The myth that suppressed guns are "silenced" has persisted for nearly as long as the suppressor has been around. However, the Central Design and Research Bureau of Sporting and Hunting Firearms (TsKIB SOO), a Russian small arms designer and manufacturer, may have recently made a huge step forward in turning that myth into reality.
Selecting and modifying an MTs-116M sniper rifle, originally developed in the early 1990s by the Shipunov Instrument-Making Design Bureau, TsKIB SOO has retooled the weapon to not only fire the larger 12.7×108mm anti-material round (compared to the 7.62×45R cartridge it was originally chambered for), but also do it at whisper-quiet noise levels.
That's right... the Russian company now stakes a lofty claim that its new upgraded sniper rifles, which now fire a round analogous to the .50 BMG cartridge used on sniper rifles like the Barrett M82 and McMillan Tac-50, function like the silenced guns of the silver screen.
According to the developers of the rifle, the science behind the quiet MTs-116M is actually quite simple.
In a conventional cartridge, a firing pin strikes a primer and detonates a charge which shoots the bullet forward, the new rifle uses a different type of round. The sound of the gases explosively venting caused by the detonation is what gives a gun its loud sound.
A suppressor reduces the noise of the gun by allowing the gas from a shot to vent through “baffles,” which slow the gases down and diminish the resultant sound. While the sound is noticeably quieter than that of an unsuppressed shot, it is far from silent and can still be pretty loud.
The specially-developed "noiseless 12.7" round, however, utilizes a different concept which involves using piston to accelerate the bullet forward while trapping the gasses inside the spent cartridge, preventing their release. This diminishes the noise of the weapon altogether, and removes the need for the added weight of a suppressor, which can also affect range and stopping power.
In fact, TsKIB SOO claims that the only sounds that emanate from the weapon during its operation are the mechanical movements of the firing mechanism, and the ejection of the spent cartridge.
The suppressed MTs-116M comes with an effective range of around 300 m (984 ft), and will likely be made available only to Russian special operations forces. Other versions of the upgraded rifle have also been unveiled, including ones chambered for a variety of other calibers, such as .308 Winchester and .338 Lapua Magnum.