Cheap and easy to attach, suppressors can be a great addition to airsoft rifles, carbines, SMGs, pistols and even shotguns, adding a tactical look that really adds to the overall experience of stalking through an airsoft field in search of your next target.
For those new to airsoft, these accessories can be a bit baffling at times, with many wondering if and how they work and what to look for before buying one.
If this sounds like you, read on as we dive deeply into the world of airsoft suppressors.
What is an airsoft suppressor?
Airsoft Silencer vs Airsoft Suppressor: What’s the Difference?
In the airsoft community, as in the real steel gun community, silencer and suppressor are interchangeable terms that refer to the same thing.
The original patent by inventor and grandaddy of the automatic weapon Hiram Maxim (as well as the various government bodies in the US that regulate them) refers to these devices as “silencers,” but today they’re more commonly called suppressors.
Due to the device’s popular associations with espionage, special ops, assassinations and crime, a common misconception is that a silencer, well, silences a guns while a suppressor reduces any muzzle flash.
Truth is, a suppressor reduces sound and a silencer doesn’t completely silence anything so this is really a semantic distinction without a difference, especially when it comes to airsoft.
How do Airsoft Suppressors Work?
Much like a real steel suppressor, an airsoft suppressor screws into the front of a replica’s muzzle.
For the most part these are mock suppressors, meaning they are designed to look like real suppressors or silencers but are generally empty cylinders to prevent people from trying to use them on real guns.
Real suppressors work by using baffles (little chambers and walls within the cylindrical tube) to slow down and reduce the energy of escaping gasses once a gun is fired.
Since there are no hot escaping gasses to trap and slow down in airsoft guns, airsoft silencers don’t need to be built or work the same way.
Airsoft foam suppressor
Airsoft foam suppressors contain a cylinder of foam inside their tube, which works to absorb excess air leaving the barrel and can dampen the noise a bit.
These aren’t legal to sell or own in many parts of the US due to various firearms laws and regulations and can lead to some pretty heavy penalties and criminal charges if they’re found in your possession (so don’t try).
Do airsoft silencers do anything, really?
Not in the way you might think.
Airsoft guns don’t work like real guns.
They use BBs and so no superheated and pressurized propellant gasses escape the barrel when fired that can create muzzle flash and the distinctive BANG of a discharge.
So while some air may escape the front end of the replica, not much noise is produced from that end.
Instead most of the noise produced by airsoft replicas is produced in the main body of the gun, by the motor and gearbox (if AEG) or by the back and forth of the slide and so on in gas blowbacks models, both areas that aren’t really all that affected by a mock suppressor fitted to the end of a barrel.
As a consequence, the vast majority of airsoft suppressors don’t do much to affect noise, hence why they are also called mock suppressors.
The exception to this being for spring-powered airsoft rifles, such as some airsoft sniper rifles, which don’t have motors and where a slight reduction in the “pop” of air coming out of the airsoft replica’s barrel can make more of a difference when it comes to stealth.
While adding a suppressor to these can make it a little harder to pinpoint their shot location by sound alone, it probably won’t do much overall.
So why would I buy an airsoft suppressor?
Although some airsofters are loath to admit it, a large part of people’s interest in airsoft is based on how cool the replicas and accessories are.
And there is no doubt that suppressors are cool, being the accessory of choice of pop-culture’s most beloved special operators, assassins and spies.
Adding an airsoft silencer to a replica can give it a much needed tactical, stealthy look that doesn’t require any airsoft modification or skill beyond screwing and unscrewing something off the end of your barrel.
Hiding Barrel Extensions
Many airsoft users (particularly snipers or designated marksmen) choose to upgrade the inner barrel of their airsoft gun with either a longer barrel or a higher quality barrel that also happens to be longer than stock.
Depending on the upgrade, doing so can cause the inner barrel to jut out from the outer barrel and make their potentially expensive airsoft replica look a little odd or even outright ridiculous.
To avoid this aesthetic unpleasantness (and potentially mockery), many users will attach a suitably sized airsoft suppressor to their new barrel in order to cover up the protrusion in a cooler way.
Integrated Tracer Units
As we discuss in our article on tracer units and their uses in airsoft, a majority of airsoft tracer units are designed to look like mock suppressors.
Other than looking cool, these can give users a more ready ability to use tracer BBs in game and improve their shooting in low light conditions.
Fake Suppressor, Barrel Extension
There are particular (although more rare) airsoft suppressors called barrel extension suppressors or power up suppressors that contain an inner barrel of their own.
These are designed to precisely line up with an airsoft gun’s barrel and essentially extend the inner barrel length, thereby increasing the power of an airsoft gun somewhat in that way.
The issue with these airsoft suppressor barrel extensions is that they have to be precisely machined to fit as snugly as possibly to the native inner barrel, and while they may increase FPS to some degree, especially with gas blowback airsoft replicas, they almost invariably have some kind of seam that can disrupt the airflow and path of a BB, reducing accuracy overall.
Airsoft Suppressors and FPS
In general, with the possible exception of barrel extension suppressors as we mentioned above, an airsoft suppressor has no real effect on the power or FPS of an airsoft replica.
Instead, FPS is more affected by the internal mechanisms of an airsoft gun, such as by ensuring a tighter air seal, using a more powerful spring, adding an upgraded hop up (flat or R-hop, for example), swapping in a tighter inner barrel, using higher flow valves for gas, etc.
Airsoft Suppressors and Accuracy
Like FPS, for the most part airsoft suppressors don’t have much effect on accuracy one way or another.
Those worried that adding a cool mock silencer to their favorite airsoft replica will ruin their shots have nothing to worry about, while those hoping for an easy precision boost are out of luck.
How accurately a BB travels to its target is more a result of the weight of the BBs, barrel quality and stability, hop up, compression of air and so on.
Most airsoft suppressors don’t do anything to affect any of those factors and those with inner barrel extensions that slightly increase the overall length of the inner barrel don’t affect the rest of the factors involved, and therefore won’t make a noticeable difference in the grand scheme of things.
Those interested in improving their accuracy may be better served by looking into:
- Hop adjustment
- Bore tightness
- Quality of the hop up unit, examining buckings, chambers and nubs for damage or room for improvement
- Using heavier BBs
If all else fails, another suggestion is to move closer to a target and work on improving your shooting in general.
Factors to consider when looking at Airsoft Suppressors
Given that they are mostly an aesthetic, rather than a functional, choice, a good airsoft suppressor should look good while being as unobtrusive in gameplay as possible.
Therefore, airsofters should consider the following characteristics on any suppressor they’re looking at buying.
As most airsoft suppressors are aesthetic rather than functional, and they don’t have to contend with superheated gas, they don’t need to have the same heft or sturdiness as an actual model, which can easily weigh over a pound (0.45kg).
You don’t want your airsoft replica to become too front heavy, pulling your barrel down and becoming tiresome to carry around, so generally speaking you should look for lightweight models made of aluminum or similar lightweight materials.
There is quite a bit of variation in airsoft suppressor weights, from around 70g or less to 450g or more (about 1 lb).
While heavyweight suppressors tend to feel a little more realistic in-hand, we tend to favor those under 200g for ease of use and maneuverability.
While it’s sometimes tempting to go all out and double down on the “bigger is better” adage, there are two factors to consider with size when looking for a suppressor.
The first is looks. When looking at a suppressor for your replica, consider the replica in question’s size.
A long and sleek 9” mock suppressor might look cool in a box or on a screen, but can look a little ridiculous when attached to a 10 inch airsoft pistol or SMG.
The second consideration is tactical – you should consider the environment and types of games you’ll be playing.
A longer mock suppressor will increase the overall length of your airsoft gun and in CQB, speedsoft or other tight spots, a longer airsoft replica can be cumbersome and you’ll have a harder time moving around without banging into things or having to constantly adjust your barrel placement.
If you’re really into airsoft , chances are good your replica will take a few knocks here and there as you run and gun.
A good suppressor should be made of thick and durable enough material to withstand reasonable use as well as the occasional scrape or knock into a rock, car, wall, door or other obstacle without getting too dented or damaged.
Well threaded and constructed
A suppressor should screw in and fit snugly, with no overhang, seams or gaps that can disrupt airflow or for BBs to catch on.
This is especially important with barrel extending airsoft suppressors, where a bad seam between inner barrels can cause wildly inaccurate fire.
Easy on and off
A mock suppressor should be machined well and easy to screw on and off.
Badly threaded models can get stuck and damage or even strip a barrel’s threads, leading to costly repairs or even the need to replace a barrel.
What Are Some Drawbacks To Using An Airsoft Suppressor?
So before you run out and buy one on Amazon or at your local store, you should probably consider some of the potential drawbacks of airsoft suppressors.
They don’t actually suppress much
Despite their name and their obvious intended use, airsoft suppressors are largely decorative items, meant to look cool rather than reduce airsoft noise to any real extent.
If you’re not someone overly concerned with the appearance of your airsoft weapon, they may not be all that worthwhile an investment.
They add weight
Some mock silencers can easily be as heavy as half a pound (226g+).
Depending on what you’re attaching it to (airsoft pistols for example), this can weigh the barrel down significantly and be an annoyance when using certain airsoft gun types, such as pistols.
In fact their added weight can cause issues with gas blowback pistols, causing more resistance on the slide and problems with cycling, reducing gas efficiency and increasing the overall wear and tear in the long run.
Designed to look a lot like airsoft suppressors, airsoft sound amplifiers work pretty much the opposite way – they are designed to make an airsoft gun louder when fired.
Now some people go a little crazy with the claims they make about these devices, they certainly won’t give your airsoft replica the crack of a real gun.
But by altering the way air moves when released from the barrel through clever design, they can provide a deeper and louder pop than normal, surprising and perhaps even intimidating unsuspecting bads on the field, as well as making your airsoft gun sound a bit cooler.
Airsoft suppressors are a cheap and easy way to make your gun look cooler and more tactical.
While they may not always silence anything, they can also be useful in adding or concealing barrel extensions and providing tracer functionality to help with your shooting.