Quietest Effective Self-Defense Pistol?

Discussion in 'Concealed Carrying & Personal Protection' started by Shintsu, Oct 7, 2012.

  1. Shintsu

    Shintsu New Member

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    I've been looking off and on about handguns, as I plan to buy something which I can EDC - but I'm that ridiculous person who researches everything I buy intensely before I buy it (I don't really know what it's like to impulse buy anything :D). So I've done quite a bit of looking and I've at least narrowed it down to some likely ideas for the quietest pistols which are still effective:

    .38 Special
    .45 ACP
    9 mm

    This seems a subject that has been brought up by others from time to time, but they end so inconclusively - with the inevitable "Life vs. Hearing, I pick life" point being made but I'm saying as a precaution which can be thought of in advance, why not pick the round that will save my life and do the least amount of damage to my hearing? I want to rule out suppressors though, not a reasonable option.

    So for the .38 Special the bigger but lower velocity bullets seem as though they should be a bit quieter, but they're a revolver round and by that virtue are going to be louder - especially since it seems like a 2" barrel will be the choice (Can a person of average size easily conceal a 4" barrel?). Some claimed a .45 ACP with subsonic rounds are the quietest, because it was argued the crack of the round hitting supersonic is what causes a great deal of the loudness. Others of course argued the .45 ACP was a rather loud round, even with subsonic rounds. Finally some said the 9mm is the quietest, but others argued otherwise due to most rounds being the supersonic.

    I still have plans to go to a range and compare these calibers - but I'm simply not convinced which is going to offer the best compromise of effective round while not being as damaging to the ears. I was originally between just the .38 special and 9mm but some suggested the .45 ACP with subsonics as quieter so I merely offer that up as well. I'd like the valued opinions of others here who know guns far more intimately than myself - and please lets avoid the "Who cares how loud it is, your life is worth more than your hearing" area. I actually know someone who has tinnitus so bad sometimes they wish they were dead it drives them so mad. I don't want to end up like them, so everything I can do to protect my hearing I want to take.

    People suggest the ear plugs or electronic muffs but I somehow see these as being things that I wouldn't have time to use in a dangerous situation/increase the danger by being unable to hear surroundings. So barring any ear protection at all, which setup do you all think would offer the quietest shooting setup?
     
  2. Axxe55

    Axxe55 The Apocalypse Is Coming.....

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    any pistol round can cause hearing damage is shot enough. if in a situation where you had to use your firearm, noise will be the last concern in your mind. and yes, i do choose my life over hearing if it came down to making that choice.

    my concern with choosing a firearm would be reliabilty and size over any other factors.
     

  3. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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    So........ exactly how many times in your life do you plan on getting into a self defense shooting?

    You might note that the law enforcement officers in your area did not have that as a controlling factor when their dept selected THEIR firearms. And they are much more likely to use them.

    1, Reliability 2. Effectiveness 3. Affordable 4, 5, and 6 don't really matter
     
  4. Axxe55

    Axxe55 The Apocalypse Is Coming.....

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    i have to agree with C3. personally i don't go around carrying hearing protection with me either. you're talking about a situation that might occur, might. personally i would be more concerned with choosing a psitol that will work every time you pull the trigger in a caliber you can shoot accurately and not be worried about the noise that might occur in a once in a million situation in your life.
     
  5. trip286

    trip286 New Member

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    Shooting a gun during a (hopefully) once in a lifetime self defense situation is not going to cause you any noticeable hearing damage or loss, unless your using something completely ridiculous like a 45-70 revolver (and even then, I don't think so).

    What will cause damage would be range practice with no ear pro.

    Also, FWIW, we have a member who refuses to use ear pro. He had issues with his 1911's. The .45's didn't bother him any, but the 9mm's left his ears ringing pretty badly. He added a comp to the 9, and the problem went away. Acoustics. Weird stuff sometimes.
     
  6. Axxe55

    Axxe55 The Apocalypse Is Coming.....

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    ported pistols are very loud! i shot a cottonmouth in the driveway last summer on my way to work with my 44 mag that has a ported barrel, and my ears rang for several hours afterwards!
     
  7. Old_Crow

    Old_Crow New Member

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    at least the ringing went away. back cotton was considered ear protection lots of people are still hearing ringing.
     
