What Does A Gunshot Sound Like WIDEWhat Does A Gunshot Sound Like WIDE

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What Does A Gunshot Sound Like?

The tone of a gunshot ranges from high-pitched pistols, which sound like a popping balloon, to larger caliber rifles that sound more like a bomb or cannon. At any pitch, add in a quick-duration pressure wave that hits your sinuses and chest akin to the loud bass from a subwoofer. To top it off, if supersonic ammunition is being fired, expect a gunshot noise to sound like the crack of a whip. In this writeup, you’ll learn about the volume of a gunshot and how many decibels is a gunshot through published measurements of specific calibers in the gunshot decibel chart.

how many decibels is a gunshothow many decibels is a gunshot

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How Loud Is A Gunshot?

Most gunshots are louder than a fighter jet at takeoff and will cause substantial pain. In fact, it’s loud enough to cause some degree of permanent hearing loss after exposure to just a single shot. This is why it is recommended that you shoot with some form of hearing protection or with a suppressor.


What are the benefits of shooting with a suppressor? Suppressors reduce noise levels to a much safer and more comfortable level. Silencers may reduce the sound pressure by 25 to 40 dB. For comparison, let’s discuss over-the-ear hearing protection: most hearing protection has an NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) of 25 to 33 dB. Is a suppressor better than over-the-ear protection? Yes, a silencer is as good or better than traditional hearing protection (whether that's in-ear or over-the-ear). See the gunshot decibel level chart below.

How Many Decibels Is A Gunshot?

Most centerfire rifles and many centerfire pistols unsuppressed are in the range of 160 to 168 dB. According to OSHA, limited exposure to impulse (extremely short-duration) sounds, like gunshots, under 140 dB of sound pressure level will not cause hearing damage. For this reason, suppressing gunshot noise at least enough to bring the decibel level at the shooter’s ears to under 140 dB is the minimum goal of most consumer market silencers. What does “hearing safe” mean in the firearms community? Achieving a sub-140 dB sound pressure level (SPL) is what is referred to in the suppressed as “hearing safe.”


Gunshot Decibels by Caliber: Common Firearm Decibel Levels

While exact gunshot decibels by caliber ratings vary based on factors including the manufacturer of the firearm, climate, ammo, and suppressor, the below gun decibel chart is a guideline of gunshot volume unsuppressed and suppressed.



Firearm Decibel Levels

.357 Magnum revolver 

169 dB

.308 Win hunting rifle 

167 dB

5.56 NATO / .223 Rem AR-15 w/ 16-inch barrel 

165 dB

9mm pistol, e.g. GLOCK 17 

162 dB

12 Gauge shotgun 

161 dB

.22 LR pistol 

157 dB

.22 LR rifle firing subsonic ammo (e.g. CCI Standard Velocity) 

140 dB



Firearm Decibel Levels

.308 Win hunting rifle 

134 dB

5.56 NATO / .223 Rem AR-15 w/ 16-inch barrel 

136 dB

9mm pistol, e.g. GLOCK 17 

124 dB

.22 LR pistol 

118 dB

.22 LR rifle 

113 dB



If you have never heard a gunshot in real life, imagine a balloon pop that’s so loud it causes pain and, depending on your proximity, potential hearing damage. Unsuppressed gunshot noise is heard, it’s felt, and it’s dynamic as the supersonic crack of the bullet rips downrange. 


When you're using a silencer, much of the gunshot sound volume and nearly all of the concussion – that overpressure wave thump that hits your sinuses and chest – is eliminated and utilizing a suppressor substantially improves your shooting experience.