There are numerous reasons to suppress a pistol. However, most of those are secondary to performance. In my opinion, being able to shoot straight far outweighs many of the benefits of having a quiet weapon. With that in mind, let’s talk about which pistols are superior to suppress.
The best pistol to suppress is a .45 caliber pistol. .45 caliber pistols fire subsonic rounds, which are suppressible. 9mm pistols, on the other hand, mostly fire supersonic rounds that aren’t suppressible.
You can still install a suppressor on a 9mm, but the sonic boom created by the supersonic round will still give you away. Below, I provide an in-depth analysis of pistol suppression and compare the effects of suppression on a .45 and a 9mm.
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Remember, this isn’t the movies. Suppressors don’t eliminate noise – they reduce noise. Suppressors slow down the sound of combustion gases leaving the barrel, lowering the ‘boom’ you’d typically hear to something resembling a ‘huff.’ They also make the gun look a lot cooler.
But let’s face it, the boom of a gun can be annoying, not just for you but also for your neighbors. The solution is pistol suppression. You’ll enjoy shooting more and have happier neighbors, and your ears will thank you for it over the long term.
Pistol suppression is done in three ways:
- Integral Suppression. Involves permanent suppression of a pistol by building a suppressor around the barrel. It’s expensive but can be worthwhile if you own a gun that isn’t naturally suppressible.
- Thread-On Suppression. Involves tightening a suppressor onto the barrel’s thread. Most pistol suppressors are of the thread-on variety.
- Quick Detachable Suppression. Involves attaching a detachable suppressor to the pistol. They work best in situations that require alternating suppression as they detach easily from the muzzle.
It’s worth noting that not all pistols can be suppressed.
Pistols without a threaded barrel – for example, a standard Glock 19 – can’t be suppressed without modification. Others aren’t purpose-built for suppression, but their features allow for it.
Then there are pistols that come from the factory ready for suppression. These come with threaded barrels and suppressor height night sights.
Related 5 Most Quiet Pistols or Handguns.
What Is the Best Pistol Caliber To Suppress?
Generally, modern pistol calibers are challenging to suppress due to their supersonic nature. Therefore ‘older’ calibers tend to respond better to suppression. Again, supersonic rounds can be suppressed, but the supersonic boom they create reduces suppression effectiveness.
The best pistol caliber to suppress is the .45 caliber. All .45 rounds are subsonic, which are easily suppressible. It compares well to the subsonic 9mm caliber and is much easier to find.
The gun community is very much divided between the .45 caliber and the 9mm.
- Proponents of the 9mm swear that it’s much quieter when silenced.
- .45 caliber supporters claim that the difference is negligible and point to the availability of .45 caliber rounds as an advantage. To silence a 9mm, you need special subsonic rounds that can be frustrating and expensive to get.
The 9mm is immensely popular, but the fact that it naturally comes with supersonic rounds works to its disadvantage. Additionally, the fact that .45 caliber and 9mm produce almost similar decibel outputs when suppressed should push you towards the .45 caliber.
There’s no use prioritizing a difficult-to-find caliber over an accessible caliber that will produce similar results. Unless, of course, you swear by the 9mm.
Related Glock vs. Sig Sauer: Which Should You Choose?
List of Best Suppressor-Ready Pistols
This list will contain suppressor-ready pistols for both the .45 caliber and the 9mm. We have picked the .45 caliber as the best pistol to suppress, but you might lean toward the 9mm. Either way, we’ve got you covered.
The best suppressor-ready pistols are:
- FNX-45 Tactical.
- Beretta M9A3.
- Remington R1 Tactical.
- Springfield Armory XDM Threaded.
- HK45 Compact Tactical.
- Shadow Systems MR920.
Let’s look at the six best suppressor-ready pistols in further detail.
1. FNX-45 Tactical
The FNX-45 Tactical demonstrates why military and law enforcement love ammunition from FN America.