  8. Shintsu

    Shintsu New Member

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    I understand the general attitude on loudness of the gun and regularity with which it would even be necessary. The other points about reliability and accuracy are a given - I'm simply trying to compile a bit of a list to understand which calibers I should be looking at. If .45 calibers are the quietest and I can't shoot any reliably, and say 9mm are second I'd move on to 9mm pistols. At this point I don't even have a caliber selected, I'm hoping I can select a caliber based on the average amount of noise and then start looking for one that fits me appropriately. My research steered me clear of the .357 magnum which was my first consideration (Would've been like giving a 16 year old who just got their license a Corvette!), but asides from knowing .45 and 9mm are both highly respected SD sizes for their own respective reasons volume is never usually given. .38 Special rounds don't seem to get much talk for being SD rounds, but I'm certain plenty of people use them.

    To offer a bit more insight into my consideration, I'm looking at the new Springfield XD-S in .45 if I go with a .45 - even with my limited knowledge of specific gun models I've heard quite a bit of praise on that one and it's within my price range. For 9mm I was considering a Ruger LC9 with laser, or possibly a Glock. Again, purely preliminaries at this stage. I shot a .40 S&W through a CZ pistol and found it a tad jarring the way it handled - but my inexperience with the particular pistol may have been a factor here, I feel I was probably not gripping it correctly. Years ago I shot a 1911 .45 and found it pleasant and easy to use, but those will be too bulky for EDC I imagine.

    I was reviewing the guides that are stickied about gun sizes and noted the PSI of the 9mm's standard round is 35,000 and the 45's is 21,000 - I feel this is helpful in someway to this consideration but I don't fully understand what this is measuring or if it's meaningful in any way to the loudness of the gun. With this in mind can anyone share with me what in your personal opinion would rank as loudest to quietest between the .45, 9mm and .38 Special calibers?
     
  9. fupuk

    fupuk New Member

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    I went to the range last weekend with a couple guys that i work with. We usually go a couple times a month and Kevin is roughly 45 years old. When we go we always wear earplugs but last weekend he forgot his at his house. He was shooting his .22 rifle and his 1911 .45 and he didnt have any problems with his ears hurting him. I let him shoot my Gp100 with only .38's and he said that made his ears hurt for a couple hours. Its all about the person and what they can handle at the range. I always wear earplugs when i shoot. Even if im only shooting my .22's. If the time comes when i have to use my firearm to protect my life or someone elses the noise is gonna be the last thing on my mind.
     
  10. Axxe55

    Axxe55 The Apocalypse Is Coming.....

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    personally IMO, you are overthinking this. dwelling on factors that don't even need to considered. go to a gun store or range and shoot some pistols in different calibers and types, and find one that suits you. buy it and practice with it on a regular basis and become profficient with it and forget about the loud noise it might make if in the remotest of chances you might have to use it to defend yourself with it.

    without some specialized meters and fancy tests, you probably wouldn't know the difference in the decibel level of one caliber to the next. now throw in different ammo types, different brands, ect., ect.,,,,, when i practice i wear hearing protection, so peronally i reallly don't care if one is louder than another. different pistols, different barrel lengths can have an effect on the level of sound produced also.

    hypothectically, if the 45 is quieter than the 9mm but you can't hit the broad side of a barn with the 45, where does that leave you in that possible situation that could require you to have to use that 45? hmmm.... possibly dead because someone worried about something that should never have been a concern in the first place. just something to consider.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2012
  11. Shintsu

    Shintsu New Member

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    If you knew the amount of research I did on basically everything, it would probably drive you nuts. Personally I think too many people don't research things thoroughly enough, I do my best to consider all factors beforehand. I'm just afraid going to the range and comparing them they're all going to sound about the same through my earmuffs, but that without them there might be a more appreciable difference (But I'm not even about to fire a shot without them on).

    The only list I found was the one here: http://keepandbeararms.com/information/XcIBViewItem.asp?ID=2052

    For the relevant calibers I mentioned is

    .38 Spl 156.3 dB

    9mm 159.8 dB

    .45 ACP 157.0 dB


    So this reinforces the idea to me that the 9mm is the loudest because of the velocity which it travels, whereas the .38 and .45 are slower calibers in general. Based on that list, there's minimally any difference between the .38 and .45 - but I've always thought the 9mm was supposed to be quieter than the .45? 3 dB difference will sound twice as loud, which is rather noticeable.

