Creating audio recordings of gunshots


June 6, 2004, 11:03 AM
A project that I'm working on requires the sound of gunshots. The problem is that all of the ones I've found on sound effects CD's and on the web are really lame.

I know we've got some members here who know more about audio than I do, and I'd like to see if any of you have any tips for recording the sounds of gunshots and converting them into digital files (mono audio, .wav file format.)

Also, since gunshots are loud (duh) is there any risk of damaging the recording equipment? <----This is very important as the gear I'll be recording on will probably be borrowed.

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June 6, 2004, 11:59 AM
Actually, I'd look into trying to nab it from audio files from video games. Some of them are pretty decent. The format before conversion to .wav will vary widely game-by-game, however.

June 6, 2004, 12:14 PM
Justin ...... from my attempts in the past - this is never easy. Even with an AGC set up (auto gain control) ... the peak amplitude is so high that either AGC clips it off (if quick enough) or .... the peak simply results in a distortion thru over modulation.

However .... if you transfer some taped gunshots to puter .... with something like ''Sound Forge'' .... or similar .... you can clean up the waveform somewhat. In the end tho ..... seems like you'll never quite get that ''real'' sound ... maybe because we hear in real time by experiencing the pressure wave as well ... so we ''feel'' it too.

Maybe, set up recording gear some distance away from source ... this will reduce or avoid the severe ''spike'' and thus over modulation .... but then of course it may sound too distant... needs played with quite a bit IMO.

Chuck Dye
June 6, 2004, 12:21 PM
Sorry I cannot help with sources or other technical aspects, but I would like to make a request: PLEASE mind the environmental contributions. Friends and I still occasionally use a long, drawn out KHIEWWwwwwww to poke fun at a storyteller who stretches things a bit too much. The sound effect comes from a terrible film we watched in Korea (Chinese film? Subtitled in four languages, none of them English) in the early ‘70s in which the bad guy (we knew he was the BG because he was armed with more than hands and feet ;)) shot a good guy. The scene was set in a small, heavily furnished room but the sound of the shot was absolutely that of a supersonic bullet echoing down the valley - it must have lasted three seconds.

Just my 2&cent;

June 6, 2004, 03:48 PM
This is a tough one. I used to work in radio and we always had a tough time getting gunshots (at the range) and other loud noises, such as jets at an airshow, to record well and sound decent when played back. Most over the counter recording equipment really isn't set up to handle short pulse sounds at the high range like gunshots.

I'd suggest doing a web search to find some audio or movie making boards. Look for forums dealing with SFX specifically. I'm sure this has come up in the biz and there has to be some fairly standard ways to deal with this.

Btw, your solution may also depend on exactly what you need the sound for. When I worked in radio news, we weren't allowed to "sweeten" or otherwise improve the wild sound we used in stories. This is generally true for most documentary approaches. You want to get the best representation of the sound that is actually there, wihout creating a new sound.

But, if you're working on something fictional, that restriction goes out the window and you can do whatever you need to get the sound you want, even if it's not "real." A good example of this is that Indy's revolver gun shots in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" were actually from a '30-'30 rifle instead of a handgun, because they sounded better.

June 6, 2004, 03:55 PM
I had to dub a gunshot sound to a video I was doing. The sound of the shot was too fast, so I dubbed it at half speed. Instead of a "pop" it was a dramatic "bang".

June 6, 2004, 06:22 PM
Straight recordings of gunshots tend to sound like just a "pop", with no "booming noise" at all. You have to either slow the sound down (as noted) or edit the file digitally to boost the low end and drop the high-end levels. You don't need to do this, but you will probably want to, no matter what recording equipment you use.
What recording equipment you using? Minidisc walkmans sound simply amazing, CD-quality-- if you can get your mitts on one. You will need a headphone volume control to choke the mics, and you need good power: the batteries need to be fresh, or the best way to go is just to plug it into wall socket power.

June 6, 2004, 06:36 PM
all good suggestions above.....I'd try to find some files online that sound good....take advantage of someone else's expertise.

If you feel that you still want to do it yourself, I'd suggest using some form of condenser microphone such as an AKG1000. The condensers have better transient response than your basic dynamic mic.....

