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Hearing Damage: .40 S&W vs .44 Special?

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Carbonator, Feb 19, 2011.

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  1. Carbonator

    Carbonator Member

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    If you have experience shooting both .40 S&W AND .44 Special I would appreciate some feedback regarding the comparitive noise levels of both. I am considering purchasing only one of these two guns, both shooting heavier 180-240 grain SUBSONIC ammo under 1050 feet per second from NON-compensated barrels:

    Glock 22 .40 S&W Auto:
    Pressure: 35,000

    Smith & Wesson 329 Night Guard .44 Magnum Revolver (.44 Specials only)
    Pressure: 15,500

    I am trying to get real life experiences regarding how loud these 2 guns are and also if these 2 might differ in the potential to cause hearing loss/damage/tinnitus. If I were to shoot 4 shots in a hallway or from inside my vehicle without hearing protection, would the reduced pressure of the .44 Special create less potential hearing damage to myself or other innocent people nearby? How does the noise level compare at an indoor or outdoor range between these 2 guns? Does the barrel/cylinder gap of the revolver add significant noise levels vs the autoloader?

    Thank you for keeping this on topic regarding sound levels and/or hearing loss/damage/tinnitus.
     
  2. riseagainstforme

    riseagainstforme Member

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    It's just an excuse to get a can for the glock :)
     
  3. Drail

    Drail Member

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    It won't make any difference. Any non-suppressed handgun will produce enough energy to damage unprotected ears. While one may seem sharper and more painful when fired they are all WAY above safe noise levels. A freakking Ipod can damage your ears. Choice of handgun should be based on what you can hit with and ft.lbs. of force and reliable function. I would place loudness at the very bottom of the list.
     
  4. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Member

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    Does it really matter?.....It may just be me, but in a life and death situation the last thing I'm gonna worry about is damaging my hearing.
     
  5. NG VI

    NG VI Member

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    That
     
  6. Malamute

    Malamute Member

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    It matters to some of us.

    I already have serious hearing damage and dont care to make it any worse than it already is. Not everyone is blessed with "auditory exclusion" either, even tho the damage occurs wether you are cognisant of it at the time or not. The few times I've shot game without hearing protection, I was instantly aware of the sharp pain, and cursed myself long and loud for doing it. On one occasion I lost noticable hearing in one ear from one rifle shot without ear protection. Sharper, more intense pitched rounds are definetly more painful.


    I would venture to say the 44 spl with moderate loads will be less damaging, and less painful.

    I have a nice Smith 19, and its very nice to carry, but I have zero interest in carrying it because of the muzzle blast. A 44 spl or medium loaded magnum round is much less painful to shoot. Even with ear plugs in, the 357 is uncomfortable for me to shoot. Muffs or plugs and muffs is the only way I'll shoot 357's any more.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2011
  7. winchester1886

    winchester1886 Member

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    I think it's like comparing apples to oranges. I have shot 40S&W and 44 Special since the 1990's.The 44 Special I carried off duty at the time all I could find was 246 gr.RNL bullets at approx.650 to 750fps. I loaded it with 200gr.GoldDots with a large amount of W231 for a speed of 950fps. The 40 or the 44 would blow your ears out.In a life or death situation the last thing your going to worry about is your hearing.
     
  8. mes227

    mes227 Member

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    First, I applaud your concern about protecting your ears. Regarding handgun choice, I'd look for a round with sub-sonic muzzle velocities (that is, under 920 ft per second) since going super-sonic substantially increases sound energy. That means larger, slower rounds over lighter, faster ones. As some examples, here are the decibel levels produced by some common rounds (120db is the standard "threshold of pain"):
    .22LR (in a pistol) 152 dB
    .25 ACP 155 dB
    .32 LONG 152 dB
    .32 ACP 154 dB
    .380 158 dB
    9mm 160 dB
    .38 S&W 153 dB
    .38 Spl 156 dB
    .357 Magnum 164 dB
    .40 S&W 156 dB
    .41 Magnum 163 dB
    .44 Spl 156 dB
    .45 ACP 157 dB
    .45 COLT 155 dB

    The differences seem small but an increase of 3 dB is a doubling of the sound energy. The difference between a .44 Spl (156 dB) and .357 Mag (164 dB) is roughly 5 times the sound energy. Thus it's no wonder the .357 Mag gives you trouble, it's the loudest round on this list and you have to step up to at least as .44 Mag to exceed it's loudness. I'd also think you could quiet the gun a little by selecting a pistol over a revolver (in the same caliber), having the barrel ported, and using lighter loads (big bullets, low powder). I'd think that barrel length would also make a difference (shorter should be quieter?)