    I'm thinking I'll end up comparing a 9mm and .45 caliber pistol at this point, but I'm still happy to hear thoughts on the loudness of these calibers. I know the frequency is supposed to factor as well, 9mm being a bit higher and .45 being a bit lower I believe. Again, I'm not a gun expert by any stretch I'm just trying to comprehend all the data I've looked at.

    P.S. I'll be able to handle a .45 or 9mm fine either way (I shot a .45 once before and as I said it was easy to handle - though again I shot a 1911 style not like the XD-S), I don't have a big concern about that - I'm sure there's an appropriate gun for me in either caliber. But if we threw the .357 magnum into this comparison, wouldn't you agree that's rather excessively loud and a bit more difficult to handle compared to a .45 or 9mm and for what appreciable benefit for SD? Sure, if it's life or death you use whatever - but if you could choose and you're an equally good shot with both say a .45 and a .357 wouldn't you go for the .45 assuming there's no noticeable need for the .357 at the distance you would be engaging?
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2012
  12. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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    While you are (over)analysing this, consider that you have no control over what caliber or firearm a bad guy may be shooting at you.


    This is sort of like selecting a fire extinguisher based on whether the color (when wet) matches the color of the stripe on the hull of your boat.

    Also consider that the sound is going to vary greatly depending on which cartridge is fired, and which gun fires it. .38 Sp wadcutter target loads are pretty mild- .38 Special Corbon or Buffalo Bore +P+ loads are an entirely different matter.

    Would be MUCH more concerned with this data: http://home.comcast.net/~v2creative/defenseammo.html.
     
  13. trip286

    trip286 New Member

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    There are so many factors. Make, model, and barrel length are going to affect this too. And all of the three you mentioned will cause hearing damage over time with no hearing pro.
     
  14. JohnJak

    JohnJak New Member

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    Try to ignore the sound when shooting. I practice this everyday when my wife is talking.
     
  15. ScottA

    ScottA FAA licensed bugsmasher Lifetime Supporter

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    Have you heard the phrase "straining gnats and swallowing a camel"? You're focussing on the wrong criteria in your decision making. How loud a round is, which by the way is just as dependent on the specific design of the handgun as compared to the round it fires, is incidental.

    I direct your attention to the following thread.

    http://www.firearmstalk.com/forums/f14/choosing-handgun-mike-seeklander-58208/
     
  16. SSGN_Doc

    SSGN_Doc Well-Known Member

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    Those decibel readings you posted. What length barrels were used in comparison? What loads?

    Shorter, more concealable barreled pistols will make more noise due to the amount of powder burning after the bullet leaves the muzzle. This also results in more flash that could temporarily affect your night vision. Also if you take cover near something hard you will get more reflected sound waves back toward your ears. Ported barrels can also amplify flash and noise. Using +P rounds can also increase noise and flash. Different ammo loads from different manufacturers will also have different noise levels.

    You gotta lot of other variables to research if you want the quietest effective caliber. Also looking at decibel differences less than 10 I think your ears would be hard pressed to know the physical difference.

    Add to that what others have said exposure to loud noises for breuf periods if time will be less likely to cause long term hearing damage. Even emptying a mag of 18 rounds would likely cause minimal if any permanent hearing damage.
    Of course when you practice you should use hearing protection.
     
  17. Chainfire

    Chainfire Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If "quite" is your prime creteria, I would buy one of the Beretta 950BS pistols in .22 short. Not real big on knock-down but quite. I read where the Mossad used these for close-up wet work; two shooters emptying the pistol into the victims belly, with the pistol in contact with the shootee, and not being heard in the adjacent room.
     
  18. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    ALL popular self defense handgun calibers exceed decibel levels known to cause hearing damage. Accept that fact and buy something you can shoot well.
     
  19. Longrange

    Longrange New Member

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    You are trying to mitigate a 4db spread between calibers?? For all it's worth, your ears and body cannot measure a 4db difference. You should buy a knife instead, nice and quiet.

    acoustics and harmonics have different sensitivity levels for everyone, what is easy on your ears could be very painful for someone else. Like I said, 4db is a moot point.
     
  20. levelcross

    levelcross New Member

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    Easy fix here....just buy a Hi-Point and beat the perp to death with it. :rolleyes::rolleyes:

    Hearing will be the last thing that crosses my mind if I have to use my gun to protect my family.