The Silentius Story
I worked for one of the largest United States (U.S.) suppressor manufacturers as their global sales representative. My customers included tier one military and police units both in the U.S. and internationally. This extensive sales process would begin with technical disclosures to ballistics laboratories, armorers and training officers. These elite units had arduous and stringent testing criteria that would cover months of tests to include accuracy, reliability and operational management. It was with these units that I was able to interact directly with the examiners to help provide the right components for more efficient solutions. During these suppressor trials I gleaned an understanding of exactly what these Law Enforcement (L.E.) and military units wanted. One glaringly deficient product I observed during this sales process was the commercially marketed suppressed upper receiver group. It was completely unable to service both the U.S. commercial market and military units.
American citizens have access to most small caliber gun products and make up the worlds largest market for small caliber firearms and munitions. They have access to firing ranges, testing equipment and most types of ammunition. Once a product is released, avid gun owners, professional shooters and competing manufacturers review it. Videos and blogs are viewed and scrutinized, opinions are formed and individual customers cast their votes by purchasing the product. My summation is that the individual American gun owner has shaped the development of integrally suppressed short-barreled rifles in a way that suits the restrictions, taxes and personal preference of the commercial market and does not completely address military and law enforcement needs. My definition of “integrally suppressed” is a rifle built with an overall suppressed length shorter than that of a traditional suppressed rifle. In my opinion this does not mean a rifle that has been pinned and welded to an overall length of 16” to avoid paying an additional tax stamp.
The size of the U.S. commercial market makes targeting the individual consumer far more lucrative to the rifle and suppressor manufacturer than wading through years of trials by a government entity. Having multiple products and a manufacturing processes to address both commercial and government needs is an added cost that doesn’t make monetary sense, especially when dealing with a niche product such as an integrally suppressed short barreled rifle (SBR). This gap is what led me to design the Silentius rifle.
Silentius Flash Hider
The Silentius has a quick attach flash hider adapter that intuitively locks into place. It can be taught to an operator in seconds with no verbal commands given. A complex flash hider and suppressor operating system seems like a good business decision to the manufacturer as the company grows their patent portfolio. It has been my experience that the more complicated suppressor systems fail in trials and demonstrations due to an inability to replicate performance and reliable operation.
The Silentius brake has a tapered design to fit securely with minimal movement while adding optimal accuracy to a quick attach flash hider. Direct thread attachments arguably provide better accuracy and a reduced overall length, while flash hiders take up space in the expansion chamber leading to increased noise, however the Silentius rifle was designed with the tactical unit and armorer in mind. It is able to fire with or without a suppressor attached utilizing its flash hider. This provides greater flexibility to a training cell that now has the option of running suppressed or unsuppressed.
The .30 caliber Silentius suppressor can be fully interoperable with any other .30 caliber and below chambered rifles that have the Silentius quick attach flash hider installed. The Silentius suppressor also comes in a .338 configuration and is fully capable of supporting big bore sniper rifles. The proprietary flash hider utilizes two micro-baffles acting as ports that redirect gas away from the first baffle, reducing gas blowback to the shooters face and extending the overall life of the suppressor.
Due to the grueling work that military rifles are subjected to, I found that a direct thread attachment presented a risk for the suppressor to come loose during fully automatic fire, helicopter insertions, over the beach salt-water transits and the ardors of most basic troop movements. I wanted to minimize the degradation of the barrel threads in consideration of the daily on and off manipulation. The Silentius flash hider attachment locks the suppressor firmly into position, eliminating the suppressor coming loose. The operator now has a suppressed rifle designed to withstand the rigor of combat.
I was often placed next to competing suppressor manufacturers during demonstrations. A common request was that the suppressor should be easily removed after a sustained course of fire and once it had cooled enough to manipulate. Although other manufacturers made quick attach devices, none were able to meet this challenge without a major degree of manipulation. Some manufacturers would need to subject the suppressor to snow, only to heat it back up again with a prescribed course of fire before the carbon abated enough so the suppressor could be removed. Most commonly, some form of gun cleaning solution would be applied along with several strikes from a rubber mallet followed by a lot of torque from a wrench. The Silentius quick attach flash hider is designed to withstand the most arduous course of fire and continue to function as designed despite carbon buildup.
