Gunfire Noise Level Reference Chart

Download Gunfire Noise Level Flyer–PDF (154k).

Below we have listed critical data describing peak sound pressure levels produced by firearms used in shooting and hunting sports.

A serious byproduct of this exposure is sensory-neural hearing loss, which cannot be restored to normal. With the introduction of MUZZLE BRAKES and PORTING, the risks of hearing loss dramatically increase.

Use this chart as a reference guide for promoting the need of using adequate hearing protection.

Notations

Keep in mind that conversational speech is approximately 60-65 dB, and the threshold of pain is considered to be 140 dB.

According to Dr. William Clark, Ph.D. senior research scientist in charge of the NOISE LABORATORY at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, the damage caused by one shot from a .357 magnum pistol, which can expose a shooter to 165 dB for 2msec, is equivalent to over 40 hours in a noisy workplace.

Dr. Krammer, Ph.D., Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana has documented the following pressure levels.

Table-1-SHOTGUN-NOISE-DATA-DECIBEL-AVERAGES

.410 Bore28" barrel150dB
26" barrel150.25dB
18 1/2" barrel156.30dB
20 Gauge28" barrel152.50dB
22" barrel154.75dB
12 Gauge28" barrel151.50dB
26" barrel156.10dB
18 1/2" barrel161.50dB

Dr. Krammer continues to say that shotgun noise averaged slightly more that 150dB. This is approximately 14dB beyond the threshold of pain, and more than sufficient to cause acoustic trauma.

Table-2-CENTERFIRE-RIFLE-DATA

.223, 55GR. Commercial load 18 1/2" barrel155.5dB
.243 in 22" barrel155.9dB
.30-30 in 20" barrel156.0dB
7mm Magnum in 20" barrel157.5dB
.308 in 24" barrel156.2dB
.30-06 in 24" barrel158.5dB
.30-06 in 18 1/2" barrel163.2dB

Krammer adds that sound pressure levels for the various pistols and ammunition tested yielded an average mean of 157.5 dB, which is greater than those previously shown for shotgun and rifle noise levels.

There was also a greater range, from 152.4dB to 164.5dB, representing 12 dB difference, or more than 10 time as much acoustic energy for the top end of the pistol spectrum. It should be noticed that this figure of 164.5 dB approaches the practical limit of impulse noise measurement capability inherent in most modern sound level meters.

Table-3-CENTERFIRE-PISTOL-DATA-2019-10-29.csv

.25 ACP155.0 dB
.32 LONG152.4 dB
.32 ACP153.5 dB
.380157.7 dB
9mm159.8 dB
.38 S&W153.5 dB
.38 Spl156.3 dB
.357 Magnum164.3 dB
.41 Magnum163.2 dB
.44 Spl155.9 dB
.45 ACP157.0 dB
.45 COLT154.7 dB

The above averages are for all types of ammunition used in these firearms, and should be considered fairly representative. No wonder we hear numerous reports about hearing loss as a result of firearms including acoustic traumas that take hearing completely as a result of one shot. Imagine what the noise levels must be when we incorporate muzzle brakes or porting into firearms, or have a gun explode near the ear due to malfunction.

OUR WARNING IS SIMPLE AND IS IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF EACH SHOOTER. AS THE SOUND PRESSURES INCREASE, SO DOES THE RISK OF PERMANENT HEARING LOSS.

IF YOU INCORPORATE A PROCEDURE INTO YOUR SHOOTING THAT INCREASES THE SOUND LEVEL, YOU ALSO INCREASE THE RISK OF HEARING LOSS TO YOURSELF AND POSSIBLY THOSE WHO STAND NEAR YOU. BE SURE TO USE ADEQUATE EAR PROTECTION WHEN USING A FIREARM AND BE CAREFUL OF THOSE NEARBY.

LAWSUITS HAVE ALREADY BEEN RECOGNIZED FOR GUNFIRE NOISE THAT HAS RESULTED IN HEARING LOSS.

ALWAYS CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL AUDIOLOGIST, OTOLOGIST, OR OTOLARYNGOLOGIST WITH YOUR HEARING PROBLEMS.

Hearing loss is not fun and can be prevented.