Silencer Review: Dead Air Sandman K

note: The silencer and range time for this review was provided by Capitol Armory, located in Cedar Park, TX. 

Of great joy to me is using a product and seeing the design ethos behind it. Getting to know the designer of a silencer, then shooting the silencer he designed, and seeing the physical embodiment of years of conversations we’ve had about silencers is just plain cool.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the team at Dead Air. I respect them quite a bit, and I appreciate that a bunch of guys have taken their second swing at the silencer industry guided by a belief in uncompromising durability, good sound, and quality.

Last year, I had the opportunity to hit the range with the guys from Capitol Armory to do a formal review of the Dead Air Quick Detach line of silencers. At the time, that included the Sandman-S and Sandman-L. Several weeks later, having published my reviews, I called Dead Air’s founder, Mike Pappas, to shoot the breeze and hopefully get some scoops on what Dead Air might be producing next. Instead, he asked me, “What do you want to see?”

At the time, I was quite enamored with dedicated 5.56 silencers. I’d been eyeballing Sig’s line of silencers and I’d recently shot the Griffin Armament Recce 5. While the Sandman line had the capability of swappable end caps so you could technically “make” a 5.56 silencer, even the S model was a bit long and heavy. So I pitched my case – a 5.56 can. That’s what I really wanted.

What I got was the Sandman-K, which is what I asked for without knowing that I’d asked for it.

The K model takes the mounting system and user swappable end caps used on the longer S and L models and lops an extra inch and a half off the end of the already short(ish) S model. This length reduction has the added benefit of dropping nearly five ounces off the S model’s weight. The end result is a silencer with a very compact footprint that doesn’t add too much weight to the muzzle. All in with a muzzle device, you’re looking at just a shade over 16 oz of full auto rated weight on the muzzle. The K model only extends an extra 3 inches beyond the end of the muzzle device. Not bad!

In the hand, it’s a very solid feeling silencer – owing to the robust fully welded Stellite baffles and stainless steel tube. When I’d first chatted with Mike about the weight of the Sandman line, he’d been pretty frank with me. Dead Air cares about building really robust, reliable silencers. They fully expect that you’ll do mag dumps and burn the Cerakote off their silencers. They don’t want any issues with their silencers being abused and the only way to guarantee that kind of durability is to use heavy steel parts and weld them up tight.

Weight creates two concerns. First is handling. On a light little hunting rifle with a twenty-two inch barrel, you’ll notice every ounce and something like the Sandman-L is going to make your fast to the shoulder sporter feel like you’re dragging it through mud.

If you plan on only taking a few shots at a time with your hunting rifle, and want something that won’t affect handling, there are other silencers beyond the Sandman line. On a sixteen inch gas gun, that weight is much less noticeable.

The second concern, and one that matters quite a bit in a quick detach silencer, is point of impact shift. Adding a silencer to the muzzle will absolutely move your point of impact around. On a whippy, long sporter barrel, a one pound weight on the end is going to radically shift point of impact. Less weight means less vertical shift. But as long as it’s consistent, it can be managed around.  And that starts with the mount.

At the core of the Sandman line is the KeyMount muzzle device. Designed by former medical device engineer, Todd Magee, the KeyMount is hands down one of the best mounts in the business. It offers the consistent lockup of a taper mount with the one handed ease of a direct thread can. In my testing, I’ve found the KeyMount to be one of the most consistent mounts out there. Point of impact shift is consistent and repeatable, a hallmark of good silencer design.

In addition, the Keymount system allows for a ratcheting locking mechanism that ensures that once torqued hand tight, the Sandman of your choosing is staying put. And when you want to remove it, you can do so with one hand – that’s great for the end user who wants to fit a 1.5 inch diameter silencer under the hand guard of their favorite modern sporting rifle.

Having seen excellent results with the S and L models for repeatable point of impact shift, I chose not to waste the ammo reviewing the K model in that regard. It’s a great mount, and one I’d feel confident using on my precision rifle.

One last note on the Sandman line as a whole before discussing the K model specifically. The crew at Dead Air are big fans of silencers that enhance the user’s experience. They believe that the best sounding silencer in the world isn’t worth a damn if it fills your face with gas and soot. Dead Air places a premium on low blowback, bombproof silencers so all the Sandmans are also full auto rated silencers that don’t transfer a lot of gas back into your face.

Handling

Given my feelings on the mounting system, my trip to the range to test the K model was focused exclusively on how it felt to run a K model on the end of my rifle and how the thing sounded to my calibrated ear. I didn’t even bring my camera to take photos. I just showed up with a bunch of ammo and got to shooting.

What I found confirmed my suspicions – cutting length and weight makes for a suppressed rifles that almost feels like a rifle without a silencer hanging off the end.  On the end of a long bolt gun, you’re still going to notice the pound of metal and the extra three or so inches – that’s just physics. But it’s MUCH better than the S or L models.

