Most of the time when shooters are looking for quiet firearms, they will look for something on which they can mount a suppressor. That is all fine and well if you live in one of the 42 states where silencers are legal and if you can shell out the money ($250 -$1500) for a proper suppressor plus $200 for the permission slip from the ATF. Even if you go the form 1 route to make your own, there are still material costs and once again the $200 tax stamp.
However, if you stop and think about it, there are a number of firearms that are “quiet” in their own right. They may not give you the level of comfort experienced by shooting a suppressed rifle or pistol all day, but a handful of shots from one of these will definitely not “ring your ears” — and some are as quiet as an air rifle.
1. Mosin Nagant M91/30. If your Mosin’s barrel has been cut down in any way or is something like an M91/59 or M44, please do not attempt this, as you will go deaf. I found out by accident on the M91/59.
I had been testing a group of rifles, three suppressed and one unsuppressed. After replacing a target from a suppressed string of fire from an M1A, I went back to my bench and picked up a Mosin Nagant M91/30 sniper rifle.
After charging the rifle with a stripper clip of copper-washed military surplus (milsurp) ammo, I fired a shot. Then I fired another and another and finally realized that my ear protection was sitting on the bench next to me. My ears were not ringing. Out of curiosity, I cranked off another shot. My ears still were not ringing.
Since much of the noise from a gunshot has to do with the combustion of the powder before the bullet has left the barrel, I came to the conclusion that the powder charge was well-contained within the optimal length of the barrel. Coupled with the fact that the long 29-inch barrel was putting that signature about three-feet away from my ears meant I could shoot that all day with no indication of tinnitus.
Make no mistake, if you shoot something like this, people from a mile away may hear it, but you probably will not damage your eardrums if you have no ear pro.
2. Beretta M950. It seems like yesterday that these pistols were everywhere. It was a distinctive-looking, small 22 Short semi-auto pistol with a tip-up barrel. However, these pistols were notoriously quiet because there is just not a whole lot of powder in a 22 Short case. Fully extended, that barrel is going to be three feet away from my eardrums, even if I use the longer 4-inch version.
I used mine about 12 years ago to shoot a field mouse on the back porch. No ears rang, no neighborhood dogs barked, no neighbors came out to investigate and no police were called. The sound signature is like a pellet gun.
3. Marlin 25MG. This was a short-lived rifle manufactured by Marlin and has been out of production for at least 15 years. They were only made for about four or five years and were designed to be a “quiet” garden gun.
Chambered in 22 WRM and intended to use shot-shell loads, it has a smoothbore, like a shotgun. They were bought up by airports, warehouse workers and even a few museums for pest control without NFA hassles. They are a bit expensive when they come up for sale, but if your survival scenario calls for short-range small-game hunting without waking up the countryside, this is the one you need.
4. Smith & Wesson Model 17. This one does require special ammunition be used. I have tried it with Gemtech Subsonic, CCI Quiet and Remington Subsonic. Most 22 match ammo that uses a lead bullet and has a low velocity will do the job, too. You can use other double-action revolvers like a Colt Scout or NAA Mini Revolver to the same effect.
I mentioned the Smith & Wesson Model 17 because that’s my double-action rim fire revolver of choice with an 8 3/8-inch barrel. All of those subsonic rounds that would not cycle my semi-autos work like a champ in this revolver, and if the cylinder gap is close like in my Smith, it sounds like a kid’s cap gun (back when they let kids play with cap guns).
5. Remington Rolling Block in 45-70. That may seem like an unusual choice based on the size of the bullet and case. But if you are a hand-loader, you can get a 200-plus grain bullet moving about 750 feet per second that meters about 130 decibels on a sound meter. Because it’s a long-barreled, single-shot rifle, you won’t be able to put too many lead balls in the air close enough to damage your ears.
These are but five examples that I found worked for me, but if you do a little research you may find some of your own, like a 148 grain Hollow Based Wad Cutter through a 38 Special with only two grains of Bull’s-eye powder behind it, or maybe a 30-inch goose gun single-shot 12 gauge that brings down birds without alerting the neighbors on the next ridge.
What is your favorite quiet gun? Share your advice in the section below: