Silencers (aka suppressors) usually receive some goosing up in the physics department when they’re used in fiction. But what about the old pillow-as-silencer trope? Is there any truth to that?
Short answer: no. Pillows do a bad job of containing the explosive gases released by a gunshot. Hell, they can barely contain snoring.
Here’s an excellent video demonstrating this with live ammo, different types of pillows and a decibel meter.
For some perspective, here’s a decibel scale from OSHA. Even with the pillows, the gunshots in the video surpassed the noise made from an airplane taking off.
Also, despite what the movie Postal might suggest, cats don’t make for effective silencers/suppressors, either. Not even the fluffy ones.
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The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books) comes with everything but the ammo. Pick up a print or digital copy from these fine retailers: