Good evening everyone and thank you for joining us for a late edition of TFB’s Silencer Saturday. Last week we went into the world of adjustable gas blocks and offered up some insight by way of TFB staff favorites. This week we pay our respects the inventor and founder of the firearm silencer movement, Hiram Percy Maxim who would have celebrated his 150th birthday this week. Would Maxim have been interested in adjustable gas blocks? Yes, I believe he would. Let’s take a brief look at the life that helped make the shooting world a quieter place.
SILENCER SATURDAY #89: Who Was Hiram Percy Maxim?
First off, Hiram Percy Maxim and Sir Hiram Maxim are two different people. Sir Maxim, the father of our beloved silencer figurehead, was an inventor himself, creating the Maxim fully automatic machine gun as well as patenting gas, blowback and recoil firearm actions. But when talking specifically about silencers, Hiram Percy Maxim is our man.
Maxim was born in 1869 and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1886 where he later moved up to Lynn, MA to work at the American Projectile Corporation, working nights on his own combustion engines- which later compared to horse drawn carriages as being loud and smelly. If only there were a way to trap those emissions from an engine…
It wasn’t until just after the turn of the century that Maxim designed, built and sold the first Maxim Silencer, in parallel with his designs for the combustion engine muffler.
Apparently, his ideas were refined after watching water drain slowly from his bath, circling the drain like a whirlpool. He experimented with several different designs, of which the Model 1910 was successful on the commercial market. Maxim silencers were sold by mail to dealers or direct to customers for around $5 – $12 each.
The Model 1910 also moved away from having a centrally aligned internal channel and instead used an offset (or eccentric) design. This had the added benefit of not obstructing the weapon’s sights. The majority of rifles of the day did not have threaded barrels so Maxim developed a coupling device which was placed over the muzzle and offered an external thread. More At historicalfirearms.info
It wasn’t until 1909 when Maxim received his first patent:
Silent Firearm – Patent US916885A – Maxim Silent Firearms
To all whom ‘it may concem:
Beit known that I, HIRAM PERCY MAXIM, a citizen of the United States,
invented certain new and useful Improvements in Silent Firearms, of which the following is a specification, reference being had to the accompanying drawing, forming a part hereof.
Various attempts have been made heretofore to render noiseless the discharge of firearms by preventing the sudden release of the powder gases at the muzzle of the firearm. In some of the devices designed for this purpose the bore of the flrearm is obstructed-mechanically after the passage of the projectile and the gases which follow the projectile are diverted through orts provided for the purpose into cham ers from which they are allowed to escape gradually. Devices`of this character are more or less effective in reducing or preventing the noise of discharge, but in some cases they are objectionable upon other grounds. In other of the devices designed for the purpose the mechanical obstruction of the bore is avoided and provision is made for the escape of the gases from the bore of the firearm in rear of the muzzle either directly into the atmosphere or into a surrounding chamber from which they subsequently escape, it be ing the intention in such cases that the escape of the gases shall be so gradual as at least to diminish the noise of discharge. In still other of the devices in which the mechanical obstruction of the bore’ is avoided, deflectors perforated for the passage of the projectile, are disposed beyond the muzzle for the purpose of distributing the gases of explosion over a large area and of directing them either laterally or rearwardly or both laterally and rearwardly, it also being proposed in some cases to restrict somewhat the escape of the gases. Practically, however, devices of the two classes last mentioned, at least so far as produced hitherto, have had, in some cases, no substantial eiiect in reducing the noise of discharge, and in some cases have been able at the most only to modify the noise of discharge.
The Maxim Silencer Company developed the Model 1912 and subsequently the further improved Model 15which Maxim christened the ‘Government Silencer’. In images #2 and #4 above Maxim himself can be see with Springfield M1903′s equipped with his silencers. Encouraged by this early military interest Maximenvisioned a military silencer being useful in roles such as sniping, guard harassment and marksmanship training. He believed that the increasing number of American men joining the military from cities who lacked experience in shooting were struggling to master the .30-06 M1903 because of its loud report and recoil. Maxim felt that using a silencer would prevent recruits being intimidated by their rifle and help them to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship faster. Maxim also developed a larger silencer suitable for suppressing a Benét–Mercié M1909 Machine Rifle, he can be seen firing one of these in image #1. Read more at Historicalfirearms.info
After limited field trials and use during WWI, Maxim started to focus his efforts on designing mufflers for engines and machinery. Of course, the National Firearms Act of 1934 all but killed civilian sales as well as innovation – very few people could afford a $200 tax stamp in order to transfer a new silencer.
Hiram Percy Maxim died in 1936 in Colorado while on a trip to California. He was 66 years old.
Thanks for the silence, Hiram.
Published on Nov 11, 2018 – The Armourer’s Bench
In this episode Matt takes a look at a very rare Model 1910 Maxim Silencer, even more rare as it is mounted on a M1903 Springfield.
Developed by Hiram Percy Maxim, son of Hiram S. Maxim, in the early 1900s, the early Maxim suppressors were a commercial success but Maxim also sought military contracts.
The US Army tested the silencers extensively and by the time the US entered World War One in 1917, a substantial number were in inventory. Matt discusses the design, development and history of Maxim’s silencer and with the help of new primary research answers the question – was the Maxim silencer used by the US Army during World War One?
For more information check out our detailed accompanying blog, which is packed full of photos and even more information on the Maxim silencer here: https://armourersbench.com
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Our boy Hiram Percy Maxim, father of the firearm suppressor, turns 150 on September 2nd! To celebrate his birthday we’re hosting a fundraising raffle in which you could win a complete suppressed rifle package that would make ole Percy blush. For the cherry on top, ASA is going to cover the tax stamp for the winner.
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