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How Loud is a Gunshot in Decibels (dB)? What You Need To Know!

guns

Not all guns produce the same amount of noise. While you should always wear hearing protection to protect your hearing, some guns are more likely to injure it than others. It will also depend on the type of accessories on your guns. For instance, a silencer can make guns much quieter (though they will never make them silent).

A .22 rifle is likely one of the quietest guns at 140 dB. However, even this can cause permanent hearing loss and physical pain. With certain types of ammo, it may be even louder.

All sounds are measured in dB. A 10 dB rating is ten times louder than silence, while a 20 dB rating would be ten times that. Therefore, 20 dB is 100 times louder than silence. You can see how 140 dB would be a lot. (If you want to get specific, it would be 100,000,000,000,000 times louder than silence.)

Because the sound of each gun depends largely on the type of gun, here is a quick chart with some of the most popular guns out there:

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Overview of Gunshot Noises

Gun Decibel Rating
Remington 700 LTR 167 dB
AR-15, 16” Barrel 165 dB
Remington 870 12 gauge 164 dB
Glock G17 9mm Pistol 162 dB
Walther P22 .22LR 157 dB
Ruger 10/22 .22R Rifle 140 dB
Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun 97 dB

Suppressors can make a gun much quieter but they will not make it silent. Even with a suppressor, most guns will be over 100 dB. In fact, many of these suppressed guns will still be loud enough to cause hearing damage. However, it is much easier to get guns underneath the safe range with a suppressor and ear protection.

Without a suppressor, it is vital that you have quality ear protection to prevent hearing damage. Not all ear protection is designed to withstand the loudest guns, which can leave you with hearing protection.

How Loud Is a Gunshot Without Hearing Protection?

A good rule of thumb is that no gun is safe without hearing protection. Even the smallest gun is 140 dB without a suppressor or other accessories. Therefore, you should always wear hearing protection. Many people will not experience pain with a small .22 rifle but these guns can still cause hearing damage over time, especially in children.

Some people who have been around gunfire may not wear hearing protection because they are “used to it.” However, they have in reality, lost their hearing! While this isn’t necessarily a problem, you cannot get your hearing back after you have lost it!

Gun Ear Protection
Image Credit: Pablò, Unsplash

How Quiet Do Suppressors Make Guns?

Unlike the movies, suppressors do not make guns very quiet in the least. While using a suppressor does make guns a bit more manageable, it does not make them silent. In some cases, a suppressor will drive the gun’s sound underneath the level needed for hearing damage.

However, you can still hear most guns from a decent range away. Most will sound about as loud as a car or motorcycle, for instance, and they are not quiet in the least.

While you may see secret agents sneaking around with suppressed guns in movies, this would not work in real life. Someone in the same house would absolutely hear a suppressed gun go off. In fact, the neighbors would likely be able to hear it too.

For some larger, louder guns, a suppressor will not drive their sound level under 140 dB. Therefore, you still often need to wear hearing protection with many suppressed guns. When in doubt, wearing hearing protection is often the way to go.

How Far Away Can You Hear a Gunshot?

How far the sound of a gunshot travels depends on the type of gun. Louder guns will obviously be heard further away. Therefore, there is no exact distance we can provide.

Most guns will be heard about a mile away, depending on the conditions. Some shotgun ammunition can be heard as far as 2 miles away and sometimes, the loudest guns can be heard even further away than that.

When you put a silencer on a gun, you do reduce the distance that the sound travels but in many cases, you’ll still be able to hear the gun from about half a mile away. Even the quietest guns equipped with a powerful suppressor will be heard from 60 meters away.

For the most part, suppressors are used to minimize the possibility of hearing damage. However, they are not going to prevent alerting others to the gunshot.

How Loud is a Gunshot Inside?

When you’re inside, some of the sounds get reflected back at you so guns shot indoors will be much louder than those shot outdoors. You’ll need better hearing protection for this reason. Some ranges may also have rules on the type of guns you can shoot, which may be partly because of the potential for hearing damage.

With that said, there is no easy rule for how loud a gunshot will be inside. It depends on the material in the walls. For instance, a concrete-walled range will be much louder than shooting a gun inside your home, as more of the sound waves will bounce back.

Sometimes, indoor shooting will make guns so loud that even the best hearing protection cannot combat the increased sound. Some gun owners use suppressors to help lessen the sound, which can help it get within the safe range.

How to Select Hearing Protection?

Anytime you shoot a gun, you’ll need to use hearing protection but not just any hearing protection will work. You need to ensure that it is rated to prevent hearing damage when met with the dB level your gun creates.

To determine the rating of hearing protection, you should check your hearing protection’s NRR. Most hearing protection should have this rating on the box, so you should be able to see the NRR level before you purchase it.

Most earmuffs and earplugs offer an NRR of 15-33. Of course, those at the higher end of this range are better. If you’re shooting indoors, you want at least a rating of 28 NRR.

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Conclusion

Guns can be extremely loud. All guns can harm your hearing—even with a suppressor. Therefore, using hearing protection is vital to prevent permanent hearing loss. Even if the gun doesn’t “feel” too loud, you should wear hearing protection any time you are near one.

To prevent hearing damage, you may need to purchase a suppressor. This is especially true for those that shoot at indoor ranges, which are even louder.

The exact dB rating of your firearm may vary. Certain guns usually have a small range of variability depending on the conditions. However, accessories and even altitude can also affect the sound rating of a firearm.


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