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"...Whoa that was loud."
Wallace Richie, The Man Who Knew Too Little

In a typical movie or video game, the sound of a gun firing is impossible to mistake for anything else; a distinctive booming report with lots of bass accompanies the firing of even the most puny weapon, unless fitted with a magic noise-removing machine.

In reality, this boom is closer to the sound of a shotgun firing. Smaller guns typically lack the howitzer-like boom of the movie versions, instead making a sound similar to a firecracker going off. This means when hearing a real gunshot, many people find it hard to tell that's what it is.

This is not to say gunshots are not loud; quite the opposite, a gunshot is the loudest normal sound a human being is likely to hear, which is why ear protectors are mandatory in firing ranges. Hollywood gunshots are usually much too quiet relative to other sounds, with a character in one scene able to shout as loud as a shotgun blast in another. This is really an Acceptable Break From Reality; most shooting enthusiasts will suffer from some degree of sound-induced hearing loss due to their hobby, and movie sound systems typically aren't designed to output noise above the human pain threshold anyway. Therefore, to accurately convey their impact, we are given standard sounds that represent gunfire.

Characters in fiction never seem to flinch or be in pain from the sound of gunshots, even when firing fully automatic weapons in confined spaces. People on TV never experience tinnitus or hearing loss, even temporarily. TV characters have the ability to fire their weapons and also hear tiny noises or whispers at the same time.

Gunfire sound effects may also be exploited for other dramatic purposes, most notably a tendency to assign distinctive "good guy" and "bad guy" sounds, providing the audio equivalent of Color Coded for Your Convenience. Sometimes directors will even assign a distinctive-sounding gunshot effect to a specific character, (as in the Indiana Jones examples below) in order to emphasize their heroic, villainous, or badass nature.

If a gun makes way too much noise when it isn't being fired, that's Noisy Guns. See also Blown Across the Room for exaggeration of the results of gunfire. For when fistfights are louder than they should be, see Kung Foley.

(Probably) Not related to the Armchair Cynics song. Not to be confused with More Dakka.

Examples of Bang Bang BANG include:

Anime and Manga


  • The standoff turned free-for-all in the bathroom in The Rock. That many automatic weapons firing in an enclosed, acoustically reflective space should have deafened every man in there, but no one seems to be affected by the noise.
  • In Cars, Lightning is about to pull over and ask the sheriff for help when the sheriff's car backfires, causing Lightning to panic, thinking he's being shot at.
  • Any movie in which there is a minigun. Terminator 2 had a powerful metal-like noise for its minigun, while the noise made by the one in Predator was more electric (ironically, the physical gun used in both movies is the same). Of note that those artificial noises always make the weapon sound like it's shooting far fewer bullets than it does in reality. A real electric Gatling gun's sound is completely different. The buzz-saw sound of a Gatling gun is so unusual that the sound effect is normally a gun shooting far SLOWER than an actual Gatling gun would shoot.
    • One of the elements in the Terminator 2 shotgun blast was a lion's roar. How Badass is that?
      • Other elements include two cannon shots laid on top of each other.
    • One of the documentaries on the "Ultimate Edition" DVD mentioned how the sound technicians had to fabricate a new sound effect for the minigun because the thing just made a droning noise when recorded at its normal speed. As shown in the above-referenced YouTube videos—the sound effect used for miniguns in movies is a slightly-sped-up sound from a M2A1 .50 caliber machine gun being fired. To hear what the weapon (commonly called a Ma Deuce) sounds like, it is shown on the History Channel series Mail Call being fired in a non-range situation.
  • The Final Countdown has a scene where a hostage standoff ends in an exchange of fire between three people firing M16 rifles on full auto in a ship's sickbay, yet nobody shows any signs of hearing damage afterward.
  • Played straight in The Godfather: as Mike prepares to hit Solozzo and McClusky, Clemenza explains the loudness of his gun: "Yeah, I left it noisy — that way it scares any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders away."
    • This might be Justified in-universe by Clemenza giving Michael a pistol that really does sound that loud (as in a fairly large caliber snubnose) which WOULD have such an effect, particularly in the confines of a restaurant. The gun he DOES have in the film doesn't fit the necessary profile too well, though.
      • The gun in the film is most likely a .38, and the barrel was about an inch long, a revolver of that size would have an extremely loud cracking sound. General rule of thumb: the shorter the barrel on a gun, the louder the report, and revolvers as a whole are louder than most automatic handguns, since a large degree of the noise is caused by gas escaping through the gap between the cylinder and the barrel.
  • Played with in the movie Home Alone, where the young protagonist makes a pair of burglars think they've overheard a murder in progress, when in reality it's a gangster-movie soundtrack and a packet of firecrackers.
  • According to the DVD commentary for the Indiana Jones movies, the sound used for Indy's handgun was actually a 30/30 rifle, to make it sound more impressive. Astute viewers will note that these movies adhere to the "distinctive gunshot per character" motif as every handgun Indy uses always produces the same sound.
  • Aside from using unrealistic gun sounds, the loudest single sound effect in Batman Begins was Joe Chill shooting Bruce's parents. Possibly justified, as it represents the impact the event had on Bruce's life. The sound made by the Joker's machine pistol in The Dark Knight is actually from a minigun.
  • Played with in Star Wars — when Luke and Leia are about to swing over the gap because Luke shot the bridge control panel, Leia fires a shot from a blaster — and a .44 Magnum sound effect plays instead of the usual blaster sound. This came down to a production error. The Stormtooper blaster rifles are cosmetically altered real guns (British-built Sterling sub-machine guns), firing blank rounds for smoke effect. They simply forgot to dub over the pop of the the blank in that scene, and apparently never corrected it.
  • Averted, for the most part, in Public Enemies, the 2009 movie about John Dillinger. For that matter, Michael Mann's other films, Heat and Collateral, featured very realistic gun play as well.
    • In fact the sound of gunfire in the bank robbery gun fight in Heat is the original on site recording rather than dubbed in sound effects.
  • Averted in the classic movie Hopscotch (1980) where the main character simulates half of an extended gunfire battle by lighting strings of fire-crackers with carefully-timed delay fuses.
  • In Training Day, when Alonzo fires his .45 Smith & Wesson 4506s, they sound like cannons rather than .45 handguns, especially considering the barrels are only 5 inches.
  • It is said that pistols in Sergio Leone movies sound like rifles, rifles like cannons and cannons like nuclear blasts. When Clint Eastwood and Lee van Cleef have a friendly shoot-out in the beginning of For a Few Dollars More every single one of their shots also sounds like a ricochet, even though they only shoot into the air and the ground.
  • Averted in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Although one of the movie's central themes is its unrealistic style, the gunshot sounds are not altered.
  • In The Men Who Stare at Goats, a group of paranoid security personnel in Iraq start shooting up a market after mistaking a car backfiring for a gunshot.
  • Both Shane and Bonnie and Clyde deliberately made the gunshots much louder than the rest of the noises in a given scene, specifically to make them much more shocking. One anecdote has Redford at the British premiere of Bonnie and Clyde noticing the gunshots aren't loud enough, so he rushes to the projection booth. Sure enough, the projectionist had a chart marking the time for each gunshot, and was manually turning down the sound at those moments. He is purported to have said, "This is the worst sound editing I've heard since Shane, all the gunshots are too loud."
  • Variation in The Other Guys, with a bomb instead of gunshots.
  • Played with in Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, in which the handguns used by the men in black suddenly shift from pistol sounds to machine-gun sounds when they start firing faster.
  • Somewhat subverted in The Expendables, while almost every gun sounds the same, when Hale Caeser comes to the rescue of them in the tunnel his AA-12 sounds like he's shooting a god damn howitzer, which in that space with an AA-12 it should.
  • Subverted in Last Action Hero: the bad guy walks in "our world", shoots a man and is surprised the noise didn't attract police or passers-by. Maybe justified in that it was a crapsack neighborhood and most likely a Crapsack World.
  • One character in Black Hawk Down averts the trope. A weapon is fired too close to his head, causing the character to suffer hearing loss for the remainder of the film.
  • The "characters never experience hearing loss or tinnitus" part of the trope is averted in an unusual way in the Get Smart movie. Max and Agent 22 are doing an urban warfare exercise using paintball guns, and 22 fires his right next to Max's ear. Max's ears continue to ring one scene later.
  • Very, Very Subverted in Act of Valor. Navy SEALS playing the main cast members fired live ammo on set.


