World's First Integrally Surpressed Pistol
God forbid, but if you ever have to use a firearm in a home-defense scenario, your short- or even long-term hearing might be a secondary concern. But what if it need not be a concern at all? What if your hearing were maintained to identify further threats, verbally interact with assailants to possibly de-escalate the situation and/or communicate with family members and 911 personnel?
That would all be possible if you could have a suppressed pistol with which to defend yourself and your loved ones—one that would handle all sorts of different ammunition, was very accurate, used standard-capacity magazines and was chambered in a highly effective handgun round—the 9 mm. And, one that was also handy enough to maneuver in a tight spaces. There is such a pistol: the integrally suppressed SilencerCo Maxim 9 semi-automatic.
I saw my first photo of the SilencerCo Maxim 9 about two years ago, a prototype, actually, though it looked pretty much the same as today’s revamped Maxim 9. My initial reaction: “Judge Dredd” (1995) and his character’s “Lawgiver” machine pistol.
I’d made a mistake here. By associating the Maxim 9 with a sci-fi film, what I’d inadvertently done was minimize the reality and potential of the Maxim 9. Because, if it’s a movie prop knock-off, you can’t take it seriously. Gimmicky. Funky looking. Might even sell, but not something of real merit.
Then I had two solid days of shooting the SilencerCo Maxim 9, with a variety of 9 mm ammunition, as well as the chance to talk with the people at SilencerCo who designed and built this handgun. I came away from the experience knowing that the Maxim 9 is a fine pistol, one that can hit the small spots on a target, up close and also at some distance.
It’s a solid choice for home defense, and has real applications as a concealed-carry firearm. It’s also possible the Maxim 9 or something like it will be carried by officers in various law enforcement agencies, too. (Agencies that want to limit the money they are paying out to officers who have damaged their hearing from shooting unsuppressed service weapons.)
And the SilencerCo Maxim 9 does all that suppressed, rendering muzzle blast well below the 140-dB threshold that can damage your hearing (with most 9 mm ammunition), and allows better communication between shooters. The pistol isn’t perfect, and it has its own learning curve. But it comes with a whole lot of pluses.
The difficulties involved in shipping a suppressed firearm across the country being what they are, I had to go to the gun. That happened in July 2017, when I traveled to Salt Lake City, UT, and the SilencerCo facility to spend time using and evaluating the pistol. Made in-house, the Maxim 9 was already shipping to Class III dealers across the country. I was given a nearly new Maxim 9 to test, and after a brief tour of the facility, headed out to put rounds downrange.
I tested SilencerCo Maxim 9 accuracy from two distances using two different shooting positions: 7 yards standing, offhand; and, 25 yards, sitting and firing from a sandbagged rest. Initially, I spent several magazines just getting a feel for the Maxim 9, especially learning the trigger on this striker-fired pistol. It’s a straight trigger, no curve, but installed at an angle. It also has a built-in trigger-safety lever. And the trigger itself is longer than most triggers I can remember using.
There is a potential problem for a new user: the tendency of the pad of your index finger to slide up the trigger as you are pressing rearward. The trigger’s angle invites that potential for finger movement. But, the higher up your finger pad goes—even though you are engaging and pushing back on the safety lever—the stiffer the trigger pull becomes, so much so that accurate, consistent shooting can be difficult.
Once I learned to keep my finger pad on the lower half of the trigger, I was fine. To me, the SilencerCo Maxim 9’s trigger feels like a stiffer version of the trigger on a full-size Glock, with a longer pull before the striker releases the firing pin.
Yet, given the accuracy achieved with the Maxim 9, I’d have to say the trigger was quite workable. My Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge measured its pull at an average of 5.44 pounds.
Of course, the balance of the SilencerCo Maxim 9 is different from most pistols, given the integral can and the pistol’s 10.75-inch overall length in the full-length configuration. (The suppressor can be shortened. More on that later.) At 37 ounces in the long configuration, it doesn’t weigh as much as you might expect—and much of the weight is at the rear, as the suppressor shell is made of lightweight aluminum.
Once I felt comfortable with the pistol, I began accuracy testing at 7 yards with Bad Guy targets. I was extremely impressed. Now, I pulled some shots, and a time or two I was sure my sight picture was right on, yet the bullet went a couple inches astray.
For the 25-yard testing, I in-stalled a Trijicon RMR optic on the SilencerCo Maxim 9. This was an easy switch-out, as the pistol comes drilled and tapped for a variety of adapter plates. Simply remove the red dot cover plate located atop the slide and forward of the ejection port, mount the adapter plate and secure the optic.
