Keeping It Quiet - A Deeper Dive (2018)
Following on from my previous work in 2018, in this post we'll be taking another look at the sale and use of suppressors in the Middle East among non-state groups. There's various technical aspects and occurances that I have discovered since my original post, this will attempt to cover them.
Essentially, read Keeping it Quiet: Suppressor Use by Jihadis, Militants & More first, this information is an expansion of that article. It is released in it's unfinished state due to time constraints.
Suppression of Assault Rifle Platforms
As noted earlier, the AK platform is often suppressed by ISIS, HTS and other Islamic Groups. There is a clear trend of rebel/militant self-manufacture and sale of these suppressors. These suppressors sell for around $100-150 USD on rebel social media groups and seem to be widely available, alongside optics, weapons etc- t his thriving ecosystem means that suppressors are widely used and available across groups.
The stereotypical AK suppressor as perceived in the west is the PBS-1- this Russian design is used on 7.x62x39mm AKs, such as the AKM, AKMS or AK-103,and has rarely been spotted in Syria or Iraq. It uses a disposable wipe system to achieve it's suppressive effect, and has been spotted in Syria fairly rarely. Copying this type of design has not been replicated by groups or individuals manufacturing suppressors in Syria, preferring to stay closer to a traditional style (Either K Baffles or Monocore- internal images of these suppressors are not to hand). The most popular rifle calibre to suppress in Syria remains 7.62x39mm or 5.45x39mm, merely down to the prevelence of platforms utilising the calibres. Groups attempting to replicate Western/Russian SoF style appear to prefer the AK-74M or AK-103, with these comparatively modern platforms bringing various improvements over older AK models, namely optics mounts, solid side folding stocks, improved accuracy and typically much newer date of manufacture, even if the basic design remains the one Mikhail Kalashnikov finished in 1947. Other AKs or clones (Such as the typically worn out Chinese Type 56 seen so often) may also have no muzzle threading or welded muzzle nuts, making suppressor attachment harder. The classic AKM or AKMS is also suppressed often, with modern platforms being merely preferable, not essential.
Craft Made suppressors for this platform seen for sale have utilised a "crown" at the point of attachment to the weapon to achieve lockup using the weapons' front sight block detent pin- a similar method to modern russian suppressors, and the same way the standard AK muzzle break is retained. This ensures that the suppressor is kept attached to the rifle and cannot rotate off during the heat and strain of use. Suppressors using this crown can be indicative of craft production of lesser than commercial quality, as the suppressor may not lock into the same spot on the threads every time, meaning there must be more than one place for the detent pin to go. This also may be indicative of sharing across varied platforms and rifles with different muzzle thread lengths, even if pitch remains the same. Sharing is limited however, as a suppressor built for an older AK platform (AKMS or Type 56, for example) will not have the same thread/diameter as a more modern platform (AK-74 or 74M, for example), as the AK-74 uses a 24×1.5mm RH threaded sight posts with a sleeve that extends over the barrel, but the older AKM style (14x1mm LH) has a directly threaded barrel that extends beyond the front sight block. A suppressor made for an AK thread will not be compatible with the M16 or Aug platforms, for example, because suppressors for M16 or Steyr Aug platforms use differing threads too- the M16 uses a 1/2×28 thread, a Aug 13x1 LH. Compatibility between platforms in use is therefore limited, not even taking into consideration the design features of the suppressor in terms of bore size etc that effect it's sound reduction. There is no evidence of western commercial-style multi-calibre adaptors in use either. Suppression of these rifles is much rarer than those of the AK platform so this is unlikely to be an operational concern.
Other rifle platforms are much more rarely suppressed- they are much rarer in general than the AK platform in general use, so this is expected. However, IS has made use of suppressed 5.56mm platforms in the DMR role (Even back in 2009 an improvised suppressed M16A1 was captured from Iraqi Insurgents, though it is clear which particular group), mainly the M16 series and Aug Series. Suppressors for these platforms may be highly similar internally to suppressors for the AK series but will not be compatible as noted above. There is limited evidence of non IS 5.56mm suppression, with Malhama Tactical showing a suppressed Steyr Aug only once.
We lack any imagery of rebel suppressor production- even as Mortar Shell, Hell Cannon and similar weaponary production is clearly shared. As covered in my previous post, IS have shared some limited detail, but even less is publicly avilable for other groups, Islamist or secular. There is a small amount of videos from early on in the war that we can glean some information from but this is limited.
Interestingly, a now-removed Youtube video shows off a Russian PBS-1 suppressor, and appears to show disposable rubber/cloth baffles that resemble those used in that model, and also a more traditional-style interlocked baffle system, with compatibility for both in a single suppressor tube. The suppressor is then demonstrated on an M16, likely a M16A2 or M16A4- the suppressor looks to be viable. This video dates back to 2012, right around the starting stages of the Syrian Civil War, so possession and use of craft-producted rifle suppressors in the conflict can date back to at least that time, although data on their use then is very sparse.
Suppressors are commonly sold between groups- they are manufactured for the operational needs of the groups, and surpus suppressors are then sold. Personal manufacture seems rare, with use of workshops to produce being managed by the armed groups. Suppressors are also produced by invididual craftsmen to be sold in quantities on the open market locally- these are those most often seen.
Interestingly, captured IS suppressors and those in use can be observed to have a very similar design to those being bought and sold by Islamic and Rebel factions- it remains unclear whether this is a result of sales between groups or simply adoption of broad common design features that aid in function. There is no evidence of direct copy of western or russian suppressor designs, although Jihadi chatter online as far back as the late 2000s discussed specific models and their design.