It seems like silencer companies are coming out of the woodwork these days. Everyone and their brother makes cans — heck, my local FFL has a shop-built silencer they’re hawking. But while the basic design is simple enough making something that works, works well, and works well every single time is a challenge. It pays to have someone who knows what they’re doing at the helm, and in the case of Dead Air Armament they might have the best shot of any of the new silencer companies at making a big splash. Not only are they leveraging the engineering knowledge of Bergara Rifles to make their stuff, they’ve got Mike Pappas (formerly) of SilencerCo fame keeping them on the straight and narrow. Their first product being released shortly is the Sandman silencer, and I had an opportunity to test it out before anyone else.
As a preface, I just wanted to point out that this is not a typical TTAG review. Here at TTAG we usually reserve judgment until we’ve put a couple hundred rounds through something and tried it out in different conditions. Unfortunately the BATFE here in the U.S. prevents us from getting our hands on silencers for protracted testing unless we go through months of waiting, spend $200 per transfer, and live in certain states. It’s impractical. Luckily I recently had a chance to visit the folks at Dead Air Armament and test all of their cans under their supervision. While the tests may not be as extensive as a standard review, I feel that they (along with my experience in this field) were sufficient to allow me to form an opinion on the product.
Good silencer design starts on the inside, so let’s take a peek at how these things are made.
The design of the can is fairly bog standard when it comes to the baffle stack. The baffles are machined as two parts, a cone and a spacer, and then stacked together with other cones and spacers to form the main tube. The parts are then circumferentially welded together, and an outer tube is added to contain the whole assembly. Once the tube is complete and the mount system attached, the silencer goes on a wire EDM machine to ensure that the bore is concentric and exactly the right size to prevent baffle strikes.
This method of construction is nearly identical to the way most other major silencer companies do their cans. Heck, I remember seeing this same process when I first visited AAC and they were welding up some 762-SDN-6 cans. The reason it hasn’t changed very much is that it works, and it works well. The end result is a good can that will hold up well under use, and unless you’re looking for a featherweight silencer this is plenty good enough.
The real magic with the Sandman is the mounting system. When you get your Sandman, you also get a proprietary muzzle brake specifically designed to work with the can. The muzzle device has a tapered rear section that interfaces with a radius on the inside of the silencer, and provides not only accuracy but performance.
The larger surface area and precision machined parts interface together in exactly the same way each time, meaning any zero shift on the firearm will be repeatable — the can goes on the gun the exact same way in the exact same place every time. The larger surface area of that mounting surface also means that there’s more friction keeping the silencer from un-twisting, much like how SIG SAUER’s new line of silencers use a small radius to increase the surface area and friction and keep their silencers from un-screwing mid firefight. In Dead Air’s case it locks up the can tighter, so there’s no movement of the silencer to throw off your shots. Its as good if not better than a direct thread can in that it doesn’t freaking move.
That precision machined radius, which matches exactly between the can and the mount, also is great for keeping the silencer sealed. Unlike the 762-SDN-6 which has a tendency to throw some gas back in your face through the rear of the can, the Sandman series effectively seals the forward part so that there’s no gas leakage out the back. In the above picture you can see very clearly how the radiused base of the mount is slightly scratched up yet carbon free, while the baffles of the brake are as dirty as Miley Cyrus. That sharp delineation between the two areas is the effect of that friction-based seal.
When I first saw the silencer at work, I was very skeptical about the mount. I’ve been burned by ratchet mounts before (from SilencerCo too, chucking Sakers downrange like my name was Tim Tebow) and the idea of yet another ratchet based mount wasn’t making me happy. Then I learned a couple things.
First, the ratchet doesn’t actually work — its there to make people feel happy. When you twist the silencer in place, you’re screwing it down onto that radiused muzzle brake. When you’ve tightened it enough, the friction of that radius combined with the downward pressure from the threads on the rear of the can will keep it firmly in place. The ratchet was added just to make noise and keep end users from unscrewing the can too far.
Second, the whole assembly is replaceable. Dead Air are considering making other mounts available for the system, possibly including direct thread mounts that will be aftermarket adapters. So if your ratchet does ever wear out, you can just replace the whole thing and keep shooting.
All this I learned as they roped me into helping assemble the first batch of silencers off the line. So yeah, if you ordered a Dead Air Sandman and were one of the first to get them, I probably assembled your can. FYI.
The Sandman series comes in two flavors. The difference is in the lengths, the “S” which is 6.8 inches long (top of the article”in the white”) and the the “L” which adds two more inches (above in the usual black). The silencers are made with .30 caliber guns in mind, each rated up to .300 Win Mag but just as easily at home on a 300 BLK gun. They have one more trick up their sleeves though in the guise of a replaceable end cap. The gun ships with a 7.62 sized hole in the front end, but for those running a 5.56 gun you can get a 5.56 sized endcap as well for some added sound reduction.
Yeah. I did mention that they’re .300 Win Mag rated, right? This happens to be Mike Pappas’ personal Barrett MRAD in .300 Win Mag, and we put a ton of rounds through this thing while testing out the silencers. I’d definitely categorize it as “hearing safe” anywhere on that range, whether standing next to the gun or behind it. Even with the can installed, we were reliably and accurately hitting a 500 yard gong with ease all day long.
Honestly, while I used to be a bit of a suppression snob I’m coming down off that high horse. Highest dB reduction is nice and all, but if your product is hearing safe that’s plenty good for me. Even so the Dead Air guys still make those claims (31 dB reduction on the Sandman L for 7.62 NATO), but I have neither the materials nor the training to judge that independently. We’ve got a gal coming on staff who will put all that to the test shortly, so stay tuned.
What I do have is a bunch of cameras and some good audio recording equipment, so I leave it to y’all to judge for yourself.
In this video, I compare the Sandman S and the Sandman L on a 300 AAC Blackout rifle. And fail at life halfway through.
Shortly thereafter, I Shanghai’ed Mike Pappas and Cade into being my guinea pigs for some testing. The first thing I wanted to know was whether that extra 2 inches made a huge difference in the sound reduction. We used two identical 5.56 rifles for the testing, both with the 7.62 endcaps, and the results were… meh. There’s about half a note difference between the two, and while that’s definitely a result its not enough for me to plop an extra $150 on the table and add two more inches to my short rifle.
The next question was whether a 5.56 endcap on a 7.62 silencer actually made any difference. In this case, the answer was a resounding “yes.” There was a distinct difference in the sound and noise levels between a 7.62 endcap and a 5.56 endcap, which was a lot more than I expected. Not enough to make it no longer hearing safe, but definitely noticeable.
We shot these cans all day long, and at the end of the day I formed an opinion: I liked them. For three reasons.
The biggest thing for me is long term use. I abuse the heck out of my silencers, so they need to be able to hold up to whatever I throw at them. The reason I bought the Mystic-X was that it was easy to clean and replace parts if needed. The Sandman series is the same way, in that the only moving parts are easily replaceable and can be shipped straight to your door with no mucking about in NFA world. Beyond that, the locking system is designed so that you can remove and replace your silencer a nearly infinite number of times and ever have to worry about wearing out a ratchet or not having it lock up properly. It uses friction instead of a spring loaded pall to keep it in place, and I like that a lot. Not many ways that can fail, and that’s why SIG SAUER is using the same idea in their new line of cans.
Reason #2 is the ease of use. There are no “tricks” with this silencer, you just pop it on the end of your gun and crank it down. The mount is keyed so that it only ever goes on the gun one way, and even taking apart the mount itself is so easy you really don’t need a manual. The thing is idiot proof, which is ideal for my idiot friends.
The final reason is the overall design. The can has that same clean yet edgy look that AAC used on its silencers, and I really liked that aesthetic. I wish they would produce a few “in the white” like the shiny Sandman S I’ve been showing in the pictures, but all of the cans will come Cerakoted from the factory in a flat black. The silencer you see here is one that they literally grabbed off the production line so we could test it out, and I just liked the way it looked.
Dead Air Armament is kicking into high-gear as I type, producing the first couple runs of silencers for civilian sales. Personally, I’m a fan. The mounting system is nifty, the tech is up to industry standards, and they’ve actually thought about the entire product lifecycle when designing it so it can be serviced down the road. The only problem is going to be the price. At $1,050 for the S and $1,200 for the L, the cans bracket SilencerCo’s Omega but might not have all the same bells and whistles. The Omega is 2 ounces lighter than the S, has more mounting options, and comes from a well known company, but the Sandman series is full auto rated and can be safely used on much shorter barrel lengths. If you really want to bring out the big guns the SIG SAUER SRD762-QD has most of the same features as the Sandman S, is almost the exact same size and weight, but costs half as much ($695 MSRP).
For the shooter looking for “The One Silencer to Silence Them All,” there might be cheaper or better options on the market. But if you just need a really good and good looking .308 can, this is definitely worth a look.
Dead Air Armament Sandman S / L
Length: 6.8″ / 8.9″
Weight: 17.3oz / 21.8oz
MSRP: $1,049 / $1,199
Ratings (out of five stars):
Sound Suppression: * * * *
There are other (reputable) silencers out there that post bigger numbers in the suppression department, but to me I didn’t really notice a difference. Its good.
Build Quality: * * * * *
I’ve got no complaints about the quality of their product. The mounts feel chunky and solid, and the tube itself seems durable enough for years of use in the field.
Ease of Use: * * * * *
Twist on, twist off. Just make sure you give it some force.
Overall Rating: * * * *
The product is solid, but the problem is the competition. They’re beaten on price from some competitors, beaten on features from others, and generally seem to fall into a “middle of the pack” area. When looking objectively for the average shooter, that is. For me, I really like it. It offers some great specs and some even better aesthetics. And I’ll be buying one when it hits the shelves over at Silencer Shop.