When attached to police rifles, suppressors reduce threat to hearing
The latest addition to the Saukville Police Department’s arsenal has nothing to do with enhancing firepower.
Instead, Police Chief Jeff Goetz said, it makes the weaponry the department already has a lot safer.
The Saukville Village Board recently approved buying SunFire sound suppressors for the six patrol rifles used by its police force. The Smith and Wesson M&P15 rifles have been used by the department since 2011.
The cost for the devices, which are attached to the barrel of the assault rifles, was $800 each or $4,800 total.
“The list price is $1,300, but we got a real deal on them from a company in California,” Goetz said.
“A lot of the departments in the county either have them or are in the process of getting them.”
Goetz said the suppressors have no affect on muzzle velocity and actually improve the accuracy of the bullets.
The sound suppressors, commonly called silencers, bring to mind Hollywood-conjured images of hired hit men and covert espionage operations.
However, the justification for the equipment is far less thrilling, according to Goetz.
He said the suppressors minimize the risk of damage to hearing when guns are discharged within earshot of officers and the public.
“The liability is great. Research shows that many military and law enforcement officers end up retiring on disability after 10 to 15 years in service because of hearing loss,” Goetz said.
“That means a lot of time and money spent on training officers is being lost. In high-stress situations when a weapon is fired, the officer may be in a state of auditory exclusion and not even be aware their gun has sounded. Still, the damage to hearing is done.”
Civilians are equally at risk when they are accidentally around discharged weapons, Goetz said.
He said research shows the hearing of children age 18 months or younger can be permanently damaged if they are around a gun fired inside a building.
“People are likely to ask how often Saukville police fire their weapons indoors, but when you are talking about even one case of possible permanent hearing loss the price of the suppressors seems like a bargain,” Goetz said.
The suppressors are said to reduce the volume of gunfire by as much as 300 times.
Village trustees got a first-hand demonstration of the significance of that difference during a visit to a Town of Fredonia shooting range used by law-enforcement officers for firearms training.
Without the suppressor attached to the barrel of the rifle, the discharge of a bullet produced a powerful crack and an equally powerful percussion.
With the suppressor in place, pulling the trigger results in a much more subtle pop.
To drive home the difference, all of the village guests — including Village President Barb Dickmann and Administrator Dawn Wagner — took turns firing at a target some 50 yards away.
Goetz said the demonstration was intended to counter the contention that adding police equipment is all about increasing firepower.
“My concern is this ever-rising perception that police are becoming too militarized,” he said.
“My hope is that by witnessing the effects of these tools, you will see that it is clearly a purchase designed to protect the employees and the public.”
Image information: SAUKVILLE VILLAGE PRESIDENT Barb Dickmann was among the officials who got first-hand experience using a police patrol rifle equipped with a SunFire silencer. The suppressors dramatically reduce the sound from when a gun is fired, posing less risk to the hearing of officers and the public. Photo by Sam Arendt