Gun Range Soundproofing: All You Need to Know
Few places require soundproofing as fully as a gun range. Guns produce noise at incredibly high volumes, and they produce a whole lot of them. Get a handful of patrons popping off clip after clip and you’ve got a recipe for possible hearing damage.
Even though we wear hearing protection at the range, they only reduce sounds by a set amount, and it’s not enough to cancel the sound of gunshots. They won’t completely cut out the outside world, so you’ll need gun range soundproofing for them to perform at their best.
Why We Need Gun Range Soundproofing
As we mentioned, guns are incredibly loud. Shooters are almost universally required to wear hearing protection, but bringing the decibels down is still important. In fact, a .357 handgun can output a whopping 169 dB. That’s loud enough to cause some instant hearing damage and possibly piss the neighbors off.
When we’re dealing with noises that are incredibly loud, any reduction is helpful. Even high end hearing protection will only reduce noise by around 30 decibels or so. That means we’ve got to absorb as many sound waves as possible. When hearing protection has less to contend with, the more able they are to reduce noise to less harmful levels.
How Gun Range Soundproofing Works
Gun range soundproofing utilizes the same basic sound principles as treating any space. We need to take into account the volume and frequency of the sound waves, then introduce materials to absorb them and prevent them from passing through walls. To do that, we need to know how sound waves work. Here’s a basic overview.
Sound waves act very predictably and travel outward from the source until they impact a surface. At that point, some sound may be absorbed into the surface, and the rest will reflect back into the room. The sounds that are absorbed will pass into and through the surface, often resurfacing on the other side. Reflected waves will continue to reflect and redirect until they are either absorbed or they escape the space. Built up reflections cause issues with echo and reverb, which lead to loud rooms and strained hearing.
The main goal of any soundproofing project is to stop sounds from passing all the way through surfaces like walls and ceilings. Absorbing sounds inside of the space assists by keeping both reverb and the overall volume down. That’s why proper gun range soundproofing requires a mix of both very dense sound blockers and porous sound absorbers. The absorptive materials will suck up some sound waves and the dense materials will keep them contained. There are a number of possible materials that can help.
Indoor vs Outdoor Ranges
When we talk about shooting range soundproofing, we’ve got two basic scenarios to address. Indoor ranges and outdoor ranges. Each will produce incredibly loud sounds, but the layout will affect the way the sound waves react with the space. Indoor ranges are more apt to produce a ton of reverberation, and outdoor ranges produce sound that travels. We treat each a little differently.
Indoor shooting range soundproofing focuses on reducing the amount of sounds inside the space. Since we’re shooting in an enclosed space, waves can bounce around and create incredible amounts of reverb. When that gunshot reverb gets out of control, hearing damage can follow quickly.
The focus for interior gun range soundproofing and noise reduction is going to be porous, absorbent materials. There are a range of products that will fit this bill, and you can mix and match them to produce fantastic acoustic and aesthetic effects.
One of the most popular sound absorbing materials for this application is wood wool. It’s incredible at absorbing sound waves, and it’s got a great look that works well in gun ranges. It’s also created from eco-friendly materials, helping you save a little money while you do something good for the earth.
Wood Wool is made of something called excelsior, which is a fancy word for wood slivers cut from timber. That excelsior is bound with water and cement to create an ultra-porous, high density panel that can be used anywhere noise control is needed. It’s available in a number of different colors and adds visual appeal to any space.
Acoustic foam is usually sold in small to medium sized panels that are modular enough to work well in most rooms. You may have seen variations that look like foam egg cartons tacked to the walls of recording studios and other rooms where reducing sound reflections is essential.
It is a popular sound absorber for gun ranges because the panels can easily be cut and arranged to provide 100% coverage on nearly any wall. It’s not ideal in every situation, but in a gun range, that’s a very desirable trait. That’s because you are trying to absorb as much sound as possible to create effective decibel drops.
It’s not the most visually appealing of your options, but when used to line the walls around the actual shooting lanes, they provide much needed noise and hearing protection.
Acoustic panels are another important tool in our arsenal of acoustical treatment materials. Like acoustic foam, acoustic panels are available in a variety of different panel sizes. Unlike acoustic foam, acoustic panels are built with a frame that makes them sturdy decorative elements, but restricts their ability to be cut and arranged for complete coverage of walls.
