One of the greatest innovations in firearms history is the suppressor/silencer (I’m not getting into THAT argument…) at the end of a weapon. It’s been a long time coming to conventional forces, as the technology has been rapidly advancing, making it simultaneously cheaper and easier to produce and equip for average, everyday warfighters. No longer solely in the purview of special forces, silencers are now being used on the conventional level, with rifle companies throughout the 2nd Marine Division being equipped with them.
But the kicker is this — these suppressors aren’t just for individual weapons like M-4s. According to the plan, they are equipping crew-served weapons with them as well! That means that everything from the M-240 to the M-2 .50 caliber Browning-designed machine gun. Yeah, that’s right — a suppressed Mah Deuce. If that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is…
Suppressors vs. Silencers
So, I guess we do need to jump into this explanation for those who are wondering what the difference is. Frankly, most people who don’t either encounter suppressors as a part of their profession or sport a serious enthusiasm for the subject likely only know what they do from Hollywood.
But, likely to disappoint many people here, there is no legitimate differentiation between a “silencer” and a “suppressor” in terms of what a tubular device attached to the end of a barrel for the purpose of deadening the noise associated with gunfire is concerned. A “flash suppressor,” however, is very much so different from a device that deadens the sound of the gunshot, and as such, those devices are different.
In any case, the suppressors that are being added to these weapons systems are the next evolution in modern warfare. And the reasons are quite intriguing.
So what benefits could an entire Infantry company have in being fully suppressed? Most would immediately jump on the whole “stealth” idea. And sure enough, that is definitely one benefit. But in terms of full company-sized elements of over 100 moving in sector, this isn’t usually a matter of secrecy in the age of drones and ISRs flying overhead. Furthermore, the suppressors issued only suppress M-4s to a level of around 130 decibels — about the same as a jackhammer. But it does prevent the sound from carrying nearly as far.
The other factor in terms of stealth that is more readily helpful is that many suppressors will conceal muzzle flashes. This could be incredibly helpful in terms of enemy combatants being unable to determine where fire is coming from.
But the chief advantage this gives is one of operational control on the individual, fire team, squad and platoon levels. All of a sudden, leadership can hear one another without having to be physically close and yelling in subordinates’ ears to be heard over the sound of weapons-fire. This is the true crowning achievement.
Additionally, there has been some cursory evidence that there is a false impression given when firing unsuppressed weapons on the battlefield. Although few would ever admit it, the intensity of the sound can give some fighters the impression that their fire is being more effective than it actually is — simply in terms of how the human brain reacts. But now, in the absence of excessive “bangs,” individual riflemen can better focus their fire and will likely be more effective in killing the enemy.
It’s a great day to be an American, and even better to be a Marine in one of those companies. We all will wait in hopeful anticipation for the adoption to spread throughout conventional forces. The total cost for the three rifle companies’ worth of suppressors is around $700,000. That isn’t nothing, but it’s certainly an affordable way to increase the effectiveness of the most important element of the battlefield — those individuals putting bodies in their sights and pulling a trigger.
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