Earlier this year I had been in contact with Simon Lawrence of Lawrence Precision Moderators and having expressed an interest in his range of titanium sound moderators he kindly offered for me to try one out. The main reason for my interest was finding a moderator for my stainless synthetic Sako 85 in .30-06. It is a light rifle so kicks a bit, has a relatively short (for .30-06) 20” barrel and to further compound the issue my favourite load for it makes use of a relatively slow burning powder (H4350). The result of all this is that, even with a moderator, my rifle is a bit of a boomer!
I had until now been using a Wildcat Predator 8 moderator which had done the job adequately but having used the rifle several times for driven boar without a moderator I had started to become slightly resentful of the bulk the moderator added to what was otherwise a light and pointy rifle. Shooting it without a moderator for deer stalking wasn’t really an option for me either. Having to wear hearing protection whilst stalking isn’t ideal and the recoil without the moderator, whilst manageable, is enough to make watching/assessing the bullet strike impossible.
So I found myself looking for a less bulky moderator that could equal the sound attenuation and build quality of my current Wildcat Predator 8. Sound moderation is always a compromise to an extent. You can’t moderate the sound of the shot without adding weight and I had always assumed that in order to moderate my .30-06 to a level acceptable to me I needed the physical size and volume of something like the Predator 8.
After a long discussion with Simon on the telephone he assured me he could equal and most likely better the sound attenuation with a smaller, lighter moderator made of titanium and that I should come up to see him and discuss the option in more detail. So the following weekend I duly set off to Nottingham with my trusty .30-06 to see what could be done.
The first thing that struck me about Simon was that he is passionate about what he does, and that he is carrying his experience of design and materials in the Aerospace industry over to his products. Coming from an Aerospace and Defence background myself I know that this is a very sound basis for a product as this industry is one of the largest drivers of innovation and bringing this over to sporting firearms, where things have traditionally moved more slowly can only be a good thing.
The second thing that struck me, after a tour of his set up, was that he was equipped to actually make these products. Few people have top spec, CNC lathe and milling machines set up like this in the UK gun industry.
It is worth noting that Simon is also working on moderators for current defence applications and as such R&D is bang up to date.
Lawrence Precision’s current range is based around 3 core models of reflex style moderator – the Aurora (smallest), Nexus and Eclipse (largest). After a discussion about which would be the best option for me and voicing my concerns about the amount of fire and brimstone that appears to come out of the end of my rifle , it was really between the Nexus and the Eclipse and holding an Eclipse up against the Predator 8 and seeing that even though it was the largest of the three it was still considerably slimmer and shorter than the Predator 8 made up my mind. I would have the quieter option whilst still being satisfied that I was ahead on size and weight already!
What Simon in fact offered to do was an Eclipse Compact (i.e some of the length was taken off) but with some extra baffles to maximise attenuation. I am told that this configuration IS now the standard Eclipse Compact.
The moderators themselves are precision machined and assembled and although they can be stripped down by Simon they are not meant to be disassembled by the end user (you and I). Being used to stripping down the Predator 8 and cleaning it myself I was initially a bit surprised by this, however the idea of these moderators is that they are meant to be maintenance free. Powder residue from centrefire cartridges does not adhere much to Titanium and the result of this that you need do nothing to them. It is however vital you don’t spray oil or anything into them – it’s not needed and all it does is cause the powder residue to turn into a paste inside. So the maintenance regime is quite easy really…. You do nothing but give the outside a wipe with an oily cloth every now and then to keep it looking clean and new. I decided I could live with that!
In terms of finish there are three options, bead blasted, matt black and a deep blued finish. Being titanium, coatings are harder to apply than steel so the matt black and deep blued finishes attract a higher cost. For me, the bead blasted finish matches the factory Sako stainless barrel perfectly so that is what I opted for.
Having decided on the moderator all that was left for me to do was to go and get a variation whilst Simon made the moderator. A week later the moderator was done…… and I was still waiting for the variation! Another couple of weeks later, armed with my variation, I set off back to Nottingham to collect and fit the new moderator!