June 7, 2004, 02:09 AM

Make sure you aren't 'peaking' when the gunshot peaks - a redline means missed data, so check you are within the envelope. A limiter on the front end would be good if it had a very fast response.

Try placing microphones at various distances. Consider mixing the different mics together.

Lastly, I'd try compression to see what that does, though it might 'flavor' the mix a bit.

If you have raw files (WAV) I can help - ProTools rig here ready to go....



June 7, 2004, 10:31 AM
Don't do a lot of sound editing, but some of the greatest gunshots in movies are achieved by adding a lot of subwoofer-channel "thump" to the sound, thus creating a feel along witht the sound. Quigley Down Under is probably the best example of this, but many may not have heard it if they don't have a good Dolby 5.1 Setup... the speakers on the TV just won't cut it. ;)


June 7, 2004, 09:55 PM
Justin, if you're going to be recording live gunfire you're in no real danger of damaging anything unless you are very close to the blast.

Of course you'll do better by keeping some distance beween the mics and the guns. Ambiant sound is important in making the gunshots appear more natural.

Multiple microphones can be more effective if properly mixed together. As can outboard effects such as reverb or a short delay.

I highly suggest using dynamic microphones instead of condenser mics. Dynamic mics won't spike as easily so you'll get less distortion with the higher sound pressure levels of gunshots.
While condenser microphones are more sensitive they are also more distortion prone with high SPL.

June 7, 2004, 10:35 PM
I would look in the audio files of the Infiltration add on for the original Unreal Tournament game. The developers of that game were military themselves and from what I understand they had access to hollywierd quality recording equipment and the actual firearms used in the game.
Infiltration Sentry Studios (

June 7, 2004, 11:49 PM
You're going to need a very fast compressor. The mic suggestions are pretty much right but the only way to limit the peaks is with a compressor. FMR audio makes a really nice one (it's named the Really Nice Compressor) for less than $200 and it's fast. A gunshot will have some of the same characteristic of a snare drum with a much higher spl (sound pressure level?). See if you can borrow the compressor and experiment recording at different distances from the source. Change levels and shoot alot. I've got a small project studio but I mostly record music. good luck.


June 8, 2004, 12:03 AM
Real gunshots have extremely high decibel levels. Even the sounds in news reports are filtered, I think. Remember the news footage of Viet Nam battles? How quiet a .223 is on them?
I'd just use .wav files and not worry about it. Most people have no idea how loud even a .22 LR is anyway. Especially inside. It's always amuzes me when I see a .45 being fired inside or in a brick tunnel in a movie. Never mind firing a rocket launcher or a grenade going off. All sounds are added electronically in the editing phase.

June 8, 2004, 01:08 AM
I've got tons of gunshot sounds, from the Counter-Strike mod for Half-Life (video game).

What kind do you need? I have pistols of different calibers, bolt action rifles and automatics. I'm sure I can find something you can use.

June 8, 2004, 02:17 AM
Hey all-

Thanks for the suggestions. I didn't think that recording some noise would be so difficult.

To answer a couple of questions- the sounds we're going for are to be fairly realistic- having them obviously recognizable as gunshots is necessary. I wouldn't want them sweetened too much, but I don't want them to be simply raw recordings. In other words, there is a bit of room for artistic license, if it helps to make the sound come across as more realistic. (If that makes sense...)

Video game audio might be ok. The sort of stuff I'm looking for is pretty mundane- pistol shots, a shotgun, maybe some automatic fire, though that can be simulated in the software by just looping a single gunshot several times. I don't want anything that' sci-fi or genre, just mundane gunfire.

June 8, 2004, 03:25 AM
Here's an assortment of shot sounds. I have sound effects for reloading and cycling also.

Right click, Save As.

Making these sound full automatic is more complicated than just looping them. You need to play two loops at once, with each one starting half way through the first sound. The sounds will also need to be trimmed a little at the end, to remove the echos and/or silence. It's complicated to get it to sound right--the game normally does it for you.

June 8, 2004, 01:56 PM
The recorder didn't have a gain control, it had switch for various levels of attenuation along with a meter. Set the attenuator so the meter indicates that overload isn't occuring. Also be aware of where you are shooting vs what you are trying to simulate. Since I was setting up an indoor shooting, I had to do the recording at an indoor range. I tried some on an outdoor range but the echo just wasn't right.

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