The Tactical comes with suppressor height night sights and a threaded barrel. This bad boy is manufactured for challenging military assignments, so it’ll handle any roughhousing it gets at home.
For extra fun and added accuracy, the Tactical comes with a slide for red-dot optics. The FNX-45 fits 16 .45 caliber rounds.
2. Beretta M9A3
This battle-hardened evolution of the M9 is designed for SWAT teams and military personnel. It’s a handy weapon to have at home too.
Its threaded barrel makes it perfect for fitting a sound suppressor. It also comes with raised night sights and a rail for accessories.
Furthermore, the Beretta fits 17 9mm rounds, which is mighty impressive.
3. Remington R1 Tactical
This gem from Remington is a beefed-up R1 from the 1911 pistol round.
It has a threaded barrel that will fit perfectly with your preferred silencer. It also features raised night sights that ensure clear vision when you fit the suppressor.
The R1 Tactical holds 16 .45 caliber rounds and has special laminated grips that provide added comfort and safety.
4. Springfield Armory XDM Threaded
These pistols from Springfield Armory made quite a splash in the suppressor world following their release.
You can get the 9mm model or the .45 caliber model. The 9mm fits 20 rounds, while the .45 accommodates 14 rounds.
A threaded barrel and raised night sights come standard with the XDM. Remember that you need to get subsonic 9mm rounds for optimum performance.
5. HK45 Compact Tactical
Heckler & Koch have built a reputation for manufacturing quality handguns, with the HK45 Tactical providing a fitting example.
The gun comes with a threaded barrel to fit your suppressor. It also has raised night sights to aid in aiming after attaching the suppressor.
One downside of the HK45 is that it carries a disappointing ten rounds of .45 caliber bullets. However, it’s difficult to find another pistol better suited to bullet suppression.
Additionally, it comes in various colors and features interchangeable grip panels to fit different hand sizes.
Related The 9 Best Quality Night Sight Brands.
6. Shadow Systems MR920
The Shadow Systems MR920 threaded barrel model accommodates a silencer with ease.
It’s also a very cool gun to look at and features swappable backstraps to accommodate hands of different sizes.
The MR920 carries 16 9mm rounds.
What Is the Quietest Suppressed Pistol?
Well, well, well, I’ve been going on about the .45 caliber and the 9 mm, but the answer to the above question is neither of the above. There’s one pistol that beats the two, but it has a rather glaring disadvantage.
The quietest suppressed pistol is a .22 caliber pistol. The .22 caliber is the quietest pistol, even without suppression. Adding a suppressor makes a .22 caliber even quieter.
The Ruger Mark IV is an excellent example of a suppressible .22LR pistol. It carries 11 rounds, has a soft recoil, and barely produces a noise when suppressed.
The .22 caliber’s disadvantage is that it’s an extremely slow round and, therefore, ineffective for long-range shooting. The .22cb has no gunpowder and only uses powder; therefore, the hot gases that make the loud pop don’t exist.
However, the .22cb is ineffective beyond 50 yards. A silenced .22LR will kill anything within a 100-yard radius, but the pistol is woefully inefficient beyond that distance.
Interestingly, professional assassins favor the .22 caliber. It allows you to approach the target and fire multiple silent sounds with minimal recoil.
The .22 caliber won’t be of much help as a hunting gun. It won’t draw much attention to you, but the likelihood of missing it is relatively high.
The .22 is an excellent round for indoor shooting due to its low velocity and negligible noise.
What Is Quieter Suppressed, .45 or 9 mm?
Given the .22’s major drawback, we revert to the .45 caliber and the 9mm. From now on, we’ll consider the subsonic 9mm round as it’s a straight victory for the subsonic .45 caliber against the supersonic 9mm.
The 9mm is quieter suppressed than the .45 caliber. The difference is about 6-10 decibels. Check out this video on Youtube:
In terms of noise, six to ten decibels are quite significant.