  • Averted in one John Dickson Carr novel, where a firecracker is used to fake the sound of a gunshot to throw off the investigation.
  • Averted in the Discworld novel Men At Arms, where the gonne is mistaken for fireworks thanks to both the sound and smell.
  • Subverted in Harry Dolan's Bad Things Happen, where a character at first thinks that gunshots are a car backfiring, but then realizes that you don't hear that much anymore.
  • Lampshaded in one of Diane Duane's Spider-Man novels; Spidey comments that real gunfire sounds nothing like it does in the movies, and fills in his own descriptions of the actual sounds, such as "rulers being smacked on a desk."
  • In Stephen King's novel The Regulators, gunshots are incredibly loud; a sound of a shotgun is described as the sound of "a detonating backpack missile". Justified, because the shooters are actually figments of a little boy's imagination, made real by an evil force.
  • Subverted in the Confederation of Valor series. The Confederation has the technology to make its Space Marines' KC-7 rifles completely silent, but research showed the end users preferred the shots to be audible.

Live Action TV

  • Any Cop Show or Western.
  • Miami Vice used shotgun noise for the firing of pistols.
  • The FN Herstal P90 submachine gun in the Stargate Verse sounds very powerful, but that's not the issue here. The issue is that the AK-47 Assault Rifle sounds exactly the same. Particularly strange, because it sounds as if the AK-47 fires far more rounds than you'd guess from watching the action onscreen.
    • The M-16 variants used on occasion also use the same sound effect as the P90s, incidentally. One need only look at the fights in "Heroes" for evidence.
  • Seinfeld had Jerry mistaking a car backfiring for a race's starting pistol, giving him an unfair head start and winning him the race.
  • Averted in the Doctor Who episode "The Family of Blood". May have something to do with the fact that it takes place in 1913, so the audience doesn't expect the guns to sound like the Hollywood version of modern guns. Which is odd, because 1913-era guns sound much like modern guns, only with a lower rate of fire. The Hollywood version thereof, however, would have to wait until somebody invents the sound track. So the Coconut Effect is averted.
    • Also averted in the classic serial The Sea Devils, where much genuine Royal Navy ordnance is shot off (including a Bofors anti-aircraft cannon), but the soft (for varying values of "soft", of course) "paf-paf" sound that the real guns actually have on camera is nothing like what an audience might expect.
  • On one episode of Shark, it really was a car backfiring. Ditto Friends.
  • Somewhat inverted in Firefly, where most of the guns have somewhat futuristic but quieter laser-like sounds, despite the vast majority of them looking like the same kinds of guns you'd find today (though they are from the future, so maybe they use a different firing mechanism or have been redesigned for better stealth or something).
    • Firefly went back and forth on this, actually. Sometimes they used laser-like sounds, other times they used more standard gunshot sounds.
  • Lampshaded in the episode "The Perfect Dress" of Gilmore Girls, where Paris tells Rory, "No, that was just a car backfiring. The real gunfire actually sounds fake."
  • Averted to a degree in the 60s spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. In part, the aversion was plot determined, in that the "U.N.C.L.E. Special" handgun was capable of firing non-lethal "sleep darts", and when firing in that mode the pistol sounded very little like a firearm. But even when firing regular bullets while un-silenced, the U.N.C.L.E. Special's report was always quite a bit less noisy than the normal run of Hollywood handgun.
  • In the Weeds episode during which Nancy is shot at for the first time in her life, a backfiring car later causes her to drop to the ground in screaming terror in an Anvilicious display of post-trauma. Oddly enough, while guns still make her nervous later on, the post-traumatic stigma isn't there anymore. Hmmm...
  • One episode of CSI: Miami actually attempts this with popping wine bottles.
  • In an episode of Frasier, Niles falls into a depression and locks himself in the bathroom; his friends try to convince him out and hear a gunshot, prompting them to believe he committed suicide. In actuality, the shaving cream can had exploded. Hilarity Ensued.
  • In-universe example for Law & Order: Criminal Intent: a criminal makes it seem that she's being held hostage and pops a plastic bag, leading the police to come charging in firing.
  • Used in an episode of The Walking Dead. Main character Rick seems to have no problem handling the noise of his magnum revolver. Then he shoots it inside a tank... and is temporarily deafened by it.
  • Averted in The Office (US), where Dwight shoots a gun next to Andy, causing temporary deafness in one ear.
  • In Fringe Peter became temporarily deaf due to gunshots next to his ears. It was intentional, though.
  • Averted in an episode of Criminal Minds, Morgan has to shoot at an UnSub from inside their moving SUV. Prentis reams him afterward and complains that he's blown out one of her eardrums.
    • Not to mention the episode where a gun goes off right next to Hotch's ear, and he is visibly deafened afterwards.
  • Averted in the Young Blades episode, "Four Musketeers and a Baby," when the Highwayman warns D'Artagnan that firing a gun next to a baby will injure the baby's eardrums.
  • Discussed in an episode of Supernatural where Dean and Sam use a kid as bait to draw a Monster of the Week into a bedroom. They ask if the kid has heard a gunshot on TV, and he says he has. They tell him it will be much louder, and he should cover his ears.
  • In The Closer's season 4 episode "Time Bomb", the squad's confrontation with the final member of a teenage terrorist group features fully-automatic rifle fire and vast amounts of handgun fire. The sound effects for both are perfect: the automatic reports 'blur' into one another with a standard 'ratatatata' while the slower handgun shots are short, extremely loud and mid-rangey instead of the standard Hollywood BANG.

Real Life

  • The German MP40 (also called the Schmeisser) has been described as sounding like "the scariest sewing machine you'll ever hear". Listen for your self; you need to take the volume down a bit to eliminate the high range that would not carry over any significant distance. The quote probably dates to a time when most people would be more familiar with the sound of a sewing machine than automatic gunfire, and refers only to the regular nature of the sound rather than the precise sound of the shots.
  • Truth in Television—only with high-powered guns, though, especially rifles that can still hurt one's hearing far away.
    • You know how sometimes games and films have a weird metallic ringing noise along with the BOOM? It's obvious that no weapon could possibly make a noise like that. Oh, wait...
      • The sound of the bolt mechanism ejecting the shell.
  • Black powder guns actually do tend to have a bit of the bass "booooom" effect that's added to most gunshot sound effects. Also, some of the smallest guns make the biggest noise. NAA minirevolvers in .22 magnum are known for sounding a lot like movie SFX.
    • Shorter barrels translate directly to a bigger bang, since much of the gunpowder hasn't yet been consumed by the time the bullet clears the muzzle (it also explains another reason short barrels reduce projectile velocity; bigger bang means more powder going to waste).
  • In Vietnam, some US soldiers took to stealing AK's from dead NVA/VC soldiers. Aside from souvenirs, they did this because the AK has a rather distinct sound among assault rifles, so they could use them against the Viet Cong to sow confusion amongst them in battle.
    • Unfortunately that tactic was more harmful than beneficial in some cases since, upon hearing the distinctive report of AK-47s, U.S. soldiers would often assume the fire was of enemy origin. This led to some friendly fire incidents.
  • This also sometimes—depending on the construction of the range—add to the pleasures of a trip to a firing range, and increase your appreciation of ear protection.[1]

Tabletop Games

  • Justified case in Warhammer 40000. Orks find it hard to believe that a gun can do a lot of damage without making a truly deafening noise. This being the case, Ork Mekboyz create firearms designed specifically to make the loudest DAKKADAKKADAKKA you'll ever hear, therefore making the weapon that much more powerful. For a bit of clarification, Ork tech works the way it works because orks think it should work that way. By making them as loud as possible, Mekboyz probably DO, in fact, increase the damage output of the weapon.
    • Made a little more Justified in the Rogue Trader supplement Into The Storm, which lets ork Mekboyz kustomize weapons with loudeners. It doesn't make them more powerful, but it does make them sound more dangerous, enhancing the effects of suppressive fire.
  • It's actually pretty hard for a character in GURPS to identify the sound of a gunshot as such if unfamiliar with guns.

