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AAC Phoenix Silenced .22 Rifles

By Al Paulson

The integrally silenced Ruger 10/22 is one of the finest semi automatic sporting instruments ever devised. When properly executed, these are very handsome, very quiet, well-balanced rifles that are also capable of excellent accuracy. The state of the art in suppressed .22 rifles and pistols has progressed to a very high level in the last few years, although the Ruger products do vary somewhat in accuracy “Out of the box”. With the proverbial bar set so high, the careful shopper can find performance that was unthinkable just a few years ago. One interesting entry into the highly competitive field of integrally silenced 10/22s is the Phoenix rifle from Advanced Armament Corp. I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate both first-generation and second generation Phoenix rifles, and it’s safe to say that the results were surprising.

Using a similar baffle stack to AAC’s Phoenix pistol, the first-generation Phoenix rifle (henceforth referred to as the Phoenix Type 1) has approximately the same length and weight as an unmodified rifle when the factory stock is inletted to accept the suppressor. The silencer tube is made from 304 stainless steel, which is finished in a matte bead blast finish. The tube completely covers the exposed portion of the barrel. The suppressor has a length of 17.6 inches and a diameter of 0.98 inch. With Simmons .22 MAG 4x32 scope, Weaver rings, Hogue aftermarket stock, and empty magazine, the Phoenix Type 1 rifle evaluated in this study has an LOA of 36.75 inches and a system weight of 6.7 pounds. Since the scope and mounts weigh 12.9 ounces, the Phoenix Type 1 rifle weighs 5.9 pounds without optics. The baffles are CNC machined from 6061-T6 aluminum alloy to minimize weight and to maximize heat transfer from hot combustion gases, which increases the efficiency of the silencer. The 12.5 inch barrel has minimal porting engineered to keep high velocity and standard velocity ammo from generating a loud ballistic crack, while at the same time delivering maximum practicable velocity to provide as much penetration as possible without objectionable bullet flight noise. The porting is designed to give maximum service life for an integral suppressor with ported barrel. It is also worth noting that the rifle is not classified as a Short-Barreled Rifle under BATF regulations, since the suppressor is permanently attached to the barrel.

The Type 2 Phoenix rifle differs from the Type 1 rifle in several important aspects. The most important difference is that the Type 2 suppressor incorporates improved barrel tensioning to reduce barrel harmonics and thereby provide better accuracy. The Type 2 also features a shorter barrel and suppressor tube, measuring 10.5 inches and 15.5 inches, respectively. The Type 2 Phoenix rifle has an LOA of 34.7 inches. It weighs 5.5 pounds without optics, which is 0.4 pound lighter than the Type 1 Phoenix. I very much prefer the handiness of the shorter Type 2 variant. The second-generation Type 2 Phoenix is the variant currently in production.

Taking Stock

Traditional wood, laminated wood, and even fiberglass stocks can be both functional and genuine art. Few things are as maddening as taking a beautiful stock into the field and watching it become dinged, gouged and scarred during the course of active use. There’s something to be said for a rough and tumble stock that sheds abuse that would do violence to a handsome wood or fiberglass stock. While I’m not enamored with the aesthetic appearance of the Hogue OvermoldedTM aftermarket stock for the Ruger 10/22, I am pleased with how it handles during presentation and how it resists scarring from hard use afield.

The Overmolded stock features an internal fiberglass body for solid support combined with a cushioned rubber outer skin for a non-slip grip and a remarkable resistance to dings and gouges. Another variant of the Hogue stock is coated with nylon instead of rubber. The rubber-skinned variant is a robust stock well suited to hard usage (I have no experience with the nylon-skinned variant). The Overmolded stock features a straight comb, wide varmint-style forend, very functional cobblestone finish surfaces on the grip and forestock, dual palm swells on the recurve pistol grip to further enhance comfort and control, a rubber recoil pad, and front and rear sling studs. Fully inletted for a drop-in fit, the Hogue stock is available inletted for factory standard barrels as well as standard aftermarket match barrels with a diameter of 0.920 inch. It is the latter variant with rubber outer skin that Advanced Armament used for the Phoenix Type 1 and Type 2 suppressed rifles evaluated in this study.

No inletting of the stock was performed to make the 0.98 inch suppressor tube fit in the 0.92 inch barrel channel. The inherent flexibility of the stock enables a press fit of the suppressed action into place. This may be the weak link in the system, since the forestock exerts considerable pressure on the suppressor tube throughout its length. My experience with other suppressed carbines is that a free-floating suppressor tube delivers better accuracy than a tube that has any contact with the stock. Testing that hypothesis will be left for another time.

While I much prefer the human engineering of the 1.8 pound Volquartsen thumbhole fiberglass stock for the Ruger 10/22, the 1.9 pound Hogue stock bounced back from the sort of usage that left my Volquartsen stock chipped and scarred. That certainly earned my respect and has made me rethink future stock purchases for Ruger 10/22s that will get hard use in the field.

