Big game now open for Montana hunters with suppressors

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Lawmakers in Big Sky Country made it look easy for the rest of the country by passing legislation to allow hunting with otherwise legal suppressors in Montana that was signed by Gov. Steve Bullock this week.

Under the new guidelines, which are effective immediately, sportsmen in Montana who have sound suppression devices (commonly but incorrectly termed as silencers) for their firearms that are registered with the federal government under the National Firearms Act, any now use them in regular seasons for game in the state.

“It is time for Montana to join the clear majority of states that allow the use of suppressors for hunting. All of the western states do so, except for California. The public perception of suppressors as the same thing as silencers, where the assassin quietly dispatches his victim, no longer holds true. Suppressors mitigate the sound of a shot, but do not silence it," noted Bullock in his letter penned to state lawmakers addressing them to make sure that the bill sent to his desk specifically included all hunting in the state.

The Governor, who had in 2013 vetoed similar legislation but through the education of groups like the National Rifle Association and the American Suppressor Association, noted that, "it is clear to me that the public understanding and perception of suppressors has changed."

Bullock cited safety reasons for his newfound support of the devices.

"The use of suppressors for hunting, when hunters cannot wear ear protection because they need to be aware of their surroundings, can help protect against hearing loss. This is especially true for our younger hunters, even those who are not actually hunting but are accompanying their parent in the field," wrote Bullock.

The bill, HB 250, had passed the legislature by an overwhelming majority (79-21 in the House, 42-6 in the Senate) before making it to the Governor’s mansion.

In just the past four years, suppressor ownership across the country has doubled from 285,000 registered cans in 2011 to more than 571,000 today. No less than 39 states allow ownership of NFA-registered suppressors, and most of these further allow their use in hunting, with this club increasing every year. In 2014 alone, Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama all expanded this right to their sportsmen, while Florida is considering doing the same.

 

In recent years, suppressor companies such as Silencerco and Thunderbeast have begun offering large bore "cans" that cater to sportsmen who venture out on the hunt for the American Big Five. For example the Silencerco Harvester series runs just 11.3 ounces in weight but drops a .300 Win Mag's muzzle report by some 33.6 decibels. While it doesn’t silence it, it sure does make it more comfortable to shoot! Don’t worry; if you like to go larger, both companies go up to .338 Lapua Magnum versions as well.

"The American Suppressor Association would like to thank Gov. Bullock for his open-minded approach to suppressor hunting," Knox Williams, President of the ASA, told Big Game Hunter Journal. "We call on more elected officials to follow his example of taking the time to become educated on the realities of suppressors, rather than basing judgments on the myths and misconceptions that surround these accessories.

We look forward to continuing to work towards our goal of legalizing suppressor ownership and hunting in all 50 states. We would like to thank Montana for taking us all one step closer."