The Marines are turning to suppressors to make their rifles quieter and their operations more lethal

Marine Corps rifle suppressor
A US Marine uses a suppressor during training at Twentynine Palms, California, October 21, 2016.

  • The US Marine Corps plans to distribute 30,000 suppressors to its infantry, reconnaissance, and special-operations forces by 2023.
  • Suppressors are designed to decrease sound and muzzle flash when a round is fired. For Marines, that means better concealment, better communications, and, in the long-term, potentially less hearing loss.
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The US Marine Corps is set to distribute 30,000 suppressors to its infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces by 2023.

In 2015, the Marines began a two-year study in an effort to prove the value and benefit that suppressors could have throughout the force. Suppressors, often referred to as silencers, are designed to decrease sound and muzzle flash when a round is fired.

Since suppressors minimize muzzle flash, they are ideal for nighttime operations. One benefit is concealment: With minimal flash, it’s more difficult for the enemy to zero in on one’s position. Another benefit is that Marines can maintain their night vision and not become disoriented.

For operations in general, suppressors allow for better communications between Marines and minimize confusion during a firefight.

In a press release, the Marine Corps Systems Command infantry weapon officer Chief Warrant Officer David Tomlinson said, “I would say the most important thing the suppressor does is allow for better inter-squad, inter-platoon communication. It allows the operators to communicate laterally up and down the line during a [firefight].”

Marine Corps rifle suppressor
A US Marine uses a suppressor during training at Twentynine Palms, California, October 21, 2016.

Another obvious plus for the suppressors is that they minimize hearing loss for active-duty and future veterans.

Maj. Mike Brisker, weapons product manager in the Marine Corps Systems Command, pointed out, “In the big picture, the VA pays out a lot in hearing loss claims. We’d like Marines to be able to continue to hear for many years even after they leave the service. These suppressors have that benefit as well.”

Part of the two-year study was one experiment in 2016 that convinced the Marines that suppressors were the way of the future for the Corps.

Brisker said, “The positive feedback from that experiment was the primary driving force behind procuring suppressors. We’ve had a few limited user experiments with various units since that time, and all of those events generated positive reviews of the capability.”

The suppressors will be used on M4s, M4A1s, and M27s. On average, when these weapons are fired, they release a sound intensity of 140-165 decibels. When a suppressor is applied, the sound level is decreased t0 around 132 decibels.

While this doesn’t sound like a huge decrease, decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale. Therefore, a suppressed weapon’s sound intensity is a thousand times less compared to that of an unsuppressed one.

The Marine Corps is also looking at weapon options that integrate the suppressor into the barrel, which would keep the weapon shorter since a conventional suppressor adds eight to 12 inches in length.

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