What does it sound like to get shot at?

If you’ve worked the pits at a high power rifle match you probably already know what it sounds like to be shot at from a distance. If you’ve been downrange for Uncle Sugar, you might also know. But thankfully, most folks don’t know what bullets sound like as they cut the air. To get a feeling for this, I set up some water jugs at about 150 yards downrange along with a camera nearby. Now, that’s not exactly long range, but it is far enough to hear a distinct separation between the components of the sound of a gun shot. It’s also pretty close to the practical limit for .22lr. Sure, accomplished shooters can do miracles with a .22lr at much greater distances, but there is significant drop and it gets challenging. I took several shots both suppressed and unsuppressed with .223 Rem as well as subsonic .22lr.

 

 

We learned several things. The first, really obvious thing is that the sound of a supersonic bullet passing and the sound of any bullet impacting are both fairly loud. We also learned that, while silencers do a great job at making it more comfortable to shoot firearms, they don’t completely eliminate the sound. If you listen carefully, the report from the muzzle of both the AR-15 and the Ruger 10/22 can be heard 150 yards away, even with the silencers mounted. Another, more subtle point illustrated by the video, is the order in which the sounds reach an observer, according to his position. We hear the supersonic crack of the bullet passing before the report from the muzzle of the AR-15. The sound of the bullet impacting the jugs is lost under the much louder “crack” of the miniature sonic boom heard as the shockwave created by the bullet reaches the observer.

The subsonic .22lr is even more interesting. We hear the report of the rifle, then the sound of the bullet “whisssshing” through the air, then the whack of it hitting the water jug. A sort of rapid “pop fffwit thump” sound, followed sometimes by the classic “zing” of an unstable bullet tumbling through the air as it continues downrange. Although the report of the .22lr rifle beats the bullet to the target, it just barely does so. Sound travels at about 1,100 fps, depending on altitude, temperature, and humidity and the muzzle velocity on that load is about 900 fps. The time separation for the AR-15 was a bit longer because its muzzle velocity is almost three times the speed of sound.

It’s important to note that cameras aren’t good at portraying the relative loudness of sounds. That’s because their automatic gain control feature works to try to keep things at close to the same volume. Some sounds also exceed the camera’s capacity to record too. The ballistic crack of a┬ábullet can be over 130 dB. That’s way louder than the camera can capture and the duration is shorter than the sample rate. Still, this gives a general feel for how well these suppressors are working and the timing of the various components of sound.





Andrew

Andrew is a combat veteran of OEF and has performed hundreds of ballistic tests for his YouTube channel. He is an avid firearm collector and competitor and lives with his family in Arizona.


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  • PK

    This is a great video to forward to people when the topic comes up! A good primer on the basic oddity of sound volume/order at range.

    Somehow, none of this seems as strange as an A10 doing a run… everything always seemed totally out of order. Surreal.

    • Major Tom

      Same as a gun run from a Mig-29 over Syria. One video I’ve seen shows being on the receiving end of that. First the jet gets into position and you hear that and then as it faces you, you hear the splutting and churning of the earth itself right around you as the rounds impact and then you hear the report of the plane’s gun which sounds kinda like a case of explosive diarrhea.

  • Dougscamo

    The first time you get shot at you think “WTF?!”….the second, and thereafter, you think “COVER!!”
    Pity the recording device does not give you a truer idea of the volume of the sonic boom or “crack” when a bullet passes overhead as it dang loud…

    • Combat

      Mhh, on yt every firefight start ive seen nobody wondered first but instantly got to cover when hearing a single supersonic crack.

      • Dougscamo

        First time I was shot at I was a civilian…

      • Chop Block

        No one is born a stone cold member of the pipe hitters’ union. The first time you get shot at, there is definitely a moment of disbelief.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Another sound commonly associated with close gunfire, “F-CK!”

    • Chop Block

      Lol.

    • Joshua

      also,
      “The F!ck is ‘e at?”

    • Grey Beard

      As I recall that was the first word uttered from my lips the first time I took a mag worth of AK fire from about 50 yards. It was followed by other derivatives in short order before realizing the little SOB had missed me and my vehicle with every round.

  • Rusty S.

    Worked the pits for a shooter using .50 BMG and .338 lapua at 1000yds. The .50 passing overhead wasn’t too loud, but the .338 sounded like someone set off an M80 directly over my head.

  • Wolfgar

    I have had bullets fly by my head two different times during my hunting forays. The first instinct- reaction is to hit the dirt and get behind cover. Both times were with new hunters who got a literal kick in the ass when I found them. It sounded different than the video, the last shot at 30% was closer to what it was like.

    • Chop Block

      Glad you’re okay.

      • Wolfgar

        So am I. I have a friend who was shot on his own ranch by his hunting partner with a 3006. The bullet passed through his shoulder and back of his right hand. He survived with a messed up hand. Today I will only hunt with my family members and a few trusted friends. Hunter safety classes should be mandatory for all hunters, there is no game animal worth any persons life.

  • Gary Foster

    very poorly done leaving me with no sense of hearing the bullet pass by, only hearing the target struck

    • Chop Block

      You seem to have managed to miss the explanation in both the article and the video. The bullet flight noise and ballistic crack can be clearly heard.

  • wildbillb

    derp. so, whats it like to get shot at? make a video of that…

  • glenn cheney

    Those angry bees….give no hint of direction.

  • John

    I’ve had crazy neighbors shoot at me, from a distance of a few acres.

    It’s not fun.

  • Sam

    What does it sound like to get shot at?

    The sound of fun about to start.

  • Jack_A_Lope

    I enjoyed the video, as well as the other recommended videos once access through Youtube.

  • DanGoodShot

    “What it sounds like to get shot at” Brought to you by: The Empire. Today’s shooter: Darth Vader.

  • valorius

    Pew pew pew, like that.

    But seriously, it’s like “Vrrrrooooooop”

  • LI02liberty

    I forgot my ears on a turn down to the pits to pull the targets.I didn’t want to run the 200 yards back to get them and then run 200 back to the pits. Worst mistake ever my ears were ringing for that string.Now I always make sure I carry a back up pair of foam plugs in my pocket now. Live and learn.

  • Uniform223

    That quote from Black Hawk Down comes to mind…
    “A hiss means it’s close. A snap means its… ”
    *bullet ricochets near then*
    ” NOW THEY’RE SHOOTING AT US! “

  • jerry young

    That whizzing sound of rounds passing you is hard to forget, after the Army I thought I left that behind but found there are idiots hunting that don’t or can’t tell there are people in the woods too, and then when you step out your back door to put your dog out in the middle of the night and you hear a crack and that familiar whizzing sound you do as I did and hit the ground or like when I was at our club when some idiot decided to sight in his slug gun by aiming at the clubhouse and we were standing next to it well it’s kind of hard to forget that sound!

  • nick

    its even more “fun” at close range. I was an RSO on a military range, when for some reason that I still cannot process, the Cpl. doing his weapons requal ( in the last years of the FN C1) , had a malfunction. It was a shoot from kneeling, and instead of putting his hand up, decided to turn to me to get my attention….

    …which it did, as the 7.62 round blew a hole through the RSO Range Iltis parked next to me

    and in a nice fluid motion, one of the coaches flattened him to the ground…..im just glad it wasn’t the fully auto C2…

    so, he gets his a@@s charged with an ND, and I have a big drink at the Mess that night.

  • Paul

    Basic Training in 1970 included an exercises involving low crawl beneath barbed wire with live fire overhead. The sonic snap of bullets passing above is not a sound I will forget.

  • B

    I remember rounds going overhead making a crackling sound hard to explain but won’t forget.