Silencer (weapon)

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Cross-section of a silencer, on the left the thread for fastening to the muzzle of the barrel, on the right the chambers separated by V-shaped baffles.

A silencer , also officially called a muzzle signature reducer in Germany , is in the field of weapon technology a device located at the muzzle of the firearm to reduce noise emissions and muzzle flash . They exist as additional equipment that can be screwed or clamped onto the muzzle and, much less often, as an integral part of the barrel (e.g. with the HK MP5 SD ).

A typical silencer is a cylindrical metal body which, by means of several chambers separated by baffles, brakes and cools the projectile propellant gases emerging from the muzzle, which leads to a reduction in the muzzle bang and muzzle flash.

Working principle

Patent drawing of a silencer (1971)

After a shot, the gases of the propellant charge expand inside the silencer, which means that they are partially relaxed without releasing sound energy directly into the environment. In order to reduce the energy of the gases as effectively as possible before they exit the muffler, the interior of mufflers usually contains components that inhibit the flow of gases. These can be pierced baffles, chambers or other, mostly inclined or spirally arranged components. There are variants with rubber slats. With good initial damping, however, the effect diminishes increasingly. The arrangement of the chambers and the expansion of the gases via additional bores or slots are crucial in the construction of an effective silencer. The right choice of ammunition is crucial for optimizing the sound-absorbing effect.

The silencer, however, only reduces the noise emitted by the gases that are under high pressure and explosively expanding when the shot is fired from the barrel muzzle; the mechanical noises of any automatic reloading are not attenuated. The sound level of the mechanics is around 90  dB for self-loading weapons and between 110 and 120 dB for fully automatic weapons. In order to suppress this source of noise, the self-loading mechanism could be blocked on some silenced self-loading weapons such as the Walther P38 versions .

The projectile bang of projectiles that are fired at supersonic speeds of 330 m / s and more remains unaffected. To avoid the supersonic bullet crack must of silenced weapons subsonic ammunition (including subsonic ammunition ) are fired as specifically restling cartridges, or how the caliber .45 ACP used. This usually has less than 330 m / s. Subsonic ammunition must already be used for the .22 lfB .

Special adaptations are required for the use of supersonic ammunition. One example is the patent for the MP5 SD3 submachine gun. Here, the gases are partially diverted into the silencer via bores in the barrel, reducing the projectile speed to below 330 m / s.


From top to bottom:
IMI Uzi with Vector Arms Model 2000
RRA AR-15 with Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) Omni
HK USP Tactical with AAC Evolution
Beretta 92 FS with AAC Evolution
SIG Mosquito with AAC Pilot

By the year 1888, the military units in Europe began to replace black powder with low-smoke powder . In this way the advantage was achieved that it was easier to shoot the enemy, since the mighty billows of smoke that were created when the black powder was used and which often made aiming impossible after a short time were eliminated. In addition, the lines of the rifle, which had previously been recognizable through these clouds of smoke, remained hidden from the eyes of the enemy, which correspondingly reduced the risk of getting caught in enemy fire. But this concealment was only relative. The smoke was no longer able to tell the enemy where a line of fire had come into action, but the bang still told the enemy the approximate position from which the shot had been fired. That is why ways and means were sought to minimize the bang when using modern firearms.

The inventor CA Aeppli patented a silencer design for a weapon in 1894. Several other patents from other developers followed, but they were not of any significant importance. The American inventor Hiram Percy Maxim finally succeeded in 1907/1908 in manufacturing the first silencer that was ready for series production, for which he received the patent in 1910.

He had screw-threaded the barrel of a rifle at the front, onto which he attached a small device that worked as follows:

“Since the bang is caused by the sudden development and expansion of a large amount of gas that is formed when the powder explodes, the purpose of Maxim's apparatus is to prevent the amount of gas from suddenly escaping into the air and to replace it with a slow and to set noiseless outflow. This is achieved by placing a series of helically wound channels or 'turbine elements' (as the inventor calls them) inside. These channels are positioned in such a way that the path for the sphere remains free, but the gases are forced to flow through these turbine elements. Their speed slows down on the long and winding path they have to cover. They get a rotating movement in a similar way to how the gas or water flowing out against a turbine is deflected from its direction and its effect is weakened. In this way the gas flow loses its strength and speed, and finally it flows slowly and without any sound from the last element into the open. After the shot has been fired, you can only hear a fine noise that can no longer be called a bang and that is no longer audible after a few meters. "

With this development, sport shooters should also be given the opportunity to protect their hearing. Accordingly, the Maxim silencers were sold under the Dr. Slush also advertised with the slogan The gentlemen's way of target shooting ; in German: "Target shooting like a gentleman." Maxim's company successfully marketed these silencers until the 1930s.

Areas of application

Silencers are used outdoors and in buildings. Snipers use them to disguise their location. City hunters use them in Germany with a special permit to avoid noise emissions and thus nuisance in pacified districts . The reasons for this lie in hearing protection and the lower level of wildlife alarm.

When special units (without active hearing protection ) are deployed inside rooms, apartments and other confined spaces, the emergency services use a silencer, not to disguise their presence from their opponents, but to prevent sudden deafness caused by sound pressure within closed rooms can. Thus, a silencer does not prevent the announcement of forces at the scene, but rather ensures the maintenance of communication, the hearing for the tactical approach and general health.

For these reasons in particular, the use of silenced weapons in the military and in other security areas is likely to increase. Starting with sniper rifles and later expanded to other handguns, z. B. the US Marine Corps only consider developments with integrated or retrofittable silencers when purchasing new products.

Legal position

The legal basis for the purchase and possession of silencers differ considerably internationally and in some cases also nationally. While they have long been standard equipment for many hunters in Scandinavia and Great Britain, they are completely banned elsewhere.


