I talked with many people in the suppressor industry at the 2012 Silencers Are Legal shoot. Large companies like AAC, GEMTECH, and SureFire sent teams of employees to the shoot. The owners of smaller companies showed up in person, sometimes with just one or two models to demonstrate. Of all the folks we met at the shoot, Phillip Woodell of Innovative Arms impressed me the most. He answered every question we asked about suppressor technology in a simple way that we could understand. However, it was clear that Phillip has a vast knowledge of sound engineering and metallurgy. We came away from our time with Innovative Arms firmly believing in his company and his products.
Innovative Arms was the biggest of the small suppressor manufacturers we visited. They make suppressors for .22, 7.62 NATO, 5.56 NATO, .45ACP, and 9mm pistols and rifles. In some calibers, they have more than one model available. The Grunt is their standard 5.56, but they also have a Grunt Mini, a 1.25-inch shorter model that is just a bit louder. A Grunt Mini attached to a 10.5-inch short-barreled AR-15 results in quiet rifle that is still shorter than a standard 16-inch carbine.
The Deception is intended for 7.62 NATO rifles. It also works with some similar calibers such as 300 Blackout or 7.62×39. Phillip displayed a Deception on one of the coolest looking short-barreled AK-47s I have ever seen. I took photos while my coworker Martin shot a prototype based on the Deception design, optimized for the 300 Blackout cartridge. This version had a recoil-reducing muzzle brake fitted to the end cap that literally spelled out 300, if you look at it carefully. Martin is a lefty and the dedicated left-hand configuration of the Stag rifle made him smile. It is ridiculously quiet using subsonic ammo. On a firing line full of shooters firing sound suppressed guns, this one stood out from the crowd.
Innovative Arms designed most of their suppressors using a one-piece billet monocore. This makes them super easy to disassemble and reassemble for cleaning. The exceptions are the 9mm and .45ACP models, which use highly modified K-baffle systems for maximum efficiency in those calibers. The billet core designs are cool because of their simplicity and strength. To keep costs down while still using the billet core technology, most Innovative Arms suppressors attach to their hosts via plain old barrel threads instead of complicated, expensive quick detach devices. Innovative Arms can build suppressors that will attach using a variety of quick detach muzzle devices, but they have two disadvantages. You will pay extra for that quick detach convenience, and the quick detach system adds length and weight to the suppressor. A simple thread-on design can have a larger expansion chamber relative to a quick-detach suppressor, so it may be quieter, yet cost less.
Phillip believes that maximizing the size of that expansion chamber is one of the many factors required to build a quiet suppressor. One of my first questions was about the distinctive spiral on some of his designs. I thought it looked futuristic but wondered if it actually served any purpose. The spiral is actually an exoskeleton designed to give the suppressor structural strength. Mounted on the outside the exoskeleton maximizes the internal capacity of the expansion chamber and baffles without making the suppressor’s body physically larger. The exoskeleton also acts as an efficient heat sink, like the fins on a motorcycle engine.
Innovative Arms makes one product that is not a silencer—the WAR AR-15 upper receiver. A suppressor creates more gas pressure in the operating system of the AR-15, which can accelerate wear and tear on the rifle. The WAR upper receiver features a switch on its left side that you can flip from regular to sound suppressed modes with your bare hands, regardless of whether the gun has been fired recently. Switchblock gas blocks made by competitors often need tools or spare rounds of ammo to swap between modes, and after firing they may get so hot that you won’t want to touch them anyway. The WAR upper receiver has quickly become one of Innovative Arms’ best selling items. Like any other AR-15 upper receiver, it requires no license or paperwork to purchase.
Innovative Arms also offers an “integral” .22LR suppressor for Smith & Wesson M&P-22 rifles. This configuration is extremely quiet—instead of adding the suppressor to the end of the barrel, the barrel and suppressor merge into a single unit. To suppress calibers larger than .308, Innovative Arms makes the LDSP, or Long Distance Service Provider, rated to effectively suppress calibers up to .300 Winchester Magnum. At the Silencers Are Legal shoot, we got to shoot a one-of-a-kind .22LR open-bolt machinegun with integral suppressor that Phillip calls the SFG—Super Fun Gun. Its high rate of fire proved that Innovative Arms .22 caliber suppressors stand up to extreme temperatures while maintaining their sound suppression effectiveness, even through long bursts of full auto fire. Innovative Arms also does custom builds for specific applications, such as the .300 Blackout prototype. They do build custom suppressors using existing quick-detach systems, and Phillip told us that he has patents pending on a couple of quick-detach designs of his own.
Innovative Arms have been building suppressors for seven years now. The blend of excellent quality at an affordable price makes them worthy of serious consideration. Rifle-caliber silencers from the heavy hitters in the suppressor industry often cost around $1,000, not including Uncle Sam’s $200 tax stamp. The 5.56 Grunt and Grunt Mini start at just $599 suggested retail. The Deception 7.62 suppressor starts at $699. Fifty dollars more gets you the spiral exoskeleton shroud on any rifle suppressor. The Apex Micro monocore .22LR suppressor is only $280! Having seen and shot these suppressors first hand, I’m a believer. Innovative Arms suppressors are an excellent value.