The science of noise is complicated. While we think what we hear as just loud or soft, soothing or annoying, actual noise is qualified and quantified by decibels (dB), but also in terms of pressure, intensity, duration and frequency. In shooting, every gunshot is different with the audible report dependent on the caliber, barrel length, distance from the source and even the atmospheric conditions. The Sound Pressure Level (SPL) represents the amount of pressure relative to atmospheric pressure while sound intensity represents the duration of sound over a particular area. Although a muzzleloader is “loud,” a 5.56 AR is also “loud” but with a high frequency and pressure spike that can damage ears and even mounted optics. Both may have similar decibel levels that might seem comparable, but the sound pressure level, intensity and frequency—the overall effect—can be very different. Gemtech science takes aim at these factors.
Gemtech Science of Silence
Anyone who has fired a .50 BMG rifle even with double ear pro knows that the physiological degradation after a dozen rounds is noticeable even though the perceived report (the decibels) is acceptably muffled. Suppressors like the new Gemtech Abyss and Neutron have been carefully crafted to turn the science of noise into the science of silence.
The first person to produce and market the first commercially successful silencer was the son of Sir Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the Maxim machine gun that was the basis for the machine guns used on both sides in WWI up until today. Hiram Percy Maxim was an 1886 MIT graduate in mechanical engineering and developed his firearm silencer around 1902, getting a patent on March 30, 1909, under the trademarked name Maxim Silencer (hence the reason why suppressor and silencer have been forever jumbled.) His multi-chambered design specifically trapped and re-directed the gasses of a propelled bullet, which is essentially what every suppressor has done since.
Baffles & Gas Expansion
A “silencer” or “suppressor” is a series of enclosed chambers connected by baffles or wipes. The baffles have holes about one millimeter bigger than the bullet whereas the wipes are replaceable plastic, rubber or even leather discs that the round passes through. The dynamic theory is that as the bullet is going through the baffle or wipe between the expansion chambers, the expanding gasses are momentarily trapped, slowed, cooled and dispersed to the other chambers by connecting holes. Some suppressors have more than a dozen baffles while others have as few as four, which is the minimum number for effective silencers. The durability and effectiveness of suppressors have been only recently established with the advent of bimetallic welding using exotic, high-temperature-resistant materials like stainless steel, titanium, Inconel and stellate for internal components like baffles.
Modern metallurgy has provided silencers a long lifespan even with powerful cartridges and fully automatic usage. That is a huge improvement from the design used by Maxim or even the ’60s state-of-the-art suppressors the SEALs used in Vietnam that was made for a dedicated S&W pistol—the 9mm Mk22 Hush Puppy. The Hush Puppy suppressor was a tube separated by four, thin 6.4mm plastic wipes that were replaced after about two dozen rounds. They were very effective (mostly on geese used for sentry duty) but not exactly robust.
As a pew-pew-pew shooter, do you need to know all the details of the history of noise and noise suppression? No. But you should know who does! Gemtech began in the firearm suppressor business in 1976, growing to be the world’s leading suppressor company with innovation and quality being an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2008 certified company with its suppressors in use with all branches of the U.S. military, many Special Operations Forces and police of friendly foreign countries around the world. In short, they are not a Johnny-come-lately outfit standing on the shoulders of giants. Gemtech is the giant who knows the technology, metallurgy and science of suppressing firearms.
Enter Smith & Wesson
The legendary firearms company, S&W, now owns Gemtech, which has been making suppressors for almost half a century and has brought out two new silencers. Their new Abyss is a dedicated 5.56 suppressor, and the Neutron is for 5.7x28mm to .300 Win Mag platforms. Both are constructed from stainless steel and titanium components to be mounted either directly on the barrel using standard threads or on the Gemtech QD muzzle brake.
Although small and light, they are made for short-barreled and even full-auto fire. How? The design consistently traps and linearly slows expanding gasses within its baffles as the bullet passes through for improved accuracy. This also provides for a lower pressure, minimizes muzzle flash, and significantly reduces the audible report, all while reducing backpressure by venting the gases forward and actually drawing cooled, burned gasses back in through the endcap to help mitigate the sound impulse. That design feature is a huge benefit when shooting alongside others and during serious professional use.
Neutron And Abyss Details
The all-welded Neutron and especially the Abyss were constructed to specifically address use on short-barreled (down to a 3-inch barrel) and high-power platforms that routinely burn a lot of powder outside the barrel that exacerbates pressure, report and shooter signature (especially indoors.) But the proof of usefulness is just how much noise reduction does the Abyss and Neutron provide? Using the decibel (dB) scale the sound level of an Abyss on an 11.5-inch barrel is about 135-136 dB at the muzzle and 138-139 dB at the ears, which is about a 30 dB decrease from an unsuppressed AR that can be 165-167 dB.
Because the dB scale is logarithmic, that reduction is actually quite a lot, as a 20 dB sound has a 100 power ratio, but an 80 dB sound has a power ratio of 100,000,000 decibel! A common rule of thumb to evaluate a sound’s intensity using the decibel level is that each 10 dB change represents a 10x increase or decrease in sound intensity so that when a volume is doubled, we perceive a 10 TIMES CHANGE in sound intensity. That means Gemtech has made the Abyss or Neutron to provide a 30 dB reduction in noise output so the shooter and those around them are actually perceiving close to a 30-times reduction in harmful auditory input!
Gemtech Trigger Time
I found that out when I had an opportunity to get some trigger time with Gemtech’s Abyss and Neutron suppressors on the new Gemtech GVAC 5.56 NATO upper for the AR. The combination was quiet and accurate, and the gasses were specifically controlled to not exit through the receiver and into the shooter’s face, as most suppressed ARs like to do. The slim, light (4.2 pounds) DI upper with the Gemtech ETM (Elite Taper Mount) muzzle brake features a pinned, low-pro GVAC gas block and a full-length 15-inch Midwest Industries Combat M-Lok handguard with QD sockets. Both the Neutron and Abyss suppressors only added a pound to the upper, allowing for a stable, balanced hold for repeated accurate shots. The overall effect was I was able to quietly place rounds exactly where I wanted, which is exactly what a shooter needs.
Why the current laws specifically and ridiculously restrict millions of shooters from easy access to what is a truly safe and preventative healthcare device cannot be logically explained. That kind of technology can prevent long-term disabilities and has been arbitrarily restricted by a government obsessed with people’s health. What they’re doing is not right, but that is the reality that we have to deal with.
Having a suppressor to protect your and others’ hearing is as much as a needed piece of safety equipment as safety glasses. The reality is that both hearing and vision are gifts that cannot be replaced once taken away. While the science of noise is complicated, Gemtech’s understanding and addressing the different variables of the auditory, mechanical and metallurgical issues of suppressors to create brilliant solutions makes the science of noise, the science of silence, which is also the science of shooter safety. For more information on Gemtech science and suppressors, visit gemtech.com.
This article originally appeared in the May-June 2023 issue of Tactical Life magazine. Get your print or digital copy or subscription at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
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