In recent years solvent traps have become very popular throughout the gun community. This little industry has grown by leaps and bounds with some manufacturers having backlogs of 6 months or more. For those who do a lot of cleaning of their firearms they come in really handy in helping to prevent messes and capturing expensive cleaning fluids allowing them to be re-used.
What is a Solvent Trap?
Quick Answer: A solvent trap is a device that is designed to attach to the threaded muzzle of a rifle to capture solvents, and / or fluids used to clean the rifle.
How do solvent traps work?
There are many different designs but the main purpose is to capture cleaning fluids from the muzzle end of the barrel in order to lessen the mess created when cleaning a firearm. Most require a threaded barrel to work properly.
Solvent traps always have one end that is threaded allowing it to be easily attached to the muzzle end of threaded rifle and pistol barrels. There are also baffles inside the unit that are designed to capture and hold debris generated during the cleaning process while allowing the fluid to pass through to the next level. See the photo below of one particular design of solvent trap disassembled.
Can a solvent trap be used as a suppressor?
When attached to the rifle, the units look like a silencer or suppressor. The only difference between the two is the hole in the exit end of the device. A silencer has an exit hole for a bullet and a solvent trap does not.
Both contain baffles on the interior of the tube. These baffles in a solvent trap are mean't to filter trash from the fluids that is generated during the barrel cleaning process while allowing the fluid to pass through to the next filter.
A baffle in a suppressor will hold back gases that create the loud sound when a shot is fired preventing all of the gases from exiting simultaneously. This action quietens the sound considerably.
If desired, a solvent trap could be quickly converted to a suppressor by shooting a bullet through the end, if the end material is thin enough, to create an exit path. The baffles, if they have the correct sized holes to allow a bullet to safety pass through will serve as sound baffles.
Doing this can be dangerous if the holes for the bullet to pass through are not perfetly centered or are not the correct size. In addition, the entire unit must be strong enough to withstand the high pressure generated by the cartridge firing. An explosion occuring that close to your face could be catostrophic.
Are solvent traps legal?
At this writing the use and sale of solvent traps is legal. They only become illegal when holes are drilled allowing a bullet to pass through the unit which then makes it a suppressor. At that point, it is illegal. This is how the laws are understood at this writing so it never hurts to seek legal advice if conversion is in your plans.
It is still legal to buy and build a solvent trap for individuals as long as the proper forms are completed and submitted to the government before the unit is built. Download a copy of the needed form 1 here . Here is instruction on how to fill out the ATF form 1 . If approved you will be required to pay around $200 for a tax stamp for the right to own the suppressor.
Knowing that you can buy suppressors by the pack in the UK, I don't see this to be an issue. A quieter rifle just increases the enjoyment of shooting. But the ATF currently has a big problem with it. Suppressors without the proper paperwork and taxes paid are illegal in the US. The penalty for violating this law is not minor and varies depending on the situation. Don't play with the ATF.
Recently it has been reported that the ATF is taking the definition of a silencer to a different level and have closed down businesses who sell solvent traps - even though they are being sold with no hole in the end for the bullet to exit. Another reason to seek legal advice before converting your solvent trap to a suppressor or just complete the Form 1 process.
Do solvent traps work?
For their intended purpose, to capture solvent fluids while cleaning a rifle, of course they work, and they work well.
As a suppressor they also work pretty well. See the video below. Please excuse the sound during first minute or so, it gets better.
I have a home made version, form 1 legal of course, that I use on my M&P22 rifle and several 22 pistols. When using ammo that has a muzzle velocity less than the speed of sound, around 1100 fps, all you hear when the rifle is fired is the action working, then the impact of the bullet on it's target.
When using high velocity ammo, it is still very quiet at the muzzle but you can still hear the crack down range when the bullet breaks the sound barrier.
A silencer is mean't to remove or suppress the sound of the powder explosion at the end of the barrel. It can do nothing about the crack you hear down range when the bullet breaks the sound barrier. The only thing that can be done to eliminate that sound is to shoot subsonic ammo which stays below the speed of sound whih is around 1100 fps.
I have fired a suppressor made from a Maglite flashlight mounted on a Savage FVSR threaded barrel using CCI standard velocity and can tell you there was absolutely very little sound until the bullet hit the metal target. I also shot into a dirt bank and the thud of the bullet is louder than the cartridge firing at the rifle.
Here is a video of Twang and Bang firing an almost identical set up. The only difference is he is using a factory suppressor. The sound level of the solvent trap is pretty much identical to what he gets from the factory unit.
How to build a solvent trap suppressor
Complete your Form 1 and pay the government their take to insure that your endeavor is completely legal.
The best way to build a solvent trap is from a kit. If the kit was produced by a trusted supplier you can be sure that the material thickness is substantial enough to withstand pressures generated in the normal gun. The last thing you want is an explosion inches from your face. Always verify that unit strength is compatible with the application you will use.
I prefer those made from a maglite flash light because they are shorter and smaller in diameter compared to those made from fuel filters. There are kits and random parts remaining for sale. Check them out here on Amazon. Again to be perfectly clear, you must complete the required forms, pay for a tax stamp, and have the approval of the ATF before building a silencer from these materials.
The kits come with a cylinder, internal baffles that are center punched, and threaded adapters to fit both the cylinder and the threaded barrel, 1/2 x 28 for smaller rifles and 5/8 x 24 for larger caliber rifles. These threads will match your rifle's threaded barrel.
Building it is just a matter of drilling out the center punched holes, inserting the baffles, and attaching the threaded end adapters. The kits have become hard to find. With some modification here is a potential kit that could work.
Here is a link to a kit supplier that I recently found. I am not sure how long it will be available but check it out.
How does the cost compare to factory made suppressors?
The price of factory made suppressors is generally higher than the solvent trap variety. Factory made units are usually made of higher quality materials and some can utilize fairly complex designs of internal baffling to disperse / delay pressure and therefore reduce sound.
Rimfire factory made suppressors can start around $300 and go up to $2000. It's like anything else, you can pay as much as you want.
Solvent trap kits, like the one pictured above, can also have a large price range depending on how fancy you want to go with it. I have seen kits from $30 up to around $250. The major difference is the tube design. Some are fancier than others.
Usually the most expensive part of a solvent trap is the outer body. Freeze plugs or other devices that fit the ID of the outer cylinder are then used for baffles. They usually come center punched to ensure perfectly centered alignment if you decide to drill a hole.
If you plan to build a suppressor yourself make sure your holes are perfectly in the center and use a large enough hole so that a bullet cannot make contact with any part of the suppressor, baffles, or end fittings. Kit baffles come with a center punched hole making this much easier to do, but you must still drill the holes.
Which is the best for the money? I own both a solvent trap made from a maglite tube and one made out of a Wix filter. The Wix seems to be quieter probably due to it's larger diameter yielding more internal space for the explosion to occur and be dispersed before exiting the unit. The larger diameter does add more weight to the front of the rifle but doesn't interfere with the scope using even low rings.
A suppressor built from the Wix suppressor pictured above along with the baffles picture could be built for less than $50 and do an excellent job of quieting a rimfire rifle using subsonic ammo. Just remember, you must complete a Form 1 and pay your $200 for a tax stamp in order to be legal in doing this.
How do suppressors affect accuracy
I don't know of any way to predict how a suppressor will affect accuracy in a given rifle. I have actually shot suppressed rifles where accuracy doesn't seem to be affected and the point of impact didn't even change. I have shot others where the point of impact changed 3 inches and the group opened up substantially. I have also seen groups get smaller after a suppressor was installed.
I believe adding a suppressor, which is weight on the end of the barrel, changes barrel harmonics and could actually cause contact between the barrel and stock if there is not enough clearance to start with. All of this can be corrected. Check out these two articles.
The only way to find out for sure is to install one and give it a try. You will quickly know if performance has been improved or has gotten worse.
Suppressors are becoming more popular today simply because they make rifle shooting more enjoyable. Not having to worry about damaging your hearing and listening to that explosion right next to your noise makes a world of difference. Of course our rimfires are not that uncomfortable to shoot anyway.
When hunting with a suppressed rimfire using subsonic ammo, I have actually taken a shot at a squirrel and 3 others that were close by didn't even flinch. The same with long range varmint hunting.
If you are in the US, make sure you do not violate the law. A violation by owning an illegal suppressor can carry stiff fines and jail time. They are great little devices but not worth that kind of trouble.