View Full Version : Exactly how loud is a .357 Magnum?

December 23, 2005, 11:41 AM
I just bought a new gun, a S&W 686.

Up until now I've only shot 9mm handguns. I have also shot .223 Rifles.

I'd never shoot a gun indoors without hearing protection, but I have been out in the woods shooting my 9mm without, just to see what it was like. It's loud, but not unbearable.

So, while I await my pistol amendment so I can pick up my new revolver, I have started stocking up on a variety or .38, .38 +P and .357 ammo to try out.

I'm assuming the .38 will be similar in report and recoil to my 9. +P maybe a little louder? But is the .357 gonna rock my world? Will I go deaf if I shoot it without my "ears on?" I'll probably leave the gun loaded with +P for HD situations, would that be your recommendation as well?

December 23, 2005, 11:56 AM
The .357 is noted for it's ear-splitting "CRACK".

Indoors, it does a reasonable imitation of a SWAT stun grenade.

While firing a few shots won't cause you to go deaf, it can and will do damage to your hearing.

Outdoors, it's still quite uncomfortable, and will still do damage to your ears.

The +P makes an excellent defense round, but it's not up to .357 Magnum levels of effectiveness.

This is one of those things you have to decide for yourself.
Some people figure that if they actually need to use the gun, the muzzle blast will be the least of their problems.

December 23, 2005, 11:57 AM

I have never seen published db levels for ammo. I also do not have the equiptment to measure it. Subjectively speeking I would say you are looking at a significent increase in noise going from a 9mm to a 357. The exact ammount is dependant on the ammo type, barrel length, etc.

Shooting and ammo, even 22 without hearing protection will damage your hearing. I say this from first hand experience. You will not realise the damage is occuring at the time. If you shoot the 357 you will do more damage, faster. Bottom line is always wear hearing protection.

The 38 +P is not a bad self defense round. Some bullets do better then others. Read a bunch of threads and try a few. Rangers and Gold dots seem to get the best press. The best self defense bullet is the one you can shoot well and hit what you aimed at.

December 23, 2005, 12:13 PM
According to this link, .357 mag comes out at 164.3 dB, and 9x19 at 159.8 dB. For contrast, .223 is 155.5dB.

December 23, 2005, 12:48 PM
Isn't 120db the threshold for pain?

I don't even shoot .22 handguns without hearing protection, indoors or out. .22 rifles are a little different. Most handgun rounds can and will cause hearing damage.

.357 is noticeably louder than 9mm. In smaller, lighter handguns it is like Dfariswheel described, akin to a stun grenade.

I love the caliber, but I respect it, too. I double up on hearing protection indoors when shooting it.


December 23, 2005, 12:55 PM
fyi....that's a graduated scale(db), not straight/standard scale. The difference between 5db is 500% (5 times) at any point in the scale. I don't honestly think a .357 is 5 times louder than a 9mm; but it can be SIGNIFICANTLY louder (50% would be a guess based on my perception, but I don't really trust perception).


Rossi Boy
December 23, 2005, 12:57 PM
Well don't mean to scare you but, when my dad was a cop, he was out with his rookie one night and the rookie asked if he could see his .357 Revolver and he said yes. The rookie accidentally shot it and it grased his need and went through the car bottom. They were deaf for 2 days.

December 23, 2005, 01:23 PM
I made the mistake of shooting a hot .357 load from my 4 inch 686 without ear protection in the woods exactly once. I won't do it again. It is ear-splitting loud with a very sharp crack.

December 23, 2005, 01:46 PM
I've had occassions to fire off both 45ACP and 38 Special +Ps without ear protection. Both were the cause of ringing for several hours, and general unpleasantness.

I have not fired a 357 w/o the benefit of ear plugs. I have shot it extensively with ear muffs and/or plugs. It is definitely a step up and the concussion wave felt from a hotly loaded round is something you not quickly forget out of a 3" K-frame.

December 23, 2005, 02:39 PM
What? What's that you say? I can't hear you. I've been firing my .357 without ear protection!

