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History of the Maxim Silencer Company

By Frank Iannamico

Although sound suppressors, also known as silencers, have recently hit an all-time high in popularity, they have been available for over 100 years. Suppressors have slowly begun to shed the stigma of being a tool for criminal use, largely a myth unjustly perpetuated by Hollywood.

During the early 1900s a significant number of people in America lived in or close to cities. Firearms were common place, and the police were usually not alerted if someone was seen walking down the street with one. Although the carry of a firearm was accepted, the noise of firing one in populated areas was considered somewhat annoying to many residents.

Hiram Percy Maxim, son of the famous Maxim machine gun inventor Hiram Stevens Maxim, theorized that the report from a firearm could be reduced by slowing down the gases leaving the muzzle of a firearm. Suppressing the report of a gunshot would have many advantages: it would not disturb the neighbors, and would allow the shooter to practice without the noise, hearing discomfort and subsequent hearing loss. During the 1900s hearing protection, if used at all, consisted of placing wads of cotton in one’s ears.

One of Maxim’s first concepts was to use a design that would swirl and momentarily trap the high pressure gases in a transversely mounted chamber and slowly vent them through a series of spring-actuated valves and ports. The design was complex and its performance in reducing a firearm’s report marginal. The idea for using a series of valves and springs to slow the escaping gases, and reduce the report of a firearm, was a common concept during Maxim’s day. There were a number of U.S. and foreign patents issued for firearm silencers prior to Maxim’s but most were based on theory, there were few known working models.

Undeterred by the marginal performance of his first silencer, Maxim embarked on an entirely new idea using a series of baffles to slow the escape of the gases. The baffle system proved to be simpler in design and far more effective. After a number of experimental “silencer” designs in...

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