Does a Suppressed Pistol Sound like a Nail Gun?


NRA Silencer And Suppressed Pistol Facts Cropped
Does a Suppressed Pistol Sound like a Nail Gun?

Fairfax, VA – -( In response to reports that the Virginia Beach shooter used a firearm suppressor in carrying out his terrible crime, David Chipman, Senior Policy Advisor for the Giffords gun control group, claimed that a suppressed pistol is especially dangerous because the noise associated with the firearm is difficult to distinguish from a nail gun. As per usual for claims Chipman and his employer make about firearm suppressors, this is false.

In an article appearing in the Virginian-Pilot, Chipman claims, “The gun does not sound gun-like. It takes the edge out of the tone . . . This is how I would describe it: It makes a gun sort of sound like a nail gun.”

But, a suppressed .45 caliber pistol, like the one that is reported to have been used in Virginia Beach, is many times louder than a nail gun:

  • A suppressed .45 caliber pistol produces about 130-135 dBA.
  • Decibels (dBA) are a logarithmic scale, so sound levels increase in a non-linear fashion. A 3 dBA increase doubles the sound pressure level. (Although most people perceive a 6 to 10 dBA increase as double the noise level.)

The 30-35 dBA difference between a nail gun and a suppressed pistol will be perceived as at least eight times louder to the human ear.

As an interesting comparison, an unsuppressed pistol produces about 165 dBA. So the difference between an unsuppressed and suppressed pistol is about the same difference in sound pressure level between a suppressed pistol and a nail gun.

Chipman can’t have it both ways, if, as he claims, suppressed gunfire can’t be easily identified as gunfire, then suppressed gunfire doesn’t sound anything like a nail gun.

This isn’t Chipman’s first attempt to mislead the public on firearm suppressors. In 2017, he made a false claim about the design intent of suppressors. And, his employer received three “Pinocchios” from the Washington Post fact checker for misleading claims they made about suppressors.

Unfortunately, the Virginian-Pilot article created further confusion about suppressors by producing audio files that purport to show the difference in sound level between nail guns, suppressed pistols, and unsuppressed pistols. Listening to recorded audio through speakers or headphones cannot accurately depict these sound differences. Due to microphone and speaker specifications, most sounds in audio recordings are reproduced at a similar sound level. This is why normal conversations and gunfire can both be reproduced in the same audio recording despite the fact that one of the sounds is over 100 dBA louder than the other.

The only way to accurately perceive the differences in sound levels is to hear them in person (with appropriate hearing protection). Short of that, if the Virginian-Pilot wanted to accurately convey differences in sound level, using commonly occurring sounds can be helpful.

For example, a suppressed pistol at over 130 dBA is louder than the maximum sound level of a jackhammer. Not exactly quiet and nothing like a nail gun.

NRA Silencer And Suppressed Pistol Facts
NRA Silencer And Suppressed Pistol Facts

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit:

  • 17 thoughts on “Does a Suppressed Pistol Sound like a Nail Gun?

    1. Enough with the f**kery already! If we had used suppressors in the Army, I wouldn’t have a constant ringing in my ears today. You need to be able to hear what’s going on around you, even when firing a weapon. “Alpha team set, bravo team move”, “shift fire” or, “cease fire” are commands you need to hear. Ear plugs block that out. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Battle Drill out of the Infantry Manual or, just a simple command at the range. Suppressors allow you to hear without damaging your hearing. The banning of “silencers” in the NFA is outrageous and ridiculous.

    2. Suppressed 45 caliber pistol sounds like a nail gun? So are we comparing it to a Ramset Hammer Shot 0.22 Caliber Single Shot Tool or a “Cobra @2169 Semi Auto 27 Caliber nail gun? I know, I bet he was comparing it to a Ramset 238-M 38 Caliber nail gun. It’s true, a suppressed 45 caliber pistol sounds just like a nail gun! The only problem is determining which one and what caliber nail gun it is sounding like! A person who hears any gun being discharged, especially in multiple closely spaced reports and automatically assumes it must be construction work being done with a “nail gun” is dumber than dirt, denser than rocks, and has the situational awareness of a bowl jello!

    3. I also wonder if this was a real suppressor or a home made one. The gun banning cults are claiming anyone can walk in and out of a gun store with one in a matter of minutes. Of course, we know that to be a lie. The ATF is so backlogged, one has to wait 6 months to pick one up. But the news media believes everything the gun banning cults say, if you don’t have any actual facts, just make up “stuff” the news media and general public will believe anyways. And why the “fear” of suppressors? Its just a round piece of metal with parts inside. In Europe, they don’t have the restrictions on suppressor like the USA does. If one looks back in old catalogs or articles, back around 1900, families used to go target shooting and used sound suppressor. It wasn’t until the 1934 gun control act that restrictions were placed on them, all because some joker wit the fish and game dept. told a “buddy” senator to include suppressor as that would stop all poaching (of course, in the 1930’s, the depression was on and people were starving and resorted to poaching, and this dude didn’t like it), so there is no “reason” to restrict suppressors. And if gun banning politicians can ban accessories for guns, how far can they go? Ban triggers, barrels, stocks?
      These gun banning cults (and gun banning politicians) are getting money and told what to do by Bloomberg, George Soros, the evil U.N., and America hating foreign governments! Do not vote for any democrats! They are all in this together, no matter what they say to the press- they figure the general public is really “gullible” and will believe any propaganda they put out.
      Vote for President Trump in 2020. Do not vote for any democrats! Support the NRA, GOA, and other pro-gun and pro- hunting organizations.

