INTEGRALLY SUPPRESSED PISTOL: SilencerCo Maxim 9

If testing a handgun were a gymnastic event, SilencerCo’s Maxim 9 integrally suppressed pistol would earn a perfect 10 for style but a lowly 2 for the compulsories.

The gun exudes coolness with a RoboCop-like appearance—the style is definitely there—but the pistol is lacking in performance. Its suppressor is only marginally effective, and the gun has one of the worst triggers on any production pistol this side of the Ring of Fire. Lastly, the QC was poor on the sample I bought through normal channels for this report.

Of course, none of these shortcomings are acknowledged by SilencerCo. In one of the most hyperbolic press releases ever written, the Maxim 9 is being heralded as if the living incarnation of John Browning had just returned to give the Utah-based company a heavenly new gun:

“The firearms industry has essentially remained untouched for centuries. We needed a change. The industry needed a change. Something more than a simple aesthetic revision or updated pistol grip. What would it take to redefine an industry built on tradition?”

Shiny steel part is the roller (just under recoil-spring guide rods) that mates to a corresponding trough in the action to delay slide’s unlocking until peak pressure has receded. Roller lock system was first used on German MG 34 machine gun and later adopted by HK.

The answer, SilencerCo proclaims, is the Maxim 9, a pistol that relies on another inventor’s fire control system (Gaston Glock) and a baffle system developed 100 years ago (Hiram P. Maxim, son of the machinegun inventor) utilizing a roller block operating system dating from 1934 (Heinrich Vollmer).

This, we are told, is the greatest firearms advancement in centuries.

My first thought was that other improvements such as percussion caps, breech-loading rifles, smokeless powder, and Berdan primers must be mere baby steps compared to the great leap forward of the Maxim 9.

According to SilencerCo, the firearms industry has plodded along “untouched for centuries” with no innovation at all, never mind such novelties as Mr. Colt’s revolver, Mr. Henry’s repeater, Mr. Sharps’ rifle, or Mr. Browning’s pistol.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

With any new gun, I first give it a good once-over and then see if I can figure out the mechanism without the owner’s manual. The Maxim 9 proved to be easy to understand. Removing the ammunition source and locking the slide back to make sure the chamber is clear, the first thing I notice is the unusual mechanism. The barrel is fixed to the receiver, and only the rear portion of the “slide” reciprocates, like an S&W Model 41.

The slide is attached to twin recoil-spring guide rods that are in turn fixed to the barrel/receiver group. The pistol operates with a delayed-blowback system utilizing a roller lock on the left side of the slide, similar to the roller-lock action first developed on the German MG 34 machinegun, albeit the Maxim 9 utilizes a single roller.

Disassembly of Maxim 9 into basic component groups was easy with a simple takedown mechanism. Press button on rear of slide, lift out U-shaped retainer and presto, slide removes to the rear. Gun operates on a delayed-blowback system utilizing single roller lock to retard the action.

Referring to the manual for fieldstripping instructions, I learned that a button on the rear of the slide must be pressed and held in while simultaneously lifting a U-shaped retaining plug from just in front of the slide. It sounds complicated, but it’s easy to accomplish. With the retaining plug lifted out, the slide simply removes rearward from the frame. This is an ingenious, easy, and simple method of take-down. Reassembly is just as effortless.

The grip is comfortable, well contoured, and textured with what one reviewer called “a binary pattern without the zeros.” The texturing is a series of dashes (maybe it’s Morse code without the dots) and feels secure in the hand. The grip angle lends the pistol a natural pointability, especially for this 1911-conditioned shooter.

TRIGGER FROM HELL

Weighing 37 ounces, Maxim 9 is not as heavy as it might appear, because bulbous front end is mostly hollow for baffle sections.

So far, the Maxim 9 was looking good cosmetically, but then I ran into the trigger. Dry-firing the gun for the first time, I began to exert slow and gradual pressure … a bit more pressure … and a bit more … and … what the heck? Does this thing have a hidden safety somewhere?

