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.
They can easily be converted into a suppressor usually by only drilling (or shooting) a hole through the end of the unit. Doing so is highly illegal unless you complete and register the required forms along with paying the required tax. (discussed below).
What is a Solvent Trap?
A solvent trap is a device that is designed to attach to the threaded muzzle of a rifle in order to capture solvents, and / or fluids used to clean the rifle.
By adding a bullet exit hole it can function as a suppressor which necessitates Form 1 submission and a paid tax.
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 a hole to the next level. See the photo below of one particular design of solvent trap disassembled.
If converted to a suppressor, the baffles serve to hold back a portion of the powder explosion which virtually eliminates the sound of the blast given enough baffles.
If the ammo being used surpasses the speed of sound, around 1100 fps, the “crack” will still be heard down range as the bullet passes that speed. Using ammo below the speed of sound or sub sonic makes a round unbelievably quiet with this device.
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 perfectly centered or are not large enough for the bullet plus a small amount of error in flight.
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 bulk pack in the UK, I don’t see the issue our government has with firearm suppressors. A quieter rifle just increases the enjoyment of shooting and prevents people nearby from being disturbed by the noise.
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. Refer to the links above for the form and instructions on how to do this.
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.
Here is a link to several solvent trap kits sold by Aliexpress.
There used to be many kits available on Amazon but they have vanished….I assume because of the pressure received from the ATF lately.
There are still a few components available on Amazon that can work together to make a good solvent trap. There may be a little fitting required depending on your application and building your own solvent trap with random parts requires a little work.
Here is a video of a home made solvent trap made from a maglite flashlight.
I highly recommend going the kit route. It will cost you a little more money but you won’t have to worry about whether your trap can withstand a gun blast or whether all holes are centered.
How does the cost compare to factory made suppressors?
The price of factory made suppressors is generally much higher than the solvent trap kits. Factory made units are made of higher quality materials and some can utilize fairly complex designs of internal baffling to disperse / delay pressure and therefore reduce sound.
This explains the higher price. The decision on which way to go of course is yours, just make sure you stay legal as explained above.
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.
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.
You can buy suppressors in a bulk pack in the UK but our country’s laws are made by those who think they are only used by assassins or those bent on breaking the law. This has probably originated from the all of the movies that show them being used for those purposes. Hopefully someday our legislators will understand how wrong they are.
Until this happens make sure you stay legal. The shooting enjoyment a suppressor brings is not worth the trouble it could bring if you don’t make your build legal.