David Stark on Why You Should be Shooting Subsonic Bullets

Let’s say you want to have the quietest gun possible. You’re tired of wearing ear protection, you want to minimize your signature when hunting, you don’t want to annoy your neighbors, you want to kill bad guys in the dark without being identified, or you just want a new toy that’s less noisy.

What should you do? 

Most people who know anything about guns will answer, “get a silencer,” and that’s true—silencers will significantly reduce the noise your gun makes.

You may be surprised, however, how not silent your gun is even with a silencer.

For example, a .223 or 5.56 round fired through a silencer is still loud enough it can damage your hearing and be heard a long way away. In fact, it produces about 140 decibels or “DBs” of sound, which is almost the same as a .22 Long Rifle without a silencer. For comparison, a jackhammer produces about 130 decibels of noise, and any continuous noise over 85 decibels is considered potentially dangerous to your hearing.

In other words, silencers don’t make your gun silent. 

But, you’ve probably seen YouTube videos of people shooting with silencers, and their guns are almost “hollywood quiet.”

What’s going on here? 

The missing piece of the puzzle here is your ammunition. Specifically, you need to use subsonic ammunition combined with a silencer to make your gun as quiet as possible, or even safe to use without hearing protection.

So, what the heck is a subsonic bullet, and why do they make your gun quieter?

The short answer is that a subsonic bullet is a bullet that travels below the speed of sound, which is around 1100 feet per second.

Why does this matter?

Well, without getting into the weeds of physics too much, when a bullet travels faster than the speed of sound, it creates a loud crack caused by air being pushed out of the way and compressed by the bullet as it travels to the target.

When a bullet stays below the speed of sound, though, it never creates this crack, which makes it quieter than bullets that travel faster than the speed of sound, which are referred to as supersonic bullets.

Most pistol and rifle cartridges are designed to propel the bullets to supersonic speeds, and this includes .223, .308, 9mm, 22 long rifle, and .40 smith and wesson, but you can buy specific kinds of this ammo that moves at subsonic speeds. 

This presents a number of problems, though.

Some subsonic bullets, like .223 and 9mm, are very weak and relatively ineffective at killing things. What’s more, subsonic hollow point bullets often don’t expand reliably, making them even less effective. And finally, many subsonic bullets are inaccurate, especially when fired through barrels designed to be used with supersonic ammo.

All of this is why subsonic bullets haven’t been all that popular for hunting or target shooting, and why many people even claim subsonic bullets are ineffective and unethical for killing big game.

My guest on today’s show is trying to change that. 

David Stark is the founder and owner of Discreet Ballistics, a niche ammunition company that focuses exclusively on making the best subsonic ammo in the world. 

David has spent years studying, reloading, designing, testing, and hunting with subsonic ammo for a wide variety of guns, and in this episode he’s going to break down the science of subsonic ammo.

By the end of this episode, you’ll know . . .

  • The pros and cons of using subsonic ammo
  • The unique design challenges of making accurate, lethal subsonic ammo (and why most companies fail to do so)
  • The main things you should look for in good subsonic ammo
  • The best subsonic cartridges for hunting, home defense, and more
  • How barrel twist rate and length affects the performance of subsonic ammo (and how to pick the right barrel to maximize the effectiveness of your subsonic ammo)
  • And more.

So, if you want to learn how to use subsonic ammo to create the quietest shooting experience possible, while still quickly and effectively killing your quarry, you want to listen to this episode.

Click here to check out the show on iTunes, or click the player above to listen now.

Mentioned on the Show

Discreet Ballistics

Discreet Ballistics 300 AAC Blackout 188gr Subsonic Hunting Load

Discreet Ballistics 300 AAC Blackout 190-grain Subsonic Load Target

Discreet Ballistics 308 Winchester 160-grain Subsonic Hunting Load

Discreet Ballistics 308 Winchester 190-grain Subsonic Target Load

The Definitive Guide to 300 Blackout (2019)

6mm PPC Cartridge

6mm BR Cartridge

Peregrine Bullets

Mark 7 Reloading

Dillon Super 1050 Reloading Press

Lehigh Defense 

.458 Lott Cartridge

“This is Africa” Scene from Blood Diamond


Lone Star Boars

Huey Outdoors


Sig MCX Rattler Canebrake (with 1:5 twist rate)

Maxim Defense

Honey Badger SD by Q

Honey Badger Barrel Assembly by Q

Barnes VOR-TX 110-grain 300 Blackout Ammo

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

Hodgdon Varget Powder

Thunderbeast Arms

Black Collar Arms

Pac-Nor Barrels

X-Caliber Barrels

Frederick Courteney Selous

Selous Scouts (Rhodesian Special Forces)

Q & A**: The Podcast by Q (Kevin Brittingham’s Podcast)