No, nary a manual safety, so why isn’t the trigger breaking?

Back to pulling I go, this time giving the trigger a good, healthy tug. Finally, it went “click.” The trigger was atrocious. Granted, I’m accustomed to good triggers. My Tactical Solutions 10/22 has a Kidd trigger set at 16 ounces. My Thompson/Center Contender is sub one pound. A tuned Colt 1991 .45 ACP is right at two pounds. My G.A. Precision .308 has a four-ounce trigger.

But this was beyond bad—it was dreadful. A Brownells trigger weight gauge revealed the Maxim 9’s go-button to break at between 6¾ and seven pounds.

A call to the factory to inquire what is the spec for the trigger yielded an answer of five pounds, so I can only assume the QC on their triggers is just as bad as that for their sights, which is what I came to next.

BROKEN TRITIUM INSERT

Maxim 9 in snubnose configuration, with two baffle sections removed. Compact size results in small reduction in sound attenuation, from 136 up to 139 dB.

The sights are low profile and come fitted with tritium capsule inserts, but the front sight capsule was broken on the pistol I bought through a SilencerCo distributor for this review. As a matter of fact, I bought three Maxim 9s, one for this test and two more to sell in my gun shop, Westside Armory of Las Vegas. The sights on the other two pistols were fine, with all tritium inserts glowing properly.

Just my luck to pick the one out of three with a broken insert. Mistakes happen, I understand, but a $1,500 gun never should’ve left the factory with a busted tritium insert.

After submitting this report, I telephoned SilencerCo as if I were just Joe Average and asked if a broken tritium insert would be covered under warranty. Customer service rep Stephen Mellen assured me it is most definitely covered and immediately issued me a Return Authorization, no questions asked. Outstanding job on customer service!

SUPPRESSOR PERFORMANCE

So far the Maxim 9 has earned an A+ for ease of takedown, an F for trigger action, and a D- for quality control. How will the heart of the gun, the integral suppressor, fare? The short answer: C.

Maxim 9 can be configured into a long or short version by removing two baffle sections. Short version barely squeaks under “safe hearing” threshold of 140 dB (factory specs state 139 dB, which was independently verified).

The Maxim 9 comes with a modular system of baffles to make the gun into either a “long” or “short” configuration, by removing two of the baffles, which are attached to the receiver with two threaded brass rods that run through dual holes in the baffles. Two sets of rods are supplied, long and short. Changing configurations was easy and straightforward.

SilencerCo states that the long version reduces the report of a 147-grain subsonic load to 136 dB (long) and 139 dB (short). These figures are accurate, based on independent testing.

Four separate baffles comprise Maxim 9’s suppressor, with a large expansion chamber built into receiver of pistol itself. Sound attenuation is 136 dB with all four baffles in long configuration and 139 dB with two baffles removed in short configuration.

My very good friend Barry Dueck, vice president of SureFire’s Suppressor Division, kindly supplied me with the data he had obtained on his Maxim 9 using a Brüel & Kjaer Type 3052-A-030 sound measuring instrument.

With a 147-grain subsonic handload, Barry obtained readings of 137.18 dB on a microphone one meter to the right of the muzzle and 133.32 dB on a microphone one meter to the left of the muzzle.

Changing to the short configuration, readings of 138.86 dB and 138.26 dB were recorded right and left of the muzzle respectively.

Receiver and first baffle together form large expansion chamber followed by three more baffle sections of decreasing size. Overall effectiveness of this suppressor design is marginal, yielding 136 dB compared to 127 dB from a conventional tubular baffle suppressor (SureFire Ryder 9).

For comparison purposes, I witnessed Barry test an S&W M&P with a SureFire Ryder 9 suppressor—a tubular baffle-stack design—using Super Vel Hush Puppy 147-grain subsonic ammo. We obtained a reading of 127 dB from both right and left microphones.

