America’s famed “Devil Dogs” — the US Marines — just got a little leaner and meaner, a little more badass, a little tougher to find and kill.
Why? Because of suppressors, which have now been fielded in the thousands to infantry, reconnaissance and special operation units.
In case you’re wondering, “small arms suppressors” are designed to reduce a weapon’s noise, flash and recoil.
They are also time-efficient, as attachment and detachment only takes a few seconds. The mass fielding of the suppressors, and their myriad benefits, represents “a monumental moment for the Corps,” according to a press release.
Marines are trained to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. They engage adversaries in any clime and place, no matter how arduous the conditions.
As history has shown, they will take and hold, any position, regardless of heavy casualties. The fact they will be armed with suppressors means they will be that much harder to locate and target.
The impetus for equipping additional weapons with suppressors came from a series of experimentations at a 2016 “Sea Dragon” event, which enables the Marine Corps to experiment with current and emerging technologies.
At the event, a battalion employed the suppressors as part of a Marine Corps Warfighting Lab experimentation.
“The positive feedback from that experiment was the primary driving force behind procuring suppressors,” said Brisker. “We’ve had a few limited user experiments with various units since that time, and all of those events generated positive reviews of the capability.”
Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) began fielding the first 13,700 Knight’s Armament Company suppressors designed for M4 and M4A1 carbines and M27 infantry automatic rifles to Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The command hopes to field approximately 30,000 of the devices by fiscal year 2023.
“Our intent was to leverage commercially available technology to support the near-term modernization required for our close combat Marines,” said Billy Epperson, the Infantry Weapon Capabilities Integration Officer.
Epperson added that the Marine Corps conducted Limited User Evaluations in 2019 with commercial suppressors provided by vendors showcasing the latest and greatest in technology to characterize requirements in support of an acquisition effort that began in fiscal year 2020.
David Tomlinson, MCSC’s infantry weapons officer, emphasized the importance of suppressors in exchanging information during battle.
He said gun fights create a chaotic environment with intense noise levels, producing communication problems that can increase confusion.
“I would say the most important thing the suppressor does is allow for better inter-squad, inter-platoon communication,” said Tomlinson. “It allows the operators to communicate laterally up and down the line during a fire fight.”
Tomlinson said suppressors can save lives, as Marines engaged in battle can expose themselves from their firing position. The suppressor reduces their audible and visual signature, making it more difficult for the enemy to ascertain their location.
In addition to tactical advantages on the battlefield, the reduced noise of the suppressors also benefits a Marine’s long-term health, said Brisker. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, hearing problems are by far the most prevalent service-connected disability among American veterans.
“In the big picture, the VA pays out a lot in hearing loss claims,” said Brisker. “We’d like Marines to be able to continue to hear for many years even after they leave the service. These suppressors have that benefit as well.”
According to Popular Mechanics, each gunshot is in the range of 140 to 165 decibels, with the M4 carbine, M27 infantry automatic rifle, and M38 designated marksman rifle about in the 165-decibel range.
The same weapons fitted with suppressors are 132 decibels.
Although a 33-decibel difference doesn’t sound like much, the decibel scale is logarithmic, meaning unsuppressed weapons disperse more than 1,000 times more sound energy than suppressed ones.
Simply put, quieter weapons mean a Marine can hear commands by their fire team, squad, or platoon leader more easily.
At night, the reduction in muzzle flash can reduce disorientation and help preserve night vision.
This all translates to units that can respond to orders more quickly, pass on important information faster, and operate more effectively at night.
— Sources: US Marines, Military.com and Popular Mechanics