PI­LOTS, FROGMEN, AND SPIES

THE KNIGHT’S ARMAMENT XM-9, SNAP-ON SI­LENCER

Recoil - - Contents - BY DAVE MER­RILL

The Knight’s Armament XM-9, Snap-On Si­lencer

Back when The A-Team and Knight Rider were still must-see TV, Knight’s Armament was work­ing on some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. The com­mon name would be the Snap-On, but the of­fi­cial name when is­sued would be the XM-9. Ul­ti­mately, 3,800 KAC Snap-On cans were pur­chased by the U.S. Air Force for use for pi­lot es­cape and eva­sion kits in case they were downed in en­emy ter­ri­tory, and also for Air Force Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions teams. An in­de­ter­mi­nate num­ber also went to the U.S. Army — and prob­a­bly more than one clan­des­tine ser­vice still has a hand­ful in their in­ven­tory. While it’s no longer the lat­est and great­est in si­lencer tech­nol­ogy, it still holds a spe­cial place both in our hearts and in his­tory.

DE­SIGN

The up­grade to the Frog­man 1960s Hush Puppy, Snap-Ons were ini­tially de­vel­oped as a thread-on–type sup­pres­sor that we com­monly see to­day. The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion fea­tured a lock­ing gate-latch that was truly quick-at­tach when us­ing a bar­rel ma­chined specif­i­cally for this pur­pose. We’re told this ta­per pin mech­a­nism was the baby of then-KAC en­gi­neer John An­der­son.

The de­sign of the Snap-On is fairly rudi­men­tary by mod­ern stan­dards, but re­mem­ber, we cur­rently stand on the shoul­ders of gi­ants. The ma­jor­ity of the si­lencer it­self is ded­i­cated to a large gas ex­pan­sion cham­ber, and then the pro­jec­tile runs through a se­ries of polyurethane wipes and spac­ers. As each bul­let passes through the wipe, the wipe seals gases be­hind it — at least un­til they wear out. We’ve seen many con­fig­u­ra­tions of Snap-On wipes, from sim­ple small aper­tures to cross­cuts, to straight-up make-yourown-hole-with-a-bul­let. Quite hon­estly, the lat­ter works very well.

The wipe and spacer assem­bly con­sists of seven (or eight!) PU wipes with two sep­a­rate spac­ers. Wipes are cer­tainly con­sum­able items, and their longevity de­pends on the am­mu­ni­tion used and the rate of fire achieved. While one could just dis­as­sem­ble the Snap-On and repack with wipes af­ter they wear out, the de­sign of the SnapOn al­lows you to just swap out the wipe and spacer assem­bly right in the field if need be.

We’re not en­tirely con­vinced it was a co­in­ci­dence that the wipe size of the Gemtech Au­rora, the suc­ces­sor to the Snap-On, shared the ex­act same di­men­sions. If you hap­pen to own both, this is quite a boon. Let’s just say we were more than happy to dis­cover this.

SIGHTS

The di­men­sions of the Snap-On make it wide and squat, with a di­am­e­ter bulging at 1.5 inches and sit­ting a hair be­low 5.5 inches in length. You’re not go­ing to be able to uti­lize mod­ern sup­pres­sor-height sights very well, let alone those on a stock 92F with the Snap-On mounted. But KAC had a so­lu­tion: Mount the sights di­rectly to the si­lencer.

The top of the rear gate-latch mech­a­nism serves as a rear sight, and a sim­ple bead is threaded in place for use as a front sight.

SLIDE-LOCK

While this mod­i­fied Beretta 92F wasn’t any­where close to be­ing the only pis­tol at the time equipped with a slide­lock, it’s prob­a­bly among the last, if not the last. From our mod­ern per­spec­tive, a slide-lock seems to only serve one pur­pose: to have a shot as quiet as pos­si­ble — no ac­tion noise, no ejec­tion port ex­haust, no ejec­tion port flame. How­ever, they were ini­tially de­vel­oped for a dif­fer­ent rea­son en­tirely.

Some­thing that we take for granted with mod­ern pis­tol si­lencers is the near uni­ver­sal use of a so- called Neilsen De­vice or muz­zle booster. Th­ese re­coil boost­ers were ini­tially used on Vick­ers and Maxim ma­chine­guns in the early 20th cen­tury, but many years later found use in sup­pressed pis­tols. Since si­lencers add weight to the muz­zle of a pis­tol, they can cause cy­cling mal­func­tions; a Neilsen De­vice tem­po­rar­ily un­cou­ples the weight of the si­lencer when fir­ing and al­lows for con­sis­tent, sup­pressed, semi-auto fire from a tilt-bar­rel ac­tion firearm. While the Beretta 92F doesn’t uti­lize such a mech­a­nism, many other pis­tols do. A slide-lock al­lowed for a quiet shot, as well as en­sur­ing cy­cling mal­func­tions weren’t present when us­ing a si­lencer. Once Mickey Finn of Qual-A-Tec pop­u­lar­ized the use of a Neilsen de­vice with pis­tol sup­pres­sors, slide-locks went the way of the di­nosaur.