The first thing that Simon checked was the threads on my barrel. For those who don’t know, Simon really is a perfectionist when it comes to threads. Unless the thread on your rifle is true and within spec then you can’t expect the moderator to mount true to the bore. If your thread doesn’t meet the grade then Simon can recut and crown your barrel to his exacting standards. When he does this, trust me, the moderator will go onto the thread so perfectly and with such little friction or movement it feels like a bearing! As it happened, my factory thread was slightly undersized but was adequate. Tempted though I was to have Simon recut it I really didn’t want to lose any barrel length as it is already on the short side for the calibre so I opted it leave it as is, as it was at least true to the bore.
The next step is to make a bushing for the over-barrel end of the moderator. An accurate measurement is taken of the outer barrel diameter, is punched into the CNC lathe and two minutes later a bushing made of aerospace bearing grade plastic comes out, with a perfect radius on the outer edge so it is less likely to mark the barrel when you slide it on. The bushing was screwed into the moderator and the moderator was test fitted to the rifle and then I was good to go!
The first and most striking impression was that it looks great! The finish and build quality is excellent and it looks really good on my rifle. The second was the rifle feels and handles so much better. The Eclipse is the largest & quietest Lawrence Precision offer, is just over 200g less than the Predator 8 it replaces and is less end-heavy. Yes, it still adds weight to the end of the barrel, yes there are aluminium offerings out there which weigh less… But this is about compromise and my own requirements remember…For me this is offset by the sound attenuation, build quality and longevity. It won’t gas cut, it won’t corrode and is warranted to last a lifetime!
Lawrence Precision Eclipse Compact Compared to Wildcat Predator 8
A big problem with sound in general, particularly when it comes to sound moderators, is that it is so subjective. People hear bangs differently and there are so many variables. I decided that the only way I could possibly test this thing objectively was to try a Predator 8 and then the new Eclipse Compact, back to back, same range, same rifle, same ammo, getting perspective of the shooter and the perspective of an onlooker.
So with the kind assistance of an SD member who lent me his range and acted as cameraman we did just that. Fire one round with the Predator 8, fire another round with the Eclipse Compact…. And film it.
It’s difficult to capture sound difference on video because recording equipment clips the peaks off, but you can still hear the difference – listen also to the volume of the echo coming back. You will have to trust me when I say the difference in the flesh is striking! The perceived volume of the bang is significantly less and the whole profile of the bang has changed from boom to just a supersonic crack. In short I am extremely pleased with the level of sound attenuation.
So, happy with the way it looks, feels and performs I had one last test and that was accuracy. All this was great so far, but no use to me if it ruins the accuracy of my rifle… well as this post is getting too long already I’ll just let the picture do the talking…
At this point it is probably worth covering a few points that will most likely get asked…
Regarding Titanium – it has excellent physical characteristics for this sort of application. It doesn’t rust, it doesn’t corrode, it doesn’t get gas cut, powder debris doesn’t stick to it and it makes an excellent pressure vessel. It does get hot quickly after only a couple of shots, particularly if your rifle is a muzzle blaster. BUT, it has very good thermal conductivity – it will cool down again quickly and it will sink heat away from your barrel so although the moderator will be radiating a lot of heat off it will not cause your accuracy to suffer any more than usual , and is actually moving the heat away.
Thermal expansion is slightly different to steel but it won’t jam on your barrel, neither should it get loose so long as your threads are in good order, and does not shift zero when hot.
Cost – It’s no secret that titanium is expensive and precision engineering requires expensive tooling and equipment so neither is it a surprise that these moderators are slightly more expensive than other offerings out there. Not much I can say about this other than, like quality optics, like quality anything, you buy the best your budget will allow and you offset your decision against how much life you expect to get from it. In this case I have no doubt that this moderator is going to last! I am pleased with the weight and the performance so as far as I am concerned it will be with me for the foreseeable!
So anyway, this has gone on long enough and this is a stalking site so there was one thing left to do and that was christen it…
More details on Lawrence Precision can be found the website here: Titanium Sound Moderators for the Discerning | Lawrence Precision