That’s all great, and that’s also why there are several different models in each category. The purpose of this article, however, is not to help you select a specific suppressor – but to help you figure out what category you should be looking at in the first place.
First of all, we categorize suppressors into 5 different groups:
- Rimfire – These are your standard .22 LR suppressors; although, some models will also work with .22 Mag, .17 HMR, and 5.7 weapons.
- Pistol – This category contains pistol caliber suppressors, such as .45, .40, & 9mm. Many of the suppressors in this category are “boosted”, so a tilting barrel pistol will still cycle.
- 5.56mm Rifle – These are built for your standard .223, or 5.56mm, weapons – such as the AR15.
- 7.62mm Rifle – The 7.62mm suppressors will handle .30 caliber bullets (such as the .308; and, in some cases up to .300 Win Mag).
- Large Bore – These big boys will handle larger caliber weapons, such as .338 Lapua or even the .50 BMG.
There are three rules that determine which category you should be looking at:
- The bore size of your weapon - In other words, you absolutely need to make sure the bullet you are sending downrange is smaller than the bore through the suppressor. This may seem obvious; but, we just want to be clear.
- The pressure of the round you’re firing – There are cases where the bullet you’re firing will fit through the suppressor, but the suppressor isn’t designed to handle the pressure. If you do decide to put a higher pressure round through your suppressor, you have a very good chance of blowing it up eventually…
- The size and weight of the suppressor – There are cases where the bore size of the suppressor is large enough, and it will easily handle the pressure of your round – but the suppressor is just too large & heavy for the weapon. For example, a large bore suppressor on a 5.7×28 FN would probably be larger & heavier than the weapon itself.
The rest of this article will focus on what works and what doesn’t work when looking at these three rules.
These will all handle .22 LR just fine. Not all of them, on the other hand, will work with .22 Mag, .17 HMR, or 5.7×28 FN. Also, even though the bore size and thread pitch are the same, NONE OF THESE will work with a 5.56mm/.223 rifle because of the higher pressure!
Pistol Caliber Suppressors
With pistol caliber suppressors, a lot of people like to run smaller caliber bullets through a larger caliber suppressor. For example, a 9mm handgun will work just fine with a .45 suppressor – so there is an obvious appeal.
What we typically recommend is to get the .45 to cover multiple calibers if you already have a .45 pistol. If you don’t have a .45 pistol, then there is no need to go with something that is larger, heavier, and in many cases not as effective.
Remember that one major factor that determines the quietness of a suppressor is the bore size compared to the size of the bullet. This typically results in a top-of-the-line .45 suppressor (like the Ti-RANT or Osprey) working about the same as a bottom-of-the-line 9mm suppressor when used on a 9mm pistol – despite the fact that the .45 suppressor is both larger & heavier…
Many of the pistol caliber suppressors will also work great with .22 LR weapons; although, you should be careful to choose a user serviceable model if you’re planning on going that route.
Another thing to remember with a pistol caliber suppressor is that you SHOULD NOT SHOOT RIFLE ROUNDS THROUGH THEM unless the suppressor is specifically rated for your caliber! A 9mm suppressor, for example, will often thread onto a .223 rifle just fine – but the pressure from the .223 is just too much for a pistol caliber suppressor.
Having said that about .223 through a rifle caliber suppressor, there are some pistol suppressors that will work fine with subsonic rifle rounds – like the .300 Blackout.
5.56mm Rifle Suppressors
The 5.56mm rifle suppressors are designed to handle significantly more pressure than either pistol or rimfire suppressors – so this is where you should look if you have an AR15 that you want to suppress.
Many people do ask if they can shoot their .22 LR weapons using these; and, the answer is a very hesitant yes. Although it will work, there are some problems with this combination:
- Most .22 LR ammunition is not jacketed and will result in lead residue building up inside the suppressor. The .22 ammo also tends to be very dirty since it’s so inexpensive. Because of these issues, the rimfire suppressors come apart for cleaning – but the 5.56mm rifle suppressors do not. If you shoot a lot of .22 LR through your 5.56mm suppressor, it can be very hard to clean that lead residue out; so, we typically recommend staying away from this combination altogether.
- This may not seem obvious when looking at pictures; but, the 5.56mm suppressors are heavier than their little rimfire cousins. For example, a rimfire suppressor will typically weigh only a few ounces – while a 5.56mm suppressor will easily get into the 1+ LB range.
7.62mm Rifle Suppressors
These suppressors are a step up from the 5.56mm models and offer a lot of flexibility. Most modern bullets are either .30 caliber or smaller, so these suppressors will work with most firearms – like .308, 6.5mm, 6.8mm, 7mm, .300 Win Mag, .300 Blackout, or any other 7.62mm variant.
They can also work with 5.56mm rifles; although, we stand by the same recommendation we make for .45 suppressors on a 9mm (i.e. this makes great sense if you do have a 7.62mm rifle – otherwise stick with the 5.56mm models).
Because of their extreme flexibility, this is a category where you need to be very careful of chamber pressures. The .300 WM, for example, will fit through any of them – but they are not all designed to handle that pressure.
As a general rule, you can put anything up to .308 through these 7.62mm suppressors without an issue. Once you go above the .308 – be sure to verify that the suppressor you’re looking at will handle the additional pressure levels.
Large Bore Suppressors
These bad boys include both .338 and .50 BMG suppressors. They are big, heavy, and designed to handle extreme pressures. In many cases, the .338 models can also be used for high-pressure .30 caliber bullets – like the .300 Ultra Mag.
I know this has run a bit long; but, I hope it ends up being helpful. As you can see, there often several possibilities when choosing which category you should be looking at.
Now that you’ve figured out what category to be looking in, it’s time to pick out that perfect suppressor you’ve been looking for!