By Bruce Potts
Monday, 05 May 2008
In recent years, sound moderators have become a must-have stalking accessory, but there is a bewildering array to choose from. Bruce Potts narrows down the options
Choosing full-bore moderators used to be easy in the days when there were only a few old-fashioned but effective muzzle-mounted cans. Vaime and then Vaimeco from Finland were the industry standards. Then everything changed, shooters demanded ever shorter and more efficient moderators and a new breed of over-the-barrel was born. This move was spurred on by new rules on health and safety in the workplace relating to acceptable decibel levels.
The first new over-the-barrel design to reach these shores was the Reflex. It had its origins in the military, where it had a limited lifespan and was soon embraced by the sporting market. The benefits were palpable. It meant a shooter could fire a full-bore rifle without ear defenders, enjoy total flash elimination and less recoil. Since then, the suppressor industry has grown rapidly in the UK and the British shooter has a bewildering array of full-bore moderators to choose from. I chose 10 of the most up-to-date and efficient moderators on the market to test. I selected only moderators with equal calibre rating and thread dimensions and used them with the same rifle and ammunition each time to make the results comparable. I used a Tikka .308 with ½in UNF thread. Each moderator has unique attributes and the Rifle must decide what best suits his or her particular needs.
Moderators come in mounted and over-the-barrel versions. Both have benefits and disadvantages, relating to price, user-friendliness, ease of maintenance and longevity. You may wonder why muzzle cans are included if they are old hat, but the saving in length of the over-the-barrel is countered by a lesser degree of noise reduction as there are evidently no baffles forward of the muzzle. Using the ubiquitous Reflex T8 model as the control for comparison, I have placed the moderators in order of sound reduction. Not every moderator ranked higher the Reflexs benchmark is very quiet already. In fact, the top moderator in this category shows an increase in noise reduction of only 20 per cent. The benefits have to be weighed against variations in length, weight, price and materials used.
The Reflex T8 is probably the best-selling and most widely recognised over-the-barrel moderator on the market. It is a sealed unit consisting of a series of eight welded baffles forward of the muzzle, with a large rear expansion chamber that sits over the barrel. Adopted by the Forestry Commission to comply with the Noise at Work Directive, its price, good sound reduction and range of calibres and fittings make this moderator the industry standard.
Wildcat Predator 8
The new Wildcat Predator 8 is in direct competition with the Reflex T8 model. It has the same outward dimensions and weight, but can be completely stripped and easily upgraded. It is also an over-the-barrel design, but each part can be changed. Various muzzle thread units can be fitted for use on different rifles. The baffle stack can be altered to take 4, 8 or 12 baffles for differing calibres, and there is a rear expansion tube tailor-made to suit the length of the rifles fore-end. The aluminium and stainless steel components are interchangeable. As regards noise reduction, it has the same benefits as the Reflex but does not have the T8s ringing sound produced by the thin steel outer walls.
LEI Sub Compact
The 205mm Law Enforcement International (LEI) may be an old muzzle-mounted design, but its size and internal volume cools the expanding gases, reducing the muzzle report to a good level. The thick external tube is made from aluminium. The internal baffle stack comprises a series of stainless steel spacers and dished individual baffles that effectively reduce noise and can withstand 10,000 rounds. The moderator does increase the length of your rifle by 205mm, minus thread cut, but at £195 it offers good value for money.
PES Small Muzzle Can and PES T12 Scout
The stainless steel PES Small Muzzle Can and PES T12 Scout over-the-barrel are a step up in terms of noise reduction. The Scout is 280mm in length and the PES Small Muzzle Can is 200mm. Unlike the muzzle can, the Scout is strippable, but they had similar results on the test rifle. With more forward baffle area, the muzzle cans 12 baffles are more effective. The Scout model has the same number of baffles, but less forward mounted area and reduces noise through the large rear expansion chamber. Both are available with a black coating or in stainless steel.
Another moderator new to these shores is the A-Tec from Norway. This is a hybrid muzzle and over-the-barrel design, so there is more length forward of the muzzle (150mm) and the smaller rear expansion tube is 126mm. It has an aluminium casing and five aluminium baffles, with a primary baffle constructed from stainless steel to take the violent hot gases that emanate from the bore. Noise reduction is good and it can be completely stripped to allow cleaning, which is recommended after 200 rounds.
Four moderators came out as the top performers: the PES T12, the PES Large Muzzle Can, the LEI Compact and the AU-Jet Z compact. They differ greatly in design, but in terms of noise reduction are similar only a professional noise meter could separate them. Down range (safety observed) the muzzle reports were almost identical, with only slight variations detectable at the shooters ear. Three are muzzle cans, which may surprise some people considering the trend for over-the-barrel designs.
The PES T12 is an over-the-barrel type and is a solidly built 38mm diameter moderator in stainless steel with a removable rear expansion chamber to allow cleaning and thread change. Its noise reduction was excellent and the smaller diameter and shorter rear length means the extra 800g sits well back and is well-balanced. At 250mm, the LEI Compact is a large moderator to attach to the front of the rifle, but its 45mm diameter and labyrinth of stainless steel baffles effectively restricts the volume of expanding gases. Similarly, with a 38mm diameter, the PES Large Muzzle Cans bigger primary expansion chamber takes the sting out of the hot gases before they pass down the baffles. This PES offers really good noise reduction with a stainless steel single point mounting construction, proving simplicity is often the best option. It is not too long and is good value for money.
The AU-Jet Z compact is another muzzle-mounted design with excellent decibel reductions in a strong sealed steel unit. The Jet-Z has a unique internal Z-shaped baffle design that uses all available space to cool those troublesome gases. It is pricey for a muzzle can, but offers the shooter good noise reduction in a compact form.
The venerable T8 offers good noise reduction, but the strippable Wildcat Predator 8 is hot on its heels. The LEI muzzle cans were high quality at a good price, but long and heavy. The A-Tec was light for an over-the-barrel design, but expensive and aluminium cans risk accelerated wear through flame cutting. The stainless steel T12 Scout is a good compromise of length and weight and it has good moderation for a fair price. The longer but cheaper PES small muzzle can offers nearly the same noise reduction.
The PES T12 combines affordability with stainless steel construction. It can be partially stripped and has excellent noise reduction. On a par were the PES 38mm muzzle can and Jet-Z Compact, which shows that a well-designed muzzle can with baffles forward of the muzzle still has a lot to offer at a good price. With not much between them, the buyer must decide what blend of noise reduction, construction and style suits them and their wallet.
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