In fact, in the early ’90s, when the U.S. Gov­ern­ment was de­vel­op­ing the Mk23 Of­fen­sive Hand­gun Weapon Sys­tem (OHWS), the first so­lic­i­ta­tion re­quired a slide-lock to be in­cor­po­rated. How­ever, with si­lencer tech­nol­ogy im­prov­ing at a rapid pace and re­coil boost­ers be­com­ing more com­mon, the up­dated gov­ern­ment so­lic­i­ta­tion re­moved the slide-lock re­quire­ment en­tirely.

AT THE RANGE

Knight’s Armament dis­played their Snap-On with a box of Su­per

Vel 147-grain sub­sonic 9mm, the am­mu­ni­tion for which it was in­tended. Not hav­ing any of that on hand, we opted to use both Is­raeli 158-grain sub­sonic and 165-grain Free­dom Mu­ni­tions sub­sonic for our pur­poses.

The ac­cu­racy was, hmm, rus­tic. What you have to keep in mind is that each pro­jec­tile is pass­ing through more than three-quar­ters of an inch of polyurethane be­fore it ex­its the si­lencer. Cou­pled with the fact that the rear sight lit­er­ally moves ev­ery time the si­lencer is mounted, and you get some fairly in­con­sis­tent shifts. But let’s be real here: This was never in­tended to be an Olympic tar­get setup. Groups at 20 feet had sig­nif­i­cantly less shift than those at 30 but were still quite a bit to the right. Hey, this is one of the rea­sons wipe-only cans went out of style.

That and the fact you can’t use any sort of hol­low point or ex­pand­ing am­mu­ni­tion, un­less for some rea­son you want a guar­an­teed end­cap strike.

When uti­liz­ing su­per­sonic am­mu­ni­tion, which ab­so­lutely de­grades the wipes much faster, we hit con­sis­tently high.

Speak­ing of sights, we found the stacked sights to be rather op­ti­cally con­fus­ing at first. When bring­ing the Beretta 92F equipped with a KAC Snap-On to bear, you’re pre­sented with two to­tally dis­tinct sight pic­tures — the stan­dard (blocked by the can), and then the ones you’re sup­posed to use right on top.

What we were very pleas­antly sur­prised with was the func­tion of the slide-lock. As pre­vi­ously men­tioned, the slide-lock al­lows for the qui­etest shot pos­si­ble, be­cause all ac­tion noise and ejec­tion port ex­haust is elim­i­nated. Af­ter ev­ery shot with the slide-lock in place, it au­to­mat­i­cally dropped down from the slide and al­lowed for a very quick and ef­fi­cient rack/eject/load. Some time was cer­tainly spent with the de­sign of this one.

LOOSE ROUNDS

In the year 2000, Ad­vanced Armament Corp re­leased their own ver­sion of the Snap-On. While it shared the same at­tach­ment mech­a­nism, in­stead of a re­place­able wipe pack, they rocked stan­dard baf­fles. It was also con­sid­er­ably longer than the Knight’s ver­sion. Trade-offs with ev­ery­thing.

While the Knight’s Armament SnapOn is far from a mod­ern-day pis­tol

sup­pres­sor, it holds an im­por­tant place in the his­tory of si­lencer de­vel­op­ment. Look­ing back, you can’t help but feel like you’re look­ing at pho­tos of your­self back in mid­dle school; You can rec­og­nize your­self, but you dressed re­ally awk­wardly.

Knight’s broke out their old tool­ing (or maybe checked a dusty ware­house) and of­fered up 188 si­lencer/bar­rel com­bos for $1,999.95 each, and a mere 19 full kits as you see here for $8,684.12 a pop. De­spite the

Snap - On and Beretta slide-lock be­ing dated, there are ver y few that wouldn’t be more than proud to have one in their col­lec­tion.

The ma­jor­ity of the Snap-On is ded­i­cated to a gas ex­pan­sion cham­ber.Stacked sights def­i­nitely take someget­ting used to.

The am­bidex­trous slide-lock is ver y easy to lock and un­lock, even with gloved hands.

With su­person­ics, we were con­sis­tently high at 20 feet, and con­sis­tently right with subs. Nei­ther grouped ver y well.

The A AC ver­sion of the Snap-On was skin­nier, but con­sid­er­ably longer than the orig­i­nal.

Be­low you see the con­tents of the en­tire kit, ammo and all.

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