SilencerCo’s claims are well inside the inherent variables of sound testing, so I give them an A+ for accurate advertising.

That said, a reduction of sound to their stated and verified 139 dB is nothing to crow about. The safe hearing level is universally accepted as 140 dB, meaning the Maxim 9 barely squeaks under the threshold—with subsonic ammunition. We did not test it with supersonic.

Two sets of brass guide rods are included with Maxim 9: a short set and a long set.

Compared to 127 dB for a SureFire Ryder 9, the Maxim 9 deserves at best a C for sound reduction.

RANGE TIME

Even with twin recoil-spring guide rods above ejection port, Maxim 9 ejected cleanly without a single malfunction in our testing. Peculiar grip texture has been likened to binary code without the zeros. It’s considerably better than a smooth grip, but not as aggressive as some stipple patterns.

The Maxim 9 comes set up to mount an MRD (miniature red dot) sight, but the mounting plates are “sold separately” for $34 each. Similarly, the underside of the baffles come with three key-mod slots to attach a rail for a light or laser. You guessed it, the rail section is “sold separately.”

In my opinion, a pistol retailing for $1,500 should include mounting plates for the most popular MRD-type sights and a $4 piece of rail.

That said, the Maxim 9 ran flawlessly, without a malfunction. I was mildly concerned that the two operating rods over the ejection port might interfere with ejection, but the extractor/ejector is correctly tuned to throw the spent cases sideways, not up into the rods. I shot only subsonic 9mm ammunition through the pistol, specifically Super Vel subsonic Hush Puppy 147-grain FMJ.

Super Vel subsonic 9mm Hush Puppy ammo is remarkably consistent. Chronograph sheet from USPSA Area match shows only four fps variation among three rounds chosen at random. Super Vel loaded original subsonic 9mm for Navy SEALs’ Mk 22 Mod 0 pistol in Vietnam, better known as the Hush Puppy.

Accuracy was quite good, averaging two inches at 25 yards. The point of impact was off about eight inches to the left for my eyes, but that’s easily corrected by drifting the rear sight in its dovetail. Elevation was perfect.

I think the pistol is capable of better accuracy with a red dot, because my groups were horizontally strung, meaning I was not able to hold a consistent air gap around the front sight. Too bad they don’t include a mounting plate for an MRD…

I shot the Maxim 9 in its long configuration without ear protection and was not bothered. I shot an S&W M&P alongside it with a SureFire Ryder 9 suppressor and, while I could tell the Ryder 9 was quieter, it was not by much.

Assuming the sound level was about equal to what we had tested with the sound measuring equipment, I could not tell a significant difference between 127 and 136 dBs with my decidedly uncalibrated ears.

THE $64,000 QUESTION

SureFire X300 Ultra sits extremely low on Maxim 9’s rail section (sold separately), making operation of light’s switches impossible while maintaining a firing grip.

What is the Maxim 9’s purpose? My first thought was “nightstand gun,” because having a suppressor on a bedside gun makes some sense.

Or does it? On the one hand, you’re not going to damage your own hearing should you have to repel boarders in a hallway. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for shock and awe. With gunfire shattering the night, my neighbors would know to call the cops, while the intruder’s cohorts would know it’s time to beat feet!

As this is written, holsters for the Maxim 9 are available from Blackhawk, Galco, and SilencerCo.

Honestly, the main reasons to buy a Maxim 9 are its coolness factor, bizarre appearance, and novel operating system. I bought a Boberg 9mm (pistol that feeds cartridges backwards from its magazine) for the same reason—a pure novelty.

Even though Jeff Cooper might say the Maxim 9 is a solution in search of a problem, I like oddball guns enough to have bought it.

SOURCES:

SILENCERCO LLC
(801) 417-5384
www.silencerco.com

SUPER VEL AMMUNITION
(702) 232-4527
www.supervelammunition.com

WESTSIDE ARMORY
(702) 476-1083
www.westside-armory.hub.biz

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