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Are dB levels a factor in home defense weapons?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Evil Monkey, Aug 8, 2007.

  1. Evil Monkey

    Evil Monkey member

    Jun 26, 2006
    I've been thinking about this alot lately.

    Alot of people say they use shotguns for home defense but I suspect it would be VERY LOUD. You'd probably get hearing damage, right?

    You can't suppress a shotgun but you sure can do that to a rifle or pistol caliber carbine. But what if your state doesn't allow suppressors? Would you put hearing loss aside and go forth with your rifles and shotguns or would you opt for a 9mm or 45acp carbine of sorts because they're quieter?

    I learned that a 3dB increase is doubling the perceived noise. I've also read somewhere that an MP5 produced 157dB and that an M4 produced 165dB.....that seems like a huge increase! This means that the M4 is more than 4 times louder than the mp5, right? :what:

    So if you couldn't get suppressors in your state, would it be logical to just use the rifle because your going to damage your hearing either way, or would it be logical to use a pistol caliber carbine to reduce hearing damage and the chance that you will sustain any hearing damage?

    BTW, any body have dB levels for SBR's like HK53, AKSU, Colt commando, etc.?
  2. Feanaro

    Feanaro Senior Member

    Mar 29, 2003
    Leeds, AL.
    Not probably. One hundred percent certain. Hearing damage sets in after 15 minutes at 100dB. Most firearms are in the 150dB range. Every 3dBs halves the permissable exposure time. Carry it out.
  3. Prince Yamato

    Prince Yamato Senior Member

    Aug 16, 2006
    For hearing's sake, I'd use a handgun. I've heard handguns fired without hearing protection (outdoors). They are unpleasant, but tolerable. Ever hear an AR-15 without protection? It's a VERY loud *pop*. I find that different guns seem to emit different "vowel" sounds. Listen with headphones on and you can usually tell which guns will be the most unpleasant w/o.
  4. Nomad101bc

    Nomad101bc Active Member

    Jun 14, 2007
    Cops know if you use supressors you cant just screw them out of the weapon and be like "yep shot him no supressor". You see supressors slow the bullet down and make it hotter leaving distinct burn marks. There would also be the whole issue of nieghbors not hearing any sort of boom and then it makes self defense seem rather suspicous. One loud shot of even a .45 acp or a 12 gauge will not perminantly damage your hearing and its very rare you have to use your weapon for HD typicaly a 12 gauge is enough to stop any pistol wielding bad guy without having to fire it.

    I can tell you at one point i was in a very loud heavy metal band and i could literaly hear the drummers symbols split my ear drums. Guess what i did it many times went to the doctor recently no hearing damage. Therefore by that logic one or two shots will never cause perminant irreversable hearing damage.
  5. Regolith

    Regolith Participating Member

    Jul 2, 2007
    Nevada & Oregon
    A couple of shots in the house with no hearing protection will probably do some damage, but its not going to be a whole lot. You'll still be able to hear after, and probably almost as well as before you shot. However, if you fail to defend yourself, you could end up dead. Me, I'll take the hearing damage; I'm not a big fan of being dead.
  6. kd7nqb

    kd7nqb Senior Member

    May 1, 2006
    Puyallup Washington
    Upwards of 90% percent of defensive handgun uses DON'T involve pulling the trigger. My theory is the 10% of invaders who don't stop when you point a loaded weapon at them are the same people that you want the biggest gun possible for. So pump 12guage for HD is my choice, alive with a hearing aid is FAR better than dead.
  7. Gord

    Gord Senior Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Behind enemy lines
    Any caliber on down through .22 in an enclosed space can damage your hearing. Is there a bigger risk of that with, say, a .45 or a shotgun? Probably.

    Am I going to make "gentle on the ol' eardrums" the prime criteria for selecting my home defense firearm? Hell no.

    By the way, Google "cochlear implant." If a hearing aid won't help ya, a cochlear implant can. I know - I have one.

    I agree that alive with a hearing aid is a lot more useful than dead at any rate. If it doesn't make a lot of noise, it's probably not generating enough energy to put a bad guy on the floor.
  8. mjrodney

    mjrodney Member

    Jul 11, 2006
    SW Florida
    Since I use quality stereo electronic headphones at the range, it makes sense to store them near the firearm I consider the "home defense" weapon.

