A very well-known outdoor writer once blogged something to the effect that he saw no place for AR-style firearms in hunting. The initial reaction was nothing short of a firestorm, and nearly ended his career.

In the long term, however, he actually did far more good than harm by bringing the issue to the forefront and unwittingly launching a movement that ultimately led to widespread acceptance of tactical weapons and accessories in sport hunting. He also openly admitted that he was mistaken and didn’t do his research.

I must admit I was not in total disagreement when he first made that statement, but I too had not done my homework. I’ve since had a chance to use tactical weapons in a variety of hunting situations and learn a good deal more about them. Like virtually all the firearms we now hunt with, they originated as military weapons. Functionally, they’re no different than the autoloading rifles and shotguns used by millions of hunters. The biggest difference is their appearance, and perhaps much greater versatility and options for accessories.

Apparently I didn’t learn enough because I had a somewhat similar attitude about suppressors or silencers. It wasn’t a glaring objection, just doubt about their usefulness or advantage. Fortunately, I did my homework before making any public proclamations.

My first lesson came unexpectedly when I shared a Texas hunting camp with Darren Jones, head of sales and public relations for Silencerco. His company makes and sells suppressors for the military, law enforcement and sportsmen. Rather than simply explain their application for hunting, he took a group of us to the range to demonstrate.

The results were eye-opening to say the least. The greatest variable in accuracy is not the firearm or the load; it’s the shooter. Most shooters have a tendency to flinch, which only increases as you move to larger calibers. I always reasoned that it was due to anticipating the recoil. What I didn’t realize was how much sound also contributes to flinching. Take away the loudness and the tendency is reduced. That makes it easier for kids, women and other small-framed shooters to more comfortably handle larger calibers and gauges.

The advantage doesn’t stop there. Containing the sound at the muzzle actually reduces recoil muzzle flip. Combined, these factors all serve to produce greater accuracy, which is the goal of every hunter and target shooter.

I experienced that the first time I fired a rifle equipped with a suppressor, but I learned another advantage while watching others shoot. Most folks my age who have been around hunting and guns have experienced some degree of hearing loss as a result of repeated exposure to loud gunfire. A well-engineered suppressor will actually reduce the sound of a gunshot below the level recommended by OSHA for hearing protection. That solves all kinds of issues, including complaints from people who reside near the local gun club. No longer needing hearing protection also increases situational awareness and allows for easier communication among hunters and shooters.

My next lesson came when I did a little independent research. In November, Florida became the 33rd state to allow the use of legally possessed suppressors for hunting all game animals. Pending legislation would allow their use in Ohio. One other state, Montana restricts their use to varmints. Maine law does not allow for silencers to be used for hunting; nor does any New England state.

Varmint and predator hunting provide a prime example of the utility of suppressors. Accuracy is key for sometimes very long-range shots. The lack of a loud shot helps conceal a hunter’s location from wary varmints and predators. Many states, like Maine, allow predators and varmints to be hunted at night, when the sound of gunfire is more likely to draw unnecessary and unwarranted attention, and simply make folks uneasy.

The concept is still relatively new and probably won’t be widely accepted at first. But given the fact that nearly 70 percent of the U.S. already allows them, it seems likely the trend will continue. Suppressors are a tool that when used responsibly can increase accuracy and reduce hearing loss as well as increase options for a range of hunters and target shooters.

To learn more about them, visit the ASA’s website at americansuppressorassociation.com.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]