    You might also want to check into electronic noise suppressors rather than just muffs and/or plugs. They act to produce a sound equal to but 180 degrees out of phase with the incoming sound to actually zero out the sound waves. They have amazing affect.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2011
  9. mes227

    mes227 Member

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    While it's true that all handgun loads are loud enough to do damage to unprotected ears, it's equally true that louder is worse and some rounds are MUCH louder than others. So it's only logical that they do much more damage - to both unprotected and sensitive protected ears. To argue otherwise is to say that a .22LR and a 700 Nitro Express are the same.
     
  10. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    It matters to me and is why I all but completely disregard the .357 as a defensive round. If I can get the job done with less noise and walk away with more of my hearing intact, I sure as hell will. It would be stupid not to.

    IMHO, the .40S&W will be significantly louder due to its higher pressure, higher velocity and no barrel/cylinder gap.
     
  11. Bananna bore

    Bananna bore Member

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    One option not explored may be the use of blackpowder loaded .44 spl. Most bp handguns have more of a thump than a high pressure crack. As a survivor of 4 violent robberies- forget the concern about sound. STOPPING SOME AHOLE from killing you is paramount. Give more concern to blowing the sh*t out of whoever is trying to kill you. I have been shot and stabbed-both worse than a little ear pain (IMHO). If you are really that worried about sound-- get a set of sound cancelling electric ear plugs to wear whenever you carry a gun.
     
  12. ExMachina

    ExMachina Member

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    i agree with this sentiment in general, but we're talking here about planning ahead to make things as "least bad" as possible

    i went through the same calculation as CraigC and never even considered a magnum round for the very reasons he describes. i've even decided against the 9mm on the same grounds.

    45acp and 44spl are my choices for the foreseeable future.
     
  13. pikid89

    pikid89 Member

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    ^ not so sure about that choice

    I have fired multiple rounds of both 9mm and .45 ACP with out ear pro (in fast paced hunting situations)
    Both instances were at charging hogs
    The first time it was 3 shots quick out of my Commander Lightweight (.45)
    The second time it was 6 or 7 out of my G19

    I after the second instance, my hearing was not nearly as affected by the blast as the time with the 45 (after the .45 shots i was totally deaf in my right ear for a couple days...it came back though)

    The 9mm gave me a bit of ringing for a few hours but that was all that i recall
     
  14. ExMachina

    ExMachina Member

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    9mm is a higher pressure round and the raw dB output is higher--that's just the physics of the thing.

    environment can serve to amplify or dampen reverberations so it's a bit of an unknown.

    but that's beside the real point which is that shooting w/o hearing protection will damage your hearing, regardless of caliber. the order in which you present your hunting scenarios, it's very possible that the 9mm seemed less loud b/c you had already incurred permanent hearing loss from the 45--just a thought.
     
  15. Mr.454

    Mr.454 Member

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    Well if the above db ratings are correct then a .45 is louder than a .40. I have shot a .45 in an open field and it was not too bad. And I have fired one in a narrow alley/urban environment, oh god the pain from that. My right ear has never been the same. Even .22lr indoors will hurt, honestly I can't think of any caliber that will not suck. The only thing you can do is pick a subsonic round, and suck it up.
     
  16. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    Disregard if you wish, I will not. Like I said, if I can get the job done AND save my hearing, I sure as hell will. I'd prefer not to have to live the rest of my life deaf, if I can help it. And I can. So I will. We have a choice and there are effective cartridges/loads that will end the fight quickly without making your ears bleed like touching off 125gr .357Mag in an enclosed space. Which can also disorient and temporarily blind you. The concussion is not insignificant in the least. Don't believe me, try it.
     
