In action movies, silencers are effective tools for muffling gunfire, and making escape easier after a weapon is fired. While we’ve all seen actors use a pistol with a silencer, you may be wondering if silencers can work with other gun types. For example, is it possible to use a silencer or a suppressor on a revolver?
Suppressors will not work on most revolvers, as the gap between the barrel and cylinder is too great to properly silence the shot. However, some revolvers have been developed or modified to lessen or eliminate this gap, making it possible.
Keep reading to learn more about the mechanics and nuances of silencing a revolver, and the modifications that can make suppressing revolver gunfire possible.
Why Won’t a Silencer/Suppressor Work On a Revolver?
While it is certainly possible to outfit a revolver with a suppressor on its barrel, the main issue that a firearms user will run into is the gap between the cylinder and the barrel.
This gap allows for the gas produced by firing to escape outwards, and create a noticeable sound, about as noticeable as the sound of a gunshot itself.
Even if you outfit a revolver with a silencer on the end of the barrel, as is typical with other guns, this gap innate in the design of the revolver will allow for sound to escape and be not only audible, but also sharp and attention-getting.
This is exactly the kind of situation you’re looking to avoid by using a silencer in the first place.
No matter how well-built and professional the silencer on the end of your revolver is, you still have to deal with the design quirk that makes that same silencer effectively useless.
In order for a silencer to work on a revolver, the gap between the cylinder and the barrel needs to be eliminated.
A suppressor effectively being used on a revolver can be accomplished by designing a revolver in which that gap is sealed, keeping escaping gas locked into the weapon, and eliminating noticeable sound in the process.
Gas seal revolvers are one way to help to solve this issue. They are especially designed to eliminate this gap safely, and keep the revolver quiet.
Here’s a cool video showing a suppressed revolver:
Doing so requires the entire weapon to be carefully modified or re-designed to be not only quiet, but also safe and usable in a real-life situation. So have any of these revolvers been built?
Yes, over the years we’ve seen a few revolvers used in multiple wars that attempt to keep the classic revolver barrel design, while still being quiet and efficient.
Developed in the late 1800’s for the Czarist army, this weapon was meant to help modernize Russian warfare, and give soldiers a safer and more efficient weapon in battle. The result was a revolver on which a silencer would genuinely work.
The Nagant M1895 was a uniquely designed Russian revolver that moved the cylinder forward as it fired, accomplishing these things:
- Automatically sealing the gap between cylinder and barrel
- Eliminating that burst of gas and sound
Further improvements were made in the 1920’s by adding a gas-diffusing device onto the gun’s muzzle (known as a Bramit device), making the weapons even quieter, and doing much of the work of a traditional silencer.
So, while the Nagant M1895 would still require a silencer on its barrel, the issue of gun-fire-like noise issuing from the cylinder-gap itself was eliminated, making the weapon uniquely suited for use with an added silencing device.
An attempt was also made during the Vietnam war to introduce a quieter revolver, one which could be used by American soldiers in tunnel-combat without damaging their hearing.
Dubbed a “Tunnel Exploration Kit”, these weapons were essentially suppressed Smith & Wesson .38s with a silencer attachment for the barrel.
The cylinder and barrel gap was not tight enough to be truly silent even with an added silencer, and the weapons were cumbersome and extremely unpopular with the soldiers forced to use them.
Another attempt was made with the “44 Quiet, Special Purpose Revolver”.
This weapon was a half-rebuilt Smith and Wesson 29 .44, with:
- A specially designed cylinder and ammo configuration that essentially contained the explosion of power and gas within the weapon itself
- A much quieter firing noise, comparable in decibel to a standard silenced pistol
These weapons were quite a bit more effective and better-liked by US soldiers, but the end of the Vietnam war brought about an end to research development in this particular field, and the QSPR was retired.
Another unique and clever Russian weapon is the OTs (pronounced “oats”) 38 Silent. Featuring a number of innovative and unusual design quirks, the OTs-38 is still in service in Russia, and is meant to be used by law enforcement in situations where accuracy and silence are important.
Introduced in 2002, the OTs-38 relies on Nagant-like mechanics and a re-imagined cylinder, which keeps casings as well as discharge locked within the mechanical parts of the gun itself, eliminating light as well as noise.
This is essentially the same basic idea behind the American QSPR from decades prior but is a bit more advanced and simpler to use.
Additionally, the OTs-38 fires from the bottom as opposed to the top cylinder, making it much easier to handle and shoot, and with a much gentler recoil. This unique little revolver is poorly known outside of Russia but has become a favorite of off-beat weapons enthusiasts and niche gun collectors.
Revolvers do not usually work well with silencers or suppressors due to their inherent design. The innate gap between a revolver’s cylinder and barrel creates a space for light, gas, and noise to escape, making a traditional silencer on a revolver’s muzzle useless.
To solve this problem, weapons designers must eliminate the gap between cylinder and barrel through unique mechanical innovations and adjustments to the design of the weapon cylinder itself.
Once these modifications have been perfected, the weapon can either be used on its own quietly or used in conjunction with a traditional silencer.
Examples of revolvers that have been designed or modified to solve this problem and fire silently include the Nagant M-1895, and the Vietnam-era QSPR.