December 23, 2005, 03:15 PM
How much quieter is a .380 auto compared to a 9mm? Anybody fire the two one after the other?

December 23, 2005, 03:30 PM
The sound of a .357 will vary depending on what load you're using. In general, the light, fast 110 and 125 grn loads will be much like the sharp crack described earlier. The heavier 158 and 180 grn loads will be more of a deep boom. Also, the heavier loads have less muzzle flash than the lighter ones but all this comes at the price of more muzzle flip and felt recoil. This is all my personal experience with a 4" S&W Model 28-2. Personally, I prefer the heavier loads because I'm more willing to put up with recoil than muzzle blast. My usual practice load is S&B 158 grn JSP which I find to be very friendly. My personal protection load is Remington 125 grn SJHP which I find to be less pleasant but should I ever have to use it for its intended purpose I doubt I'd notice.

December 23, 2005, 03:44 PM
LOUD!!! :eek: :eek:

December 23, 2005, 05:57 PM
It's not as loud as my ex-wife but louder than my new one.

December 23, 2005, 07:05 PM
maybe that explains the constant ringing in my ears.:eek:

December 23, 2005, 07:09 PM
Listen to what folks are saying and save your hearing. I have shot my Ruger 5-inch Bisley .45 Colt at game or varmints a few times without hearing protection, and it's unpleasant but bearable. Just one time did I shoot my Model 19, with 6-inch barrel & full house loads without hearing protection outdoors. Never again! Well, I will shoot a .357 for self-defense, but never for varmints or game! The pain was immediate and lasted most of the rest of the day -- and the ringing lasted the rest of the next day!

December 23, 2005, 08:55 PM
Shaking your brain loud. Even if its the guy next to you at the range or even a few stalls down, it still rattles your insides.


December 23, 2005, 09:02 PM
+1 to woodland. I remember when i shot my .357 blackhawk the first time in the woods with no ear protection (girlfriend was with me, trying to be 'manly'). After 2 shots, my ears were ringing pretty good, as were hers, just fom standing nearby. IMHO no gun should be fired without hearing protection except in self defense situations. (although i used to shoot lots of skeet and trap, and hunt with a 12ga without any, now i know better, and me ears react more than i remember from back then.)

December 23, 2005, 09:19 PM
Worse, a 686 has a tiny air gap between cylinder and barrel so a good bit of the sound is blown out the sides. Shoot one at night and you'll see fire going out about a foot on both sides. Standing next to one is kind of like standing next to a compensated rifle. It shakes you up. :(

December 23, 2005, 09:28 PM
Well don't mean to scare you but, when my dad was a cop, he was out with his rookie one night and the rookie asked if he could see his .357 Revolver and he said yes. The rookie accidentally shot it and it grased his need and went through the car bottom. They were deaf for 2 days.

"I'm the only rookie here professional enough to..."



December 23, 2005, 09:42 PM
..shooting enough rounds in sucession will literally make your eardrums bleed..beware...

The Body Bagger
December 24, 2005, 02:02 AM
as will using ice picks for hearing protection.......you've been warned.

December 24, 2005, 05:53 AM
as will using ice picks for hearing protection.......you've been warned.
.... I wasn't gonna.

December 24, 2005, 07:14 AM
On my colt trooper a while back and didn't realize that the cylinder gap was important.. was probably close to a 32nd of an inch... when you fired that baby if anyone was standing beside you they felt it for sure... and if they were wearing white you could see the 'pepper' spray.

December 24, 2005, 01:08 PM
A difference in 5dB is not 500% louder...it is more like 169% louder...it is a logarithmic scale...which means that a small increase in dB gives a large increase in sound.

(Edited...I forgot the 1 in 169%...oops.)

December 24, 2005, 01:55 PM
My father wanted to try a magnum load through his GP. I bought the only ones I could find in time for the range: Remington 125 Hollow points. I got the 100 round pack - most painful damn value pack I ever bought. First my father has arthritis so it was the worst pick I could have made but fortunately I had him shooting through the 4" 686. I shot one - and only one out of the SP 2" before switching to the 686. Even with the big gun, my hand hurt firing it (my father wouldn't use it again), my head hurt from the sound of it going off - every shot, my head ached. It was awful and I'll never do it again; how loud was it? So loud it completely turned me off from the .45 I was thinking of getting. If I bought a better grain, it may not have been that bad but I'll never do it again. For home defense and range, it's .38's through those guns.


December 24, 2005, 02:57 PM
What type of levels you talking about?
100 db.....150 ???

December 24, 2005, 04:44 PM
What,speek up I can't hear ya. should have worn my ear plugs .will someone answer that damn phone ,I can't stand that ringing anymore.

December 24, 2005, 05:01 PM
Quote: What type of levels you talking about?
100 db.....150 ???

The man (Twycross) said 164.3 db... like a small canon!

December 24, 2005, 05:09 PM

For the record the decibel scale is logarithmic and an increase of 3 decibels represents a doubling in the power of the acoustic energy being measured. So, going from 155 decibels to 158 means the sound is 100% louder, or in other words twice as loud. Another way to look at it is this: a .45 LC averages about 154-155 decibels and a .357 magnum averages about 164-165 decibels, which translates to the .357 being about ~~ 300% louder in terms of absolute acoustic energy. The perception by the shooter of this difference is subjective and may not appear as a 300% increase, rather just as a noticable increase in the percieved sound.

My figures are rounded and presented in general terms. I hope I didn't bore you.


December 24, 2005, 06:43 PM
I once fired 6 shots out of a Taurus revolver when I was out in the woods and I couldnt hear anything for half an hour:o That was after I shot a 9mm which didnt cause any problems at all, so I thought I'd try the .357 mag.;)

December 27, 2005, 07:02 AM
Will I go deaf if I shoot it without my "ears on?"
Probably not.

But - you'll eventually end up like me and:

- say "Huh?" quite a bit.
- Miss roughly 50% of every movie line or conversation.
- Lose the ability to hear certain frequencys.
- Have an annoying and constant ringing in you ears.
(Shooting w/out "ears" = your ears will ring for a few hours/days - then all of a sudden one time out to shoot - the ringing just doesn't go away)
- Constantly have people repeat themself when they talk to you. After a while it just gets so bothersome, you end up just nodding your head up and down and smiling like an idiot,,,,no matter what they've just said...
- Only be able to fall asleep (because of the constant ringing) when you're dead-ass tired,,,and then have the ringing wake you up about 3 hours into a sleep.

*shrug* Go ahead. Don't bother with the "ears". No skin off my teeth. Matter o'fact - misery loves company ;)

Ok - seriously. Having to suffer through all of what I type above is very, very, very real,,,very, very, very avoidable,,,,and very,very,very much a PITA.

FWIW - and I should really add this. The majority of my hearing loss came from shooting a .22 rifle w/out "ears". No doubt if I'd have been able to afford more ammo at the time, and could have shot my magnums more, the loss would have simply happened quicker. As it was, it took a little over 500 or so rounds of .22.

December 27, 2005, 08:54 AM

Thanks for your input, I'm very sorry about your hearing loss.

I don't think you fully understood the point of my question, which I will clarify now.

It's not my intent to ever shoot without hearing protection.

What I'm truly wondering is what if I had to fire my gun in a self defense situation.

Should I avoid leaving a gun loaded with .357 mags for this very reason, or should I keep my revolver loaded with .38s, .38+Ps or rethink what weapon I'll use for SD altogether. I know if I had to I could empty my magazine of 9mm and be alright with the sound.

That's the main point of my question. Thanks.

December 27, 2005, 02:07 PM
Or, to put this another way:

What is louder, .357 Magnum or .223?

December 27, 2005, 02:35 PM
I would have to say a .223 out of a 16.5" bbl AR-15 with a break is much louder than a .357 mag. I might not have the boom of the .357 Mag but it does have more of a crack.