Rifle with silencer.

In Germany, in contrast to telescopic sights, for example, silencers are treated the same as the associated weapon in the licensing procedure under weapons law . When using weapons that require a license, the acquisition and possession of silencers by private individuals also require a license. As a the essential parts of a firearm assimilated object (WaffG, Appendix 1, section 1.3 in connection with § 4 and § 10. 1) or an AC system are therefore an acquisition permission or an entry in the weapons permit the contactors required. Similarly, silencers for so-called “free weapons” ( air rifles etc.) can be freely acquired from the age of 18 even without a weapon possession card.

Silencer attached to a CO 2 gun

However, the respective national legislation must also be taken into account. For example, in some German federal states, such as Hamburg, it is expressly forbidden to attach silencers to the mouth. B. Hessen, not.

Liberalization since 2007

With a few exceptions, such as B. City hunters , reserved for official use. Based on the EU directive "Noise" (2003/10 / EG) and the German noise and vibration occupational safety regulation (LärmVibrationsArbSchV) based on it from 2007, which among other things stipulates that extremely loud noise, which occurs even after a very short exposure time causes permanent hearing damage, which has to be fought at the place of origin, legal actions and changes in official administrative practice led to a gradual liberalization of hunting and weapons law with regard to the possession and use of silencers when hunting.

After Förster and other professional hunters had already successfully obtained special permits for silencers, the Bavarian state government instructed the subordinate authorities in 2015 to change their licensing practice and to grant every hunter a license to purchase silencers after a corresponding application. Numerous other countries have since followed the Bavarian model.

As of December 2018, the following federal states allow all hunters to purchase and use silencers when hunting:

  • Baden-Württemberg
  • Bavaria
  • Brandenburg
  • Hesse
  • Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
  • Lower Saxony
  • North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Rhineland-Palatinate
  • Saarland
  • Saxony
  • Schleswig-Holstein

The state government in Saxony-Anhalt intends to liberalize the acquisition of silencers.

Such applications for silencers are regularly denied in the three city states of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg as well as in Thuringia.


In Austria , the purchase and possession of silencers are generally prohibited in accordance with Section 17 (Prohibited Weapons) of the Austrian Weapons Act (WaffG). According to Section 17 (3a) WaffG, however, an employer can provide evidence that

  1. he employs full-time employees whose essential obligation includes shooting game and pests and
  2. the use of devices to dampen the blast of gunfire for firearms of category C is expedient and necessary for the protection of the health of these employees within the meaning of the Employee Protection Act or the Agricultural Labor Act in the context of professional practice. Then, at the employer's request, the competent authority can grant exemptions from the prohibition on the acquisition and possession and use of a certain number of devices to dampen the sound of a gunshot for category C firearms, with or without conditions.

According to an amendment to the Weapons Act by the National Council, hunters will be exempt from the otherwise still valid ban on silencers from January 1, 2019 and may use silencers on their firearms for hunting, unless the state hunting laws prohibit hunting with silencers.


Semi-automatic pistol Ruger MK II with silencer

In Switzerland , the acquisition, transfer and bringing into Swiss territory of silencers are prohibited in accordance with Article 4.2a (definition) and Article 5.1g (prohibition) of the Weapons Act, unless you are in possession of a cantonal exemption, which is usually only available upon proof of the need a silencer is approved.

See also

Web links

Commons : Silencer  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
  • Christian Neitzel: Put in the right light. In: No. 3, 2013, pp. 40–43 ( [PDF; accessed on December 26, 2018], archive link ).
  • Christian Neitzel, Stefan Braun: Hearing damage in hunting: soon silencers for the forest? In: Stalking. No. 5, 2013, pp. 12–17 ( [PDF; accessed on December 26, 2018] archive link ).
  • Christian Neitzel: Silencer technology: Quiet please! In: Stalking. No. 22, 2013, pp. 14–19 ( [PDF; accessed on December 26, 2018], archive link ).
  • Jochen Schumacher: JF036 silencer - Podcast about silencers with Christian Neitzel. In: Jagdfunk. March 2, 2016.
  • Reinhard Scholzen : Quieter, but not dangerous. In: Die Polizei 8, 2019, pp. 249–251.

Individual evidence

  1. Strategy and Technology Oct 2011, p. 22
  2. a b c d Frank W. James, Ulrich Eichstädt: Whisper campaign. In: Visier, the international weapons magazine, 7/1993, Pietsch + Scholten Verlag, Stuttgart, p. 40 ff.
  3. ^ Richard Preuss, Matthias Waage: Please do not disturb: Silencer - history and technology. In: Visier, the international weapons magazine , 1/2007 Vogt-Schild Germany, p. 6 ff.
  4. Visier, Das Internationale Waffenmagazin , issue 01/2008, p. 16.
  5. Neitzel, Braun (2013), p. 14 f.
  6. Hunting with a silencer is now possible in Bavaria. In: August 10, 2015, archived from the original on December 26, 2018 ; accessed on December 26, 2018 .
  7. a b Acquisition and use of silencers in Germany. In: Blaser. December 2017, archived from the original on December 26, 2018 ; accessed on December 26, 2018 .
  8. Lower Saxony passes new hunting law. In: October 30, 2018, accessed December 26, 2018 .
  9. Kathrin Führes: Amendment of the State Hunting Law of Saxony-Anhalt. In: November 7, 2018, accessed December 26, 2018 .
  10. ASchG, Federal Law Gazette I No. 450/1994
  11. LAG, Federal Law Gazette No. 287/1984
  12. Silencer for hunters now allowed. In: December 14, 2018, accessed December 26, 2018 .
  13. Hunter: Be careful with silencers! In: Kirschner law. November 26, 2018, accessed on May 13, 2019 (German).