Silentius Suppressor Considerations
The Silentius suppressor is a one-piece construction designed for optimal flash suppression, battlefield reliability and acoustic suppression. U.S. suppressor manufacturers have lately been designing suppressors that can be taken apart, giving the individual gun owner the ability to ship the internal baffles back to the factory for repair. Rather than deal with the hassle of filing National Firearms Act (NFA) forms, which can take months to ship the entire serialized suppressor, the customer simply ships the internal baffles back. This is a great way to satisfy the commercial customers, however NFA laws do not encumber military or L.E. units with lengthy wait times.
The sealed suppressor decreases the chance of parts coming loose during sustained fire or operator error if reassembled incorrectly. The suppressor is noticeably quieter as well. In the event a government owned Silentius suppressor is damaged, it can be swapped out for another suppressor already in the armory, or the rifle can be operated without the suppressor while the inoperable suppressor is sent back for repair and replaced within days. Military and L.E. units do not use varying types of calibers and ammunition to satisfy multiple uses for their suppressor, as do many civilian suppressor owners. Government units have a particular brand of ammunition and dedicated suppressors for each platform, which limits the variables that cause baffle strikes.
Three Suppressed SBR Lengths
An integrally suppressed rifle with an upper receiver shorter than 16” requires two tax stamps to be filed with the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency, each costing $250. One tax stamp is for the suppressor and the other is for the SBR configuration. Manufacturers pin and weld the suppressor to the barrel so that the rifle is fixed at 16” thus saving their commercial customer $250. This manufacturing method permanently joins both the barrel and suppressor, limiting the serviceability and operation of the rifle. The coined phrase “integrally suppressed” is a term I find misused. The goal with integrally suppressed rifles is to decrease the overall length, not just pin and weld a suppressor to an NFA mandated minimum length. The Silentius comes in 3 different overall lengths that all operate under the 16” length.
The 11.8” Silentius Compact, has a 7” barrel length that reliably stabilizes both 220gr subsonic and 126gr supersonic projectiles using a 1:7” twist rate. 500m effective engagements are easily achieved with the Silentius Compact. Manufacturers that have built rifles with shorter barrels have found it difficult to achieve stabilization in both subsonic and supersonic loads. Shorter barrels require a faster twist rate to successfully stabilize heavier subsonic projectiles. Supersonic jacketed projectiles have the potential to come apart in the barrel and strike the suppressor baffles when these faster twist rates are used. This limits the rifle to shoot non-jacketed, monolithic projectiles to decrease the risk of baffle strikes. After extensively testing shorter barrels with different twist rates, my engineers and ammunition manufacturers have concluded that barrels shorter than 7” limit the overall effectiveness of the suppressed 300BLK SBR and decrease the ability to supply operable ammunition. The cost for a non-jacketed projectile at the time of this writing is around $0.69-$0.89 per projectile, which could be cost prohibitive.
The 13” Silentius SBR comes with an 8.2” barrel which allows for effective engagement out to 550m while maintaining the ability to cycle subsonic and supersonic jacketed ammunition. Depending on your unit’s operational requirements, the 300BLK cartridge allows for more .30 caliber projectile options than any other projectile manufactured. The Silentius SBR is easily concealed while undercover and is perfect for easy access storage in patrol vehicles. Utilizing a folding stock, the SBR can fit inside of a backpack giving special operations operators maximum firepower in a covert package.
The 16” Silentius Carbine has an 11” barrel, which I find to be the upper limit in barrel length when competing against a 5.56 NATO chambered full length rifle. My efforts were to design a short barreled rifle that addressed the shortcomings of the 5.56mm NATO cartridge utilizing barrels 11” in length or shorter. The SOCOM SURG project requires a minimum barrel length of 11.5” and is chambered in 5.56mm NATO. (See SURG section) The Silentius Carbine can effectively engage targets out to 700m utilizing factory match supersonic ammunition. The Silentius Carbine is the best in breed for open terrain engagements over the AK-47 and 5.56mm AR-15’s. The overmatched ballistic performance sets this platform ahead of anything else fielded today.
Suppressor Performance Considerations
The majority of suppressor performance considerations in the U.S. commercial market center on noise reduction, or how much the noise is reduced. Is it to the shooters left ear, what measurement device is the correct one when measuring dB’s, how loud is the first round? These questions are part of an ongoing debate that has positively impacted sound suppression performance across the industry. Gas operated military rifles using supersonic rounds are not particularly quiet no matter whose suppressor you’re using. The supersonic crack of the round and the initial report of the shot make it clear to those in proximity that a gunfight has broken out. The benchmark of U.S. suppressor manufacturers is first to make it hearing safe and subsequently quieter than the next manufacturer. Next the focus is on reducing gas to the shooters face, increasing recoil management, decreasing the overall weight of the suppressor and point of impact shift. These points of performance are valuable and will ultimately lead to better equipment, but they are not the most important qualities to military end users.
