Saturday, 12 July 2014

.17 HMR Sound Moderator test

With the Hornady .17 magnum Rimfire round firmly being established within the British shooting community, most Sporting shooters will want to take advantage of some excellent sound moderation to utilise the mighty rimfire at its best.
I assembled a wide selection of moderators for testing...

Out Foxing

Moderators Tested

Order of Quietness

MAE 66
Custom fit
Custom fit

MAE Muzzle can

MAE Mighty Mouse

Reflex T8




Wildcat 200

Wildcat Growler

JLS Stalker MK1

JLS Stalker MK2


Sound Biter

Husher 1

With the Hornady .17 magnum Rimfire round firmly being established within the British shooting community, most Sporting shooters will want to take advantage of some excellent sound moderation to utilise the mighty rimfire at its best.

I assembled a wide selection of moderators for testing both rimfire .22lr based right through to a myriad of small capacity centre fire cans and up to .308 capacity to see how much moderator was enough to suppress the light payload of 5.5 grains of Hodgons LIL-gun that Hornady use to propel take 17 gr. bullet at 2550 fps.

It would be interesting to see if some of the smaller and less baffled moderators were just as efficient as the larger moderators, as in the past I had noted that there is definitely a “sweet” spot of maximum sound suppression with in the internal air space and in fact some times a larger moderator can be more noisy as you start to get a reverberation or echo effect.

To keep the testing completely unbiased I used two sound meters both to the right side of the shooter 10-foot from the muzzle and one at the shooters left hear. This would hopefully give me some indication in decibels as to which was the quietest but I also had three people just using the old ear lobes, which in truth is as good as any test in real life. I shot with an Anschutz 1717, Ruger 17/17 Laminate and UK custom shop Brno firstly into a soft sand back stop to eliminate the muzzle crack associated with supersonic flight and then repeated the sequence across a flat and un-obscured field, to avoid rebound or reflected noise.  Hopefully I would have all bases covered, I am not a sound expert and some will balk at he testing procedure I am sure but actually when the testing started it was the human ear that became the best indication of the noise reductions and not the sound meter. We experienced a few problems picking up all the frequencies of the shot and the “rise” time or speed of the sound meter to detect the shot was to slow in reality and so all the readings were a lot lower proportionally than they should be. Some of the moderators quite definitely changed the note of the report which was not reflected in the sound meter reading and gave a false appearance to some of the readings. It was thus decided that we would ditch the meters in favour of the ear as I could not afford to buy a professional sound meter B&K at £5000 plus, call me fickle.
Also whilst testing the noise reduction was not all that was important to note as some moderators where longer or heavier and bulky than others and though alright in a range environment it would become tiresome and restrictive in many or most sporting applications and so you will have to weigh up noise reduction with the overall performance and price for that matter, to make the right choice for you.

I tested 15 moderators in all ranging from .22lr models to see if they where up to it through the Hornet class mods right up to the larger centrefire models to see if there was an optimum point where noise reduction peaked. As well as the over the barrel Reflex and PES type cans I used a range of muzzle mounted moderators of varying lengths and was actually quite surprised at some of the results we obtained.
Listed in the chart are the makes and specifications of each model of suppressor with a price guide and importantly the order in which the test crew thought the quietest in muzzle report reduction.

Shooting the rifles without a can on, gave that characteristic whip like crack from the speeding 17 gr. V-Max bullet that certainly is too intrusive if you want to shoot several rounds on one given area without being a nuisance to neighbours. All the moderators were screwed on in turn and their effectiveness tested. In fairness all the cans reduced the muzzle blast to some degree and were all of a benefit. None, as with all moderators could suppress the supersonic crack but all the “guts” of the noise was removed and it became much less offensive. Additionally although very light recoiling in nature the muzzle flip was further reduced and any muzzle blast flame was concealed which is handy whilst out lamping at night.

Well top marks had to go the New Zealand made PES moderators imported by JMS Arms which are proving to be very efficient and effective sound moderators. I tested five models from the range and very interestingly, the quietest of all the types tested was a joint first place between the 32mm diameter Aluminium model telescopic model and the more traditional muzzle mounted can. Nearly all the muzzle blast was suppressed and all you had was the supersonic crack, there was very little rolling echo, or reflected noise back off obstruction. This is interesting because the muzzle can was just as effective as the now “must have” down the barrel design and shows that only a certain internal air capacity is needed to optimise suppression for a particular round. The disadvantage of the muzzle-mounted can is that the overall length is increased which is why most people favour the “Reflex” type moderators these days. But if you can live with the overall length increase then the price difference between the two model may influence your decision, the muzzle can is £73 cheaper.

Nearly as good was the PES 66 model, specifically design for the .17 HMR round and hosts a 6 baffle stack instead of the normal 12 usually found on the PES range. This is available also in stainless or blued steel and although costing the same as the larger model T12 is actually quieter in the tests and came in second overall in the quietness test. Also it only weighs 540 gm and uses a 32mm tube diameter that when mounted on the rifle feels no weight at all  because the weight is positioned down the barrel length and not sited at the muzzle end predominately. As stated the T12 model designed for large calibre fullbores was place fourth in the quietness test, still very good but with a 38mm tube as compared to the PES 66 32mm tube you are not gaining any advantage. This is what I was saying at the beginning, some times the biggest and wider cans are actually noisier than some of the smaller more slender models as there comes a point where the moderator has suppressed the gases as much as it can. Try and match the cartridge to the moderator, bigger is not always better.

