OK, we all love mil-spec, and really tactical-oriented stuff, right? Well not all of us, at least not all the time. I find myself in situations where skulls, and Spartans, and tarantulas, and Ichtyocentaurs all engraved or silk-screened on my gear really don't fit in. And so I Was really intrigued by the TBA suppressors Covert .223 when it arrived.
A direct-thread design, the Covert .223 is relatively plain on the outside, but packed with the good materials we expect on the inside.
The shell is 316 stainless steel, with an outer diameter of 11/2 inches.
The material is a typical one for the shell of a centerfire rifle suppressor, and the diameter is not just normal, but the expected standard. Everyone makes a 1.5-inch rifle suppressor; it just is the size that works well on rifles. But the exterior is different at TBA.
You see, it's finished smooth, matte but not frosty in finish, and then on the one sent to me, has been given a Norrel Moly Resin coating, in this case flat black.
The smooth cylinder is then given small lengthwise flutes, more as an aid to gripping and spinning it on and off than to lighten it. The end result is a suppressor that looks more like it would be at home on a gentleman's varmint rifle, than on a tacti-cool "operators" carbine.
And if you are an operator, you can give it an over-spray of whatever paint color blends in with your environment, or put a thermal cover on it, and no-one will doubt your tactical creds.
At an inch and a half, the Covert is no bigger than other maker's suppressors, but at 24 ounces, it is a bit on the heavy side. But, since the baffle design is composed of 300 series stainless and Inconel, one expects a bit of weight. The internals are TIG-welded and the Covert is sealed, not to be disassembled by the end user. No problem, as the end result is a very quiet can.
The Covert is the original design from TBA, originating in 1996. The founder and owner, Todd Brueckmann, came to suppressor fabrication from a background of precision machining for NASCAR and NI-IRA. You think shooters are demanding? Try a crew chief for a racing team, who has to make everything perfect or his guy not only loses races, but eats the wall.
As with so many people in our industry, he got into it by the route we are all familiar with: he bought a product, wasn't satisfied, and said "I can make one better than this." And so he did.
Direct-thread cans are the simplest and easiest to use, you simply remove whatever flash hider, mount, thread protector or other such objects, and thread the suppressor on hand-tight. That very simplicity has a potential drawback, however, and that is, the suppressor maker is at the mercy of whoever machined the muzzle threads.
And that has caused me some headaches and delay in finishing this project.
My first step was to give the Covert .223 a good look-over, measure and weigh it, and take a look inside with my brand-new Hawkeye borescope. All very interesting, and informative. Alas, the view through the borescope, while good enough for the human eye, still defies my attempts at photography, so I cannot yet provide interior views. (I'm working on that.)
_ I then grabbed a rifle off the rack, one that has a factory barrel on it, and has demonstrated a pretty good track record of accuracy and holding zero even when it gets heated up from shooting. I took it, along with its scope, and a selection of ammo off to the range.
The process for testing rifle suppressors is pretty simple: I check the zero on the rifle, make sure it is on-center. I then shoot four 5-shot groups with ammo it likes. Once the rifle is cooled, I install the suppressor, check the zero by plinking on the hundred-yard backstop, and then proceed to shoot four 5-shot groups for accuracy and point of impact, with the suppressor installed.
If everything works as it is supposed to, then the rest is just fun 'n games. I can then shoot more groups with other types of ammo, and see if the rifle/suppressor combo has ammo preferences. I heat it up, and then shoot as good a group as I can through the mirage of the heated-up suppressor, to see if it shifts zero.
So with the Covert attached. I plinked five shots into the 100-yard berm, aiming at a piece of target stand stick that was lying there. The fifth shot was off by a foot, but I didn't think anything of it, since I was "just plinking" and the last trigger squeeze was more of a slap than a caress.
I sat down at the bench and eased a five-shot group onto the target stand. On the last shot I heard the distinct "thwack" of a bullet hitting steel. The gong was 3 feet away from the target stand. Oh rats. I walked down. and sure enough. I had three hits on paper (the previous four groups had averaged just over an inch) and two shots that could not be found.
I went back, unscrewed the Covert, and shot a test group. One inch in size, centered one inch above the middle of the aiming spot, as expected. And the day was now a bust, as I didn't have a back-up rifle with me, the bore scope was back in the shop, and I probably had a baffle strike or three in the Covert.
So. back to the shop, to drag out the bore scope and see if the damage is minor or major, and to select another rifle as the host.
At this point you may be asking why I don't have a single rifle to test all of the suppressors on, one that has perfect threads. In part due to the need to install a muzzle device for the silencers that use a QD attachment. And in part. I had not yet run into this problem. It was simply the bad luck of TBA that this particular rifle (Which will remain nameless for the time being) came up in the rotation.
When I get back to the shop, what do I see but a box that had arrived in my absence. A box containing suppressor alignment gauges. "Where were you when I needed you?" I ask the gauges. The unfairly accused gauges remained silent. So, I set up the bore scope, and with more than a little bit of dread, 1 take a look.
Lucky me (and lucky TBA Covert .223) all I have are scuff marks. I then use the alignment gauges for .223, and lo and behold, I have an indication of baffle rubbing. So, this barrel clearly has a problem or problems. And I'll have to have it or them corrected before I can continue to use it.
I grab the next rifle up in the rack, and spin the flash hider off of it. I thread the TBA Covert on, and slide the alignment gauge down the bore. Perfect. So, this one gets to go to the range. This particular rifle is my faux DMR. It has a 20-inch A2 profile barrel, with a 1:9 twist, in a flat-top upper.
It has a Precision Reflex carbon fiber handguard, it sits on a Sun Devil lower, and on top I have a Trijicon 5.5X ACOG. Every time I bring this rifle to our LEO patrol rifle classes, Mitch comments on how it looks like "Mt. Palomar on a stick." However, with it, I have been able to regularly paste a LaRue self-setting plate, at 300 meters by moonlight. It shoots well.
So, the next day it was off to the range again. I checked the zero, dead-on for that rifle, as it has been since I parked the scope on it years ago. Four 5-shot groups later, I spun the flash hider off, the TBA silencer on and checked the impacts. Five shots destroyed the piece of wooden lath still waiting on the 100 yard berm.
Four 5-shot groups after that, I came to the conclusion that a triple-latte on the drive to the range perhaps wasn't the best way to prepare for group-shooting. And that the TBA Covert .223 might or might not have a zero shift, but if it does it is certainly less than an inch, probably less than half an inch, at 100 yards, from the bench.
For this particular test I used Black Hills 60 grain V-Max bullets, out of deference for the 1:9 twist of the barrel. I didn't want to be experimenting with a 1:9 barrel, and heavy bullets, while also making sure I didn't have more baffle strikes on the suppressor. I was juggling enough variables as it was.
Now, the TBA Covert .223, on a 20-inch rifle, is about as quiet as you're going to make a .223/5.56. The size (8 inches long by an inch-an-a-half in diameter) and the hefty Inconel construction, means it will have plenty of blast, sound and powder residue absorption capacity.
It does make a full-sized AR a bit hefty, and puts weight out front, but you can't get something for nothing. It is quiet. TBA lists its dB reduction at 32 to 35 decibels. It is possible to have a long, earnest and fruitless discussion over just what the threshold is for "ear-safe" decibel reduction. Personally, if we assume a best-case scenario of a .223 that starts at 160 dB, then 32-35 dB reduction brings it down to 125 dB, which is worth discussion about "earsafe."
Me, I might make the choice to fire a few shots ear-bare, but I'd probably still have at least foam plugs in. And not to pick on TBA, this holds true for all silencer makers. And if you have a full-spec 5.56, that has a bare muzzle blast that measures more like 170 dB? Then I'm keeping my foam plugs in, but it will be a lot more enjoyable than without the TBA suppressor.
What is the lesson learned here? First, that TBA makes a first-class unit, and that we do not give up accuracy or shift point of impact just by screwing on a silencer/suppressor. Second, we do not have to have a Parkerized suppressor, unless we want to. The Nor-rel Moly resin finish of the TBA is very nice looking, and promises to hold up well.
And, if we need to hide its good looks for some reason, there are plenty of thermal covers to slide on, that can be had in all the various colors and camo patterns desired.
Third, for those who aren't a fan of direct-thread suppressors, TBA now offers the Covert in a QD mount.
Those who are not a fan of excess weight, or who want something just a bit smaller. TBA offers the Covert Ti, a suppressor made of titanium. You get half the weight for half-again the cost, the usual trade-off for being able to brag to your buddies about owning a titanium suppressor.
Me, for the performance and durability it delivers, the original Covert, at just under $700, is a smokin' good deal. I'd have to think long and hard before adding another three Benjamins to get the Ti model. But that's just me.
And last, that just because your muzzle threads were cut by the factory that made the barrel, they are no 'guarantee of correct alignment. It is well worth the investment in a suppressor alignment gauge to ensure your suppressor survives the next range session with a new rifle. (More on that next month.)
TBA SUPPRESSORS COVERT .223
Overall length: 8 inches
Net length added to firearm: 7.4 inches
Diameter: 1.5 inches
Weight: 24 ounces
Calibers available: .223/5.56 (other models for other calibers)
Mountsystem available: Direct thread, 1/2x28
Materials: 316, 300 series, Inconel
Finish: Norrel moly resin, flat black, polished stainless, matte stainless