Sound suppressors for firearms, commonly but incorrectly referred to as silencers, have been around for more than a hundred years. Long victimized by Hollywood as being something only an assassin, spy, or commando would use, it’s not a commonly known fact that thousands of these legal devices are owned by common everyday sportsmen who use them in dozens of states to game. One of these states is Mississippi.
There are many valid reasons that some Mississippi hunters look to suppressors for taking both game and nuisance animals. Suppressors most obviously save hearing and allow the sportsman to hunt without the aid of in-ear or over-ear hearing protection. Since the ears are free, this increases situational awareness and makes the hunter both safer and more alert.
Since suppressors can eliminate up to 30% of the felt recoil of a firearm, they improve accuracy and make follow up shots easier if needed. Finally, the suppression of gunshots is kinder to the local community and helps preserve the tranquility of the outdoors.
A typical suppressor will drop about 20dB of sound from the muzzle blast and, when coupled with subsonic ammunition is extremely effective. Even if subsonic rounds are not available, the sound suppression of the device alone is still dramatic.
What’s Out There?
Suppressors come in two basic types: detachable ‘cans’ that screw onto threaded muzzle crowns at the end of the barrel, and integral built-in varieties that are designed around the gun. Either of these types is made for most caliber rifles and handguns. While almost any caliber can be suppressed, the most popular and inexpensive are those for .22LRs. The nearly indestructible TAC-65 made by Tactical Innovation costs about $250 and can be used on either pistols or rifles chambered for .22LR, producing air gun levels of sound. These make absolutely wicked squirrel and rabbit takers. Liberty Leonidas makes an integrally suppressed .300 Blackout upper that is ideal for quietly taking wild hogs, coyotes, and even whitetail at range. Gemtech, AWC, YHM, and Shark are other well-known manufacturers that make both types of suppressors in everything from .22 to .300 Win Mag.
Is it legal?
In a word, yes*. Factory-made suppressors were readily available and widely used in this country from the late 19th century through the 1930s. They could be bought over the counter and via mail order until declared regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. This is where the asterisk (*) comes in at.
About a dozen states (CA, MA, Ill, et al) prohibit their residents from owning otherwise legal and federally registered/regulated suppressors. About a dozen more allow ownership but have laws in effect that prohibit use in hunting. Mississippi, gratefully, is one of the 20+ states that allows both possession of NFA-compliant suppressors and grants their use in hunting of all legal game in season. MS Sportsman verified this through communication with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
Incidentally, if you are curious about neighboring states: Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana all allow possession of registered suppressors. Louisiana allows the taking only of “nuisance non-game” animals while Alabama prohibits all hunting with a suppressor. Tennessee’s laws are much like Mississippi’s, where all game animals are legal.
Suppressor use is on the rise nationwide. In 2010 alone some 22,265 legal suppressors were sold, 348 of those in Mississippi.
How do you get one?
Legal suppressors are neat but you have to jump through a couple hoops to get them. First off, don’t rush out and make your own or buy one from a guy who knows a guy. Do it the right way. Find a nearby Class III FFL holder. There are several of them located across the state from Oxford to Ocean Springs. They are licensed to buy and sell NFA-regulated firearms and suppressors. Once you do, they can handle the purchase and transfer to you of a legal suppressor. They can walk you through completing your BATFE Form 4, which is a multi-page application that includes a set of fingerprints, a passport photo, and a signature from your local chief law enforcement officer (who are normally quite understanding). Then send this all in with a check for a $200 tax stamp from Uncle Sam and in about two months you can come and pick up your new critter getter.
Once it’s yours, it’s a keeper that even under current legislation is grandfathered to you forever.
It gives a completely new meaning to the term deer whisperer.