We've had a lot of customers ask us about using a sonic cleaner on their suppressors lately - so we decided to run some experiments to see how well they really work. Over the course of our experimentation, we learned quite a bit - and I think we've come up with a pretty good idea of how to use a sonic cleaner both safely and effectively on your suppressor.
Before going into the details, let me stress that suppressors DO NOT need to be cleaned like you would clean your firearms. Honestly, they shoot quieter when they're dirty; so, you should really keep your cleaning to a minimum. Having said that, however, there are some cases where occasional cleaning is necessary - such as .22 suppressors being used with that dirty/non-jacketed ammo...
We used a Hornady Magnum Sonic Cleaner with the Hornady gun cleaning solution. The heater feature was turned on to 140 degrees for all the testing.
Now, on to the tests!
The first suppressor we decided to use was the excellent Stainless Sparrow from SilencerCo. Since the Sparrow is so easy to take apart, it doesn't get cleaned as much as our other .22 suppressors (which is actually a good thing - remember that less is more when cleaning suppressors).
Since this was our first attempt, we simply took the Sparrow apart and threw all the pieces into the Sonic Cleaner for 45 minutes. We filmed the test for your viewing pleasure:
If you watch that video clip, you'll see that we were initially unimpressed with the results. You may also have noticed that the Sparrow finish held up perfectly in the sonic cleaner - so we didn't think much about the damage that could occur. We learned later that putting a finished part into a sonic cleaner is not a great idea!
Our second experiment was much like the first in that we simply pulled apart an AAC Ti-RANT 9 and threw it in the sonic cleaner for 45 minutes. Once again, you can see the test here:
This time around, we started to see some minor damage to the finish - so we decided it would be a good idea to limit the time that finished parts spend in the sonic cleaner. Unfortunately, the lesson we should have learned was to leave the finished parts completely out!
Our third test was the first time we really started to see good cleaning results. This time we used an AAC Element and followed these steps:
Put only the internal baffles into the sonic cleaner for 15 minutes.
Pulled them out and gently scrubbed them using a copper brush - the carbon pieces flecked off far easier than normal so we only spent a couple of minutes and didn't worry about getting it perfect.
Put the baffles back into the sonic cleaner together with the tube for an additional 15 minutes.
After the second 15 minute run, the remaining build-up fell off easily and they looked great! Literally, the baffles looked like new!
Unfortunately, although we only put the tube in for 15 minutes, it didn't fare well at all.
This is the kind of thing that would make you sick if you had just spent the time and money to procure a nice new suppressor; so, once again, I advise you to leave the finished parts completely out of the sonic cleaner!
Regardless of the damage to the Element finish, we continued with our experiments since we were impressed with how clean the baffles were coming out. Since we have heard so much about how aluminum parts may or may not be damaged in a sonic cleaner, we decided to give that a try using a, fully aluminum, Tactical Innovations Stratus suppressor. Since the Hornady gun cleaning solution is supposed to be safe for aluminum parts, we didn't anticipate any problems - but we hadn't anticipated the finish coming off either...
Fortunately, the Stratus came out as clean as the Element - and with no pitting or other damage to the aluminum baffles. I'm not going to guarantee anything; but, we're not going to worry about aluminum baffles going into the sonic cleaner.
Overall, I think this is a great tool for cleaning the baffles from take-apart cans since they come out perfectly clean with a minimum of effort. It is unfortunate that the finish can be damaged so easily since that makes it impossible to just throw a sealed can into the sonic cleaner every few thousand rounds. For sealed cans, I think we'll just stick with soaking in solvent and rinsing them out.
I wonder if it would help to wrap the finish with a couple of layers of duct tape to protect it? I've masked delicate areas for grit blasting with duct tape before. Also, an ultrasonic cleaner with a selectable frequency can be set to a more gentle cavitation collapse. The non-adjustable ones are set at a compromise that cleans tiny features and crevices and cleans quickly but at the risk of surface damage for more heavily soiled items that need longer cleaning. I may need to run a couple of tests.
Im glad I found this. I totally put the finished part in for first clean. I won’t do that again. Im glad I just used the baby cleaner and not the big one. As far as not cleaning it… I shot 100 rounds and it took vice grips with a towel to protect knurling to unscrew it and I had to pound out the core with a punch. Im afraid if I never clean it I will never be able to get it apart.