The final PES I tested was the Mighty Mouse originally designed for the rimfire rifle, which is very good at, but on the .17 HMR could only manage ninth place with the Husher One and SAK moderators. However at only £29.95 it was very cheap and still took a lot of the bite out of the HMR`s muzzle report, so if money was tight then you could do a lot worse than fitting one of these.

I next tried a range from Jackson rifles who have been importing the Reflex moderator for some time now as wells as the ASE UTRA and SAK range. These moderators cover all calibres from rimfire right up to the largest centrefires and I tested the Reflex T8, JET-Z CQB, ASE-UTRA rimfire and magnum model as well as the SAK  rimfire can.

The quietest and third overall in noise reduction was the JET-Z which was just as well as it costs £315 and although designed for larger calibre’s really stifled the .17 HMR report very well. It too  is a muzzle mounted suppressor with a 38mm body diameter and weighing  480gm but has the advantage of only being 153mm long so as not to increase the overall length of the rifle too much .

A nice surprise again was the effectiveness of the ASE Utra can that was the quietest .22 lr rimfire moderator I had tested although a pain to assemble and disassemble properly. It came in sixth quietest overall the same as the bigger Wildcat 200 but this only cost £59.95  as opposed £220 of the Wildcat. A great little supressor that is light at 270gm and only 162mm long  but be careful if you want to clean it (I would not) as the baffles stack in a 45 degree plane and can be a fiddle to get back correctly and so enhance the risk of striking a baffle by mistake.

Equally good ,financially that is, was the SAK moderator at only £29.95 came in join ninth place with the PES Mighty Mouse for the same price and the £127 Husher One. Although not the quietest for the money, it offered noise reduction at an unbeatable price in practical terms. It is virtually maintenance free and very   strong, short at only 144mm length and weighs only 220gm although with a 35mm body diameter does look a bit bulbous on sporter profile barrels.

The Reflex T8 came in seventh in the quietness table that is good but in my view is overkill for the .17 HMR cartridge there was a distinct ringing to the can on firing and although sleeves down the barrel well it too is bulbous and heavy looking to really be practical, better on a fullbore. The T4 would be better but one was not available to test.

New to the market are the Wildcat moderators from the UK Custom shop that offer stainless steel construction that are totally strippable with a dedicated .17 HMR  aluminium hard anodised model called the Growler, unfortunate name.

The 200 model so called due to its 200mm length is a large moderator at 720gm in weigh and with a 50mm body diameter. Being a sleeved down the barrel mounting moderator this helps spread the weigh but it does look out of place on the skinny sporter barrel. It was quiet though being sixth in the table and at £220 pounds you are paying for the build quality and strippability, still nice and quiet. On the flip side the Growler is light at 168gm only and only 150mm long also sleeved down the barrel with little added length to the gun and the 38mm body diameter does not look to bulbous. Original tests put this further up the quietness table but with the advent of a greater range of moderators available only managed eighth place.
A real treat or a surprise was the result for the JLS Stalker moderator. A muzzle mounted can of 278mm length and 400gm weigh it utilises a more conventional one-piece baffle array unit but was really effective at muzzle report reduction. Placed fifth overall the report was very nicely suppressed and offers very good value for money and shows the older designs can still work well, just look at the old Parker &Hale rimfire model. Only down side is the length of 278mm is all added to the muzzle end of the rifle although John from JLS does offer a shorter version, I will being testing this soon. Good honest moderator at an honest price.
The Husher One  that started a revelation with its no baffle stack design only managed ninth place which was disappointing but shows that some moderators work better with more pressure put in them. At £127 , a hundred more than the PES Mighty Mouse which gave the same noise reduction  its virtues are its excellent build quality and strength and ease of cleaning.
Lastly and not least were two rimfire  cans, the Sako and the diminutive Sound Biter. Both came last in the noise reduction stakes but hey they were design for a completely different cartridge. However they still reduced the muzzle blast to a level that from a distance down range the noise was far less obvious as a gun shot, so at only £25 a piece have got to be a very cheap option.
This last point about noise down range is important as under the test conditions all the moderators were tested under the say conditions, however any obstruction such as hedges trees ,buildings etc will reflect the noise and make any of the moderators tested seem louder. Also if you listen the muzzle reports down range which is where the game or neighbours will be sited , not near the rifleman, then it is far harder to distinguish between the individual moderators report signatures.
Overall its your own preference not only in performance but looks weight, maintenance and how much you want to spend on a moderator that will influence your own choice , that’s up to you these are just the results I obtained from an unbiased team of listeners.

 label here

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 Mods on test

 Crafty crow shot

MAE on right

LEI Moderator

Bruce Potts

By Bruce Potts

List of contact names

MAE Moderators from                      JMS Arms                      01444 400126
Article and images by Bruce Potts

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