Gemtech's Integra and Lunar (with a Brief History of Sound Suppressors)

By Frank Iannamico

Hiram Percy Maxim is credited with the concept of the modern firearm silencer and formed his Maxim Silencer Company in 1908. The original intent of the sound suppressor was to engage in backyard shooting without disturbing the neighbors and to provide the shooter some relief from the discomfort of the firearm’s loud report.

This was desirable before the widespread use of hearing protection, such as ear plugs or earmuffs. Sales of Maxim’s “silencers” were unrestricted; they could be purchased right over the counter at the local hardware store, or by mail order. However, the innocence and original intent of the “silencer” was lost when a few criminals discovered them. Hollywood began to exaggerate the criminal use of “silencers” in the movies for dramatic effect. Many movie companies, apparently not interested accuracy, often depicted criminals using silencers on their revolvers. The term “sound suppressor” is technically more accurate, because they decrease the sound, not silence it. However, “silencer” was used by Maxim, Hollywood, and it is still used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

What killed the initial sound suppressor (silencer) industry was the National Firearms Act of June 26, 1934, which imposed a $200.00 federal transfer tax on suppressors and machine guns. Law enforcement agencies and the military were exempted from the tax.

Renewed interest in sound suppressors for military use occurred during World War II. Some of the better known allied weapons that were suppressed included the U.S. M3 “grease gun,” the British Sten and the Delisle carbine. The Germans also fielded a few suppressed weapons during the war. After the war had ended, suppressors and suppressor research was shelved and forgotten. (The military has recently begun adopting sound suppressors, but more to prevent soldier’s hearing loss than for “special” operations.)

During the 1960s, Mitch WerBell’s SIONICS company, which became the Military Armament Corporation, began making suppressors in Georgia for military applications including the M14 and M16 rifles. The Military Armament Corporation also offered suppressors for their MAC 10 and MAC 11 submachine guns. After going out of business, MAC’s successors RPB, and later SWD, began offering the MAC submachine guns and suppressors to the civilian market.

Current Affairs

A lot has happened in the sound suppressor industry since Hiram Percy Maxim sold his first silencer.

The interest in firearm suppressors has increased exponentially in recent years for several reasons. Today, with new housing developments and businesses moving into the rural areas, there are fewer places to shoot without bothering someone.

Some sportsman’s clubs have been forced to close their shooting ranges after housing developments were built in the area. The current popularity of suppressors today is perhaps related to Maxim’s original idea, to enjoy shooting discreetly and without disturbing the neighbors. The sound suppressor has begun to shed its unsavory-illicit image and has become recognized for its attributes, one of the most important being the prevention of hearing loss. Since 2011, 18 states have legalized suppressors for hunting, and three additional states have legalized suppressor ownership. They are currently legal in 42 states; 40 states allow suppressors to be used for hunting. Suppressors are regulated by federal law but subject to local or state laws.

In the past, one of the roadblocks to possession of an NFA regulated firearm or sound suppressor was obtaining the signature of the chief law enforcement official (CLEO) in the potential buyer’s jurisdiction. CLEOs would often refuse to sign the ATF forms based simply on nothing other than his or her personal view or opinion. This prevented many individuals from obtaining a suppressor, despite there being no laws preventing ownership. In a hypothetical situation, a person living in a town where the CLEO was a supporter of the 2nd Amendment obtaining a signature was no problem; however, in the next town over the CLEO would not sign. So, one could or could not own a suppressor based solely on where he or she lived. To circumvent this unfortunate situation, some states passed “shall sign” laws requiring the local CLEO to sign the ATF forms. Forming a trust or corporation was another way many began using to avoid the signature roadblock. Trusts, in particular, became very popular. No CLEO signature, fingerprint cards or photo were required, and the persons listed on the trust could have legal access and use of the suppressor or machine gun.

This situation led the Department of Justice to consider eliminating the CLEO signature on ATF application forms. Instead, the applicant was only required to supply a copy of the submitted forms to the CLEO. This new law now allowed those who were previously not able to obtain a CLEO signature free to own a suppressor or machine gun, after they passed a federal background check. The downside for those using a trust is the ruling requires the persons listed on a trust or legal entity to submit fingerprint cards, and other identifying information to ATF and undergo a background check. According to the Department of Justice:

The goal of this final rule is to ensure that the identification and background check requirements apply equally to individuals, trusts, and legal entities. To lessen potential compliance burdens for the public and law enforcement, DOJ has revised the final rule to eliminate the requirement for a certification signed by a chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) and instead require CLEO notification.

The new ruling, ATF 41F, was signed by the Obama Administration on January 4, 2016. The effective date of the ruling was 180 days from the date that it is published in the Federal Register, which was January 15, 2016. That made it effective July 13, 2016. After the announcement, the ATF was deluged with trust and corporation applications to beat the July 13 deadline, after which fingerprints and photos would need to be submitted for all the persons listed on a trust application. The rush to beat the deadline resulted in a huge backlog of applications and delayed the processing of forms by many months. After the backlog is cleared, the form processing time should return to normal.

The elimination of the CLEO signature has opened up a potential new market to those who previously could not get their CLEO to sign and did not want to go the trust or corporation route.

Currently, there are over 40 companies manufacturing firearm suppressors in the U.S.; a growing trend that will probably continue. One of the oldest suppressor manufacturers in the U.S. is Gemtech. Gemtech (Gemini Technologies, Inc.) was formed in May 1993 in Boise, Idaho by the merger of the Automatic Weapons Company (AWC) and JR Customs. Gemtech’s Dr. Philip H. Dater, who was one of the early pioneers in suppressor design, founded Automatic Weapons Company in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1976.

New Offerings from Gemtech

Today, Gemtech has grown into one of the largest manufacturers of sound suppressors in the U.S. In addition to the civilian commercial market, the company has many domestic and foreign government and military contracts. Most of Gemtech’s products meet or exceed specifications established by the U.S. military and the British Ministry of Defence. Additionally, Gemtech is 9001 ISO-certified.

Gemtech is a professional organization that puts a lot of research, testing and development into their products and continually strives to improve their performance. The company has a research and development facility in Idaho, which has a well-equipped shop where most prototypes are built and tested. Production suppressor tubes and internal components are manufactured at Gemtech’s plant in Michigan.

The research and development team consists of several engineers and designers, well versed in suppressor design, and all of them are dedicated “gun people.” The innovative team continually strives to develop new products that exceed the customers’ expectations for both sound reduction and durability. The task is accomplished by comprehensive range and laboratory testing using the best equipment available.

Comprehensive sound testing is performed using a Larson-Davis Laboratories Model 800B Integrating Sound Level Meter with the microphone placed at the shooter’s left ear. The goal for all production is a minimum hearing safe level of 140 decibels or less. In addition to sound level testing, the company also measures the pressure generated inside of the suppressor, with a Kistler Piezoelectric Pressure Sensor and Charge Meter. This is done to ensure the materials used in the manufacture of their products are sufficient to provide a wide margin of safety under the most extreme of conditions. High-speed cameras and video are used to study how suppressors affect weapon components such as bolt velocity.

When considering the purchase of a firearm suppressor, there are many models and manufacturers to choose from. One important point that should be considered is customer service—is the company going to still be in business to provide it in the future?
The Gemtech Integra

In recent years the AR-15-type rifle has become one of the most popular firearms sold in the U.S. Along with that popularity, a huge aftermarket of accessories, upgrades and calibers has emerged.

The new Gemtech Integra is an integrally suppressed upper receiver for the AR-15/M16 style rifles. The Integra was developed as a direct result of Gemtech’s involvement in the government’s SURG program or Suppressor Upper Receiver Group. The United States Special Operation Command’s (USSOCOM) proposed the SURG weapon upgrade of the M4A1 lower receiver group, which would allow the warfighter’s weapon to be optimized for continuous suppressed use.

Gemtech teamed up with NEMO Arms to create a small and easy to maintain package. The Integra utilizes Gemtech’s proven G-CORE Technology that is removable, cleanable and replaceable while still bringing the best sound reduction of any similar sized package. The G-Core monocore suppressor is made of 6AL4V titanium. The Gemtech/ NEMO Arms patented gas block/ bore evacuator is designed to limit the amount of gas coming back into the receiver, eliminating blowback and making the weapon more comfortable to shoot.

The Integra is available in 5.56x45mm and .300 Blackout calibers. The Integra upper receiver is compatible with most AR-15 type platforms. The barrel length of the Integra is 10.5 inches in the 5.56mm version and 10.1 inches in .300 Blackout. With the added length of the integral suppressor, pinned and welded to the gas block, the overall length is a legal 16.1 inches.

The Gemtech Lunar-45

The Lunar-45 is the culmination of decades of silencer innovation. Gemtech research has created the lightest and quietest modular .45 caliber suppressor available that is able to be completely taken apart and cleaned by the consumer. The Lunar-45 is crafted from military-grade aluminum and titanium for the utmost in durability and strength. Gemtech offers a variety of mounting options for the Lunar-45 allowing it to be used on a number of platforms and calibers. The baffles of the Lunar are all coated in Nickel Boron. The coating increases cleaning ability without taking away from sound reduction like other coatings. Other coatings made the baffles too slick, which would make the silencer 2-5 dB louder. There are six baffles in the main body and two in the module.

One of the advantages of a .45 caliber suppressor is the ability to safely fire a number of other pistol caliber rounds. The Lunar is capable of firing 9mm, 10mm .40 S&W and subsonic .300 Blackout.

The Lunar suppressor is available in two configurations; both are rated for full-automatic fire. The longer model has an overall length of 8.5 inches with a 1.375-inch diameter; weight is 11.3 ounces. Factory-tested, sound level measured at the shooter’s ear was 129 decibels.

The short Lunar has an overall length of 6.9 inches, with the same outside diameter as the long version at 1.375 inches. Weight is 10.1 ounces. The sound level measured at the shooter’s ear was 136 decibels. Both sound readings were measured dry-mounted on a full size 1911 pistol using 230 grain full-metal-jacketed rounds.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N5 (June 2017)
and was posted online on April 21, 2017


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