On a stubbier rifle like a 16″ or a 10.5″ barreled AR, the S model sort of disappears. You may be a touch slower transitioning from target to target, but not much, and the minimal extra length means that getting in and out of a truck, UTV, or deer blind is still a manageable proposition.

Sound

Last year, I went hog hunting on the family ranch two nights in a row. The first, with a 20 inch .308 bolt gun and an unnamed competitor’s 7.5 inch silencer. The second, with a 12.5 inch SCAR 17 SBR fitted with a Sandman-S. While I was hunting, my sweet mother sat up at the house drinking wine by the fire, waiting for my call to fire up the UTV to retrieve me and a couple hundred pounds of pork. After much shooting on the first night, she picked me up and said, “I’ve told you a hundred times that the neighbors don’t like you shooting at night without a can.” The second night – “Whatever you used tonight is much better.”

I’ve put Sandmans and their competitiors on a meter, and they both meter about the same, but where the Sandmans really excel is in the “Momma Kee” sound index. To the ear, the Sandman line is way more comfortable in tone, deeper and richer with much less of that tinny “ping” you sometimes hear in other silencers. The neighbors like it better, and so do I. For all the reasons above, the Sandman-S is one of my favorite silencers, and one I enthusiastically recommend when people ask my opinion for a “do it all” silencer.

The guys at Capitol Armory were kind enough to share their metering data from an afternoon with the S and K models. Here’s what they found.

Shooting 300 BLK subsonics though a bolt gun, the S model averaged 127.6 dB while the K model was 134.8 – a difference of 7 dB. That’s definitely noticeable to the user’s ear, but it still sits below that ~140 dB threshold that’s considered hearing safe.

On a 5.56 gas gun shooting 55 gr. supersonics, the difference was much less noticeable – the S model averaged 136.6 while the K model was at 140.7. Again, a bit louder and with supersonic ammo, just right on the cusp of hearing safe.

On a 308 bolt gun, the S model managed to squeak under the hearing safe threshold with an average of 139.7 while the K model was definitely over it at 145.5.

On my range trip using the K model, I tried it on a variety of hosts including a 300 BLK SBR, a 16″ 5.56 gas gun, and the aforementioned 12.5″ SCAR 17, and came away from it pleasantly surprised.

Given the diminutive size of the K model, I had every expectation that I’d pop off a few rounds without ear pro to get a feel for it, and then run back to the truck to grab my ears for the rest of my trip. I found that I was sauntering more than running after fitting the K model to a variety of hosts. The only rifle that made me blush a bit was the SCAR, but to be fair, 308 SBRs are no joke, and the SCAR is a notoriously loud host. I had low expectations and I felt they were met.

I wouldn’t want to spend an entire range day without ear pro using the AR hosts, but for a few shots here and there, the K model was just fine and dandy.

Final Thoughts

The K model takes a lot of the things I like about the S model, and cuts an inch and half off the end, but the K model is not for the first time silencer buyer. The S or L models are much more worthy of your consideration if you have a newly minted trust in hand. This is simply due to the fact that the K model is a “loud” can. There’s a penalty for that weight and length reduction.

On my drive back from the range, I called Dead Air’s founder, Mike Pappas, to chat about my experience with the newly released K model. I told him I was pleased with the balance of a rifle wearing the K as well as the reduction in sound. We both talked about what a hunk Todd Magee is, and then got down to brass tacks – what this silencer is good for.

Mike feels, and I tend to agree, that the K model should be considered in the “duty and ranching” category of silencers. It’s a great silencer for the person who, when they need their rifle, need their rifle, and there’s simply no time to dig through the truck for a set of ear muffs. Yeah, it’s louder than the S or L model, but it’s like a Glock 19 or a bareskin condom. If wearing it isn’t uncomfortable, you’re more likely to have it when the moment strikes.

What it is: A 30 cal silencer that’s short and full auto rated with no barrel length restrictions
How I got it: Capitol Armory invited me out to do some shooting. I brought some ammo, they provided some ammo and same with the rifle hosts.
Retail Price: *****At the time I published this***** Capitol Armory was selling the Sandman K for $569 (MSRP is $699 until HPA moves out of committee. At that time, MSRP jumps to $950)
Who is it for: The buyer looking for a very specific kind of silencer. If you’re a first time buyer, the S/L/Ti models are probably worth a closer look. LEO and ranchers of all kinds would do well to spend some time considering the Sandman K. This isn’t the quietest can by a mile, but it’s perfectly suited to your duty carbine or short bolt gun that rides in the truck while checking fences.
How I tested it: I’ve already done the hard work of testing the repeatability of the Sandman mount so I just had myself a fine day at the range. Capitol Armory did their sound testing on a separate day and provided their results to me.
What I found: There’s a noticeable difference in sound between the S and K model, and if you can handle the length and weight, the S model is probably a better “do it all” silencer for most folks. The K does one thing very well which is minimalism. At $569 while supplies last, it’s about the cheapest way you can get into a high quality 30 caliber silencer.

 

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