Two years ago, I spent a day with Gemtech in Boise, Idaho. I learned a lot, met good folks, tested great equipment, and did an article about it. (THE STRONG SILENT TYPE: Straight Scoop on Suppressors, January 2017 S.W.A.T.).
I expected to see a facility like LaRue—rows of machines, guys busily building silencers. When I asked, I was told they were manufactured off-site, in Michigan.
At a training conference last year I was introduced to Greg Latka of GSL Technology. He’s an interesting guy, a master machinist for over 50 years who built aerospace equipment. In 1985 he got interested in silencers, got his first patent in 1991, and joined Gemtech a year after it was founded. He became president a couple of years later and stayed in that role for 22 years, and was also the lead designer and engineer. GSL built all of Gemtech’s silencers from 1995 to 2005, and most of them until recently.
Businesses are like any other relationships—some last forever, some fall apart. Greg went his own way about the time Gemtech was purchased by Smith & Wesson, and he’s now building cans in his Michigan facility. I was working on a trade of NFA weapons with an agency, and GSL kindly provided me some test samples.
MULTI CAL AND WOODLAND
I have a couple of rifles with the Gemtech QD flash hider/mount, so I checked out the Multi Cal first. I was surprised when I opened it, since QD mounts for both 5.56 and 7.62 were included—no need to buy additional parts. Like the Gemtech One, the Multi Cal will suppress everything from .300 Winchester to .22 LR. I moved it from .308 to 5.56 and was impressed with the reduction. When I put it on my .300 Blackout upper, it came into its own. Shooting Black Hills 220-grain subsonic rounds, it truly was a whisper.
OK, I was having fun. I next took out a Browning Black Label and a Browning Buckmark, both with threaded barrels. I screwed the .22 Woodland suppressor onto the Buckmark first, later the Black Label, and had a ball. With any of the subsonic loads I have (CCI, Remington, and Gemtech), both guns and suppressor worked flawlessly. It sounded like a pellet gun, and the can weighs only ounces.
I ran around the woods like a kid, shooting sticks and pine cones for half an hour—nice to be able to do that without ear protection.
A few days later, I changed out the stock on my old sniper rifle, a Remington 700 in .308. I’d used a different rifle, in a Magpul stock, at a class at Thunder Ranch and really liked the ability to use ten-round detachable magazines, so I replaced the stock with the same Magpul Hunter. I re-zeroed the gun with Black Hills 168-grain Match and found it was just as accurate as the old stock. I got some distance work in, and shot for an hour, dialing DOPE from 100 to 650 yards.
I decided to test the point-of-impact shift when a can is added. A shift is expected due to a change in barrel harmonics and the additional weight to the muzzle. The rifle is a Remington 700 .308 that started life as an off-the-
rack Varminter. Since the gun is zeroed for 100 yards, I fired a five-shot group without the GSL GT-308, then with it—no change of POI using Black Hills 168-grain Match.
The rifle has a heavy barrel, and the GT-308 is a little lighter than my older suppressor. A buddy dropped by, so we did a totally unscientific comparison: We fired three rounds suppressed, swapped the suppressor for the older one from another company, and fired three more. We each did this twice, didn’t compare notes, then swapped both roles. The GSL seemed quieter, and the manual states sound reduction as 32db. It weighs 15.3 ounces and it’s made from titanium.
Since I had a little time, I broke out my Colt 9mm SMG. I have a Browning Hi Power that I want to try suppressed, but my barrel hadn’t arrived. I opened the box on the GSL Scorpion 9mm. Again, the box held the suppressor, QD mount/flash hider, and a small bag of thin stainless-steel shims that I was puzzled about for a minute.
I screwed on the mount finger tight, then tried to mount the can—it hit the bayonet lug and wouldn’t go on. I immediately understood the shims. I added three, tried, repeat, and repeat, until all ten shims were used—eureka! GSL obviously knows what the can may be used on, so they provided what was needed. I unscrewed it, applied Loctite, and threaded it back on.
I loaded a couple of mags with full-power ball and let ‘er rip—no function problems, so I switched to subsonic 147-grain FMJ. Last fall in Texas at an NRA class I taught, I’d met a young guy who’s trying to get into the ammo loading business. His company is called Armadillo Tactical Supply. He seemed like a good guy and he asked me to try his ammo, which arrived a month later. I’d shot some .45, 9mm, and .38 Super earlier, and all were accurate and reliable. The box also had 100 rounds of subsonic 9mm.
I figure a submachine gun is for close-quarters work, so I zeroed it at 25 yards with 147-grain factory ammo. Once zeroed, I shot it at 50, 75, and 100 yards to figure point of aim; the variable would be the bullet weights, since I have 115-, 124-, and 147-grain loads in my stash.
I then mounted the GSL Scorpion 9mm suppressor. I fired ten slow rounds to check the accuracy, which was right on. I moved away from my shop, which bounces sound back, and tried some semi- and full-auto bursts. His loads were very quiet, reliable, and as accurate as the factory subsonic I shot. When I last checked, his prices were a little cheaper than factory, so it’s worth trying Armadillo Tactical Supply ammo in your guns. I fired all 100 rounds through the suppressed Colt without a stoppage.
I have two 1911 rail guns in .45 ACP. Both guns have Ed Brown threaded barrels, so I decided to test the GSL Python. Since .45 ball usually runs about 850 fps, it’s already subsonic. The GSL Python is seven inches long and weighs 10.2 ounces, so it’s not huge. Even so, the can on the end of a full-size Colt is a large package.
It would seem that a five-inch barrel with a seven-inch suppressor, shooting a subsonic cartridge would be really, really quiet. Not so. Even though the Python reduces muzzle blast by 30db and the sharp crack is removed, the sound is dull but noticeable until you get a little distance away. I took it with me to Thunder Ranch, wanting to run through The Terminator with the Colt, SureFire light, and suppressor. All worked well together, shot well, and would be a good package for using a pistol indoors. You still have a free hand for doors, etc, and you can hear what’s going on around you.
I also tried the SWAT 5.56mm unit. I have a 12.5-inch Colt CQB select-fire that is really loud. If you shot it without ear protection in a real situation, you’d be deaf for a while. I dropped in a Gemtech BCG, which is designed to allow suppressed/unsuppressed fire with a turn of a screw. When it works, it eliminates the need for a gas block change, but the upper receiver has to be opened to switch modes.
The SWAT is a direct-thread unit, so I unscrewed the flash hider and screwed on the suppressor. The 5.56 round can’t really be quieted too much, hence the .300 Blackout, but it can be made hearing safe. I loaded a magazine with standard 55-grain ball and headed out the door.
This Colt has a fairly slow rate of fire, which made control easier. I ran 150 rounds of mixed ball through the gun with the suppressor and no ear protection. I was happy to hear that the report from the gun was noticeably less than with the Multi Cal, which is to be expected—the muzzle hole is smaller, and direct threading leads to a tighter mount. The gun and the can performed flawlessly.
A short 5.56 is selected because it’s … short. However, the muzzle blast is noticeably higher than with a 14.5-inch gun, so a quality suppressor is a good addition. The contradiction is that the can adds eight inches in length, but it’s a sacrifice worth making.
SUPPRESSOR PROS AND CONS
There are lots of reasons to own/use a silencer (the BATFE legal name for the devices). It makes the weapon hearing safe, can make your shooting discreet, and offers tactical advantages in some cases.
The Spokane, Washington, PD just added “OSHA approved sound reduction devices” to every carbine in the department. My hearing is already shot, pun intended, so I left the Python on my bedside Colt Rail Gun. I left the GT-308 attached to my bolt gun, which is zeroed for 300 yards, the distance to my front gate. The Multi Cal is attached to my Colt 6920 with the .300 Blackout upper.
The flip side, if it concerns you, is that a silencer is an NFA device and must be registered with BATFE. Failure to buy a legal one is a ten-year prison term. If you don’t want “them” to know who and where you are, don’t buy one. If, like me, you’re already in every federal database, don’t sweat it.
I don’t know of any company that advertises an inferior product at a higher price than its competitors—that’d be bad for business. GSL promises a silencer as good as or better than anything on the market, at less cost. I’ve called the company a few times in recent months, and an actual human answered the phone! Said human then transferred me to the appropriate department or individual, which is great customer service in this day and age.
I was just at my dojo in South Bend, Indiana, where I met a builder of really nice ARs. He let me shoot a few, both suppressed and not. I asked who builds his suppressors, and he replied GSL. He said they make the best silencers on the market, and he can’t compete with them if he built his own. GSL does “private labeling” for numerous companies, so brand X may in fact be built by GSL.
I’m impressed enough with the GSL suppressor line that I’ve recommended them to the department I’m dealing with on a trade. I wouldn’t do that for anyone if I thought the product were less than the best.
The author is a former soldier, retired Alaska State Trooper, and martial arts grandmaster. He can be reached at [email protected].
ARMADILLO TACTICAL SUPPLY