IF THERE IS A JUGGERNAUT in the suppressor industry; that giant is SilencerCo. Last year alone the Utah-based company produced 120,000 suppressors, owning an estimated 70 percent of the national market and generating some $68 million in revenue. That equates to 600 percent growth since 2013.
SilencerCo's dedication to education and advocation for silencers is matched only by its penchant for innovation. The company has developed the lion's share of recent new suppressor technology, including asymmetrical silencers, modular silencers, shotgun silencers and--undoubtedly its most seismic evolution yet--the integrally suppressed Maxim 9 pistol.
Built of 102 U.S.-manufactured parts, the Maxim 9 is at its core a polymer-framed, high-capacity, striker-fired 9mm with a fixed 4.38-inch barrel and integrated modular, asymmetrical suppressor baffles.
Why a $1,500 suppressed pistol? Admittedly, the Maxim 9 is bulkier and less adaptable than, say, a Glock 17, Smith & Wesson M&P9, SIG Sauer P320 or the like, any of which can easily be paired with a pistol suppressor. Significantly, though, the Maxim 9 weighs less, costs less, balances better and is far shorter than any common pistol paired with a muzzle-attached suppressor.
Probably the most remarkable advantage of the Maxim 9 is how it eliminates the obscenely forward-weighted feel of a common pistol with a suppressor threaded onto its nose. To my hand, it feels much like an unsuppressed full-size pistol with a 5-inch barrel and a white light mounted to the dust cover. Add to that the inherent accuracy of a fixed barrel plus the extended sight radius offered by the Maxim 9, and you have a superbly accurate, ergonomie pistol that doesn't hurt your ears.
21st Century Versatility Every Maxim 9 is red dot compatible and features KeyMod slots on the lower front frame for compatible accessories. Affixing a commonly available rail section makes it easy to attach a white light or laser. For those with a stock of Glock 17 magazines, the Maxim 9 feeds from them exclusively.
Each Maxim 9 will ship with two Magpul PMag 17 GL9 magazines, and of course Glock-brand mags and aftermarket extensions work perfectly--including those Glock 33-round mags.
Fascinatingly, the Maxim 9's polymer frame features a "Morse Code" grip texture. "It does contain a message," admitted Matt Pinnell, SilencerCo public relations specialist. "Presumably something patriotic ... only the designers know for sure."
I don't know Morse code, but a vision of readers more astute than I poring over these pages--lost in translation --floated in my mind. (If anyone does interpret the Morse code grip mystery, please write in and share.)
While manufacturing firearms might seem like a giant step away from building sound suppressors, the Maxim 9 occurred as a natural evolution within SilencerCo. The idea of the Maxim 9 began almost three years ago with a Beretta hammer-fired frame, which evolved to using a modified Smith & Wesson M&P frame. A firing prototype was introduced to a small gathering of gun media on a yacht at a event named "Maxim Vice" off the coast of Florida in 2015. Eventually, that idea morphed into SilencerCo's own in-house-designed frame, barrel and trigger. The model was first machined of alloy. However, those initial alloy frames changed one more time into a steel chassis set in a molded polymer frame.
The Integral Suppression System Like the frame and firing mechanism, the integral suppressor went through a variety of iterations before the company settled on what you see here. The housing was originally machined from a block-shaped piece of aluminum with hard corners, which later progressed into a more streamlined outward appearance reminiscent of this production model. Engineers opted for a scalable system with stackable, individually welded baffles, similar to those used in SilencerCo's popular Salvo shotgun suppressor. This design provides users with a system that can be modified to suit their requirements.
In its full-size, 10 3/4-inch overall length configuration, the Maxim 9 is rated at 136 decibels (dB) or less with both subsonic and supersonic ammunition. To be clear, 140 dB crosses the hearing-safe threshold. Removing two baffles reduces overall length to 9.54 inches and leaves the pistol hearing-safe with subsonic ammunition only. Handling characteristics are improved, yet sound suppression is slightly reduced. There is no free lunch.
Interestingly, both the slide and the sound baffles ride on dual guide rods. To enable users their choice of standard or short configuration, each Maxim 9 pistol ships with two sets of baffle guide rods. Pistols ship in standard-length configuration, however.
To remove two baffles and reduce length, simply unscrew the two hex-head screws from the front of the pistol, remove all the baffles, then unscrew the guide rods before replacing them with the shorter versions. Install the front baffle, end plate and screws. That's all.
To remove the slide for maintenance, press the spring-loaded recoil rod retainer button in the rear face of the slide and lift the recoil rod lever latch that lies across the frame above the breech. With the recoil/guide rods released, draw the slide rearward approximately an inch and pull upward slightly before lifting it away from the frame. To reassemble, simply reverse this process.
Although the Maxim 9 does not have various grip inserts or panels to account for differing hand sizes, SilencerCo engineered the grip to be comfortable for those with average-sized hands. I've got a broad but short palm, and I'm rather a snob when it comes to grips, but the Maxim 9's is perfect for me. My wife, who has smaller hands, also fired it and found it to be comfortable.
An ambidextrous slide lock and reversible magazine release add adaptability and ergonomics. As for a safety, the Maxim 9 follows polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol tradition and offers an integrated trigger safety. It is SilencerCo's own design and was rigorously tested using SAAMI and NIJ drop-test protocol. The flat-faced trigger shoe provided an ergonomic contour and felt more controllable versus a curved shoe. Its trigger pull weight was rated at approximately 5.6 pounds, yet my sample measured a slightly lighter 5.2 pounds on a Lyman digital trigger gauge.
What if a Maxim 9 failed? After a careful examination of the pistol and some fairly rigorous shooting, I don't expect many Maxim lemons. However, these suppressed pistols are covered by the same no-argument, all-inclusive warrantee as other SilencerCo products. "We even fix stupid," Pinnell told me.
Factory Tour & dB Testing Because the Maxim 9 is a National Firearms Act (NFA)-controlled item--and, in fact, has two serial numbers, one for the firearm and one for the integrated suppressor --it's not something that I could simply request a sample of. Instead, I had to either submit paperwork, $200 and wait eight to 12 months for a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) tax stamp or find a SilencerCo representative willing to bring a Maxim 9 and shadow me for a few days as I tested, photographed and wrote about it. Pinnell proved a willing victim and arranged a factory tour and interview with company president Jason Schauble to boot.
Schauble--a legitimate man's man with a military background and several years running Remington Defense in a past life--kindly loaded me with insight on the company's founders, history, evolution and inspiration. SilencerCo was founded by boyhood friends Jonathon Shults, a tech wizard and mechanical genius, and Joshua Waldron, a marketing guru and political advocate. SilencerCo began with the premise that too many shooters believed that obtaining a suppressor was akin to a Dark Art, and it was time for the Age of Enlightenment.
Innovation was also paramount. As Schauble put it, "They went non-round (meaning asymmetrical suppressors) early, Jon machining in a garage, Josh selling, advocating [and] educating." Success loomed, and they built a manufacturing facility and continued advocating, educating and innovating. "We spend a lot of time making the market bigger through advocacy efforts."
Briskly walking through the manufacturing facility to the contented humming of CNC machines, Pinnell pointed out concrete joints in the floor where additions had been built. Ending in front of a double row of dump-truck-size state-of-the-art CNC machines (six in all), he casually flipped a nearby schematic upside down and grinned. "Now you can take pictures." These were the machines creating Maxim 9 integrally suppressed pistols. By the time you read this, those machines will be rolling out 1,500 Maxim 9s per month. Buttonholing co-owner Shults as he hustled between more important tasks, I convinced him to pose with a Maxim 9 for a photo.
Farther into the bowels of SilencerCo, I met R&D test tech Josh "Beaver" Graham, who was kind enough to explain the MIL-STD 1474D test protocol used by the American Suppressor Association (ASA). "A quarter-inch G.R.A.S. microphone is placed 1.6 meters off the ground and 1 meter left of the muzzle." Director of R&D, Harrison Holden, who holds the distinction of being the first employee hired by SilencerCo's two founders, attempted to gently lead me through the basics of the Labview software program written to interpret the data. Lost, I steered back to practical application. "May I run a Maxim 9 through the test?"
Cheerfully, they obliged. "This particular gun has had over 15,000 rounds through it," Beaver told me as he demonstrated how to position the Maxim 9 on a tripod for consistent, accurate placement in relation to the microphone. Ten shots later, the integrally suppressed pistol posted an average dB reading of 131.7 with 147-grain subsonic ammunition--well below the Maxim 9's advertised maximum rating of 136.3 dB.
Range Time Pinnell and I met early the next morning at one of my favorite shooting spots, and I sandbagged a Maxim 9 and began accuracy testing with a broad selection of bullet weights ranging from 90 grains to 147 grains. I fired three consecutive five-shot groups at 25 yards without allowing the barrel to cool and averaged the results of each load.
In the cool of the morning, the long sight radius made shooting tidy groups easy. However, as the day and the Maxim 9 each heated up, heat waves off the suppressor baffles caused significant distortion in my sight picture. Even after allowing the pistol to cool completely, it would heat up enough by the third group that the sights appeared as if I were looking through Jello.
"We originally planned to use Glock-type polymer sights," Pinnell informed me as we sat in the shade of my truck and let the gun cool. "But rigorous heat testing melted them, so we switched to steel sights with tritium inserts."
"Let's mount a [Trijicon] RMR," I suggested. "Maybe getting my line of sight higher off the gun will help." And, sure enough, distortion was all but eliminated. My eyes appreciated not having to resolve multiple dimensions for a clear sight picture.
Accuracy proved as excellent as I'd hoped based on the fixed-barrel design. All but one of the 10 factory loads I tested averaged less than 2 inches at 25 yards; four of the 10 averaged less than 1 1/2 inches and one--SIG Sauer's 115-grain V-Crown load -averaged a spectacularly small .86 inch.
We'd swiped a magazine from the R&D department the day before. Caked with the fouling of untold hundreds (perhaps thousands) of shots, it still ran, although twice it fed stubbornly and the slide failed to go fully into battery, resulting in a failure to fire (FTF). Reliability with the clean magazine we had on hand was stellar, without a single hiccup over a drastic range of projectile weights and fast magazine dumps with mixed ammunition.
With formal accuracy testing complete, I set out a pair of Action Target steel torsos and ran informal drills and mag dumps until I was completely out of ammunition. No malfunctions. Excellent ergonomics and a quite usable trigger kept virtually all my shots on steel at 7 and 10 yards no matter how fast I tried to fire the Maxim 9. The suppressed pistol was balanced and pointed like an extension of my hand.
On the subject of holsters, several companies, including Blackhawk, Galco and G-Code, are already producing suitable scabbards. I wore and used a holster from G-Code with the Maxim 9 in shortened guise, and it carried well.
Several law enforcement departments have ordered Maxim 9s for trial, and as Schauble put it, "At least one, um, national investigative organization has several Maxim 9s."
Could the Maxim 9 foreshadow the future of LE and perhaps even military sidearms? The folks at SilencerCo certainly think so, and I'm inclined to agree. "What innovation can we expect to see in the future?" I asked Schauble, who glanced at a wall full of sticky notes and sketches. Eyes twinkling, he responded, "I can't give details, but expect to see integrated suppression on everything from muzzleloaders to sub-guns."
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY JOSEPH von BENEDIKT
Caption: For police work, military use or home defense, the Maxim 9 offers superb versatility coupled with the ultimate virtue--it won't damage your hearing or the hearing of those around you if you have to shoot.
Caption: Modular sound baffles stack in front of the Maxim 9's muzzle, enabling the user to choose their desired length and sound suppression level.
Caption: All Maxim 9 pistols are red-dot ready and ship in standard-length configuration (above), which is hearing safe with both sub- and supersonic loads. However, reducing the overall length is as simple as removing two of the modular baffles, after which it is only hearing safe with the use of subsonic ammo (above, top).
Caption: To fieldstrip the Maxim 9 is easy. Press the recoil rod retaining button at the rear and lift the recoil rod lever latch. Draw the slide rearward about an inch, tilt slightly and lift off.
Caption: After being briefed on the American Suppressor Association (ASA) standard method of measuring sound reduction, the author put a Maxim 9 through the process. Data showed it was significantly quieter than advertised.
This quarter-inch state-of-the-art G.R.A.S. microphone costs nearly $1,800. MIL-STD 1474D-approved positioning is 1.6 meters off the floor and one meter left of the muzzle.
Caption: Ten shots over the decibel reader with 147-grain ammunition in the Maxim 9 averaged 131.7 dB, which was well below the pistol's advertised noise level of 136.3 dB.
Caption: In a stroke of genius, designers created a unique "Morse Code" texture for the Maxim 9 grip and frame. There's a message contained in it, but the author doesn't know what it is.
Caption: SilencerCo co-founder and co-owner Jonathan Shults proudly stands by one of six CNC machines producing Maxim 9 pistols.
Caption: KeyMod slots in the bottom of the primary baffle provide a place for a section of Picatinny rail, making it easy to mount a pistol light.
Caption: Superb ergonomics make the Maxim 9 very easy to shoot accurately, and the integral suppression reduces recoil and makes for very fast follow-up shots. In 50 years, all modern pistols might look something like this.
SilencerCo Maxim 9 Type: Integrally suppressed recoil operated, striker-fired semiautomatic Cartridge: 9mm Capacity: 17+1 rds. Barrel: 4.38 in.; l:10-in. twist Baffles: 7075 aluminum, Cerakoted, modular Overall Length: 9.54 in.-10.75 in. Width: 1.58 in. Height: 5.41 in. Weight: 39 oz. Finish: Matte-black Cerakote (steel. aluminum baffles); anodized (select inner aluminum parts) Sights: Fixed Trigger: 5 lbs., 3 oz. (tested) Safety: Integrated trigger safety, automatic searblock Price: $1,500 Manufacturer: SilencerCo, 801-417-5384 silencerco.com PERFORMANCE LOAD VEL. (FPS) ES SD SIG Sauer V-Crown 124-gr. JHP 1,125 26 11 SIG Sauer V-Crown 115-gr. JHP 1,215 64 23 Black Hills +P 124-gr. JHP 1,227 20 8 Winchester PDX1 P+ 124-gr. JHP 1,188 58 24 Winchester Zinc 90-gr. FMJ 1,332 72 27 Speer Gold Dot G2 147-gr. JHP 961 58 25 Federal HST 147-gr. JHP 1,036 53 21 Hornady American Gunner 124-gr. XTP 1,196 14 6 Browning X-Point 147-gr. BXP 988 56 21 Hornady Critical Duty 135-gr. FTX 1,079 46 19 LOAD BEST AVERAGE GROUP GROUP (IN.) (IN.) SIG Sauer V-Crown 124-gr. JHP .55 1.45 SIG Sauer V-Crown 115-gr. JHP .69 .86 Black Hills +P 124-gr. JHP .95 1.12 Winchester PDX1 P+ 124-gr. JHP .95 1.26 Winchester Zinc 90-gr. FMJ 1.16 2.02 Speer Gold Dot G2 147-gr. JHP 1.18 1.41 Federal HST 147-gr. JHP 1.22 1.53 Hornady American Gunner 124-gr. XTP 1.45 1.56 Browning X-Point 147-gr. BXP 1.53 1.66 Hornady Critical Duty 135-gr. FTX 1.77 1.97 Notes: Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups fired over a sandbag rest at 25 yards. Velocity is the result of five shots measured by a Shooting Chrony chronograph set at 10 feet.