How Loud is a Gunshot?

How Loud is a gunshot?

ISOtunes Sport Team / Published: Apr-06-2021

Just how loud is a gunshot? Let’s take a look at some comparisons and popular shooting calibers to understand shooting sound. levels

The average adult tends to experience pain and discomfort at a level of sound around 120 dB. Pain is a relative figure and obviously varies by person, but medical experts agree noise around that level is unhealthy. For comparison sake, common chainsaws operate around 110 dB, while 140 dB is about the same noise level as a typical rock concert. Think of the last time you trimmed trees or the last time you were at a live concert. Do you remember your ears ringing for a period of time after it was done? That’s called Tinnitus. It happens when we’ve been exposed to unhealthy levels of sound long enough that the tiny, ultra-sensitive hair cells in our ears are damaged.

Unprotected time at the gun range can result in a similar experience. You should consider wearing hearing protection anytime you’ll be around gunshots, even if it’s just one shot, but especially if you’re in an environment where multiple shots will be heard. Even in hunting situations where the occasional shot is fired, one should consider wearing hearing protection to ensure no permanent hearing loss.

But why is that the case? Just how loud is a gunshot? Depending on the caliber of the firearm, most gunshots will register around 150-170 dB. At these levels, hearing damage can occur quickly. It’s also worth pointing out the proximity to our ears when shooting. Shouldering up against a shotgun or rifle places these ultra-loud noises very close to our ears. Handguns aren’t much better, moving the gunshot noise just 2-3 feet from our ears. It’s no surprise then that hearing damage can begin to occur in just one shot without protection.


what are the sound levels for various calibers?

Caliber Decibel Output (dB)

.223 / 5.56

155 dB


156 dB


162 dB

20 Ga Shotgun

153 dB

12 Ga Shotgun

160 dB


158 dB


160 dB

.45 ACP

157 dB

Even suppressed, gunshots can be above safe noise levels and spending too much time around them unprotected can be unhealthy. Some research suggests that a suppressed firearm may reduce the sound level of a gunshot by 20-30 dB. If you suppress the firearm calibers above, the sound levels average around 135 dB, a level where prolonged exposure could still quickly result in permanent hearing damage.

Hearing protection devices, like those from ISOtunes Sport, are the modern solution to the tired, old problem of unhealthy gunshot noise. No matter what caliber or firearm you’re shooting, reduce your exposure, prolong your health, and preserve your hearing by incorporating a noise reduction system designed specifically for sport shooting.

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