Video Games

  • Miniguns in video games are often depicted even more unrealistically than on film: not only do they make any of a variety of "rat-tat-tat" noises (with an electric motor noise occasionally thrown in for good measure), but often have such a slow rate of fire that the presence of more than one barrel is completely unnecessary.
    • Averted in Battlefield 2, the mounted miniguns on the Blackhawk transport helicopters sound mostly realistic, if a bit high-pitched.
    • Averted in Call of Duty 4 and its sequels: the miniguns used by the player at some points fire exceptionally fast.
    • Grand Theft Auto III has an assault rifle that fires at the rate of and sounds like a minigun.
  • Half-Life 2 averted this with the 9mm USP Match. Which had a rather disappointing (but fairly realistic) "PAFF PAFF" sound.
    • The original Half-Life played it totally straight with the Colt Python.
  • Averted in the first person shooter series Call of Duty, the guns sounding pretty realistic as long as you turn the volume loud enough.
  • The Rifle power for blasters in City of Heroes is all about classic movie gun sounds—with a different one for each "power" your rifle gains.
  • Counter-Strike also plays this with the H&K USP45 and the Glock 18: since the Glock eats 9 mm parabellum rounds and the USP45 uses the more powerful .45 ACP rounds, they basically made the USP's bang more low-pitched to make it feel more powerful. This may be an Acceptable Break From Reality though: remember video games must also give some feedback to the player, and in this case, the user knows the difference between the Glock and the USP's power by the detonation.
    • The .45 ACP is more powerful, but fire big bullets slowly, while the 9 fires small bullets somewhat faster; if you shoot a 9mm and a .45 side-by-side, the former will sound closer to a 'crack' and the latter to a 'thump.' Not by a huge degree, mind you, but this leans towards Truth in Television.
  • Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City have pistols that make a loud "BANG!" when fired. San Andreas then downplays this by giving the pistol a more muffled, high-pitched, "weaker" sound.
  • Accidental video game example: for Halo, Bungie mastered the weapon sound effects with an LFE component (the .1 in 5.1 surround sound). For most parts of a recording, this sound-effect-to-LFE transition ("bass management") is actually meant to be performed by the home user's sound system, so in this instance the bass on the guns was doubled-up. This was corrected for the sequel, leading to a more accurate sound which initially seemed weaker.
    • Strangely enough, the silenced SMG in ODST is louder than the original version.
  • Inverted in case three of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, where the killer uses firecrackers to fool witnesses into thinking the murder took place much later than it actually did.
  • Most of the guns in the N64 game of GoldenEye follow this trope but special mention has to go to the Cougar Magnum. Even though it's a handgun and therefore one of the smaller weapons in the game, it sounds like a cannon going off (and can shoot through up to five enemies at once, unlike the other guns).
    • The same goes for the Magnum in Perfect Dark, which uses a stock sound often used for shotguns. In fact, the shotguns in this game use the same sound.
    • Soldier of Fortune's Hand Cannon, the Silver Talon, also sounds somewhat cannon-like, and decapitates enemies at absurdly long range.
  • Actually becomes a minor plot point in MadWorld, in with the Deathwatch forbids guns except for the overseers and a handful of contestants, where Jack hears a small-arm fire and realises it's too small to be one of their weapons.
  • Medal of Honor employs recordings of authentic WW 2 weapons firing live ammunition just to get the sound right.
    • Oddly, the MG-42's in Allied Assault fire slower than in other games, and sound more like assault rifles or SMGs than heavy machine guns. They still cut you down like a hot knife through butter.
    • The Springfield sniper rifle sounds like a cannon in the first game (similar to the Hand Cannon in GoldenEye and Perfect Dark actually), but more realistic in later games.
  • The pistols in Halo, Red Faction, and Doom 3 all use the same sound.
  • An odd aversion is present in Unreal II the Awakening where the main assault rifle has people divided over the sound with reactions including, 'good', 'more like a staple gun' and even a 'weak hissing' noise according to one reviewer.