  17. Mr.454

    Mr.454 Member

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    Well rather than edit my post to get to the heart of the matter I will say this. I have never fired a .40 or .44 special without plugs. But I have fired both in a small indoor range with plugs. I can't tell the difference, to tell you the truth 9mm and .40 seem to have the same pressure impulse. On the other hand .45 seems to have smaller impulse probably due to the projectile speed. There should be some great loads for the .40 at subsonic velocities, being that many police departments have been using 9mm subsonics. I understand your wish to not further damage your hearing, but in an urban environment your ears will be ringing. Out hunting it won't be so bad. Its just that between buildings or in a car the sound reverberation will cause temporary damage. If you can get the db down below 140 you will be much better off.
     
  18. NG VI

    NG VI Member

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    A lot seems wrong with this. A ported barrel will be louder, and a shorter barrel will always be louder than a longer one. In fact, barrel length is a prime component of shot noise.

    Neither the .22LR nor the .700 NE are service handgun calibers in anyone's mind. Seems kind of like the time my (militant Nation Of Islam) buddy told me I was saying all black men look the same because I confused Omar Epps and Mekhi Pfieffer (sp). I disagree entirely, those two happen to look similiar, much like Ethan Hawke and Kevin Dillon.

    The .22LR and .700 NE are nothing alike.
     
  19. Shadow 7D

    Shadow 7D Member

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    It's all the same, you loose hearing, so protect yourself and don't be stupid
     
  20. ExMachina

    ExMachina Member

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    this thread reminds me of a nagging little voice in my head.

    the question i struggle with is this: if i am truly serious about having the optimal home defense weapon, why don't i invest the time and money (that i'd rather spend on other stuff) on a tax stamp and a suppressor? any way i look at it it's really irresponsible of me not to take this added measure of protection for both myself and my family.

    maybe that's what i should really buy next.
     
  21. Geckgo

    Geckgo Member

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    Get a 200 dollar tax stamp ;)
     
  22. Carbonator

    Carbonator Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I will be CCWing the gun at times so a suppressor won't be realistic for my needs.

    I too won't own a .357 magnum, or .357 SIG, simply because of the potential damage to my own or an innocent person's hearing (otherwise I would likely own a SIG right now). It's not just my own hearing that I am concerned about. I am 100% responsible for my choice of weapon and what it can do to innocent people around me. Just as I am morally, legally, and financially liable should that weapon miss or overpenetrate and hit an innocent, I am also liable if my weapon blows the eardrums out of someone who happens to be in the same vehicle as myself such as if an armed carjacker tries to jack the car with my kids still in the back seat.

    Another thing to consider - when I am making the decision to shoot someone, I don't want any time or thought process wasted on deciding whether or not my own gun blast will blow out my eardrums. And I don't want to flinch or hesitate because I am anticipating the blast. If .357's were the only guns on the planet or if they were vastly more effective, I would get one. But as others have said, why expose yourself to harm if you have other options?

    Like I said I really like the .357 SIG. "Light and extremely fast" does something to the target that slow bullets can't (and vice versa). At 1500 fps call it "shock, pressure wave" or whatever, it's there. However your eardrums also get some of that "shock". So for me it's heavy and slow, which works a bit differently but with similar effectiveness. So it's 200+ grain subsonic for me.
     
  23. lbmii

    lbmii Member

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    Concerning the 44 spc and revolvers in general, I wonder if the cylinder gap will cause greater and more splitting sound waves toward the direction of the shooter as compared to an auto?

    Also I would think barrel length might be a big factor with shorter barrels I assume are somewhat louder.

    Heavy bullets at a low velocity I think are less noisy than lighter bullets going faster.
     
  24. NMGonzo

    NMGonzo Member

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    What is the quietest?

    To me, the .380 is the quietest of the bunch.
     
  25. Drail

    Drail Member

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    To all the posters who keep reiterating that X caliber is louder than Y caliber so it would do more damage than Y caliber...once you go over the level where your eardrums are damaged, it doesn't really matter any more. They're not going to be more damaged or less damaged because you chose a caliber that is "rated" to be 3 decibels less than another one. It's not a matter of degrees. Permanently damaged is permanently damaged. It doesn't heal and get better. Any type of muzzle blast is going to do irreparable damage. If you're really worried about your hearing you should be wearing earplugs every time you go outside. Or mow your grass or run your trimmer or your leaf blower. Or run your circular saw. I have worked around jet engines and gunfire most of my life (with protection and tests monthly) and I have seen firsthand how quickly people manage to damage their hearing without even realizing that they're doing it. I managed to preserve almost all of my hearing but saw a lot of guys lose most of theirs.
     
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