A neighbor of mine recently bought an air rifle for one of their children. It was their first one and they were massively excited to receive it. They seemed to be having fun plinking in their garden but when I asked about it they said the child wasn’t really enjoying it much. When I asked why they told me it was because it was much louder than expected. This was the kid’s first introduction into airguns and the after being told it wouldn’t be that noisy seemed a little shocked as to how much of a ‘bang’ it made when they used it. I wish they’d asked for my advice before the gun had been bought because I could’ve steered them to something I know would have been quieter. However, looking online it seems this is actually quite a common question. So, why is my air rifle so loud?
Your Air Rifle is most likely noisy due to the air (or gas) that is compressed escaping the barrel and making a popping noise, in the same way that a cork will make a ‘pop’ when it is removed from a fizzy drinks bottle. If this is too loud you may be able to reduce the noise level by purchasing a silencer for it (assuming one is available for your Air Rifle). If you have a Spring-Piston Air Rifle then the noise is coming from the kinetic energy produced by the piston although these are typically much quieter than Compressed Air or CO2 Air Rifles.
Where does the noise come from?
Let’s start by understanding exactly where the noise actually comes from in the first place. There are a fair few variables involved here but fundamentally the noise is caused by the inner mechanisms of the gun and/or the gas being expelled from the barrel. When we think about the internal mechanism then we’re talking about a spring mechanism. The spring and other moving parts have a lot of kinetic energy and when they are forced to a stop then this kinetic energy is lost in the form of sound energy (and of course some heat).
The other cause (gas being expelled from the barrel) is due to the air surrounding the barrel of the gun being compressed into what is known as a blast wave. This is very much a generalisation though as the amount of carbon dioxide or compressed air and the size of the barrel have a big part to play in determining the noise level.
Which is louder, a Spring-Piston or Compressed Air / CO2?
Despite the fact that I hate answers that don’t actually answer the question this may be what this sounds like 🙂 The answer is it actually depends on whether you’re the guy holding the thing or someone watching. I guess technically though the answer is the Compressed Air / CO2 variety of airguns make more noise than Spring-Pistons. Yes, your lovely Spring-Piston will sound loud to you but that is actually because of two main reasons. Firstly, the proximity of your ears to the spring and piston. Secondly, there’s a good chance a part of your face will be in contact with the Air Rifle when you shoot it. Why does this matter? Well, the movement of all the ‘stuff’ inside creates a lot of vibrations and these vibrations will travel through the gun and into you, exacerbating the noise levels. Hence why as far as the shooter is concerned, it’ll sound really loud but actually from someone either a few feet away, it won’t be anything quite as noisy!
How Loud (in decibels) are Air Rifles?
The loudness of your Air Rifle can depend on what model you choose, even though they are the same type of gun. I’ve performed a bit of research online and have come up with the below table of decibel ratings for certain Rifles. I’ve taken the decibel ratings of the below guns from information sourced online. Different tests were performed over different distances away from the source, from around 2 meters to approximately 50 meters – I have averaged these results together to come up with the below data. These are approximations of course and were not scientifically tested. Temperature and wind direction, for instance, can impact noise levels to quite a degree.
|Air Rifle||Caliber||Decibels (Avg)|
So, you can see from the above that the loudness ranges from 74 to 82 decibels. But what does this mean actually? If we compare some familiar sounds to this you’ll get an idea of the noise level.
- 100 decibels – a jet taking off from about 300 metres away.
- 90 decibels – a subway train pulling into a station with you standing a few metres away.
- 80 decibels – this is the typical sound level of an alarm clock. Unless it’s my son’s clock, in which case it is probably twice this level and for some reason never seems to wake him on a school day.
- 70 decibels – your average dishwasher makes this kind of volume. Also, a vacuum cleaner or a hair-dryer is around this level.
So there you go, what did we learn from this? Well, your typical Air Rifle will sound (on average) about as loud as an alarm clock. Depending on where you’re standing and countless other variables.
Is there anything I can do to reduce the noise?
You could buy a Spring-Piston!
No really, is there anything I can do to reduce the noise?
Okay, okay. Yes, there is, sorry – I didn’t mean to sound condescending! You could buy a silencer. Imagine you’re holding a balloon. Now imagine someone with a pin inserts that pin into the fore-mentioned balloon. It will go bang, right? Of course it does, but now imagine that you let the air out much slower, no bang. It’s actually the same principle as this which is applied in a silencer.
When you fire a pellet in an Air Rifle it is the pressure of the air (or gas) that pushes the pellet down the barrel. Imagine all that gas pushing your pellet down the barrel until it comes out and like a cork in a bottle of champagne it pops when it comes out. Although with an Air Rifle the pressure will be higher of course.
So, how can a silencer prevent this? It has a large volume, at least compared to the barrel and screws nicely onto the end of it. Remember how the air popped like a cork when it exited the barrel? Well, now when the air comes out of the barrel it is able to expand into a larger space before it exits. What this means is that the pressure reduces significantly. Without so much pressure there is less of a pop and therefore the Air Rifle is much quieter.
A lot of people so seem to think that the noise is actually a Sonic Boom but this is not the case!
What else can impact the noise?
Noise is impacted by any object placed between the source and the ear. So if you’re worried about your Air Rifle making a bit too much noise and upsetting the neighbours then there are some things you can do about it. If your primary interest is plinking then why not build yourself a Shooting Range? All you really need are some large bits of wood constructed into an enclosure that will ensure most of the sound waves are contained within rather than escaping. You could also add some sound-proofing material to it as well as an ‘upgrade’, as well as somewhere to store your pellets and add-ons. The one draw-back to this though is that it will make the Air Rifle louder when you’re shooting from inside!
Other things that can impact the noise are buildings and trees so something to consider is relocating your plinking location into the middle of two buildings. Anything that has mass will absorb sound so just bear this in mind when trying to find that perfect place to perfect your tin-can destruction!
Although there is some research you can do before-hand to minimise the noise-level of the Air Rifle you want to use, it is a gun after all – they make noise. It’s a bit like buying a supercar but wanting it to be quiet, the noise if half the fun, right? Although, I do know that some Air Rifles can be deemed a little too loud and it may be a shock for the beginner or for the younger shooter! If you’re after a rifle that’s quiet then get yourself a Spring-Piston, it’s the easiest and simplest choice. If you already have a Compressed Air/CO2 gun then see if you can get a silencer for it. Additionally, construct a mini shooting range on your land and constrain the sound to just your local environment.
Has the noise level of your Air Rifle presented a problem to you or your neighbours? If so, what was the problem and what did you do about it? I’d genuinely love to hear from you and hear your comments so if you have any thoughts please feel free to post something below.
Alternatively, does your airgun produce more smoke from the muzzle than it used to? If so, best take a look at the article here (opens in a new tab). Does it occasionally not fire? Then take a look here – this info may really help you out!
If you’re in the market for a new gun, be it a BB, Air Rifle or Pistol, check out my totally unbiased reviews on what’s best out there right now. These have all been tried and tested so you don’t have to worry about buying something that isn’t up to the job: