Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

Gun Silencer Maker’s New Release Offers a ‘50-State Legal’ Way Around Suppressor Rules

SilencerCo isn’t waiting for lawmakers to bring suppressors to the masses. On Tuesday, the company unveiled a new product that it promises makes owning one of the devices perfectly legal to residents of all 50 states.

The Maxim 50 is a muzzleloading rifle with an affixed suppressor, which according to SilencerCo sidesteps tight regulations enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and state laws banning the devices outright.

“SilencerCo has created a product that is 100% legal for civilian ownership in all 50 states while providing hearing-saving suppression at a reasonable price point,” a press release reads. “How is this possible? By paying very close attention to the law.” 

States didn’t wait long to test challenge SilencerCo’s claim. On Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the Maxim 50’s release, SilencerCo said in a Facebook post that it was halting sales of the weapon in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California after “several immediate legal challenges from authorities and lawyers.”

“Since we have no desire to place any consumer in a situation where they may get arrested and charged with a felony … we have placed orders from those states on hold and are refunding customers pending legal confirmation,” the post reads.

The National Firearms Act of 1934 created strict limits on the ownership of suppressors, or silencers, as they are also known. In the 42 states that permit civilian ownership of the products, individuals must submit an application to the ATF, pass a background check, and pay a $200 tax stamp. If the application is successful, the suppressor must be registered with the ATF.

The NFA’s rules apply to any suppressor that can be affixed to firearms. They do not apply, however, to muzzle loaded weapons, which the ATF classifies as “antique firearms.”

A muzzleloader is a firearm in which the projectile (bullet) and the propellant (gun powder) are loaded from the muzzle. (If you’re imagining a scene from the Revolutionary War, you’ve got the gist.) Most modern firearms are what’s known as breach-loading, which means a cartridge is loaded from the rear of the barrel. You can see the Maxim 50 in action here:

The new gun comes with the suppressor pre-attached. Since muzzleloading isn’t practical at the local range, the Maxim 50 is likely to appeal to narrow subsets of gun buyers: novelty seekers, collectors, and those who enjoy thumbing their nose at gun laws.

An ad for the Maxim 50 plays on the last group’s sympathies. Press materials for the weapon, which retails for $999, show a model handling the weapon and walking across the California state line, where the possession of suppressors is banned outright. The video includes a voiceover describing the Second Amendment as a defense against tyranny and overreaching politicians.

The restrictions that suppressors are subject to have not stopped their popularity from exploding over the last few years. According to the ATF, there were 1.36 million suppressors registered in April 2017. That’s up from 285,000 in 2010.

The SHARE Act, a bill that would remove suppressors from the NFA, is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.