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Author Topic: concerning firearms sounds  (Read 6570 times)

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dhparker

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concerning firearms sounds
« on: April 03, 2007, 01:40:47 PM »

This is the snippet that concerns me: 

   "Nobody answered.  Not with words.
     The next thing I heard was a loud, echoing explosion combined with the unmistakable snick and twang of a ricocheting slug."

The shooter is outside a cave shooting into it.  The viewpoint character is inside. 

I've never heard a ricocheting slug, except on TV, which probably isn't worth much.  Does this description sound at all believable?  Also, would the explosion and the ricochet sound be simultaneous?

So glad we have experts to ask!!! 

Thanks!
Donna

Lee Lofland

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2007, 09:40:21 AM »

I've never fired a weapon into a cave or anything like it so I'm no real judge of this particular scenario. I have; however, fired thousands of rounds of ammunition and never once have I ever heard the sounds you've described for a ricochet. The only time I remember hearing anything at all like this were during a shootout and those were caused by bullets ricocheting off concrete pavement. They sounded like pebbles or small rocks hitting the hard surface. Sort of like sleet hitting a windowpane. No twang, just clicks and ticks.

Also, I can't really say that gunshots sounds like explosions, but I guess that would depend upon the weapon that's being fired. Bigger guns and higher powered ammunition make bigger noises.
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dhparker

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2007, 08:30:14 PM »

Thanks, Lee.  That's why I asked.   :)  I've never heard a ricochet in person, in or out of a cave.  As to the "explosion", I assumed in that enclosed area, to somebody who wasn't used to gunfire, it might sound like an explosion--at least a minor one.  But maybe not.

I'm certainly open to any more descriptions and all the help I can get!

Donna

Elena

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2007, 08:53:52 PM »

It occurs to me that a
Quote
loud, echoing explosion
would render the hearer incapable of hearing something much softer like ricocheting.  Inside a cave could have the effect of temporary full to mild deafness.  At a minimum wouldn't the echoing cover the ricochet sounds?

Interesting to consider,
Elena
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Bob Mueller

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2007, 06:12:13 PM »

Well, back in the days when I was working on my testimony.....(read: young and stupid days)  ::)

A friend and I were out in the woods around his property, walking around and "plinking" - target shooting at random trees, rocks, etc. It started raining, and we took shelter in an old sandstone railroad overpass. We eventually got bored, and decided to shoot at a couple of trees outside the tunnel/overpass. I made the mistake of not being completely outside the tunnel, and way too close to the way on my left. I fired once, from a .40 cal Taurus pistol. I had no hearing protection in place.

The discharge sounded quite like an explosion to me. It was a short, sharp and painful crack, followed by a sensation I can only describe as a muffled echo. That muffled feeling (very similar to what you get when your ear is filled with water) lasted for probably 10 minutes. I was completely deaf for two or three of those minutes. I am to this day hard of hearing on my left side.

It's not exactly like your scene, but if your shooter is too close to the mouth of the cave, they'll get some serious sound bounce off the rocks, and it'll affect their hearing. Not sure if that's what you want or not.
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dhparker

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2007, 07:33:28 AM »

Wow, Elena and Bob.  I never even thought about the ear damage possibility.  I don't know if it would apply in this case or not.  The shooter is in a decrepit old barn (and I'm not worried about his ears, he's the bad guy. :D)  The POV character, for whom the bullet is intended, is in a natural cave UNDER the barn.  The shooter is shooting into the cave through a large hole in the barn floor.  Sounds kinda weird outside the story context, but I think it works there.

So, my character isn't as close to the gun as you were, Bob.  She's several yards away.  Would it still temporarily deafen her?  I haven't even thought about what kind of gun, so it could be anything.  She doesn't see it.  I would rather she didn't lose any hearing, because she's going to need that a few minutes later.  But if it's inevitable, I may need to do some rewriting on that, as well as the description of the sounds.

Thanks so much!

Elena

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2007, 09:13:23 AM »

I think you can get away with no loss of hearing - picturing the situation I wouldn't think the bad guy would lay down on the floor, stick his arm down the hole and blindly shot away.  That scenario could cause some hearing loss.  But, more likely he'd keep the gun closer to him and standing or kneeling shoot in whatever direction he thought your MC was - no hearing loss there since the shot is starting out in the barn.

But, I still think it likely it would be loud enough and scary enough to not hear/be aware of any ricocheting.

In my experience being shot at causes the potential victim to focus so strongly on the situation that anything else in the environment disappears.  I don't know how others react, but in my situation while I was scared I didn't realize it until it was all over.  I was too busy trying to figure out what to do.  And, even that wasn't a conscious effort - it was more like an automatic response.  My strongest memory is of tremendously heightened awareness of the situation and no memory at all of what else was happening.

Elena
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Bob Mueller

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2007, 09:35:16 PM »

She's several yards away.  Would it still temporarily deafen her? 
If she's at all in line with the muzzle (in a very broad sense, obviously), then I think she'll definitely be stunned just a bit, and it'll be loud, but I don't think she'll go through the deafness. You could get away with a definite ringing for a couple of hours, like you might have after a rock concert. And since she's the target, it'll sound a lot louder to her, especially if it's the first time she's been shot at, or if she's at all claustrophobic (insert evil grin/laugh here).
 
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Dave Freas

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2007, 09:58:03 PM »

Hi, dh

I'd think the walls of the cave would have some bearing how the shots and ricochets would sound.  If the walls of the cave are stone or block or something similar the sound would be louder because the hard surface would reflect more of it.  If the cave walls are something softer like clay or hard packed dirt, I'd thing the sound would be muffled at least to some extent.  And a bullet wouldn't ricochet off either of those, just plow into it.

Just some thoughts.

Dave
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dhparker

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2007, 08:21:24 AM »

Thanks, everybody.  This discussion has been very helpful.

Dave, the walls are limestone, but come to think of it, the cave room is being used for storage and it's stuffed with junk, so chances are the bullet wouldn't hit rock without going through that first, so probably doesn't ricochet at all.  Why didn't I "see" that before?? 

You've all helped me picture the scene with more clarity, and I think I've got it now.  Woo-hoo!!!  I don't know how writers survive without this place.

Chase

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2007, 01:35:05 AM »

Donna,

Sorry this is so late, but I tried to respond a few times and the site was off line.

First, what Lee and others said. 

Been a while since I could hear, but I remember radio’s “unmistakable” ricochet sound effects, standard on horse operas, a four-part “crack-ta-chew-eeeee.”  Ah, the boyhood images conjured, but as I paid shooting dues tending targets in down-range pits, I soon learned bullets bouncing around me never made the same sound twice.

The pop from far-off muzzles (as Lee said, not an explosion) differed slightly, mostly by caliber.  The real difference was in what the bullet hit or didn’t.  Those passing overhead gave sort of a snap, something like the sound of fingers snapping for attention.  For the most part, those hitting the dirt backstop gave off a dull thud, except when digging up another bullet or small rock.  Most were “spent” at that point and fell into the pit with us target pullers.  The wood of the target standards thunked when hit, but bolt and metal parts flattened or otherwise deformed bullets in ways that made them buzz or sing away, each giving off a unique tune.

It was much the same when a bunker I occupied was once under siege.  Not a cave, but close.  As attackers neared, the pop-pop-pop of  muzzles didn’t seem to get a lot louder, but impact sounds followed faster until they seemed to happen at the same time.  Dust inside the bunker was so thick you could plant a garden.

The muzzles of our weapons were outside, but an occasional muzzle blast within the confines of the “cave” made a painful concussion that drowned out all other sounds for a short time.

My bunker was spared the experience, but I was told by survivors of enemy guns actually thrust into the bunker that the blast stunned so they could hear nothing for quite some time afterward.

All very subjective, I know, but maybe there’s some usable ideas for description.

Chase
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Lee Lofland

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2007, 09:11:33 AM »

Chase is on the money with those descriptions. The pings, zings,  and twangs are TV special effects. Anyone who has ever spent any time on the range without hearing protection can tell you it only takes one round to make your ears ring. It dulls your hearing for quite a while afterward, too. I'm sure being in a cave would amplify that effect.
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Dave Freas

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2007, 10:45:27 AM »

For what it's worth, Donna:

Years ago, my Brother-in-Law and I often spent afternoons shooting in an open field on a hilltop using a Colt .45 automatic and a S &W .357 Magnum with a (as I recall) 3" barrel and running 30 - 40 rounds through each.  We wore no ear protectors.  My ears would ring for days afterward, and to this day, I still have some faint ringing in both ears.

I would imagine, even in a limestone cave packed with all sorts of junk, your victim would be seriously deafened (at least in the short term) by being fired at under those conditions.

Another factor that will enter into your scenario, too, is the solidity of the barn she's hiding under and from which her shooter is firing at her.  If it's old and decrepit with boards missing from the walls and holes in the roof, the sounds of the gunshots will dissipate through those holes.  If the barn is a solid structure, it will contain the sounds.  If it's a barn skeleton (just the timber framing), I'd think it would be almost the same as shooting outdoors.

Just some thoughts.

Dave
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Bob Mueller

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2007, 02:13:39 PM »

For what it's worth, Donna:

Years ago, my Brother-in-Law and I often spent afternoons shooting in an open field on a hilltop using a Colt .45 automatic and a S &W .357 Magnum with a (as I recall) 3" barrel and running 30 - 40 rounds through each.  We wore no ear protectors.  My ears would ring for days afterward, and to this day, I still have some faint ringing in both ears.
Dave makes another good point I hadn't thought of here. A shorter barrel will increase the noise level quite a bit. You'd be surprised, but the sound difference between a 3" and 4" barrel on something like a .357 can be significant, both for the shooter and anyone downrange. The shorter barrel lets more of the exploding gases vent out at their normal speed, I think, as opposed to the longer barrel giving them time to slow down.
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dhparker

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Re: concerning firearms sounds
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2007, 10:26:57 AM »

All these personal experience stories really help--not only now, but I'm going to save this thread for when future characters get into trouble.  So many variations and possibilities and plot ideas.  You all are great!  Thanks!

Donna
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