How many dB is a 9mm gun shot?

The decibel level of a gunshot is an important consideration for hearing safety and noise control. Gunshots produce an intense burst of sound that can cause permanent hearing damage if proper ear protection is not used. Understanding the decibel level helps inform appropriate safety measures.

The 9mm handgun is one of the most common pistol calibers in use around the world. When fired, a 9mm pistol produces a loud “bang” that can reach over 160 decibels. This is dangerously loud and requires both ear plugs and ear muffs for adequate protection. Knowing the precise decibel level helps shooters understand the risk to hearing and encourages the consistent use of hearing protection.

What is a Decibel?

The decibel (dB) is a measurement unit used to express the intensity or loudness of a sound. Decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, meaning a 10 dB increase represents a tenfold increase in sound intensity.

On the decibel scale, 0 dB corresponds to the lowest threshold of human hearing. A whisper is about 30 dB. Normal conversation is around 60-70 dB. A lawnmower reaches 90 dB, and a rock concert can hit 120 dB. Prolonged exposure to sounds over 85 dB without protection can cause gradual hearing loss over time.

Decibel Levels and Hearing Loss

Here are some examples of decibel levels and the potential for hearing damage:

  • 30 dB – No risk of hearing loss
  • 60-70 dB – No immediate risk, but potential long-term damage possible
  • 85 dB – Hearing loss can occur after 8 hours of exposure
  • 90 dB – Hearing loss can occur after 2 hours of exposure
  • 100 dB – Hearing loss can occur after 15 minutes of exposure
  • 115 dB – Risk of permanent hearing loss immediate
  • 120+ dB – Hearing loss is likely even with brief exposure

As a general rule, hearing damage is possible when noise exceeds 85 dB with prolonged or repeated exposure. The louder the noise, the less exposure time needed to cause permanent hearing loss.

Decibel Levels of Firearms

Gunshots produce an explosive burst of sound energy. The decibel level depends on the type of firearm and caliber of ammunition. Larger caliber weapons generally produce a louder noise.

According to tests, here are some typical decibel levels of gunfire measured from the shooter’s position:

  • .22 LR pistol – 134 dB
  • .38 Special revolver – 145 dB
  • 9mm pistol – 159 dB
  • .357 Magnum revolver – 164 dB
  • .40 S&W pistol – 165 dB
  • .45 ACP pistol – 165 dB
  • 5.56×45 mm rifle – 165 dB
  • 7.62×39 mm rifle – 165 dB
  • 12 ga. shotgun – 165 dB

These decibel levels are dangerously high and require double hearing protection (ear plugs + ear muffs). Even a .22 LR handgun can produce noise over 130 dB. Centerfire magnum pistol rounds can reach near 170 dB. Rifles and shotguns also produce 165+ dB shots.

Decibel Level of a 9mm

Specifically for the 9mm parabellum round, a typical pistol shot registers around 159 decibels.

Tests have recorded various 9mm handguns to measure between 157 and 165 decibels depending on the pistol model, barrel length, and type of ammunition. The most common range for a 9mm pistol is 158 to 162 dB based on averages of several tests.

In general, a 9mm handgun loaded with a full power self-defense round produces a peak sound pressure level around 159 dB when fired from the shooter’s position.

9mm Decibel Levels

9mm Pistol Decibel Level
Glock 19 159 dB
Sig Sauer P226 160 dB
Heckler & Koch VP9 162 dB
Beretta M9 161 dB
Springfield Armory XD 158 dB

These readings can vary +/- 2 dB based on the ammunition used. But overall, an average 9mm handgun measures around 159 dB give or take a few decibels in either direction.

Comparing 9mm to Other Calibers

When comparing the 9mm to other calibers, it generates less noise than magnum rounds, but more than low pressure .22 LR or .380 ACP pocket pistols.

Here is how the 9mm fits in for sound levels:

  • .22 LR – 134 dB
  • .380 ACP – 150 dB
  • 9mm – 159 dB
  • .40 S&W – 165 dB
  • .45 ACP – 165 dB
  • .357 Magnum – 164 dB

The 9mm produces an average sound level about 9 dB louder than a .380 pocket pistol and around 25 dB louder than a .22 pistol. It generates less sound than larger calibers like .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .357 Magnum.

Factors Affecting 9mm Decibel Levels

Several variables can influence the decibel measurement of a 9mm gunshot.

Ammunition Type

The type of ammunition used can create a +/- 2 dB variance. Light target loads will be slightly quieter. Full power defensive rounds will produce peak noise.

Barrel Length

Longer barrels dissipate more sound energy down range, resulting in -1 to -2 dB for each inch of added barrel length. Short snub-nose barrels increase noise.


Adding a suppressor or silencer significantly reduces noise by around 30 dB on average, preventing hearing damage.

Indoors vs. Outdoors

Indoor shooting in confined spaces can increase decibels by 2 to 5 dB compared to outdoor shooting.

Shooter’s Position

Location matters. Being to the left, right, or behind the shooter results in slightly lower noise levels than at the shooter’s ear.

Hearing Protection

With any firearm larger than a .22 rimfire, shooters should wear both ear plugs and over-the-ear muffs for maximum protection. Single layer ear muffs or plugs alone are often insufficient, given the extreme decibel levels.

For 9mm handguns, it’s recommended to use -30 dB rating foam plugs combined with -25 dB rating electronic muffs for approximately -50 dB total attenuation. This brings the noise down to an average of 110 dB, which is still loud but within safe levels for limited range use.

Suppressors can replace ear plugs when combined with muffs by reducing noise around 30 dB. However, many ranges do not allow suppressors. Protection should be worn at all times when shooting.


A 9mm handgun generates approximately 159 decibels according to extensive sound level testing. This exceeds the 140 dB pain threshold and 140-150 dB range for immediate permanent hearing damage unprotected. To safely shoot a 9mm pistol, double hearing protection using foam plugs and over-ear muffs should always be worn. Understanding the decibel level of gunshots informs smart hearing health and safety practices.

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