SUPPRESSORS: Titanium vs. steel construction

by Erik  

One thing to consider when choosing a suppressor is the type of construction. Commonly you will find stainless steel, titanium, and even aluminum. All of these materials have different pros and cons. The following sections will give you an idea of which type of suppressor best fits your needs.

Steel is the most common as it's cheap and strong and easy to manufacture. It's also the heaviest which can be undesirable to some. Stainless is used for a wide range of budget and high-end suppressors so don't make your decision on that alone. However, low-end suppressors are usually constructed of 4150 "chromoly steel." While 4150 does contain chromium, it is seen in lower levels than stainless steel therefore it is not as corrosion resistant.

Titanium is a great alternative to stainless steel and offers several advantages. It is important to know that very few things are made of pure titanium. Suppressors are constructed of Titanium alloy which is nothing more than Titanium combined with other metals. Most suppressors are constructed of "grade 9" titanium which contains roughly 94% titanium along with 3% aluminum and 3% vanadium. These added materials help make the titanium easier to weld, increase strength, and reduce the possibility of oxidation.

The natural properties of titanium allow for a superior strength to weight ratio compared to steel. It will also cool faster than steel and has a higher melting temperature. However, it's tolerance for heat also causes problems when used in suppressors. While the suppressor itself can operate just fine at very high temperatures, projectiles passing through it will not. Lead and jacketed bullets have the potential to fragment at such temperatures which can increase the possibility of baffle strikes. Therefore, most manufacturers suggest allowing titanium suppressors to cool after automatic fire or very quick semi-automatic fire.

Last, aluminum is used mostly for pistol calibers as it is very light, will not rust, and is easy to manufacture. However, aluminum is simply not strong enough to contain the PSI generated by traditional rifle calibers.

If we look at the baffles inside the suppressors we will see different materials across the board. This is mostly dictated by their caliber rating as I mentioned above. Stainless steel, aluminum and titanium are all used. However, suppressors rated for rifle calibers commonly use a material called Inconel for baffle construction. Inconel is a "super-alloy" which is basically an alloy that is very strong and heat resistant. There are many grades but we often find Inconel 718 which contains roughly 70% nickel and chromium along with some other materials which make it easier to weld.

Personally, I choose weight as one of the major determining factors when choosing a suppressor. On both pistols and rifles alike, a suppressor can add a substantial amount of felt weight at the end of the muzzle. This can affect your grip and accuracy as a shooter.

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