Performance

I compared the performance of AAC’s Type 1 and Type 2 Phoenix integrally silenced 10/22 rifles with an unsuppressed Ruger 10/22 with factory 18.5 inch barrel, and with AAC’s Cloak silenced Ruger 10/22. The Cloak is actually a Hogue match barrel with a silencer hidden inside. The Cloak silenced barrel fits into aftermarket stocks designed to accept 0.920 match barrels, and it does so without the need for any stock modifications whatsoever. Sound testing was conducted using the specific equipment and testing protocol advocated at the end of Chapter 5 in the book Silencer History and Performance, Volume 1 (Wideworld, Dept. SAR, P.O. Box 1827, Conway, AR 72033; $50 plus $5 s&h, check or MO). Four kinds of .22 LR ammunition were used for the testing: Remington 40 grain high velocity (HV), Remington 40 grain standard velocity target (SVT), Remington 38 grain hollowpoint subsonic (SS), and RWS 40 grain hollowpoint subsonic (SS). Sound and velocity testing of the Phoenix Type 1 and Cloak were conducted at an atmospheric temperature of 84 °F, while accuracy testing was conducted several days later at 88 °F. The Type 2 Phoenix was tested nine moths later at a temperature of 56 °F. Ideally, I would have liked to conduct all sound and all accuracy testing on one day, but this simply wasn’t possible. Ammunition was kept at ambient temperature in a cooler in the shade until needed. Unsuppressed peak sound pressure levels (SPLs) were measured 1 meter to the left of the muzzle, while suppressed levels were measured 1 meter to the left of the suppressor. Reported decibel levels represent the mean (average) of 10 shots.

Velocities were measured using a P.A.C.T. MKIII timer/chronograph with MKV skyscreens set 24.0 inches apart and the start screen 8.0 feet from the muzzle (P.A.C.T., Dept. SAR, P.O. Box 531525, Grand Prairie, TX 75053; phone: 214-641-0049). Velocity data represent a mean value of at least ten shots. The speed of sound was 1,143 fps at 84 °F, 1,157 fps at 88 °F, and 1,113 fps 56 °F. Accuracy testing was conducted at a range of 50 yards using a mechanically buffered cradle-type machine rest that locks the entire rifle in place, with three rounds per group. Reported accuracy data represent the average of three groups. Group sizes represent the center to center distance between the two most widely spaced shots, using custom caliber-specific calipers made by Hunt’s Bullets (Dept. SAR, 6210 Lake Lugano, Jacksonville, FL 32256; phone 904-645-3140).

The peak sound pressure levels (SPLs) of suppressed and unsuppressed rifles are reported in Table 1. Net sound reductions appear in Table 2. Muzzle velocities appear in Table 3. Accuracy data appear in Table 4. As the first table shows, AAC’s Phoenix rifles are generally significantly quieter that AAC’s Cloak rifle. This generalization is easier to see when looking at the net sound reductions shown in Table 2. Table 3 shows that the Cloak must be used with subsonic ammunition to avoid a ballistic crack under these atmospheric conditions with Remington standard velocity, although several folks who own AAC’s Cloak rifles tell me that they have thus far experienced no ballistic cracks using CCI standard velocity ammunition. That said, I always found that the Phoenix could be used with Remington standard velocity ammunition for stealthy shooting. Of course, no rifles evaluated in this study produced objectionable bullet flight noise when used with subsonic ammunition.

All three suppressed rifles give very usable sound reduction with high velocity ammo, since the rifles’ sound signatures will be obscured by the ballistic crack. If several varmints or small game animals are downrange, they will look toward the nearby ballistic crack or the sound of bullet impact—and not the shooter—if proper field craft is employed.

Both Phoenix variants, as well as the Cloak, delivered very stealthy shooting with standard velocity target ammunition. Furthermore, standard velocity ammunition delivered the best accuracy, as shown in Table 4.

Using subsonic ammunition, the Type 2 Phoenix was significantly more accurate than the Type 1 Phoenix, while still delivering outstanding sound reduction with standard velocity and subsonic fodder. Shortening the suppressor and barrel to create the Type 2 Phoenix yielded the same sound reduction as the Type 1 with high velocity and standard velocity ammunition, while the shorter system was only 1 decibel louder when using subsonic ammunition.

To put these sound data in perspective, both Phoenix variants are much quieter than a Crossman American Classic Model 1377 .177 caliber air pistol with any ammunition that does not produce a ballistic crack. Furthermore, even the shorter Type 2 Phoenix delivers sound pressure levels using standard velocity and subsonic ammunition that are within 1-3 dB of action noise (which is 109 dB, measured as the sound of the bolt closing on an empty chamber). Such performance can safely be termed outstanding.

