I've been doing a lot of hand gun sound editing and design lately and was going to look at a couple of movies for reference. But I'm having a surprisingly hard time coming up with films with great gun sounds. I know there has to be at least a couple dozen out there!

So, what are your favorites and why?

5 Answers 5


I tend to do a lot of gun sound design, here are some of my favorite gun reference films:

Saving Private Ryan - Amaznigly detailed and stylized shots, bullet bys, and impacts

Miami Vice (2006) - The guns just sound dirty to me, everything feels real, the shootout at the end is great, I epecially like how every gun has it's own sonic space

True Lies - Action movie guns that are really clear and detailed

T2 - Really well designed and stylized stuff. Big action movie guns that don't sound like they were recorded in 1950. This film is a great bridge out of the 80's "A-Team style guns" that filled a lot of movies and TV, which (to me) lacked depth, punch, and detail.

The Matrix - Very stylized (as is the sound in general). The way perspective was used in the lobby shootout is great. The bullet time guns are awesome.

Bad Boys 2 - This is what modern action movie guns should sound like

Mr. and Mrs. Smith - I like for the same reasons as Bad Boys 2

I have to watch them again, but I seem to remember that Fast Five and Skyfall both had some good gun stuff. Casino Royale is a great reference for the classic suppressed gun sound.


What kind of fire arms are you looking for? Present day, historical, futuristic? For present day, a big film I go to is HEAT. The gun fight in that movie is one of the best I have seen/heard. A go to for sound design ideas. For over the top fun, "The Expendables has some really good bits too.

For a historical movies, "Saving Private Ryan" and "A Band of Brothers" has some real good reference to design as far as audio, some of the best for a period piece. As well as "The Patriot" and "Glory"

Another movie that as some really good design is "Star Trek - Into Darkness" For scifi, it has some really good variations of SFX. Another is The Matrix, I know you might think it is a scifi flick but they use a lot of normal fire arms in that movie. The sequence where they go rescue Morpheus is just brilliant!

Sorry for being all over the board on this but I am sure when I get home and look at my collection, I could add 10 fold to this. I hope this help in your quest. Let me know if you would like more, I would be happy to help out. Oh and as a tip/technique I try to imply when designing gun SFX. A little thing i picked up from the video game world, there are 3 sounds for every weapon:

1:The mechanical - The actually working of the weapon be it the shell loading to the hammer clicking or the revolver spinning.

2:The "Boom" - Pretty self explanatory. Be sure to give it the style and characteristic of the weapon

3:The human element - The actual use of the weapon. From it being handled by an individual (loading and unloading to fire the weapon)

Hope this help with you ventures! Best of luck!!!

  • Ah, HEAT! How could I forget! Good one. Generally, I'm mainly looking for present day, modern sounding hand guns.
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 22:31
  • 1
    Rob Roy for period guns/rifles. Master and Commander for cannons and a great little featurette in the dvd about the recording process. There's even an interactive mix feature for the cannon.
    – user6513
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 4:02

Whenever I work on a "gun film", a lot of directors say I want it to sound like "Heat". To me the best thing about the guns in that film was how they fitted into the city. The reverbs and slap off the buildings were awesome and bought the edge of your seat energy.


I would also recommend "Shoot'em Up". Very loud, cinematic-ally real and jump out of your seat bangs. Love it.

All the other recommendations are also really well sighted. But of course Heat sets the standards for others to follow.


I've only gotten a chance to edit a handful of "real" projects with guns in them (plenty of sound re-edits I've done on my own to Hollywood films, though!) and I always like to think of kind of a spectrum of realism vs. entertainment. On the most realistic side of things, we've got movies like The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, and on the other end we've got things along the lines of Terminator 2.

All the movies that others have mentioned here are great, especially for the more in-your-face style of editing.

There are also movies where the guns are more than just guns, they're almost characters, or representations of ideas. I'm thinking specifically of No Country For Old Men and Elephant. The weapons used by Chighur in No Country are extremely well designed and uniquely characterized. In Elephant, the guns are terrifying both in how loud they pop out of the mix, the way that their sound blooms in the school hallways, and in how anti-climactic they are at times. We'll build up to somebody being killed using other sound and visual devices, but our expectation of a huge abstraction of a gunshot is defied, and their life is instead cut short by a loud, but brief and somewhat high pitched "crack."

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