    With the volume turned up, I hear better than I can with the naked ear and it takes the potential hearing loss out of the equation.
  9. joab

    joab Senior Member

    Feb 11, 2004
    Ocoee, Fla
    Loss of hearing is not the big issue with sudden sharp noises

    It's that extra hearing that you get, and it can be debilitating

    With that in mind I believe a boom is preferable to a crack
  10. Rovi

    Rovi New Member

    Nov 26, 2004
    Possibly not the most practical home defence weapon. :rolleyes:
  11. PercyShelley

    PercyShelley Participating Member

    Feb 15, 2007
    Sorry to be pedantic, but you can suppress a shotgun.


    It's essentially a barrel extension surrounded by the suppressor with holes in it. Not as efficient as a rifle suppressor, but it does keep the wad and sabot from getting caught up in the baffles.

    Word on the street is that the sonic boom from multiple shotgun projectiles is loud enough that most shotgun suppressors only provide a few dB of noise reduction, so subsonic loads are a must.

    I agree with most of the sentiments here; that noise level is a secondary consideration to the efficacy of the weapon. Noise level could become a consideration, however, if you are facing multiple home invaders and you need your hearing to locate them.

    I like mjrodney's suggestion about electronic ear protection.
  12. buttrap

    buttrap Participating Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    actully if it gets to where I have to actully shoot a person in the house ringing ears and a loss of hearing is not on my top 10 worry list.
  13. U.S.SFC_RET

    U.S.SFC_RET Participating Member

    Dec 5, 2005
    The Old Dominion State
    I agree, Temporary hearing loss is not on my top ten list of things to worry about either. Death to me or my family is.
  14. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 25, 2002
    Down East in NC
    Handguns are pretty much as loud as long guns; the comparatively short barrels make up for the lower gas volume and velocity. There may be slight differences in the frequency spectrum and in pulse duration, but the peak dB is similar.

    Here are some data for some common guns. For long guns, note the correlation with barrel length. Not sure if these figures are straight dB or dBA.


    For those who don't grok decibels, it's a logarithmic scale (usually log10); a 3dB difference equals twice the radiated acoustic energy, and a 10dB difference is ten times the radiated acoustic energy. The ear perceives a 10dB difference as a doubling in volume, and IIRC the average person can just barely distinguish a 1dB difference. A car interior at highway speeds is 60-70 dB, a vacuum cleaner in the 80's to 90dB, I think.

    Contrary to popular belief, there doesn't seem to be a huge difference between shotgun, pistol, and rifle noise levels, although the sound spectrum is undoubtedly different. There is a correlation with caliber (e.g., .30-06 is louder than .223 and .357 is considerably louder than 9mm or .45), but the most striking difference to me is how much louder a muzzle brake makes a hunting-caliber rifle (nearly 6 dB louder than an unbraked rifle, using an 18" .30-06 as a comparison, or translates to approximately 4 times the radiated acoustic energy). There's a tight correlation with barrel length (shorter is louder for any given caliber), but also less correlation with velocity than I expected (i.e., a slowpoke .30-30 round out of a 20" barrel is a smidgen louder than a faster but much smaller .223 round out of an 18" barrel). For all the 7.62x39mm shooters out there, I'd assume the sound levels would be about the same as .30-30, which it resembles.
  15. foghornl

    foghornl Mentor

    Dec 27, 2002

    Now, if I could get a .45ACP carbine (Hi-Point, Marlin Camp 45 etc), and suppress it, used with standard power 230-gr ammo (NO +P or +P+)....

    I have some done shooting without plugs or muffs {My bad! :eek: :eek:}, so I'll take any help I can get. At least partly why my "Bedside Table Companion" is the Springfield "GI-45", instead of my short-barrel Vaquero in .357Mag
  16. Dave P

    Dave P Participating Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    North Florida
    Like Joab said about a crack vs a boom: a 45 ACP is sub-sonic, so it will boom. My 357 sig will be supersonic and generate a sonic boom (crack).

