Silver-induced selective pressure is becoming increasingly important due to the growing use of silver (Ag) as an antimicrobial agent in biomedical and commercial products. With demonstrated links between environmental resistomes and clinical pathogens, it is important to identify microbial profiles related to silver tolerance/resistance. We investigated the effects of ionic Ag stress on soil bacterial communities and identified resistant/persistent bacterial populations. Silver treatments of 50–400 mg Ag kg−1 soil were established in five soils. Chemical lability measurements using diffusive gradients in thin-film devices confirmed that significant (albeit decreasing) labile Ag concentrations were present throughout the 9-month incubation period. Synchrotron X-ray absorption near edge structure spectroscopy demonstrated that this decreasing lability was due to changes in the Ag speciation to less soluble forms such as Ag0 and Ag2S. Real-time PCR and Illumina MiSeq screening of 16S rRNA bacterial genes showed β-diversity changes, increasing α-diversity in response to Ag pressure, and immediate and significant reductions in 16S rRNA gene counts with varying degrees of recovery. These effects were more strongly influenced by exposure time than by Ag dose at these rates. Ag-selected dominant OTUs principally resided in known persister taxa (mainly Gram positive), including metal-tolerant bacteria and slow-growing Mycobacteria.