December 27, 2005, 02:55 PM
Maddog Enigma---

I think everyone else has covered the LOUD. I do know that I can stop others from shooting near me at the range, even with "ears". It makes your whole body hurt after a while.

As a defensive round, the Flash is massive, the noise is overwhelming, and if you hit your target it is devastating. One thing for sure, even a miss will make someone change their intentions. A miss at reasonably close range in close quarters is almost like a "flash-bang" grenade in its ability to disorient.

Like others have said though, you will be trying to answer the phone with nobody there for a few days if you pop one off in your house w/o protection.

December 27, 2005, 06:49 PM
What I'm truly wondering is what if I had to fire my gun in a self defense situation.

I ALWAYS use hearing protection... well, I might not for a few shots from a .22 Rifle, but other than that...

For the 'Loud' stuff, especially indoors I use plugs AND muffs.

But for DEFENSE... I load my gun with the BEST ammo I know of. The situation there would be *life or death* and I guess I just don't sweat the hearing issue in this very singular case. I certainly wouldn't downgrade my defense capability for something 'quieter'. YMMV.


December 27, 2005, 07:02 PM
It will be friggin' loud. Your ears will (at the very least) ring. But you gotta do what you gotta do in a self-defense situation.

The advice about always wearing hearing protection is excellent. I've already lost some hearing from shooting w/out hearing protection when I was younger. And the five Metallica concerts didn't help, either. Rock concerts in the 80's and 90's were a heck of a lot louder than they are now! And no, the loss of hearing was NOT worth it.

You don't know what ya' got till its gone!

December 28, 2005, 09:06 PM
I like the .357 mag for defense but will admit it is louder than I would like. I would fear having to hear one fired indoor's without ear protection, that is unless I "needed" it to save my hide. than I would appreciate the extra noise and it's potential effect on aggresor's fight or flight response.

December 29, 2005, 09:13 AM
Crack, what did you say, i can't hear you, what? I think I'm deaf...That's a .357mag

December 29, 2005, 09:38 AM
I think if you see a bad guy or a good guy (as in HD) with ear plugs or muffs, that is a guy you have to worry about! He is going to shoot.

Shooting the 357 without hearing protection is painful. I did it once when I first started shooting the caliber years ago just to see "how loud" it really is. I don't even shoot a 22rf without hearing protection anymore. I carry hearing protection hunting and if I have time, protection is used.

January 1, 2006, 02:12 PM
My 125gr JHP in front of near max BlueDot loads in my 8" revolver is about deafening. You can feel your gizzards rattle in your chest when launching a round.

Even when standing, you can see grass wave from the blast upto 15ft or more away.

I dare not shoot it without ear protection. A rue the day I would need to use it for defense inside my house.. ...not just for the fact of having to shoot someone, but for not having any hearing left for any trial there after.

January 2, 2006, 07:10 PM
Quite simply it really depends on the load. 125gr. loads with a lot of powder are definitely loud. I have fired plenty of standard power 158gr. loads and they aren't really any louder than 115gr. and 124gr. 9mm loads from my experience. The first time I shot a 357Mag was outdoors without hearing protection. The load was Federal Classic 158gr. JHP. There was no flash visible at all and it wasn't any louder than typical 9mm loads. Definitely more recoil though. From my experience the faster you push a bullet the louder it becomes.

First my father has arthritis so it was the worst pick I could have made

Out of the standard power 357Mag loads you couldn't have made a better choice for someone who has arthritis. Somehow the 125gr loads have gotten a reputation for being extremely nasty monsters that are hard to control. The 158gr. loads definitely have more recoil than the lighter loads. The lighter loads are just louder. Much louder. They don' have more recoil though, its simple physics.

January 4, 2006, 11:22 PM
....on my ever-so-fun experience with some guy shooting a Mini-14 with a muzzle brake on it two benches down from me when I was working with my piddly little Trailside. Even with muffs, I left with a migraine because I couldn't stand it. Felt sick, and it wasn't until midnight the headache finally gave up.

Hate that. I can shoot my .40 or hubster's .45 without a blink, but jeez, when it sounds like a bomb going off.....