Movies Debunked: Silencers

Rather than debunk a specific film I decided it was time to debunk the silencer’s portrayal in movies. Silencers are a staple of the action thriller movie, particularly when it relates to government agencies and espionage, but the truth is that they are not anywhere near as effective as movies tend to portray them for a number of reasons.

Silenced Sniper Rifles

Firstly, a silencer only suppresses the sound of the explosion that causes the bullet to be propelled through the air. The problem with this is that any object moving faster than the speed of sound will produce a sonic boom and thus a loud bang as it travels through the air rendering the silencer pointless. As a result any high-powered rifle cannot possibly be silenced effectively as the velocity of the bullets would need to be lowered. However, in films a common trend is for snipers to have silenced rifles and for that silencer to function. Take for example The Bourne Identity in which one character, the professor, uses a sniper rifle to take shots at the protagonist.

bourne idenity sniper bourne idenity professor sniper

The problem here is that for that rifle to be effective over a distance, it would need to break the sound barrier. Either it simply is a very poor sniper rifle, in which case he might as well use a sub-machine gun, or it could not be silenced as effectively as the movie portrays. Another example is the film Clear and Present Danger, which has a series of sniper scenes that are simply incorrect with the sniper taking people out using a silenced rifle.

Secondly, silencers can only do so much to suppress the very loud bangs of firearms. While they are very effective, they can only truly suppress the sound escaping the barrel of the rifle rather than emanating from the gun’s casing. Subsequently, they only lower the sound a little rather than creating a whisper quiet sound as portrayed in films.

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