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thawntex
August 5, 2009, 12:58 PM
Sometimes people present at shootings confuse the sound of gunfire with other sounds.

Examples:
a. A man interviewed from the site of a recent health club shooting initially thought he was hearing racquetballs.

b. Someone at the Holocaust Museum shooting thought he was hearing a rack of books falling over.

c. Some at a recent church shooting thought the gunshots were sound effects for a skit.

Questions:
1. What causes people to confuse the sound of gunfire with other sounds?
2. Could this confusion cause people to lose valuable reaction time, putting them at greater risk?
3. Would you, the reader, instantly recognize the sound of gunshots?

Thanks,
T

sakeneko
August 5, 2009, 01:02 PM
The primary cause of people confusing gunfire with other sounds is that they are not sufficiently familiar with the sounds of gunfire from different types of guns. I wouldn't mistake anything for a higher-caliber revolver, most pistols 9 mm or over, or a shotgun for anything else any more, but two years ago? I don't know. And I can still mistake .22 fire for something else.

Brian Pfleuger
August 5, 2009, 01:06 PM
I wonder about this same phenomenon.

One of my neighbors told me a few weeks ago that there were "suspicious kids" hanging around and after they walked down the street the neighbors "thought we heard gun shots".

I can't understand that. 12am in a quiet town and you "thought" you heard gun shots? Do people not understand how loud a gun really is?


As to your questions:

1) Unfamiliarity and rarity. In most places that these shootings occur, most of the people in the area may have NEVER heard a real gunshot in person and certainly aren't thinking that loud noises are likely to be caused by firearms.

2) Yes

3) Under most circumstances, yes, absolutely.

ezenbrowntown
August 5, 2009, 01:08 PM
I could see how people might struggle around the 4th of July, especially if they weren't familiar with guns. The only sound I can think of that sounds like any kind of gunfire is that of a backfiring vehicle in comparison to a shotgun.

ZeSpectre
August 5, 2009, 01:10 PM
So far the answer for me personally is "maybe".
I have heard sounds (backfires, firecrackers, a snapping power line) that I was sure were shots fired. I have also heard shots fired and thought they were any of the above things.

On the other hand I have also heard shots fired and been -certain- that I knew what they were like a murder-suicide that happened a couple of months ago near my home.

Acoustics can really alter the sound of a gunshot making positive ID difficult. Combine that with the "condition white" attitude of most folks and it will often take them quite a while to react to gunfire.

Brian Pfleuger
August 5, 2009, 01:11 PM
The only sound I can think of that sounds like any kind of gunfire is that of a backfiring vehicle in comparison to a shotgun.

Even then the "sound" may be comparable but the volume is no comparison at all. A shotgun can be heard from probably a couple thousand yards away. A backfire might be heard from 200 or 300 yards away, tops.

Japle
August 5, 2009, 01:11 PM
I recall hearing what I was sure was a pistol shot. It turned out to be a guy dropping a 4X8 sheet of 3/4" plywood on a wood floor.

sakeneko
August 5, 2009, 01:14 PM
True, peetzakilla, *but* in most cases people judge the distance a sound is coming from by identifying the sound and then gauging how far it would have to be to sound that loud. If you aren't sure whether you're hearing a car backfire or a shotgun in the first place, knowing that a shotgun is louder only tells you that IF it is a shotgun, it probably came from 1/4 of a mile away, while a car backfire means no more than a couple of blocks.

That's useful information; if it's a shotgun it isn't all that close to you. But it isn't necessarily helpful if you need to determine what the sound was.

Composer_1777
August 5, 2009, 01:41 PM
The only gunfire people usually hear is from movies.

bababooey32
August 5, 2009, 01:44 PM
Most people's first reaction to a sound is going to depend in large part upon the context.

The health club shots sounded like racquetballs because they were at a healthclub, and a racquetball sound makes sense in that context...The museum gunshots sounded like a falling bookcase because of the context.

Despite the chest thumping above, it would be virtually impossible to hear an unexpected gunshot and have the first thought through your head be anything other than a rational contextual association. People familiar with guns might quickly re-focus and properly identify, but that first fleeting thought would likely not be (unless it was expected or you were in a firearms context).

As a side experiment, try staring at a roaring fireplace and then have someone touch the back of your next with an ice cube...You will swear up and down that they just burned you. Context.

KLRANGL
August 5, 2009, 02:14 PM
bababooey is definitely on the right track there.

I do beleive it is easier to mistake something else as a gunshot, than to mistake a gunshot for something else. And I mean that when applied to people who routinely hear gunshots, but that's my personal experiences talking.

fastforty
August 5, 2009, 02:19 PM
Many of us wear hearing protection while shooting, which makes the "crack" of a 9mm or .45acp sound like a "boom". Even hearing shots with unprotected ears at the range is much different then what they sound like in any given city setting.

I was in line at Walmart in the garden building when a shot went off, inside of the building. I *knew* that it was a shot. My situational awareness was up before the shot popped, none of the 15-20 people in line or several others still shopping were doing anything other then just standing around. Right after the shot, nobody moved, everyone just stood staring off into space. I moved slowly and deliberately, closer to very near cover and not grabbing for my gun so as to not draw any attention. I figgered that someone CCW'ing had had a negligent discharge, but it still left the possibility of blood pumping somewhere nearby that needed to be stopped. As I made my way around the cover that was blocking my view of about 1/3 of the large room, another shot rang out. It was *very* loud, and *very* close. At that time, I aquired a firing grip on my weapon, took one more step and came face to face with a guy reloading a stud gun, he was installing shelf units to the concrete wall. He couldn't see my gun, but he knew that I was ready to draw on him. I politely informed him that what he was doing was *way* too loud with customers as close as they were. He agreed and quickly left.

Brian Pfleuger
August 5, 2009, 02:37 PM
Despite the chest thumping above,

How did that term come to be the default description of anyone with whom a poster disagrees?

I'm beginning to think that the use of the term "chest thumping" is itself chest thumping.

Claiming to be able to recognize the sound of gunfire is "chest thumping"? Please.



Part of being able to recognize a sound is familiarity with that sound. I can distinguish the sound of my fathers shotgun from that of other similar guns from a couple of hundred yards away in the woods.

People who are familiar with gunshots are going to be quicker to recognize them for what they are, context or not.

Anyone who hunts can tell you how many times they heard a noise that they "thought" was a deer coming toward them that turned out not to be but when they heard a sound that WAS a deer it wasn't a "thought", it was KNOWN to be a deer. It happens all the time.

Gunshots are the same. You might think you hear something that may or may not be a gun shot but more often than not when you do hear a gunshot you will not have any doubt. (For those that are familiar with the sound)

Tennessee Gentleman
August 5, 2009, 02:37 PM
I was about 10 yards away from a shooting indoors in a gym. The shots took place in a stairwell and sounded like a boom of a soft drink machine being turned over!

grymster2007
August 5, 2009, 03:19 PM
Gunshots? Most of the time, but I notice that since my right ear suffered the sound of a shotgun blast from about 18" (no problem identifying that one! :)), I now have trouble identifying and locating the source of many sounds. Something I used to be pretty good at. Scary and embarrassing when I think I hear an intruder, only to have Mrs. Grymster tell me to "PUT THE GUN DOWN!.... PUT IT DOWN NOW! CLIMB OUT FROM UNDER THE SOFA and RELAX, it's just the cat rattling her water bowl around.... here take these pills!" :)

Deet
August 5, 2009, 03:45 PM
No, I have been fooled more than once in my life.

Terry A
August 5, 2009, 03:52 PM
Today 03:37 PM
Tennessee Gentleman I was about 10 yards away from a shooting indoors in a gym. The shots took place in a stairwell and sounded like a boom of a soft drink machine being turned over!


I agree TG. Shots inside have that loud percusion sound that you can almost feel. We've shot (with permission) pistol & rifle rounds inside old vacated buildings set for demolition and I mean to tell you, I can't imagine what it would feel like or sound like being in front of the barrel of any gun. The 7.62 fired inside is especially awe inspiring.

bababooey32
August 5, 2009, 03:57 PM
Pizza: How did that term come to be the default description of anyone with whom a poster disagrees?


It doesn't....It applies to those that are so sure of their abilities that they feel the need to brag about how they would NEVER be fooled by another sound, or they would INSTANTLY recognize a gunshot while at a restaurant.

I don't necessarily disagree with them, as there is no way for me to refute their claim. It is, however, still "chest thumping" in my view.

I can distinguish the sound of my fathers shotgun from that of other similar guns from a couple of hundred yards away in the woods.

I'm sure you can. Could you recognize it in a large department stoire while shopping with your family though? My point is that in a different context, even a familiar sound still may not immediately register. After a second or two, you may realize what it is, but I am submitting that the first thought through your head would not be "gunshot" in an unexpecting environment.

Brian Pfleuger
August 5, 2009, 04:21 PM
I'm sure you can. Could you recognize it in a large department stoire while shopping with your family though? My point is that in a different context, even a familiar sound still may not immediately register. After a second or two, you may realize what it is, but I am submitting that the first thought through your head would not be "gunshot" in an unexpecting environment.

There is a world of difference between "instant" and "a second or two", not to mention how one might define "instant".

"Instant"- Would the absolute, very first actual neural impulses be processed and identified as "GUNSHOT!"? No, probably not, but that's not how I interpret the question.

When I say that I would "immediately" recognize a gunshot what I mean is that I would not be standing there after hearing it thinking "Hm, that must have been a bookshelf.... yes honey, those are nice curtains, we should buy them here...." and not identifying the sound until I hear people screaming. Might there be a moment or two while my brain processes the sound in context with the environment before realizing that it was much too loud to NOT be a gunshot? Yes, but only a moment or two. I consider that to be "immediate" if not "instant".

I've heard plenty of gunshots indoors and outdoors, with protection and without, in vehicles with the gun and outside of vehicles with the gun inside, in larger buildings and in sheds.

NOTHING sounds like a gunshot enough to be confused with a gunshot under typical circumstances.

You might hear something and say "That sounded like a gun...." but if it IS a gunshot then there will most often not be any question, assuming you know what a gun sounds like.

BlackFeather
August 5, 2009, 05:30 PM
Upon deciding to learn everything about guns as I possibly can, one of the first things I wanted to do was familiarize myself with the different sounds... one night I swear I heard a .40 being shot across town... turns out someone drew a weapon on a local LEO... he shot his glock in .40... on another night I heard what sounded like a .38... someone had their house broken into and fired... on another night it sounded like someone shot a shotgun... but it was a semi tire that blew out... I was in the house so I didnt hear anything but the boom... my friend was outside smoking and he could hear the "flapping" afterwards...

curt.45
August 5, 2009, 05:49 PM
on the 4th of July and new years I like to test myself by listining and seeing if I can tell the fire works from the gunshots, but thats outside, inside would be diffrent.


Mrs. Curt.45 tell me to "PUT THE GUN DOWN!.... PUT IT DOWN NOW! CLIMB OUT FROM UNDER THE SOFA and RELAX, it's just the cat rattling her water bowl around.... here take these pills!"


man, I hated it when my Exwife used to say that to me.

Beauhooligan
August 5, 2009, 06:57 PM
I live in a very bad neighborhood, and since I became disabled and lost my Good Lady Wife I simply do not have the income to relocate. We have at least one Mexican gang, a black gang, two asian gangs, and one gangs that is made out of outcasts from the others. I hear gunshots at least every other night. I'm very good at picking gunshots out of normal background noise; especially when I hear 4 9mms followed by three shotgun booms, and a few more popgun rounds, then a squeal of tires. About a week ago I heard a car coming down my street making the following pattern; two 9mm shots, a sudden acceleration of the car then screech of brakes, then the pattern repeated. I turned off the lights, grabbed the phone and called 911, and got the Mini-30 out of the safe. When I told the 911 operator what I was hearing, she asked how I knew what I was hearing, I told her I was a Vietnam Combat Veteran, former cop, and a continuing shooter. She asked if I wanted to have a car stop by I said yes. The officers that came to the door told me that yes, I had made the right call; the BGs had shot into 5 houses, seemingly at random, but had gotten away clean. I don't know about others, but I can pick gunfire out quite easily. A side note. On Tet, July 4th, and New Years Eve I take my dog and a couple of guns and spend the night with some friends on a ranch outside of Clements. With my background, being awakened by gunfire in the dark really messes with my head.:confused:

phroggunner
August 5, 2009, 07:32 PM
In my experience, how quickly you correctly identify a gunshot or similar noise for what it is is dependent on three factors:

1. Your experience with aforementioned noises.

2. How much you expect to hear them in that particular environment.

3. The proximity and succession of the noises

While at a firing range you expect to hear gunfire, and your ears are conditioned for it. You might even be able to determine what is being fired. Anywhere else, not only will the noise sound different because of distance or other obstacles between you and the gunshot, but it will also take longer for your brain to register what it really is.

I remember when on my first overseas deployment, the first time I heard incoming mortar fire, it took me a few seconds to figure out what it was. Not long after that it was very natural to quickly react to that same sound, and distinguish between the noises of rockets, mortars, and outgoing artillery. Upon returning home, I was still conditioned for those noises. For a couple weeks at least, even the sound of a slamming freezer lid (WHUMP!) would nearly make me hit the deck. If I were to hear the same noises today, I would definitely not recognize the sound nearly as quickly, because I am not expecting it. I realize comparing explosives to gunshots is apples and oranges (I doubt anyone is gonna snap and start lobbing mortars at the local wal-mart), but the same principle still applies.

Though I've fired and heard way too many gunshots to count (like everyone else here I'm sure), the realist in me seriously doubts my ability to quickly identify a gunshot for what it is in an environment that I am not expecting it. With that being said, some sounds can give away gunshots much more easily. A gun fired in rapid succession is much less mistakable than a single gunshot, and the shear volume of a gunshot in close proximity rules out just about any other possibility.

Spending time at the firing range may give you a little edge in identifying gunfire, but don't overestimate it.

Phoebe
August 5, 2009, 08:07 PM
I was in the middle of a nightclub shooting and thought it was balloons popping. :rolleyes:

Kyo
August 5, 2009, 08:12 PM
I was in the middle of a nightclub shooting and thought it was balloons popping.
LOL.
I know what a gunshot sounds like. I have heard them over the phone and its pretty distinct. A 22 snips, a 9mm cracks, a 40 pops and a 45 bangs. You can hear differences in each caliber shot. I am not saying I will know what caliber the gun is, what I am saying is at the range they have very different sounds and in the street a gun shot is a gun shot.
Maybe in a club I can see if but if I don't see balloons then idk *** is going on. Besides, clubs in GA don't let no one in with any guns or weapons.

armsmaster270
August 5, 2009, 08:27 PM
Besides, clubs in GA don't let no one in with any guns or weapons.

Do they search or is it on the honor system:D

Kyo
August 5, 2009, 08:43 PM
they pat you down. i know what you are thinking already though. never go to a club cause the a holes outside know you aren't armed lol

Archie
August 5, 2009, 08:57 PM
I'm rather familiar with gunfire. They have a distinctive 'abruptness' that doesn't conform to fireworks or back fires.

On the other hand, being bounced around several corners and walls and passing through doors might alter the characteristics.

I'd like to think I would.

Rescue2
August 5, 2009, 09:40 PM
Setting a "popped" drywall nail on an interior wall (in the hallway) using a drywall hammer, sounds suspiciously like a .32 going off in the house...

Or maybe Dad was a little extra jumpy because my youngest brother tried to off himself with one two weeks before...

2cooltoolz
August 5, 2009, 09:52 PM
You sound like a real fun guy...

Catfishman
August 5, 2009, 10:06 PM
I'm sure I could be fooled. There are many variables that change the sound and heard loudness of gun shot.

I once mistook a head-on car accident for a rifle shot. And long ago I shot a coyote from our deck with a 12 gauge. The shot didn't wake my parents even though their bedroom door and the outside door was open.

jrothWA
August 5, 2009, 10:12 PM
back in mid-80's, took the garbage to garage.
Just close the lids and lowering door, when I heard "Banging" like somebody pounding on a door. Walked to side door of house, then past to go to street.
Just past the side door, when light pop,pop,pop, came down from my right.

I hit the door (as I was back-lighted by motion detector yard light) and dialed 911.

Reported heard shots, gave address, indicated to was a specific direction from my house.

No follow-up by responding officer,but called the Chief's office and asked question that he could answer, basically a .25 was used from the house interior.

about four weeks laater got a supeona from defense and request to call a PI,
did a "criss-cross' directory on number then called the PD in that neighboirng town. Duty Supervisor confirmed the PI and recently left his PD.

Final result was a plea deal,for five years, no probation.

uncledewey
August 5, 2009, 10:29 PM
Being around guns all my life, and serving in the Army, I am pretty certain that I am able to distinguish a shot from a gun from other such sounds. I think most everyone that has replied alludes to that the more familiar you are with guns the easier you can distinguish the sound. Even between weapons and calibers there are distinct sound, i.e. the crack of an AK versus an M-16 or M-14 is quite distinguishable. The bottom line I guess it's familiarity.

Walter
August 5, 2009, 11:03 PM
There was a time when I would have instantly recognized the "crack" of an
AK-47, because it was so common, daily. :D
These days I would hope I would recognize a gunshot, but with all the
extranious noise, who knows?

Walter

vsgonzo
August 5, 2009, 11:30 PM
Like posted above about distinguishing an AK sound, but even then for 8 months in the sand box it was tough to tell if it was a gun shot or not unless it was string of rounds.

Kyo
August 5, 2009, 11:51 PM
AK is more of a pitter patter for me. I really can't get over the shot of a shotgun though. Like, even in a range with doors closed, if its a big enough load, it really hurts your ears :barf:

riggins_83
August 5, 2009, 11:51 PM
They have a distinctive 'abruptness' that doesn't conform to fireworks or back fires.

I agree with that. Part of the problem is various calibers can sound so different according to local acoustics, environment, distance, objects/terrain between you and the shot (if any), etc etc....

I mistook a 69 Camaro with a 6.4 Liter engine, straight catback no headers revving as gunshots once. That thing backfired like nothing I've ever heard!

cracked91
August 6, 2009, 12:09 AM
It depends on where I am and how the sound travels. In my youth we would cook up dry ice bombs and they were easily as loud as a shotgun blast, we put one in a dutch oven and it blew the lid over 30 feet in the air, its usually the traveling sound a gunshot makes though that gives it away for me.

Kyo
August 6, 2009, 12:13 AM
i think they are too fast to start and stop to be mistaken. I mean, the sound is literally going at the speed of sound, so if you are at a distance, and you hear it with something behind you like a wall, it might even echo. never usually happens because the sound wave is so small and sharp that anything in the way will dissipate it.
Here is the kicker. If someone was using sound wave technology weaponry, would you be able to tell? I am talking about giant noise makers that make people run away or your ears bleed.

Phoebe
August 6, 2009, 12:17 AM
Maybe in a club I can see if but if I don't see balloons then idk *** is going on. Besides, clubs in GA don't let no one in with any guns or weapons.

This was an underground, illicit nightclub...and there were balloons around.

It was horribly surreal because after I found out it was gunfire, the lights were still down, music was still playing, and everyone was still dancing. :eek:

Pretty soon the SWAT team was outside and by then I guess everyone figured it out. :rolleyes:

bababooey32
August 6, 2009, 08:32 AM
pizza - you may be right...It would be impossible for me to say - I have been fortunate enough to only experience gunfire in safe, appropriate contexts.

My last point: It does seem that every time there is a shooting at a _________ [fill in some retail, church, restaurant location], many of the witnesses report thinking the sound was something other than gunfire at first. Granted they may not have been gun enthusiasts like you and I so there may be a difference. I just think that the way the brain works, it almost won't allow you to register it as gunfire for several seconds given the context.

In any case - may nobody here have to find out if they can identify gunfire in a mall!!!

troy_mclure
August 6, 2009, 08:54 AM
i can id a gun shot, in doors, outdoors, from the inside of an apc,etc...
i can usually determine type(rifle, pistol, shotgun) too.

while in iraq we would sit on the roof of our quarters in the fob and listen on some of the battles up to 1/2 city away, determining how many, and what weapons are being used. got to be pretty accurate at it.

Brian Pfleuger
August 6, 2009, 08:59 AM
pizza - you may be right...It would be impossible for me to say - I have been fortunate enough to only experience gunfire in safe, appropriate contexts.

My experiences have all been safe..... appropriate, well, that's another thing entirely.:D

I would qualify my point by saying that most people, myself included, would likely have to be in the same environment as the shot. As in, if it's outside then you'd probably have to be outside, unless it's nearby. If it's inside then you'd probably have to be in the same building.

My father shot a 30-06 out the window of his house one time. He was sitting probably 4 feet back (muzzle to window) resting on a diaper bag with the window only open about 4 inches. I was outside. The noise was much more like a "WHOOOOMP!" than a "BOOM!". I would have never thought gun if I hadn't known.

4thPointofContact
August 6, 2009, 10:13 AM
Location and perception have a great deal to do with determining and even realizing that a firearm has been discharged. If you are in a place where you would not associate a loud, abrupt sound with fire you're likely to either wait and try to see if you hear it again, or try to associate it with something that you may be expecting (raquetballs at a gym for example).

I know of two experiences where a gunshot was not remarked upon even though people were closeby or it was a public building. - - -

1) While going through a training program, I had a negligent discharge while lowering the hammer on a 1911. I'm left-handed and the 1911 wasn't, my thumb slipped while lowering the hammer improperly. A 230-grain hardball went through the upholstered arm of a chair and made a nice, neat hold in the carpet on exit from my quarters. This happened while two other selectees were sleeping in the same trailer not more than 20 feet away. Neither emerged from their room to see what the noise was and neither remarked upon it the next day.

2) While staying at the hotel across from the battleship Alabama, my roommate and I were getting ready to go to the closest shooting range for a little relaxation. While I was finishing up a few things on a laptop, I observed him open a gun rug, take out a pistol and place 6 rounds securely in his pocket. It wasn't more that 2 minutes later that I was deafened by the sound of a 6-inch, .44-Magnum discharging in a small room. I did a self-check and turned to see a Very stunned co-worker. I swear I could see the thought process going through his head "... the gun went off... but I put the bullets in my pocket.... but the gun went off...but I put the bullets in my pocket ... but the gun ... the bullets..."
Turns out he had indeed secured 6 rounds in his pocket, but he had also failed to check the firearm itself and it was fully loaded. We found a chip in the cement ceiling and another, smaller one in an outside wall. After airing out the room, we took a peek down the hallway and there was a chambermaid not more than 4 rooms down the hallway, nonchalantly going about her business as though nothing had happened at all.



It's my theory, in both cases, that 'something' was heard, but whoever heard it was unsure. That being the case they probably hesitated and waited to hear the sound again so they could identify it. Not hearing another, similar sound and not perceiving any immediate danger they went back to their lives with only a slightly elevated awareness which soon faded.

Skan21
August 11, 2009, 01:36 AM
while in iraq we would sit on the roof of our quarters in the fob and listen on some of the battles up to 1/2 city away, determining how many, and what weapons are being used. got to be pretty accurate at it.

I could do that too......for a while. Then, while we were on a raid, my buddy B ripped off half a drum of SAW ammo in a small room, while I was next to him. Now my hearing isn't so hot. AK's sound like pops to me, from a distance. 5.56 sounds like a crack, 7.62 NATO is a higher crack, and IED's are a loud BOOOOOM! I basically had the sounds covered!

csmsss
August 11, 2009, 01:41 AM
There are too many undefined variables to take this question seriously.

KC9LDB
August 11, 2009, 02:12 AM
No. Only shooting ive done was with hearing protection, I honestly only know what 12 ga sounds like from a distance. But playing with fireworks and what not, I can tell the difference somewhat from gunfire and a firework

Ian0351
August 11, 2009, 03:43 AM
I am reasonably sure that I would not mistake gunfire for something else, but I have many times thought I heard gunfire which turned out to be something else (or didn't make the paper). I live in a big complex with lots of buildings, built on a hill that does some weird stuff to sounds. This is especially true regarding noises up the hill from me.

After my year in Afghanistan, I will never forget the sound of incoming mortars; not that I expect to ever hear that again now that I'm fully in the First Civ Div... but you never know (Red Dawn?).

pax
August 11, 2009, 08:47 AM
There's a clerk at the local grocery store that I've known for a long time, since she's regularly worked the same counter for at least the past 12 years or so, ever since we moved to this town. I see her at least once a week in that context, and (since it is a small town) we regularly stop and visit when I come through her line, if no one else is waiting for her register.

A few weeks back, I bumped into her down at the park on her day off, and I did not even recognize her. I actually walked right past her, looking straight at her, and it wasn't until she called my name that I realized who it was.

Why does that happen? It's because she was out of context. She wasn't where I expected her to be, doing what I generally see her doing, dressed as she is usually dressed when I see her.

With that in mind...

Questions:
1. What causes people to confuse the sound of gunfire with other sounds?
2. Could this confusion cause people to lose valuable reaction time, putting them at greater risk?
3. Would you, the reader, instantly recognize the sound of gunshots?

1.) Context. On the range you expect to hear gunfire. On a busy street, you expect to hear traffic noises. If you hear a loud BANG! while traffic is going past, you're far more likely to assume it's something traffic-related (a backfire?) than you are to assume it's gunfire. This happens even to people who regularly hear gunfire on the range, because human brains do use context as a cue for sound recognition.

2.) Of course. No doubt about it.

3.) The more you've heard gunfire, the less likely you are to mistake it for something else. But I'm as human as the next person, so maybe not. It's something to be aware of.

pax

Brian Pfleuger
August 11, 2009, 11:27 AM
I suspect that not just the amount of gunfire heard but also the variety of locations would play a part.

For example, a good many people on TFL live in a fairly large city and NEVER hear gunfire except at a range. With some of those people it's the same range, indoors every single time, 99% handguns, from a relatively short and more or less constant distance and likely entirely with hearing protection. On the flip side, there are those of us who have almost never been to an indoor range, do most of our shooting outdoors, use and/or hear a wide variety of firearms from point blank to miles distant and both with and without hearing protection.

I would suggest that "the flip side" has a far better chance of recognizing gunfire out of context than does the "city slicker".

doctori
August 11, 2009, 07:38 PM
Last weekend I was wakened by the sound of 8 distinct shots from an AK 47. I am sorry to say that a young man lost his life due to reasons that no one can explain. I have been hunting and spent many hours at the range but to hear these shots at 1am frightened me to death. The shooting happened at the end of my block but it sounded like it came from my living room! It is not anything like firecrackers or a car back firing! I am still shook over the incident.:eek:

The perp has not been apprehended as of this posting.

EricReynolds
August 11, 2009, 09:28 PM
I recently did hear some shots from my bedroom window. Fireworks go on not just on the 4th of July, but all summer. This was different. I actually could make out the sound of the recoil. Maybe it's the trained ear of a person who shoots and has been hearing fireworks every night for months, but I could. The other dead give away was within moments, the sound of the shots was followed by the sounds of commotion and screaming. I called 911, who I'm sure had been getting triple the number of calls for shots fired all summer, but as I was on the phone with dispatch, they confirmed a man had been shot.

fastforty
August 11, 2009, 10:14 PM
I just remembered something. When we were kids, we'd drop a lit firecracker in a cigar box and flip the lid closed. The resulting sound wasn't anything like a firecracker, & we were sure that it sounded a LOT like a gun shot.

Madcap_Magician
August 13, 2009, 04:02 PM
Yes and no. Depends on where. In my immediate vicinity, I guarantee it.

But the farther away you go, the sound can be muffled and distorted until it may not sound like familiar gunfire.

azredhawk44
August 13, 2009, 04:04 PM
I can tell when a movie uses the wrong type of gunshot audio for what an actor has in hand.

I can tell the difference between a typical bottleneck rifle cartridge and a handgun cartridge. I can tell the difference between an autopistol and a revolver cartridge. I can tell the difference between a shotgun and other cartridges.

But I immediately go to flinch/grab hip mode whenever a car backfires on the street. I did it last night, actually, in the parking lot of a local amusement park I was at, while I was out with friends.

I can't tell the difference (while unaware that gunshots are coming) between a car backfiring or other gunshot-like sounds, and those of actual gunshots.

However... I was drinking at Mill Avenue near ASU about 5 years ago and out on the patio of a bar. Heard a string of gunshots that were a block away. I called out right away they were gunshots, and that I counted 8 of them.

I was sheltered back in a corner behind a huge brick building, and way away from the street so I wasn't worried at all about it. A couple hours later (no more drinks in that time) I went to get my car from the parking lot... the drive by was on the far side of the parking lot I put my car in. Police tape all over, markers showing where brass was.

~kev~
August 13, 2009, 04:41 PM
Sometimes people present at shootings confuse the sound of gunfire with other sounds.

That is probably because the have not spent a lot of time around firearms. I live close to a highway, and the people that live across the highway from me own a bunch of land. We are outside the city limits, so the neighbors shoot some of their guns on a regular basis.

Sometimes, when I am having a get together and a bar-b-q, the neighbors will be across the highway shooting their guns. Its funny to watch my company when they hear the gun shots. They will jump and say "what was that?" Some times they will ask if that was a backfire from a car - they think that because we live close to the highway.

I just say "no, that is the neighbors over there shooting."

ArmedInNOR-CAL
August 13, 2009, 04:52 PM
I was once leaving a friends house very early in the morning around 3:30. I heard his neighbor being murdered around the corner. 5 quick pops I knew exactly what that sound was, and what it meant! The sound came from that a away, and I'm going this a away! My girlfriend has mistaken tons of sounds for guns shots. I live in a semi questionable neighbor hood. But when she sees me get up and check a window holding my 870 she knows that was a real gun shot. "If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready!"

Croz
August 14, 2009, 10:56 AM
Not sure if I'd recognize it or not, since most of my experience around guns has been in a range with hearing protection on, which changes the characteristics of the sound, obviously.

Context has been discussed extensively, but I think the other piece of the puzzle is frequency. The odds of something being a gunshot are much lower, outside of a war zone, than it being anything else.

So combine context and exposure to the sound, with the unconscious understanding of the odds that it could be a gunshot, and it only makes sense that people would think it's something different.

PT111
August 14, 2009, 12:59 PM
I live in a semi questionable neighbor hood. But when she sees me get up and check a window holding my 870 she knows that was a real gun shot. "If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready!"

Probably a good point that you would recognoze gunshots but if you are always on ready it would be more likely that you would mistake something different fro gunshots than gunshots for something else.

Anyone that can convice me that they would always correctly identify a noise as being gunshots or not should be in the business of selling oceanfront property in Kansas or in politics. :D

ArmedInNOR-CAL
August 14, 2009, 01:17 PM
My home is pretty close to the police training center, and I also work occasionally at a refinery thats just down the street from the CHP office and Between those two places I've gotten pretty decent at identifying that signature pop. You know your bored at work when your listening to LEO's shooting and trying to figure out who's shooting what!

Hard Ball
August 14, 2009, 06:50 PM
Yes!

MajorWhiteBoy
August 15, 2009, 05:28 AM
around the corner from my house, there's two bars in the same little strip mall thing. i was out back at one with my buddy, and there was a shooting over at the other one. he's been firing guns for a lot longer than me, but we both didn't recognize it at first. i'd say our ears did, but our brains didn't. it seems unbeleivable when it happens. it was like 1 am, but for whatever reason, i thought for the first few seconds it was a nailgun. it makes no sense, and when i processed it, it was obvious what it was. i know how stupid that sounds, but my mind considered and dismissed the possibility of gunshots on a subconcious level. it doesn't take too long to sort it out, but it's not immediate, at least not for me. it's just the last thing you'd expect.

as to how or why, i don't know.

Skans
August 15, 2009, 09:58 AM
It's not that easy to always distinguish gun fire from other sounds. Lower power rounds often sound like cheap fire crackers at a bit of a distance. I can easily recognize the sound of higher power rifle rounds, and some higher power pistol rounds.

If there is a succession of 3-5 shots, its easier to notice that as firearms fire because of the relatively even intervals between shots. This past July 4th - I could hear that someone was shooting a gun in my neighborhood. Sounded like a revolver judging from the intervals.

MajorWhiteBoy
August 15, 2009, 03:06 PM
yeah, when the shooting happened at the bar, the first few rounds were spaced kind of far apart and were uneven. then he unloaded. that's when it hit home what was happening.

jbrown50
August 17, 2009, 12:06 PM
Ever since I was a kid i've been around firearms, grew up in the inner city, served several years in the military with firearms and a few years as a cop. This past July 4th a dummy fired off several rounds from his 380 pistol amidst firecrackers (I later found out who it was and put the person on notice). It's very difficult for me to distinguish 22, 32 and 380 rounds from the sound of firecrackers but because of the cadence I could tell it was gunshots instead. Nevertheless, it still took me about a minute to figure it out and i'm sure the context of the situation (July 4th & firecrackers) contributed to that.

Magi
August 17, 2009, 12:12 PM
Recently a neighbor of mine had a fully-leafed maple tree lose a main branch after a prolonged period of rain. The cracking of the wood along the trunk sounded just like burst of automatic gun-fire from a M16 as the branch gave way...it sounded like about half a magazine's worth of shots.

That sound brought back some memories.