I'm a (still learning) game programmer, and I wanted to know if there is some knowledge base for making good gun sounds.

So far I collected .WAV for Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 2 & 3, but I want some more !

Sounds I don't have and wish I have are in Die Hard 2 on PSX http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg4a-i4OYDE

...and the awesome Time Crisis gun sounds, which change if you are outside, in a close environment or else (I count 3 sounds at least): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJgpJ1VWtxk

Also the automatic rifle sounds in the tv show Generation Kill: are these real sounds, blank point, or else ?

How do sound engineers work gun sounds ? How can I modify existing ones ? I know a little theory about pitch and pan, low/high frequency filter, what can I do with audacity and all that ? any sound I can mimic with real objects ?

I like rifle sound which look "dry", a very quick snap noise like "tac"...

  • Excellent question! I've always wondered this, and for explosion sounds as well.
    – Brad
    Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 2:15
  • yes that would work the same way I guess... I wonder if one can emulate some kind of sudden/brutal wave equation to synthetize this. We already synthetize graphics, why not sounds :)
    – jokoon
    Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 10:39

6 Answers 6


It seems to me that gun sounds in movies and games are very, very far from the way real gun shots actually sound, both live and recorded. Movie and game gun sound effects are typically very heavy in the low end, which gives the impression of "punch" and "force". There might be plenty of low frequency content in real gun shots, but to me, it sounds like they are completely dominated by transients in the mid to high frequency range. So in order to record great sound effects for games you might want to turn to other sources like fireworks or recordings of high caliber artillery.

In order to record "dry" sounds without a lot of ambient sound reflections, you might need special microphones that can cope with the sound pressure level (SPL) generated by firearms. According to this source, gunfire noise reaches 155+ dB. A sampling of the max. SPL of popular condenser microphones from Neumann, AKG and RODE seem to fall well below this level. The max. SPL rating of the Shure MK57 dynamic microphone is 150dB.

There are plenty of sound effect library CDs that offer various recordings of gun shots.

Regardless of where you obtain recordings of gun shots, fireworks, etc., I would expect to spend a fair amount of time post processing the sound with compressors, EQ, tube distortion, and other effects to find just the right timbre and expression to match the style of the game and the other sound effects.

There are people who make a living off making sound effects for games and movies; I am sure there's much more to the art of making sound effects than what I just outlined here. For example, the Wikipedia article I just linked to mention that:

heavy staple gun combined with other small metal sounds make good gun noises[

As for the gun sound changing character depending on the environment, you might want to consider achieving this using real-time DSP effects, provided you haven't completely used up the CPU load budget. Unless you create a huge number of fixed sample variations, you will be able to create much more realistic changes to the sound using simple reverb and echo effects in-game. The ear is extremely sensitive to changes in reverb, so you will need to keep track of a large number of fixed samples in order to create convincing transitions as the player moves around in the game's different environments. With real-time DSP you basically just need to adjust the decay time, delay time and dry/wet ratio of the reverb DSP in response to the player's position and the environment.


Looking at this video from EA DICE. (makers of the Battlefield series). You will see that the microphone type/brand/model has a very big impact on the resulting sounds. Also the distance too has a large impact.

"The perfect" gun sound is really subjective. It depends on the style you may want to give to your game (realistic, cartoon, real-life youtube-like, etc..).

So, during recording, use as many microphone you can find. Use quality pre-amp, and try several distances. Choose a safe location.

The location is an issue. Because most of the time, you will record in a large empty space for security reasons. If your game's location is more a city, the recording you will make will not match your need: a gun in a desert does not sound like a gun in a city.

If your gun sound is heard from many distances in your game or if you want to abstract the most possible the location from the recording, you may want to record it the more dry possible and apply the wet portion (reverb) at run-time. You may use a convolution reverb for best results.

Please keep in mind that you should not use the sound files you find in video games, as the content in games is copyrighted.

Another video (west texas gun shoot-mic comparisons) I found out to very interesting. Basically, mixing different mic from different distances and angles gives impressing results.

  • very interesting video, thanks ! I'm aware of copyright, but it's just for personal use, I can't really afford to record sound, so in the end I just want to analyse those sounds I have to see the frequency repartitions and so on. I really want to try to synthesize a gun sound, by adding pops to other noises. I don't want something realist, I just want something cool.
    – jokoon
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 9:42
  • Keep us posted! Gun synthesis is an interesting subject!
    – decasteljau
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 12:09

The most surprising part of the experience of hearing a gunshot up close is the quiet.

Yep, you read that right! It's not the loud noise... it's the fact that 150 db right next to your ears numb them a bit and for a few seconds after the gunshot everything goes quiet while your eardrums recover.

To create a realistic gunshot sound in a game, lower all other ambient noises afterwards for a few seconds... maybe replace them with a little bit of ringing for good measure. (IIRC Call of Duty does a nice job of this)

  • taking this a bit further, the sound should slowly degrade over the course of the game to mimic permanent hearing damage--unless the player picks up ear plugs or ear protection along with the ammo and weapon upgrades that the enemy happened to randomly, but conveniently leave behind
    – Kim Burgaard
    Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 13:40
  • ducking other all sounds with a side chain compressor tied to the gunshot channel will also make the gunshots seem louder. To achieve a moment of quiet, the release time just needs to be set relatively high.
    – Kim Burgaard
    Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 13:43

You can rent a gun at your local sporting range. Or, just ask someone if you can record over their shoulder. Take hearing protection along -- both in- and over-ear if you have it.

  • I don't know how that happens in france, but I'd be curious...
    – jokoon
    Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 10:37
  • Gun sounds sound nothing like guns. :) Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 6:23
  • Sure. And it's very difficult to rec.
    – H_7
    Commented Oct 1, 2011 at 13:58

Social Sound Design has a post on this subject too.


Not sure about the explosion part of the sound, but the bullet...

The bullet makes a twirllll sound very fast and very treble. You can reproduce very near this effect with a steel cable stretched and a little hammer. Hit the cable with the hammer, and the zunning sound is exactly the same. Very used in old west films.

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