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Enjoy the Silence

The plus side of hunting with a suppressor.

Acres of holed mounds sprawl across a cattle ranch in Wyoming. Ranchers consider the hollowed dirt hills ankle breakers for their cows. They also consider what lives in the holes, prairie dogs, to be forage stealers. That’s why target practice is allowed.

“They welcome us to come because there are so many prairie dogs,” says Bryan Vohs, an Idaho gun owner. “You look on Google Maps and zoom in and it is unbelievable. The region looks like a suburb in L.A. There are just mounds everywhere.”

With owner permission, Vohs arrives on a grazing allotment with guns for hunting varmints. He uses a bolt action rifle fitted with a suppressor, also known as a silencer, because he wants to reduce his audible presence for his ears and for the barking squirrels.

“If you’re shooting and don’t want to announce that you’re there quite so abruptly, you want a suppressor so you’re not scaring away whatever you’re hunting,” Vohs says. “It’s pretty amazing, especially at a distance. As soon as there’s a sound, everything runs off.”

Vohs owns three silencers. His first purchase took eight months to process. The next two took four months each. It’s a tedious, time-consuming, and confusing endeavor, but it’s getting easier because the founder of Silencer Central has figured out how to help hunters.

“Anyone who shoots a firearm, wants it to be quieter and they want to mitigate recoil,” says Brandon Maddox, Silencer Central CEO and founder. “The next question is then, what is the obstacle? And the number one obstacle is the unknowns around the process and the process is bad.”

Silencer Central sends you home with a free t-shirt but you have to wait for approval to receive your new suppressor. The product must route through the federal government for a tax stamp before you’re cleared to have it, which takes months. It’s also initiated as an in-person procedure which limits a shop’s customer base.

When Maddox opened his first FFL in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 2005, his customers were somewhat limited to the eastern side of the state. Determined to reach the entire state and surrounding areas, he worked with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and discovered there is indeed a way to ship silencers across the state and now across the country through a digital process.

“I’ve got a big 60,000-square-foot building here with a bunch of employees and our whole goal is making it easy for you,” Maddox says. “Because of focused labor, doing the same functions daily, we get really good at it.”

Silencer Central has stores in 42 states plus an online platform and a certified gunsmith for barrel threading. The suppressor company is a manufacturer, wholesaler, and dealer. They assign you one staffer for the whole process and you sign documents, including gun trust paperwork, digitally as the steps roll out over several months. You can also pay over several months instead of upfront and they update you regularly with a progress report.

“What I have found with consumers is they just want to be communicated to,” Maddox says. “We are a one-stop-shop and have no trouble selling product, but where we excel is walking customers through the purchase and approval process. They also enjoy the flexibility to pay while they wait and to have it shipped to their front door. Customers see a huge benefit when they don’t have to track down a local gun shop.”

Silencer Central, which also donates silencers as auction items for conservation groups,  processes nearly 100,000 suppressors annually. Their corporate influence is substantial, but there’s still room for growth when you consider the millions of gun owners in America, including the ones hunting prairie dogs.