Gun Silencer: Maixim silences his father’s invention, the Maxim gun
Few other name are as synonymous with invention and innovation in the field of munitions and weapons as that of the Maxim family. This remarkably inventive family’s output was not exclusively weapon-related. Indeed, Hiram Percy Maxim’s (1869-1936) creation-which enabled a firearm to be discharged without the traditional loud bang-initially stemmed from his interest in automobile design, specifically exhaust silencers or “mufflers”.
The bulk of noise produced by a firearm discharging subsonic ammunition is caused by a massive and rapid expansion of propellant gases leaving the muzzle, a bit like unlocking a bottle of fizzy champagne. Maxim’s silencer-which like all such devices, suppresses rather than truly silences-attaches to the barrel of a firearm. Essentially a cylindrical casing of much larger capacity than the barrel and containing a series of baffles, it allows the explosive gases from the cartridge to expand and slow prior to hitting the surrounding air, producing far noise. Muzzle flash is also reduced.
First designed around 1902 and patented in 1909, a unique feature of the Maxim unit was that it was not concentric to the bore, as are the majority of today’s silencers but was offset to allow the use of the original weapon sights without modification. Maxim’s silencer was marketed quite creatively as a gentlemanly way of target shooting. Although it was later adopted by police and military forces across the world for use on a variety of weapons, fears were expressed at the time that the availability of a “noiseless weapon” could prove a major boon to criminals and gangsters.