      1. darn good question as all suppressors are Class III and require a ton of time, paperwork, money, and a class III FFL to obtain one. Mine took over a year from date of purchase to tax stamp arrived..
        Me I vote home made and hence one more felony on the POS….

      1. I’m sorry, Mr. Bethel, but I didn’t quite get your point. What was “dumb” about It? Did you not any inaccuracies or questionable facts? (No one should judge your comments, until you’ve actually said something)

    4. I’m a sound contractor and a gun owner. I’ve used nail guns. Most use a .22-.25 blank. The size of the blank depends on the material to be pierced. The steel pin does not really gas seal well in the short barrel. There is a lot of blow by noise. I wear shooting muffs when using mine. They are damn loud. Yeah, the perception of sound levels depend on proximity and tone and how the human ear and brain processes it. A mentor, also a shooter, measured 160dB-SPL at his opposite ear shooting a 1911 .45acp one handed. Even muffs or plugs only subtract 21-30dB. Your short explanation above is pretty good.

      1. What you are referring to is a nail set for concrete anchors not a nail gun. The nail gun in the article (100 dBA) and the picture is a pneumatic nail gun.

    5. The most truly silenced firearm I have personal experience with, was a Ruger Mark II with a suppressor, firing sub-sonic .22LR ammo. All you heard was the bolt making a “clink-clink” sound and a little puff of smoke. I also fired a suppressed British STEN with low power 9mm ammo that was so quiet, that if I was firing it in my yard, I doubt my neighbors would have realized what the sound really was.

      Those were the exception, not the rule.

    6. Unfortunately these anti-gunners are going to try and pass off the sound a suppressor makes in the movies as factual to those that have never been around an actual suppressor. You will still need to wear hearing protection when someone is using one on their gun.

      1. I fire a 556 and a 300 blackout suppressed and do not need ear protectors. Without the suppressors, absolutely. I am sure my neighbors appreciate when I use the suppressors.

        I also use a DeWalt nail gun. The nail gun is considerably quieter.

        I have yet to hear if the suppressor as used in Virginia, attached to one (1) of the 45s, was real or fake??

        1. John, and the survivors all stated they heard gunshots. So it is a moot point as to whether or not it was a “real” or legal suppressor. End result is there were gunshots, they were heard, and people that were wittingly rendered defenseless by their employer ended up injured and dead.

          Also, I suspect that those that have never heard real gunfire would not know what it was, having never heard it before, until after, when they learned that those sounds were coming from a firearm(s).

          The indoor gun range I go to does have sound suppressing material between the shooting area and the lobby, but the door between is just a regular wood door. It’s amazing how much sound that door blocks, since when it opens, the sound volume increases quite significantly. So I can see how inside a large building with many rooms, acting as sound baffles, the sound of gunfire would be reduced outside of the room in which the firearm is discharged – suppressor or not.

          1. I agree except about the moot point part. Respectfully, it does matter.

            It matters because authorities have stated the firearms (which would include the suppressor) were purchased legally. Purchased legally would mean if an actual suppressor, a tax stamp was applied for and approved. Equally, if fake, an over the counter purchase would be legal commerce.

            Suppressors will now be the target for more restrictions, if not banned altogether – how ironic if the one allegedly used was fake yet it became the catalyst for such restrictions?

    7. Back in the 90’s a co-worker brought a suppressed Mac-11 to our monthly pistol match. The suppressor was as big around as a coke can and about 12 inches long. He put a full thirty round magazine in and fired it to slide lock at the berm. The ONLY sound was a click, click, click….. It was the sound of the bolt moving back and forth. Sounded like a sewing machine. Once, at one of our local ranges, a guy was near me shooting a suppressed Ruger 22/45 that, without hearing protection on, sounded like a BB gun. He also had an AR-15 with a suppressor that, without hearing protection, sounded like a standard (low) velocity .22 Rifle. Even a CB Cap .22 round out of a rifle makes little to no noise.

    8. Ugh! This whole debate is pointless. The guy at the VB shooting was in a room some distance from the actual shooting, probably with the door closed. To him, it might have sounded like a nail gun being used just outside in the hallway. As one audio technician once said “Decibel levels be damned, noise is subjective.” The fact that some people think suppressed guns go “pfft, pew or thump” because they watch too many movies is irrelevant. It’s what politicians with an agenda think that matters. To them, the facts be damned.

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