered. So the best of all three design aspects went into one airgun, with the result that the Legacy is quieter than even the TX-200, but costs a lot less, too!
Of course the Crosman Nitro Piston Technology works for all the rifles they make, so even a Benjamin Trail NP XL is relatively quiet for the power that it has. But the Trail NP they used to sell with reduced power was always the quietest of all the guns they normally sold. Only the special-order Benjamin Legacy was quieter.
PCPs are the best
However, talking about silencing a spring gun is like talking about how fast a Honda Civic can go. Yes, you can improve the performance, but a Civic will never be a Ferrari…and a spring gun can never be a PCP, where quiet is concerned. The PCP is hands-down the easiest and most effective airgun to silence.
Let’s begin with the Benjamin Marauder as an example. Crosman didn’t invent the barrel shroud, but they did use it to the max on the Marauder. And, no, the Marauder isn’t completely silent, but it is one of the quietest over-the-counter airguns you’ll ever see.
A silencer can be made that will take the noise of the gun down to the point that all that can be heard is the sound of the hammer spring when it fires. That’s the best I’ve seen, and it’s pretty effective, but it’s also a special-build thing, in my experience. I’ve heard a few British silencers that were almost that quiet, but a special-built silencer is always quieter if it’s been built right. You cannot hear a gun like that shoot from 50 feet away, even though it’s putting out 30 foot-pounds.
I own an Airhog bloop tube for either an AirForce Condor or a Talon SS; and when the gun is set at 30 foot-pounds, the report is almost as quiet as a silenced .22 pistol shooting CB caps. The pistol generates less than 20 foot-pounds, so the airgun is more than 50 percent more powerful. Even so, it can be silenced to almost the same level, which is about as loud as the snapping of fingers.
The Ruger Mark II shooting Super Colibri CB cap ammo is extremely quiet. It generates maybe 18 foot-pounds.
The Talon SS with a 24-inch barrel and a bloop tube makes well over 30 foot-pounds. It’s nearly as quiet as the pistol.
So, quiet has several faces, and the prudent airgunner learns to understand them all. A silencer fitted to the muzzle can either be a blessing or a joke. It all depends on what you’re trying to quiet.
Don’t be lulled into believing that all airguns can be silenced to nothingness, because that’s impossible. But also understand that nothingness is way more than you usually need. A little quiet goes a long way.