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What You Should Know About Hunting With Suppressors

Suppressors, or silencers, have been around for more than a century. According to Hollywood, suppressors are only used by assassins hiding behind full-length curtains. In reality, suppressors are more commonly seen in the field today, being used by hunters. Even Theodore Roosevelt was a fan. He owned three.

By PJ DelHomme 



Boone and Crockett Club co-founder and avid big game hunter Theodore Roosevelt was fond of saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” While he was likely referring to international policy, he may have been joking about his collection of suppressors. As you might imagine, Roosevelt had a large gun collection. At least three of his rifles were threaded for suppressors, including a Springfield Model 1903 and a Winchester Model 1895.

The inventor of the first commercially available suppressor, or silencer as they were called, was Hiram Percy Maxim. He invented it in 1902 and got his patent in 1909. A graduate of M.I.T., Hiram had gunmetal in his DNA. His father, Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, invented the first portable, fully automatic machine gun.

Roosevelt used Maxim suppressors, as did a number of sportsmen of the day. It’s likely that suppressors would have been a more common sight in the post-WWII years if it weren’t for the National Firearms Act of 1934. This legislation was in response to the increasing violence brought by Prohibition and gangsters like Al Capone. The law placed a $200 tax on suppressors (that’s nearly $4,500 in 2024). There is still a $200 tax, but thanks to inflation, the tax doesn’t have the same dampening effect on suppressor sales as it did 90 years ago.

According to numbers released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), the number of applications for a National Firearms Act (NFA) tax stamp, which is required to legally own a suppressor, has risen dramatically. In 2019, BATFE processed 342,860 applications. In 2022, that number more than doubled to 709,508.


Where Are Suppressors Legal?

As of January 2024, it is legal to own a suppressor in 42 states, and 41 states allow their use for hunting. According to Silencer Central, owning a suppressor is illegal in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. You cannot use a suppressor to hunt in Connecticut. But like a snowflake, each state’s laws are unique. Before you invest in a suppressor, be sure to know the law in the state where you live and plan to hunt.

What Do Suppressors Do?

Even though suppressors and silencers refer to the same device, they are not entirely silent. For instance, suppressors can turn down the average boom of a .308 (173 dB) to the level of an unsuppressed .22 (140 dB). Because of their ability to dampen noise, suppressors can help limit hearing damage and overall “disturbance” to the neighbors. According to TR’s son, Archie, TR appreciated this. “Father favored the silencer for early morning hunting expeditions to eliminate varmints around Sagamore Hill. He felt it best not to wake the neighbors.” Much like a car’s muffler, suppressors use a system of chambers and baffles to slow and cool the heated gases produced by the explosion created in the chamber. Depending on the design, a suppressor can also dampen a rifle’s recoil.

Does the Boone and Crockett Club Accept Entries Taken With a Suppressor?

The Club’s policy regarding entering trophies taken with a suppressor is straightforward. A trophy is eligible for entry if the suppressor is used legally according to the laws of the state in which it was used. The official language states, “Trophies taken with the use of sound suppressors in states and provinces where they are legal are eligible for entry in B&C.”

Buying a Suppressor

The process of purchasing a suppressor can take up to a year and requires multiple steps. It’s best to understand and make your peace with this before starting the process. Fortunately, companies that sell suppressors want to help ease the hassle of buying one, and they have set up websites to walk you through the process. The Club has recently partnered with Silencer Central, and their website is a solid starting point.

To help rectify some of these issues, Congressman Blake Moore (R-UT) and Congressman Jared Golden (D-ME) introduced the Tax Stamp Revenue Transfer for Wildlife and Recreation Act in November 2023. This bill aims to shorten the waiting period on suppressors to 90 days and allocate the estimated $200 million collected annually by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from suppressor stamps to the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Account to invest in wildlife management, habitat, and shooting range infrastructure across the country.

If protecting your hearing isn’t enough to look into using a suppressor, then maybe a couple hundred million dollars directed back toward conservation will help. Either way, expect to see more suppressors in the field, being used legally by hunters the way they were always designed to be used.


Benefits of Hunting Suppressed

  • REDUCE RECOIL - Silencers help minimize your anticipation of recoil, increasing accuracy even when you’re shooting larger calibers.
  • HEAR YOUR SURROUNDINGS - No need to fumble with earmuffs before your shot. Silencers let you enjoy the full outdoor experience and hear game, other hunters or nearby threats.
  • PROTECT HEARING - Many hunters forgo hearing protection, making hearing loss a major issue. Silencers bring the sound of your shot down to a hearing-safe level for you and your hunting companions (including your dog).
  • DON’T DISTURB GAME - Avoid scaring unseen game and allow yourself and others in your group to keep hunting even after hitting your mark. And on the rare chance you miss a tough shot, you may even get a second chance.
  • REDUCE NOISE COMPLAINTS - Noise complaints are a major factor in losing public hunting ground. Hunting suppressed isn’t just kind to your neighbors—it helps protect public lands and hunter rights.



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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt