Good afternoon everyone and welcome back to TFB’s Silencer Saturday brought to you by Yankee Hill Machine, manufacturers of the new YHM R45 Multi-Host Suppressor. Last week we got a look at the Knight’s Armament QDC/MCQ-PRT 5.56mm rifle suppressor, This week we get a look at one of the most anticipated AR-15 suppressors in many years – the SureFire SOCOM RC3. Can the RC3 live up to the standards of its RC2 predecessor? We’ll find out in this multi-part series dedicated to the latest SureFire release.
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SILENCER SATURDAY #307: The SureFire SOCOM RC3 Suppressor – Part 1
If you own a 5.56 AR-15 that is dedicated as either a defensive weapon or a duty weapon, the chances are high that you currently own or will own a SureFire SOCOM suppressor. The RC2 and previous generations of Fast-Attach models are most likely the most issued suppressors across military and law enforcement customers. Having some experience with government gear and purchasing decisions, the “XYZ Unit uses this so it must be good” argument is not necessarily a reason for an individual to buy the same gear. However, in the case of SureFire suppressors, I believe the statement to be true, due to the fact that they saw heavy use over the 20 year conflict in Afghanistan and can definitely be labeled as “battle proven”.
But there are other reasons why the now previous generation RC2 suppressor (which will still be available for some time to come) is still at the top of the list when it comes to 5.56mm suppressors. The SureFire muzzle devices are some of the best designed in the industry, whether it is for flash reduction or recoil mitigation. And the Fast-Attach mounting system provides a solid lockup and a repeatable point of impact. There are those shooters out there that have experienced enough carbon buildup that their suppressors had to be shot off into a berm as a removal procedure. I have thousands of rounds through mine and have never needed anything more than a twist and a tug (TWSS). I’ll share my “one simple trick” to keep your Fast-Attach system free of carbon buildup and the QD system functioning properly.
So if the SureFire RC2 is such a good AR-15 rifle suppressor, why is there a need for a new RC3 suppressor? Let’s take a trip back in time to where the Department of Defense (DOD) began evaluating rifle suppressors for use by soldiers carrying gas operated carbines and rifles. The standard practice for evaluating rifle suppressors was to use an analog decibel meter with a microphone placed one meter from the muzzle of the rifle and one meter from the ground (the same height as the muzzle).
This evaluation method was designed around a soldier in the standing position to measure the sound of the blast forward of the shooter. The focus was on reducing the likelihood of enemy detection, or at least making it more difficult to determine a position, not as a means of a hearing protection device (that was an afterthought). Suppressor manufacturers designed their models to meet or beat these DOD requirements, which meant tighter bore tolerances to squeeze every decibel out of the muzzle meter reading.
Repeating our novice lesson in physics from a few weeks ago, remember that nature abhors a vacuum, and when a containment vessel is restricted more at one of two exit points, much of that pressure is forced down the barrel and into the gas system instead of out the muzzle. The result is more sound at the shooter’s ear and lots of toxic gas into the shooter’s face. With hearing damage, traumatic brain injuries, and blood toxicity levels on the rise, the DOD and other agencies began to shift the focus of suppressor performance as safety equipment instead of just a signature masking device.
And the SureFire RC3 is born – with almost the same measurements as the RC2, the internal geometries were re-engineered with a significant investment in technical modeling, to reduce the pressures inside the suppressor and vent resulting gases forward instead of backward, reducing shooter’s exposures to gases and sound. The end result is a system that is only 1 dB louder than the RC2 with a 60% reduction in blowback into the action and back towards the shooter. As a reminder, the human ear can’t detect changes in sound under 3 dB.
For those of you who are questioning the weight of the RC3, I am guessing that it could have been made lighter and possibly have a reduced diameter. But because the RC2 has been in use by units for so long, keeping the weight and measurements identical in the RC3 means that no adjustments need to be made to any number of systems. The RC3 is a drop-in replacement for the RC2 with the added benefit of a drastic reduction in back pressure. I bet the government loves the fact that nothing else changed.
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Specifications – SureFire SOCOM RC3
The SureFire SOCOM556-RC3 suppressor combines decades of SureFire innovation in materials and manufacturing techniques with the most extensive flow dynamics study in history. The result of exclusive parametric modeling and multi-variable aerospace software research on advanced supercomputers, the RC3 is a gamechanger in modern suppressor technology. Its low back pressure design results in 60% less toxic gas in the shooter’s face (compared to SOCOM556-RC2) for a safer shooting experience, a cleaner firearm, and superior recoil control while retaining unmatched flash reduction.
The RC3 is the next generation in combat suppressors, delivering extreme reliability and accuracy with minimal impact and consistent impact shift in a lightweight, low-profile design that minimizes added length and bulk so you can maintain firearm maneuverability when you need it. The RC3’s class-leading suppression also protects hearing and improves your ability to communicate in high-stress environments. Inconel construction delivers the combat-proven durability that established SureFire’s SOCOM suppressor legacy. The SOCOM556-RC3 is made in the U.S.A.
- Model: Surefire SOCOM556-RC3
- Manufacturer’s Page: https://www.surefire.com/socom556-rc3/
- MSRP: $1799
- Materials: Inconnel
- Finish: Cerakote
- Diameter: 1.5 in (3.8 cm)
- Length: 6.3 in (16.0 cm)
- Length added to weapon*: 3.8 in (9.7 cm)
- * Actual length may vary, depending on which SureFire adapter is used
- Weight: 17.0 oz (482 g)
- 60% less back pressure
- Virtually eliminates explosive flash
- ast-Attach® design allows fast, secure, easy attachment and removal without tools
- Backward compatible with SureFire SOCOM Fast-Attach muzzle devices
- Durable Inconel construction delivers long service life
Specifications – SureFire SOCOM RC2 (Previous Model Comparison)
- Model: SOCOM556-RC2
- Manufacturer’s Page: https://www.surefire.com/socom556-rc2/
- MSRP: $1,199
- Finish: OLC and Cerakote
- Diameter: 1.5″
- Length: 6.4″
- Length added to weapon: 3.8″
- * Actual length may vary, depending on which SureFire adapter is used
- Weight: 17.0 oz
- Sound Data @ the shooter’s ear (from SureFire)
- 10.3″ – 137.74
- 14.5″ – 136 .40
- 16.0″ – 134.7
The business end of the RC3 is where most of the visible differences can be noticed. Notice the six vents that line the circumference of the RC3. This allows for the pressures to equalize and gases to flow forward while still reducing the sound signature.
From the back, you’d be hard pressed to notice any differences in the RC3 when compared to its older kin. In fact, even the visible internal geometry and blast baffle seem identical to the RC2.
The bore of the RC3 does appear to be wider than the RC2. I will take some measurements for Part 2 of the series to be published next week.
The main internals that comprise the baffle stack are made using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), otherwise known as additive manufacturing. It appears that the baffle stack is then seated and welded into a traditionally manufactured outer tube that is welded at the base to the Fast-Attach mounting system.
My secret to keeping the Fast-Attach system working flawlessly over the years is a simple two-step process. First, regularly scrape the carbon from your muzzle devices – SureFire even makes a simple tool for this exact purpose. Second, use a small amount of high heat nickel anti-seize just behind the labyrinth seals on your flash hider before reinstalling your suppressor. The labyrinth seals are the two rings on the flat hider and muzzle brake mounts. The Warcomp series of muzzle devices are not equipped with labyrinth seals.
Next week we will get into muzzle device selection (yes, it matters if you want the best performance out of the SureFire SOCOM RC3). We’ll also compare the RC2 and RC3 on both 11.5″ and 14.5″ AR-15 carbines. And in Part 3 we’ll try both the RC2 and the RC3 on a 5.56mm bolt action rifle to see if low back pressure designs make any difference on closed action hosts.
Thanks for reading. Be safe, have fun, and we’ll see you back here next weekend for another Silencer Saturday.
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