Flash suppression is the most advantageous characteristic of a suppressor on a battlefield. With the proliferation of night vision devices and the overwhelming amount of operations occurring at night, muzzle flash effectively illuminates your exact position. An unsuppressed rifle also disrupts the shooter’s own light intensifier as well as his adjacent teammates, decreasing their ability to detect the enemy. Furthermore, units employing unsuppressed SBR’s have a far more visible muzzle flash over standard length rifles, which dramatically increase their signature to the enemy.
Command and control is the second most valuable attribute of a suppressor when used in combat. When multiple soldiers are discharging their weapons, a suppressed rifle allows for greater communication between teammates. Shooters are able to see and hear effects on target better than with unsuppressed rifles. Plus or minus a few decibel’s will not dramatically change this advantage regardless of the suppressor manufacturer. The Silentius suppressor substantially reduces the report of the rifle, while also providing greater recoil management and reduced gas to the shooters face. There are several engineering advancements with the Silentius rifle that further enhance recoil management. The ported muzzle brake, optimized gas port design, metallurgical enhanced bolt carrier group, improved recoil buffer and combat engineered suppressor are all enhancements designed to reduce felt recoil and improve weapon control on follow up shots.
Reliability and longevity was the third most important aspect while designing the Silentius. Military rifles must reliably function using all types of ammunition. I wanted the Silentius to cycle both supersonic and subsonic, jacketed ammunition in a host of different projectile weights. The weight and material construction of the Silentius suppressor allow for sustained fire while keeping it at a weight suitable to the employment of a soldier in combat.
Lastly I addressed the issue of sound suppression utilizing decades of innovation in the suppressor industry. The Silentius is designed to engage targets on the battlefield with sustained fire while maintaining a hearing safe report. The baffle design is what we term forced flow technology. Most suppressor baffle designs are passive in nature, allowing the natural desire of a gas to fill a void and slow the exit of that gas. The Silentius forced flow baffle design was created using the same computer modeling used on the F117 stealth fighter. The program was originally used to reduce turbulence on this geometrically odd shaped aircraft. Suppressed Armament Systems took advantage of this model in reverse by optimally increasing the turbulence in the confined space of the suppressor, forcing gases into voids and creating a greater time delay for these gases to cool. This design has produced one of the quietest rifles on the battlefield.
The most contested topic I encountered when selling to federal and local entities involved the debate over 300BLK and 5.56 ammunition. From my vantage point as a sales representative, I witnessed the upper echelon units switching to 300 Blackout. There was no debate amongst the units with a healthy budget. The adoption of the 300 Blackout simply became the standard round used when employing an SBR. Budgetary constraints appeared to limit law enforcement from adopting a suppressed 300BLK SBR, the economics of which I completely understood. The rifles are relatively inexpensive; it is the supply chain of ammunition that adds up. If your unit is buying 5.56mm at $0.27 a round and is constrained by a budget, I can’t argue with the fact that 5.56mm ammo is cheaper and performs a function. I would however, take a close look at the performance difference between the two cartridges, specifically in SBR configurations. The 300 Blackout has a clear and measureable performance advantage over the 5.56 cartridge in every category down to the wear and tear on the suppressor itself. All 300 Blackout SBR rifles, not just the Silentius have disproportionately longer lifespans when compared to SBR rifles chambered in 5.56. Suppressed 5.56 SBR’s lack longevity, reliability and provide far less in the way of ballistic performance. At events such as Shot Show, I would have participant after participant do fully automatic mag dumps down my suppressed 300 Blackout rifles for days in a row. Exhibition after exhibition, the suppressed 300 Blackout SBR direct impingement guns ran better and were far more reliable than the 5.56 variants throughout every manufacturer. These days’ 300BLK supersonic and subsonic rounds can be purchased in bulk for as little as $0.58 per round.
The Silentius Compact performs the function of at least 3 major tactical rifles. The ability to run heavier (220gr) subsonic rounds increases its effectiveness over the MP5SD and Sig MPX SD. The Silentius Compact has a greater effective range, more energy on target utilizing 110gr-126gr supersonic projectiles and comes completely suppressed at only 1.5” of additional length over the 10.3” MK18 and is 2.7” shorter than the 14.5” M4A1, neither of which are suppressed. When considering the supply chain management of large forces, no other round is as effective and widely available as the 300 Blackout round is today.