The purpose behind suppressing your pistol is to reduce exposure to loud noise. Therefore, the lower the decibel level, the better for your ears.
Noise beyond 140 decibels can permanently destroy hearing. Both suppressed .45 and 9 mm pistols produce around 140 decibels.
Silencer manufacturers usually indicate the number of decibels that the silencer will likely reduce. However, these numbers aren’t always accurate as manufacturers conduct experiments in controlled environments.
There’s no guarantee that the laboratory conditions will match the conditions at the shooting range or on the hunt.
Therefore, whichever suppressed caliber you choose, ensure that you have some sort of ear protection to drown out the suppressed noise.
How Loud Is a 9 mm With a Silencer?
An unsuppressed 9mm produces around 165 to 167 decibels. It could cause permanent hearing loss if fired without ear protection.
A 9 mm fitted with a silencer produces between 134 to 140 decibels. Therefore, the silencer reduces 30 to 40 decibels of gun noise.
The sound reduction is non-linear. Therefore, a suppressed 9mm will sound significantly quieter than an unsuppressed 9mm.
How Loud Is a .45 Caliber With a Silencer?
An unsuppressed .45 caliber pistol produces around 165 to 167 decibels, which can cause permanent hearing loss.
A .45 caliber pistol with a silencer produces between 141 to 146 decibels. It’s about six decibels louder than a suppressed 9 mm. The difference isn’t massive, but it’s noticeable.
Note: Hearing damage starts at around 85 decibels. Therefore, the sound from a suppressed .45 caliber or 9 mm will damage your ears, especially following long-term exposure. Unless it’s an emergency, err on the safe side: Pair the silencer with some sort of hearing protection.
What Happens if You Get Caught with a Silencer?
Thanks to the Second Amendment, suppressors are legal in most states. Federal and state laws regulate the use of suppressors.
If you get caught with an unregistered suppressor, you’ll get arrested and arraigned in court. If the silencer is registered, you will not get charged.
Note that suppressors are illegal in the following eight states: Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois, and California. If you get caught with a suppressor in these eight states, you’ll be arrested and prosecuted for breaking state laws.
Suppressors are a controversial topic, as the widespread belief is that they facilitate gun violence. Therefore, the process of legally acquiring a silencer can take months.
There are two ways you can buy a silencer: Individually or via a gun trust. As an individual, the ATF needs your fingerprints, a permission slip from your local sheriff, and a photo.
As part of a gun trust, the ATF won’t require a permission slip from your local sheriff. If the ATF approves your request, pay the $200 Transfer Tax to have the silencer registered to you.
You’ll get in legal trouble if you skip any step in the registration process.
How Many Years Can You Get for a Silencer?
You need not buy a silencer from a manufacturer if you can build one at home. It’s faster to register a homemade silencer than one purchased from a gun shop. Nevertheless, the law requires that you register the silencer.
You can get up to 10 years in federal prison for possessing an unregistered silencer. Sentencing guidelines recommend anywhere from two to six years in prison.
The prison term can increase to thirty years for possession of a suppressed firearm during drug trafficking or a ‘crime of violence.’ It is a mandatory minimum sentence; therefore, the least you will get if found guilty is 30 years on top of the years you’ll get for committing the crime.
Acquiring a silencer can be frustrating, but the months you’ll wait before you legally acquire one don’t compare to the hard time you’ll do in jail if arrested and found guilty.
There isn’t much difference between a suppressed .45 caliber and a 9 mm. The noise reduction is noticeable yet negligible.
The .45 edges slightly ahead because its rounds are naturally subsonic. You have to get special subsonic rounds to suppress a 9 mm effectively.
Getting a silencer registered can be frustrating. However, the penalty for non-registration is way more severe.
Thanks for reading. For more, check out What Is the Best Barrel Length for Accuracy? | Optimal Guide.
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Hey, I’m Jim, and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!