Advanced Armament’s Type 2 Phoenix delivered 0.78 inch groups at 50 yards with standard velocity target ammo, which is significantly better than an unsuppressed rifle. Using high velocity ammunition, neither the suppressed or unsuppressed Rugers with factory barrels shot as accurately. Whether this is because the factory barrels are optimized for standard velocity projectiles or because of tension on the suppressor tube created by the Hogue stock affecting harmonic vibration of the baffle stack remains unclear. Using subsonic ammunition, accuracy wasn’t as good as standard velocity target-grade fodder, which is not uncommon. Still and all, 1.2 to 1.3 inch groups at 50 yards with subsonic ammunition in the Phoenix Type 2 rifle is still plenty accurate to take varmints and small game at that distance with confidence.

It is worth noting that the only suppressed or unsuppressed rifle to provide unmatched accuracy with all categories of ammunition was AAC’s Cloak rifle, with the suppressor hidden inside a Hogue stainless steel match barrel of 0.920 inch diameter.

Several curiosities in the data merit a brief discussion. The Phoenix Type 1 delivered a muzzle signature of 109 dB with Remington subsonic, which was the same level as action noise. The Type 1 produced a sound signature that is a mere 108 dB with RWS subsonic. That’s nothing short of astonishing performance.

How can the overall sound signature of the Phoenix Type 1 possibly be 1 dB quieter than action noise with RWS subsonic? It turns out that the chambering of a live round buffers the ring of the bolt slamming home by about 1 decibel. Using RWS subsonic ammunition, the Phoenix Type 1 delivers the maximum amount of sound suppression that is theoretically usable in a Ruger 10/22, unless measures are taken to further reduce action noise. It is also noteworthy that both the Phoenix and the Cloak suppressors from Advanced Armament are exceptionally good at minimizing first-round pop.

Conclusions

In terms of sound suppression, Advanced Armament’s Phoenix rifle can safely be termed impressive. With the rifle’s most accurate ammunition used in this study—Remington standard velocity target—the Phoenix produced a truly impressive sound signature. Gunshot noise was within a mere 2 decibels of action noise using the Type 1 rifle and within 3 dB of action noise using the Type 2 rifle. Using RWS subsonic ammunition, the Type 1’s sound signature was actually 1 decibel less than the sound of the bolt closing on an empty chamber. It’s hard to imagine squeezing any more stealth out of a silenced 10/22. Using RWS subsonic in the Type 2 rifle, the sound signature was only 1 dB above action noise. From another perspective, that’s 10-13 decibels quieter than a Crossman American Classic Model 1377 .177 caliber air pistol (depending on the number of pumps). When you consider that the decibel scale is logarithmic, it becomes clear that this is very stealthy performance, indeed.

Accuracy of the Phoenix Type 1 rifle was good, but I prefer the accuracy mix delivered by the Phoenix Type 2, even though it’s not quite as accurate with the high velocity and target ammunition used in this study. For those who can utilize even more accuracy, I’d recommend AAC’s Cloak, which delivered 0.45 inch groups at 50 yards with standard velocity target ammunition.

It is interesting to note that AAC’s Cloak—with its silencer hidden inside a match barrel—delivered significantly better accuracy than the Phoenix Type 1 and Type 2 with all categories of ammunition. It is also interesting that the barrel tensioning incorporated into the Type 2 design seemed to work best with subsonic ammunition in the particular rifle I tested.

It is well known that .22 rimfire rifles are notoriously finicky with regard to ammo versus accuracy, and the Phoenix appears to be particularly finicky in this regard. The owner of a Phoenix (or any other suppressed or unsuppressed .22 rimfire) would be well advised to go to a good gunshop and buy a box of every brand and variety of high velocity, standard velocity, and subsonic ammunition that can be found. Spend a day shooting groups from a rest, and find out what delivers the best accuracy from that particular gun. When the best performers are found, try to buy several 5,000 round cases of the same variety (and lot, if possible) of ammunition and earmark that ammo for that particular gun. This extra effort will pay substantial dividends when it comes to accurately placing rounds on target.

That said, simply using Remington standard velocity target ammo in the Advanced Armament’s Phoenix integrally silenced rifle will deliver an extremely stealthy sound signature and much better accuracy than an unmodified Ruger 10/22. That is compelling performance, no matter how you slice it.

The complete Phoenix 10/22 rifle costs $795, while installing the Phoenix on a customer-supplied stainless steel Ruger 10/22 or 77/22 rifle runs $595. AAC can add an outstanding trigger job for $125, including Volquartsen parts. This is highly recommended for the serious shooter. For more information, contact the Advanced Armament Corp. (Dept. SAR, 3100 Five Forks Trickum Road SW, Suite 201, Lilburn, GA 30047; phone 770-985-3109; fax 770-985-3110; website www.advanced-armament.com).


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