Piston vs. direct impingement systems
300 Blackout is a far more efficient cartridge than 5.56 when run in SBR configurations. The debated advantage of having a cooler system in the piston configuration is offset by the fact that 300BLK burns less powder than 5.56. Most shooters perceive a slight increase in accuracy with a direct impingement (DI) system. Overall there’s a decrease in the cost of the DI rifle over the piston system making it more affordable to local law enforcement agencies. Gas impingement guns are more reliable while running a suppressor, especially when chambered in 300 Blackout, which naturally generates a lower impulse back to the bolt face. Both the aperture of the gas port and buffer spring mitigate muzzle rise while increasing the reliability of the rifle. Suppressed rifles capture considerably more carbon than unsuppressed rifles. The DI system sees this carbon buildup primarily on the bolt carrier group (BCG), which is more accessible for the soldier to wipe off while in the field, rather than having to completely dismantle a piston rifle. With material improvements in BCG design, nickel boron and chemical vapor deposition (CVD) BCG’s keep AR-15 style rifles running longer, even with heavy carbon buildup.
I was asked to participate in SOCOM’s Suppressed Upper Receiver Group (SURG) project while working for a large suppressor company. I looked at the requirements, spoke to those in charge of writing the requirements and decided my efforts were better spent with the tier one units in the U.S. and abroad in the international market. Ultimately it was up to the company’s engineers to address SOCOM’s request, however there was never much of an opportunity for our engineers to make suggestions. SOCOM had not leveraged the creative talents of the suppressor industry; rather they came up with a list of measurements that must be met before you could even submit your upper receiver for consideration. If you came up with an amazing solution, but it didn’t fit each and every line item on the SURG list, you were wasting your company’s money. There was no incentive for manufacturers to think outside the box.
Many companies stopped focusing on the SURG project as early as 2016, turning their efforts towards the pending Hearing Protection Act (HPA) results, which would’ve made commercial sales skyrocket. This pushed manufacturers towards more civilian oriented products. The company I worked for already had a litany of great products and I had a relatively untapped market with the upper echelon of U.S. units and military units outside of the U.S. to sell to. Back at headquarters I watched my engineers try to meet these SOCOM measurements by effectively tying both hands behind their backs. The temperature to be achieved after the prescribed course of fire was originally 115 degrees Fahrenheit, but after it was concluded that this specific measurement was not going to be reached, SOCOM lowered the standard to 120 degrees Fahrenheit without considering changes to any other parameters.
The new SURG rifle is marginally shorter than an M16A1. It does not address the request for a suppressed SBR rifle in any way. It requires a minimum barrel length of 11.5”, primarily to stabilize and provide adequate velocity to the 5.56mm projectile. The 120 degree SURG requirement has been addressed by putting a large birdcage around the suppressor. It is bulky, oddly shaped and prone to fill with mud and debris, increasing heat retention as soldiers maneuver around the battlefield. It’s true that suppressors get extremely hot and I am hopeful for continued increases in performance, but the SURG project has not solved the suppressed SBR problem or provided a solution. ~17” – 21” suppressed rifles chambered in 5.56 are already employed on the battlefield. Integrally suppressed rifles in 16”, 13” & 11.8” configurations that are versatile, reliable and effective out to 700m are not.
I sought to make a rifle utilizing the best the gun industry had to offer. The AR-15 platform is continually undergoing design and material changes. Every component that makes up this rifle has had dozens of manufacturers improve upon its performance and reliability. Moving to a proprietary rifle platform only serves the company that patented that solution and ignores the U.S. and international markets’ existing inventory of AR-15’s. With a new proprietary system comes a rigid vendor specific supply chain and new training curriculum. I intentionally utilized the AR-15 to capture a wider group of manufacturers. I understand why suppressor companies cater to the U.S. commercial market and have not fully addressed the needs of the military. I am at odds with the way SOCOM limited their SURG project and subsequently disenfranchised manufacturers from investing in the best solution possible. I came up with a solution geared towards a tactical units employment of a suppressed SBR based on my first hand experience selling to tier one units. The Silentius effectively addresses the need for suppressed SBR’s with incredible performance over current models. It is not only cost effective, but it also allows for future vendor agnostic innovation, leveraging the entire industry.