Early suppressors were created around the beginning of the 20th century by several inventors. American inventor Hiram Maxim is credited with inventing and selling the first commercially successful models circa 1902. Maxim gave his device the trademarked name Maxim Silencer. The muffler for internal combustion engines was developed in parallel with the firearm suppressor by Maxim in the early 20th century, using many of the same techniques to provide quieter-running engines. Indeed, in many European countries, automobile mufflers are still referred to as “silencers.” The proper name Silencer has since fallen out of favor with some among the firearms industry, being replaced with the more literally accurate term sound suppressor or just suppressor, because a “sound suppressor” does not “silence” any weapon, rather it eliminates muzzle flash and reduces the sonic pressure of a firearm discharging. Common usage and U.S. legislative language favor the historically earlier term, silencer. In U.S. law, the terms “firearm muffler” and “firearm silencer” are synonymous.
Suppressors were regularly used by agents of the United States Office of Strategic Services, who favored the newly designed High Standard HDM .22 Long Rifle pistol during World War II. OSS Director William Joseph “Wild Bill” Donovandemonstrated the pistol for President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House. According to OSS research chief Stanley Lovell, Donovan (an old and trusted friend of the President) was waved into the Oval Office, where Roosevelt was dictating a letter. While Roosevelt finished his message, Donovan turned his back and fired ten shots into a sandbag he had brought with him, announced what he had done and handed the smoking gun to the astonished president.