The Golden Age of Firearm-Suppressors Dawned in 1909
Hiram Percy Maxim inaugurated an era
The first viable firearm suppressors appeared at the turn of the 20th century. Between 1909 and 1920, designers patented a wide range of suppression devices
Hiram Percy Maxim, the son of Sir Hiram Maxim — the inventor of the machine gun — was among the first engineers to get into the suppression business. The Maxim company started out making automobiles but, by 1905, had begun focusing on technology for moderating sound.
The younger Maxim experimented with valves, vents and bypass devices to reduce a firearm’s report. The drawing from Maxim’s March 1909 patent #916885, reproduced at top, shows his first design, which he intended to spiral gases into vortices.
The Maxim Silent Firearms Company, which would later become the Maxim Silencer Company, marketed Maxim’s best and most practical designs.
Encouraged by Maxim’s silencers, a number of rival designers and companies began developing their own designs. In the early 1910s, there was a flurry of work in the field. Notable suppressors included:
James Stinson’s Gun Muffler — U.S. Patent #959400
George Childress’ hemispherical expansion-chamber silencer — U.S. Patent #953943
Charles H. Kenney’s 1910 silencer, which had a large pre-expansion chamber — U.S. Patent #1017003
Andy Shipley’s 1910 patent was one of the first to suggest porting the firearm’s barrel — U.S. Patent #971083
Maj. Anthony Fiala’s spiral baffle silencer — U.S. Patent #1341363
Harry Craven’s shotgun silencer — U.S. Patent #984750
Eugene Thurler’s 1911 patent, which used a bayonet-style attachment system and deflecting cones — US Patent #1000702
Herbert Moore’s gas trap — U.S. Patent #1080154
R.M. Towson’s Recoil Neutralizer and Muffler, which was little more than an unconventional muzzle break for both small arms and artillery — U.S. Patent #1390658
Robert A. Moore’s design, U.S. Patent #956717, featured a large gas chamber that sat beneath the rifle’s muzzle
Maxim’s most successful competitor was Robert A. Moore, who patented his first silencer for large-caliber hunting and military rifles in 1910. Moore would go on to compete against Maxim during U.S. Army-sponsored rifle-silencer trials just before the outbreak of World War I.
The civilian market for firearms-silencers declined during the Great Depression and, in 1934, was dealt a severe blow by the National Firearms Act. The law heavily regulates silencers.
Maxim’s company subsequently moved away from firearms suppressors and instead focused on industrial and automobile mufflers. While the company is no longer family-owned, it is still in business.
Today, suppressors are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with many new manufacturers offering a variety of designs. There’s a serious political effort underway to remove them from the National Firearms Act’s regulatory regime.