Acoustic sniper detection

Sven has blogged about recent developments and challenges in working out a snipers’ location from the sound generated by the sniper rifle.

Picture 4-31

The most successful technical principle in use is apparently based on triangulating the sonic boom of rifle bullets. The technology is relatively similar to the artillery sound ranging since about 1916, radio direction finding, radar receiver, sonar receiver and passive radar warning/direction finding.

Read the full article here.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Matt Groom

    I’ve got two words for anyone interested in investing in this kind of technology, Subsonic Ammunition. Yes, that means decreased range, but also increased hit probability. I read that in the Balkans, a favorite amongst snipers is the .22LR, because the ammo is cheap, Match ammo is Subsonic, impact noise is minimal, and nobody raises an eyebrow or tries to outlaw match grade .22LR Biathlon type rifles. Also, If someone is nearly a mile away and takes a shot with a .416 Barrett, you probably aren’t going to be able to do a damn thing with your knowledge of where the sniper is anyway, unless he’s laying in a field.

    This is a big threat to amateurs, but actual trained snipers will not find this to be a very big obstacle.

  • Sean Nack

    we used a system exactly like this in afghanistan for detecting incoming mortar rounds; apparently it works really well in urban environments despite the ambient noise, which is cool, but in the mountains it gets confused by the echoes and ends up being wildly off. we could frequently see where they were shooting from due to dust clouds from rockets and the like, and i don’t recall the system ever being all that accurate, and was more often completely wrong.

  • Or, do what they do in Darfur – three “snipers” shoot three targets at pretty much the same time… I bet that’d F*$%Ks the sensor’s up pretty good…

  • Willis

    Im watching Top Sniper Challenge 2 on the military channel and they just talked about this equipment. Didnt really mention anything else that wasnt mentioned here. They basically said it was the evolvement of the old false head tactic from WWII.

  • @Matt Gromm:
    You didn’t follow the link, did you? 🙂
    Btw, a mile is an extremely optimistic distance for subsonic, non-explosive projectiles.

    @Sean Nack:
    You certainly had a very different system. Mortar rounds are subsonic and cause no sonic boom – the phenomenon on which most if not all acoustic counter sniper sensors depend.
    Sound ranging the shots (muzzle noise) is a very old technique (First World War), still in use and indeed best used in flat, dry terrain.

    The sound of a police of ambulance siren varies depending on whether the vehicle is still far away, closing in, passing you or moving away. That’s the doppler effect.
    The same effect works with bullet sonic boom – three bullets would thus sound differently even if their sound arrives at the microphones at the same time.
    The doppler should enable a well-programmed device to differentiate between multiple shots if they are reasonably spaced in direction and time.

  • Cmathews

    If you are dealing with an experienced shooter(s) they could simply target the detection device as well. You can’t use the detector if it has a round lodged in it.

  • Matt Groom


    I believe you misunderstood my point. IF a sniper uses subsonic ammo, this system is worthless. IF a sniper uses something supersonic, and is beyond the range of return fire by open sighted carbine, rifle, smg and pistol bullets, then it is worthless. Unless you can respond to the sniper by dropping mortars on his location, you can do very little with that information, other than hide from him more effectively. The sniper’s job is stealth, not marksmanship. This device does not change that.

    I realize that one mile would be an exteme feat of skill, but it’s not impossible, and has been done with .50’s in Afganistan.

    Also, counter battery radar doesn’t “hear” the projectile, it “sees” the projectile, and estimates based on the size, speed, angle of travel, and certain manually entered meterological factors the point of origin.