The decibels from the average gunshot range between 140 and 160. But, what if we were to say that 160 dB is nothing compared to the loudest gun? What is the loudest gun? That’s a hard one because there are many firearms out there that would happily vaporize your eardrums.
Gunshots, even from a .22 long rifle, are loud enough to damage the eardrums if it’s repetitive. One shot is enough to make your ears ring, but several shots cause damage without proper hearing protection.
There are those out there who believe it’s a sign of weakness to wear earplugs while shooting. That’s fine, as long as you don’t mind hearing aids at the grand old age of 40 and deafness not long after. There’s a difference between combat and target shooting, so wear hearing protection for the sake of your eardrums.
What is the Loudest gun?
Supposedly, the loudest gun in the world is the 460 Weatherby Magnum. At 180 dB, there’s no doubt it’s extremely loud. However, there are plenty of seasoned firearm owners who would be happy to argue the point, throwing in their own rifles or handguns for consideration.
While we’re not aiming to disappoint some of these folks, decibels are something we can accurately measure, and the 460 Weatherby can reach 180 dBs while a 12-gauge shotgun averages out at around 161 to 162 dB without a choke.
A 7mm Magnum generates 166.5 dB, which is louder than the above-referenced, 12-gauge shotgun. Even a .50 caliber muzzleloader only achieves around 160 dB. The world’s most powerful handgun is the .500 S&W Magnum and doesn’t match the 406 Weatherby, in terms of sound.
What makes it loud?
There is nothing special going on—in terms of physics—with the 460 Weatherby Magnum that makes it louder than other firearms. It’s an explosion, and the 460 Weatherby doesn’t maintain a lot of components that deaden the sound.
Rifle and pistol manufacturers do their best to produce firearms that contain the noise as much as possible, but the reality is, there’s not much you can do to deaden the sound outside of purchasing a silencer. And honestly, silencers are not like the movies. They are still quite loud.
What you’re dealing with is the sound of an explosion. The majority of those sound waves freely flow from the muzzle and outward. They have to travel through the steel and wood of the rifle on all other sides but that’s hardly a detriment when you’re that close to the internal explosion.
Supersonic bullets create a sonic boom on top of the sound of the explosion. Even though the largest rounds are microscopic compared to a fighter jet, they are still capable of creating a sonic boom.
Worse yet, the sound waves of a sonic boom from the propelled bullet reach your ears at the same time as the sound waves from explosions.
Does louder mean it has more power?
Not at all. For instance, rifles are often louder than shotguns. There’s little doubt that, at least at short range, a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot will effectively vaporize anything within 15’. An AR-15 will just poke a hole at that range. However, ARs are often louder than shotguns.
The reasons are simple and make more sense when you lay it all out.
- Shotguns typically have longer barrels
- Shotguns have larger barrel diameters
- Shotgun loads are subsonic
- Shotguns operate at lower internal pressures
First and foremost, shotguns usually have longer barrels. Of course, there are plenty of shorter variations out there, and sawed-off shotguns might change the dynamics to a degree (though it’s illegal in most states). The longer barrel gives the explosive energy more time to dissipate before it exits the barrel.
The larger diameter of a shotgun barrel plays a role as well, allowing more room for the explosive energy to dissipate as it travels down the barrel. As we mentioned above, rounds fired from a rifle are often supersonic, depending on the rifle and what it’s chambered in.
Shotgun loads are not, so it lacks the additional sonic boom you get when you fire a rifle. Last but not least, shotguns operate at lower internal pressures. Those lower pressures don’t generate as much sound as the higher pressures in a rifle.
Can you reduce gun sound
A firearm will effectively reduce the sound of a gunshot but not as much as you might think. A handgun that generates 155 dB of sound per shot can be reduced to around 130 to 135 dB per shot with a good suppressor.
The vast majority of firearm owners purchase and use suppressors to reduce the amount of hearing damage a firearm is capable of causing. There are also some additional things you can do to reduce the decibel level of your firearm.
- Use subsonic ammunition
- Add a carbine barrel
- Use a linear compensator
Hearing protection, hearing protection, and hearing protection. It doesn’t matter if you’re firing with a carbine barrel, subsonic ammunition, and a suppressor—if it’s over 85 dB, you’ll experience long-term hearing damage if you don’t wear hearing protection.
When it comes to hazardous sound, anything over 85 dB is considered dangerous. It would be difficult to get anything other than an air rifle to drop low enough in decibels that you no longer need hearing protection.
If you enjoy hearing things, stick some earplugs in so won’t spend money upgrading your hearing aid each year following your 40th birthday.
Guns are loud. It just is what it is, and the 460 Weatherby Magnum is probably the loudest of them all. Even if it’s one of the quietest guns in the world, hearing protection is probably still a must, with anything over 85 dB causing hearing damage in the long term.
There are several ways of reducing the dB of a firearm, but you need to get that number under 85 dB if you want to protect your hearing. Of course, that’s entirely possible, but it does depend on the firearm, how loud it is, and how it operates.
It doesn’t help that suppressors are illegal in some states, and in places where they are legal, you have to jump through more hoops and pay a sizeable chunk out of your bank account. Until then, throw some ear muffs or ear plugs in and protect your hearing in the long run. Visit the OutdoorWorld Reviews homepage for more expert information and guides.