    I reach for the 45 first.
  17. NoirFan

    NoirFan Member

    Jul 25, 2006

    I don't think noise level is a significant level in home defense. I have had an ND with a Federal hydra-shok .357 magnum where the side of the gun was about 8 inches from my head, close enough that my face got side-spray from the cylinder gap. It generates a painful ringing but you can still hear your immediate surroundings, like voices and movement. My ears rang for 4 days before returning to normal. Not something I'd do for fun, but I doubt the noise level will matter if you are in that situation.
  18. Double Naught Spy

    Double Naught Spy Sus Venator

    Dec 24, 2002
    Forestburg, Texas
    Feanaro, you didn't do the math, did you? At 150 db, there will be hearing damage. Your suggestion that there won't be damage is wrong.

    To quote from the article below...
    If you went by the standard you suggested, 100 db at 15 minutes to 150 db would mean 17 (rounded) graduations reducing the duration by half with each. 15 minutes is 900 seconds.

    So for shooting a 150 db firearm, we take 900 seconds and divide each cycle by half, right?
    db Seconds of Duration Before Damage
    100 900
    103 450
    106 225
    109 112.5
    112 56.25
    115 28.125
    118 14.06
    121 7.03
    124 3.51
    127 1.75
    130 0.878
    133 0.439
    136 0.220
    139 0.110
    142 0.055
    145 0.027
    148 0.014
    151 0.006

    Check this link ...

    Here you see many handguns, rifles, and shotguns produce noise in the 150-160 db range, so continuing the chart from above...

    154 0.003433 seconds
    157 0.001716 seconds
    160 0.000858 seconds

    So, given that gun reports may last anywhere from 1/10th to a quarter of a second (initial impluse), you may experience instant hearing damage at as little as about 136 db. Now, combine that with the fact that the duration of the noise event of a gun fired inside is prolonged by noise reflection (echo) from walls, floor, ceiling, etc., then you have an event where you actually get multiple fast sequence (and sometimes combined) impulse events.

    Say you are in a room and fire a 151 db gun. You will get minimally 6 initial reflections (floor, ceiling, 4 walls) in addition to the actual shot. Even though each reflection will be less than the original shot, they are insults. For example, say the floor and ceiling on came back with 145 db each. The walls to your side with 142 each. The wall directly in front of you with 148, and the wall behind you with just 130 db. This means that one initial insult caused immediate hearing damage as did 5 of the reflected impluses off of the walls. The 6th from behind you did not produce immediate hearing damage, but it did add to the damage as well because of the cumulative nature of hearing loss. Keep in mind that these are ONLY the first reflections. You may suffer several cycles of secondary reflections that will each be less in intensity, but still adding to the damage.


    So with shot number 1, you have maybe as many as 6 hearing loss events. Say you decide to double tap the intruder. Now you have 12 hearing loss events. Say the intruder attempts to shoot you as well. Then there are still more events.

    Also see testing done by folks used in a precondition/postcondition test in regard to firearms qualification...


    The purpose of the long explanation was to provide information so that folks can make informed decisions. As others have stated, I am willing to trade a little bit of hearing loss to save my life. Hearing protection is not my primary concern in home defense, although I do keep electronic muffs and other gear near the bed. If I have a chance to use them, great. I do use them when investigating the proverbial bumps in the night. In an immediate crisis, there won't be time to put on muffs. Such is life.
  19. arthurcw

    arthurcw Active Member

    Mar 10, 2006
    Houston, TX (a.k.a. Free City of Aztlan)
    DNS, I don't think Feanaro was suggesting what you think he was suggesting. I took from his post that it is,
    that you will get hearing damage.
  20. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 25, 2002
    Down East in NC
    The shock wave from the supersonic bullet starts at the muzzle and travels forward attached to the bullet, not to the rear. So whether the bullet is supersonic or subsonic doesn't really play much role in the dB level at the shooter's ear, though it could affect what somebody would hear in the downrange direction.

    The more significant factors in the .357 vs. .45 ACP noise difference (164.3 dB vs. 157.0 dB) are the barrel-cylinder gap of a revolver (source of a lot of radiated noise--compare a .22 revolver to a .22 semiauto of similar breech-to-muzzle length) and the much greater gas volume produced by the .357.

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