Credit that accuracy to at least two factors. First, the Maxim 9 has a fixed barrel. Most semi-autos employ a tilting-barrel design, with the barrel moving as the slide comes back. Even with a tight lockup, the barrel can shift a bit from shot to shot, affecting accuracy, even if only slightly. With the Maxim 9’s fixed barrel, though, there’s no change in alignment.
Second, the Maxim 9’s sight radius is long, and a longer sight radius makes for more accurate shooting. In the full-length mode, the Maxim 9’s sight radius is a full 10 inches, and 8.75 inches in the short configuration (with a section of the suppressor removed).
The SilencerCo Maxim 9’s sights, by the way, are fixed and easy to pick up for closer shots. But, like many pistols, the sights obscure your target at distances beyond 15 yards or so. That was why I switched over to sighting with a Trijicon RMR at 25 yards for accuracy testing.
SilencerCo’s data on the Maxim 9 indicates the pistol is hearing-safe with all standard 9 mm ammunition, “up to +P+ in the standard [long] configuration.” In the shorter configuration, “only subsonic ammunition of 147 grains or heavier weight should be used” for hearing-safe shooting. To test this, a number of rounds were fired without hearing protection employed. This was, of course, performed on an outdoor range, as all indoor shooting still required hearing protection for the sake of comfort.
The two subsonic rounds produced the least noise, as you’d expect, with the full-power 9 mm noticeably louder. This was especially true of the Federal HST, which is a +P load. Still, no ringing in my ears, even with the HST. Recoil was minimal, especially the subsonic brands.
I also spent time taking apart and reassembling the SilencerCo Maxim 9 starting with the suppressor. Using the Allen wrench provided with the pistol, I unscrewed the rods running through the front cap of the suppressor and removed them. The front cap then came off, and the suppressor baffles were pulled apart and removed.
At this point, the stainless-steel baffles and the aluminum outer shell can be cleaned of any carbon buildup.
If you want to have the pistol in the shorter configuration, you remove the longer rods and suppressor cap as described above. Then, replace the long guide rods with the shorter versions (provided), reassemble the suppressor without baffles two and three, close it up with the short configuration suppressor cap (also provided), and tighten the rods. In this mode, the pistol is slightly more than an inch shorter.
I fired the SilencerCo Maxim 9 in the short configuration with the HUSH subsonic loads. Recoil was minimally increased, and the noise seemed right at the point where I’d want ear protection, yet my ears didn’t ring or feel muffled afterward.
To fieldstrip the action, first depress recoil-rod retainer button at the rear of the slide. While it is depressed, lift the recoil-lever rod atop the slide and just beyond the top of the ejection port. Release the recoil-rod button and pull the slide to the rear, lifting up when the slide is about halfway back. The slide should remove completely.
At this point, you can clean the frame rails and disconnectors, as well as the outer surfaces of the action with a good CLP, and use a wire brush to clean out the barrel. You can also take apart the firing-pin assembly, and remove the trigger assembly from the frame. That’s all more complicated, of course, and SilencerCo only recommends such a full cleaning between 500 and 1,000 rounds.
While the SilencerCo Maxim 9 is clearly suitable for use as a home-defense pistol and can be easily open-carried, can it be used for concealed carry? A couple of SilencerCo employees told me they carried it inside their waistbands, in both the long and short configurations, and the pistol rode very comfortably.
When I was at the SilencerCo facility, the first holsters were just arriving. There were two outside-the-waistband holsters and they fit comfortably enough. I also tried on the shoulder holster and that was the one, I felt, with the most applicability for concealed carry, at least when wearing a jacket or coat. The flat-sided Maxim 9 fit nicely between the inside of my arm and the side of my chest, and holsters for this odd-shape pistol are available on the company’s website.
More holsters are being rolled out by various accessory manufacturers, including concealed-carry variants. For example, Galco has already produced an outside-the-waistband holster for the Maxim 9 in both the long and short version of the pistol.
A brief word regarding the purchase process for the SilencerCo Maxim 9, which is obviously not the same as for a normal handgun: You will need to find a Class III dealer, reserve the pistol, fill out an ATF Form 4, get CLEO sign off (depending on your jurisdiction), get fingerprinted and photographed, pay a $200 tax and then wait for the ATF to approve the transfer. It’s worth the hassle.
The plain truth is the Maxim 9 is new and quite different looking, what SilencerCo President Josh Waldron terms, “Disruptive by Design.” These realities may be off-putting to many shooters. So be it. Others will appreciate the novel design and ground-breaking technology. In any case, the pistol works fine, is accurate and protects your hearing.
The SilencerCo Maxim 9 also represents something we haven’t seen a lot of recently: something truly unique in the firearm industry that pushes boundaries, something from which all of us—the industry, firearm enthusiasts and hard-core shooters—can greatly benefit.