I’m quite forgiving when it comes to realism in movies — I don’t have to watch a one-for-one retelling of a firefight with perfect tactics and flawless uniforms in order to enjoy it. For starters, I realize that soldiers in real life make stupid mistakes all the time, and I realize that actors are not actual soldiers or Marines. I also realize that, generally speaking, the veterans that know less about tactics and how firefights actually work always seem to be the most vocal.
With that said, I do love it when things are done right. I love to see quick reloads and attention to detail on a service member’s uniform. I love it when someone calls someone else out on their mistakes (in the movie) or when it sounds like the actors actually know what they’re talking about — not simply repeating an FM or using ultra-formal language that you would never actually hear on a mission.
Some movies and shows do infinitely better than others, but I can’t think of many that have gotten suppressors right. Given how many filmmakers hire subject matter experts these days, you would think they’ve been told that, spoiler alert, suppressors still make a loud enough noise for nearby sentries to hear. Perhaps they are getting told, but such alterations would make too major of a change to the script to realistically change at that point in a production.
Well, here’s to hoping they start changing the writing, and maybe that’s who ought to be told — the writers.
First of all, just know that silencers and suppressors are the same thing — silencers are sort of a misnomer, as the weapon is never actually silenced. Companies who produce suppressors also wanted to get away from the stigma associated with unrealistic movie “silencers” that tend to be a complete fiction.
There are ways to make the rounds as quiet as you’d get in a movie (though if you’re nearby, you’re still going to hear it), and this is with the combination of a suppressor and subsonic rounds. However, anyone who has shot subsonic rounds knows that it changes quite a bit about the way you shoot, as your shot group tends to drop significantly quicker than with regular rounds. Anyone using such ammunition needs to be pretty sure they aren’t going to actually get in a larger firefight, because accounting for that kind of drop can be problematic in the heat of battle.
Not only do subsonic rounds decrease accuracy, but they, by definition, reduce the bullet’s velocity, thereby making them less deadly. These are all factors your protagonist has to take into account if he/she is taking a truly “silenced” weapon into combat.
On top of all that, most of the actors in movies are toting silenced pistols instead of rifles, and pistols are even more difficult to “silence.” Even if no sound exited the barrel (on which the suppressor is attached), a good deal of sound will still exit as the slide cycles back. You’d have to have some sort of giant bag device wrapped around his whole hand/pistol that doesn’t impede the functioning of the pistol — it would get ridiculous.
By and large the average suppressor can, at best, reduce one’s signature while firing and give nearby enemies a second’s pause as they may not immediately understand the sound to be gunshots — however, a second might be all you get. Even untrained guards generally get what the crack-crack-crack, staccato gunfire-sound means, despite any alterations you’ve made to the weapon.
But that soft, pew pew sound is blatant fiction, and continues to be perpetuated in films today, despite the wave of ultra-realism Hollywood has found itself in.
For your consideration: here is an experimental silencer for a tank, which they tried to test (for some reason) in 1969:
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons