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SureFire Launches the Latest: RC3 Silencer



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SETTING THE NEW STANDARD

SureFire’s New Low-Pressure, Low-Flash RC3 Suppressor

When you’re a legacy company, one that others have been chasing for decades, you can’t just release a new product on a whim. There are expectations and anticipations to manage, because they are held to a higher standard. SureFire is one such company.

When Dr. John Matthews (see RECOIL #35) made the first viable weapon-mounted light, he had to start with a blank sheet of paper. Everyone else? They sat a SureFire in front of them. While SureFire certainly didn’t invent the modern silencer (their suppressor division wasn’t founded until 2002), when it comes to hard-use, bomb-proof, duty-rated regulators they set the standard back in 2015 with the RC2.

And before we get too far ahead in this piece about the latest, it needs to be said that the SOCOM556-RC2, now more than eight years old and with some wrinkles in this fast-moving area, still remains a good choice for duty use to this day.

“FLOW THROUGH”

The priority of silencer features for both the vast diaspora of the civilian market and overseas military use has greatly changed over the last two decades, and not always (or often!) in the same ways. It’s like a mixing desk control panel with sliders for sound reduction, flash suppression, weapon control, weight, repeatability, modularity, durability, back pressure, and more. But the problem is, you simply can’t max out all of the categories; they have to be carefully balanced, because moving one pushes another.

But consistently, especially over the last several years, an increased interest in reduced back pressure has been wanted in both realms. It’s almost become a mere marketing term without any objective standards. Some companies claim low back pressure while we choke through fumes while firing and taste it on our lips after.

From the inception of silencers mounted on a semi-auto, up until the beginning of the 21st century, mounting up a suppressor meant increased parts wear, or swapping parts for when specifically shooting suppressed to ensure reliability, or the addition of items like gas regulators for the same. There are also valid health concerns about filling your face with noxious fumes full of heavy metals.


For quite some time, it seemed that in order to decrease the back pressure, you either had to increase the noise or flash (or both) in order to pull that one off.

Not here, and we’ll tell you why.

DEVELOPMENT

Silencer design from the time of Hiram Maxim himself has largely been a try-it-and-see endeavor. Sometimes what makes sense on paper doesn’t work in reality, and at other times a minor change in design makes a great difference.

We’ve seen several companies claim they can perfectly model high-pressure systems like silencers via computational flow dynamics (CFD) and come up with reliable data. With such a system, suppressor designs could be tested without the need to even turn any metal. Spoiler alert: they couldn’t, not after the first shot, anyway.

The issue is that things can get very counter intuitive at high pressures and at great velocity; gas ends up flowing better against sharp surfaces versus curves, and the second shot interacting with the remains of the first complicates matters greatly.

But the good thing is that many of these problems were solved by NASA and the aerospace industry when figuring out hard problems like hypersonic missiles, fifth generation fighters, and new orbital entry vehicles. The knowledge needed in order to move that back pressure slider, without increasing the others.

After more than three years of development, the aid of multiple PhDs, and a million hours of clocked time on a bank of supercomputers, not only is there now a comprehensive and reliable silencer simulator supported by real-world results, but also the ability to get more wiggle room on that control panel.

FEATURES & DESIGN

One of the first questions we asked SureFire after learning about the RC3 was if it took the same mount as the RC2. And it was a good question to ask, because when the RC2 was released they changed the mounting system from its predecessor. We’re happy to report that indeed, it shares the same mount. It even shares the same base form factor, to include both size and weight.

The RC3 is an amalgam of technology. Not entirely additive manufacturing nor completely made on a machine. There are some traditional SureFire baffles with some twists, along with an annular cavity to bury away gas.

While certainly reduced back pressure will be at the forefront of many minds, the most impressive part to us was the near-complete elimination of secondary flash with milspec ammo. Whenever we hear the uninformed statement that “the best flash hider is a silencer” we immediately know that person doesn’t have a lot of experience with suppressors themselves. Secondary flash can occur for a number of reasons, but usually it happens when exiting gas hits a high enough velocity to ignite via friction with air in the outside environment.

With the aid of simulation combined with a lot of testing, SureFire managed to slow the exiting gasses enough, as well as impart a turbulent flow with the outside environment to avoid this issue. “You know how a rocket nozzle works?” says Barry Dueck, longtime head of silencers at SureFire, “we took that and did the exact opposite.”

There are a lot of ways to test gas blowback with silencers aside from simply shoving your face behind the charging handle. There’s been plenty of testing by measuring bolt velocity, for example. It’s been tested enough and in so many ways that the Department Of Defense turned to NSWC Crane to come up with an independent, repeatable system.

The Crane system, which SureFire has an exact copy of, uses a large clear box with a remote firing system inside it, along with an array of sensors. These sensors don’t measure atmospheric pressure itself, but instead the level of noxious gasses present before, during, and after the firing process. More parts per million of CO = more back pressure in the system.

While the RC3 (nor any of the low back pressure silencers on the market) didn’t eliminate all of these gasses, it reduced them enough they are simply not noticeable to the user—and a vast improvement over conventional design.

ON THE RANGE

Despite the dimensional similarities, you can tell difference between the RC2 and the RC3 due to the latter’s slightly flared tip and noticeably changed endcap. Shooting them side-by-side, especially on a newer gun with a leaky gas block not yet sealed up with carbon deposits, the RC2 stained our support hand more because of the higher gas pressure. The RC3 meters 1.5dB higher than the RC2, but there was no practical difference in audible report (one of many reasons why decibel testing isn’t the end-all-be-all).

But the real test in on the range. After several days and around a thousand rounds put through brand-new BCM 11.5-inch AR-15s training with Matt Pranka of Xray Alpha, what we can report is the best someone can ask of a silencer: we simply forgot it was there. The guns run the exact same way, but quieter.

There was no gas in the face, no need to swap springs, change buffers, or adjust gas—just put it on and go. Like an RC2, but better. Hot damn.


Make: SureFire
Model: SOCOM556-RC3
Caliber: 5.56mm
Length: 6.3 inches (overall), 3.8 inches (added to gun)
Diameter: 1.5 inches
Weight: 17 ounces
MSRP: $1,799
URL: surefire.com

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