That said, acoustic panels are usually better equipped to absorb frequencies across the spectrum than acoustic foam. Mixing some panels into your acoustical treatment design can result in absorbing more sound frequencies than acoustic foam alone.
Also, if you’re looking for something more visually appealing for the front lobby, acoustic panels will deliver. Not only are they incredibly absorptive and efficient at reducing noise levels but they look great to boot. Acoustic panels are available in a ton of colors and can even be printed with your own custom files. Create personal artwork that can reduce sound levels by a solid amount.
Acoustical curtains can provide acoustical treatments in ways other materials can’t. That’s because they can be hung on any sturdy support, allowing you to use them on the walls and windows or bring them out into the room. Use them wherever you need a little absorption.
You can even suspend them between individual shooters or lanes to trap sound waves before they ever reach reflective surfaces. They are dense enough to block out light too, meaning you’ve got one less distraction to deal with when you’re focusing on your shots.
Adding Mass and Density
Most shooting ranges have thick walls to start with, but they’ll likely need some shoring up. Even if you’ve got thick, brick walls, enough sound can pass through to annoy the immediate neighbors. Here are some gun range soundproofing tips to reduce noise passage into the neighborhood.
Even with very thick walls, your doors are going to provide a weak spot in the room’s sound containing ability. Doors are usually much thinner than exterior walls, and often have no insulation or other dense materials inside to offer much sound blocking ability.
Choosing thick doors designed for very loud spaces will allow your doors to pull their weight. In addition, adding a door seal kit will help ensure that no sound passes through the gaps around the door’s edges.
Your exterior walls will need insulation anyway, so why not use it for gun range soundproofing. Standard insulation really only works for temperature management. It will reduce noise levels by a very small amount, but if you want any noticeable results, you’ll need acoustical insulation. It won’t completely block the sound, but every soundproofing measure matters. As an added benefit, you will get solid thermal performance out of acoustical insulation.
Mass Loaded Vinyl
If you need to add more mass and density to make your walls more effective, mass loaded vinyl (MLV) is a great solution. It is sold in easy to apply rolls, so any DIY handyman can add professional level mass and density to their walls on a budget.
MLV should not be left exposed, so make sure you cover it with a secondary material. A popular option is to simply hang a second layer of drywall over the MLV. It provides coverage, but it also adds thickness to the wall. This only makes your walls more soundproof. Just make sure your studs are up to the task of taking on the added weight before hanging additional drywall.
Outdoor shooting range soundproofing focuses more on keeping sounds contained. The sound from a handgun blast can travel a mile, and a high caliber rifle can produce waves that travel two miles. With that kind of distance, we must introduce some structure to keep it contained. Fortunately, you can employ many of the same materials you’d use for an indoor range.
Shooting Range Barriers
Physical barriers are going to be necessary for effective gun range noise control. You’ll need something between the lanes and the surrounding community. Wall segments are a popular option for this.
You can create some very absorptive barriers using the same types of materials we use in indoor acoustical treatments. Once you’ve constructed your frame, using acoustic foam and panels on the exterior can add both mass and density, and allow you to absorb more sound. Filling the interior with acoustic insulation will also help. Place them around the exterior of the range and they’ll keep a portion of the sound from reaching the neighbors.
Build a Soundproof Box
Building a soundproof shooting box is another effective option. Since sound waves travel outward from a central point, the earlier you stop them, the easier it is to accomplish. Building a wall at 40 yards may require a huge stretch. Bring it in closer and you can block all that sound with a fraction of the surface area. You’ll absorb much of the sound and direct a great deal upward.
Using acoustical curtains here is a wonderful way to create modular boxes that absorb a lot of sound at the source. Run a few along the interior of the box and you’ll up your performance.
Get the Help You Need
We may never figure out how to build a quiet shooting range, but the steps we take can make the noise much more tolerable. Blocking, absorbing, and trapping sounds is currently our best line of defense. That’s why choosing the right materials is an important part of protecting our hearing and our relationships with the neighbors.
Higher quality materials trap more sound and add the density you need to keep noise contained. When dealing with noise as loud as gunshots, this is important. If you’ve got a gun range soundproofing project that needs attention, we’ve got the answers you’re looking for. Whether you’re still in the discovery phase or you’re ready to start the install, we know every step. Reach out to learn more.