  • Starcraft is horribly guilty of this. The Marines are outfitted with "Gauss Rifles" that, based on the name, should accelerate bullets using electromagnetic coils yet, for some reason, make generic rat-a-tat sounds as if they were propelled by gunpowder.
    • Actually, a significant amount of gunfire's noise is generated by the bullet's sonic boom, and since the Gauss Rifles marines carry are specifically described as accelerating their projectiles to hypersonic speeds, they could easily retain the rat-a-tat sound effect.
      • Furthermore, the exact mechanism of the Gauss Rifles is unclear: they are magazine-fed and eject brass casings. It's entirely possible it's a some sort of hybrid arm, with a gunpowder charge AND magnetic acceleration.
      • The intro cutscene in Brood War clearly shows that the rifles produce muzzle flash (never mind in-game), which a coilgun would not do (unless added as a visual aid for the Marines' benefit, maybe?).
  • In The Godfather: The Game the magnum series does make loud sounds, which the description in-game clearly notes, but the other guns are more subdued.
  • As a general note, Video Games dealing with real models (weapon types that are actually in existence) tend to have this better than most Live Action franchises by a noticeable (though not overwhelming) amount, in large part because since you can usually tailor everything in the game to proportion (as opposed to live action, where you can chop up the recordings and modify them by increasing or decreasing the volume to varying extents but have very concrete technical limits). This is not to say that they are perfect (far from it, many if not most do have this trope) and very, VERY few people try to get the sound of fictional weapons somewhat right, but on the whole it's something.
  • The pistol sound used in the 3D Grand Theft Auto games shows up a lot not only in other video games, but TV and film as well.
  • Somewhat averted in Fallout: New Vegas. Many of the guns are quieter than your average gamer would expect, especially the good ole 9mm, and when heard from a distance, it sounds more like a PAFF PAFF PAFF when people are going at it some distance away. They did a very nice job with most sound effects in the game, especially those heard from a distance. The Hunting Shotgun (standard Remington 12ga 5-shot pump) also not only sounds pretty realistic (spoken from someone who owns almost exactly the same gun IRL), but also fires and reloads pretty realistic, although a bit fast.
    • This is actually a case of Write What You Know. Many of the developers at Obsidian were really into guns before hand and had done lots of research on them for Fallout 1 & 2, which couldn't really pull off this effect. This knowledge really got around the office too as Project Director Joshua Eric Sawyer was not a gun person at all (he's a very left-leaning guy) but over the course of development became a bit of a gun nerd and wrote an entire faction (the Mormon New Canaanites from Honest Hearts) with an accurate history to their relationship with guns and their militia (though most of this wasn't used in-game).
  • Averted with the 9mm pistols in most of the Resident Evil series, but played straight with the magnums, which use typical Hand Cannon sounds.
  • Averted in the ARMA series, which realistically simulates sound effects separately for both supersonic and subsonic ammunition. Supersonic bullets will let off a large cracking sound when fired, while subsonic rounds only have the sound of the initial gunpowder explosion.
  • Averted by the 9mm pistol in Max Payne. Played straight by every other weapon, however.
  • Alan Wake surprisingly plays this straight even on a diegetic level; an audible ringing can be heard after firing a pistol for the first time, and Alan will mention he is used to wearing ear protection in a firing range. Subverted from then on to undoubtedly avoid annoying players.
  • The first Gears of War game averts this with a number of guns that sound fairly realistic, with the sniper rifle and default pistol sounding the most like actual guns. The newer sound effects for pretty much every gun in the sequels plays this straight though.
  • The developers of the western Video Game/Gun made recordings of real life versions of each gun in the game, specifically to avert this.

Western Animation

  • They originally tried using the workaround of recording actual firearm noise for Aeon Flux, but it ultimately wasn't used due to Executive Meddling. The funny thing is that the foley effects they went with actually made less of a racket. In this case it kinda works, though, since the guns are all futuristic models.
  1. It protects your hearing, and often it is well worth layering. Ear plugs alone are acceptable, ear plugs and muffs are better.