Video Games Get Gun Silencers All Wrong

Video Games Get Gun Silencers All Wrong

You round a corner. You think you're in the clear but — oh no! — an enemy is standing guard. How will you ever bring him down without alerting other guards? Aha, your pistol has a silencer. One mouse squeak gun shot later and you're free. Except that's not how silencers work at all.

This video from RagnarRox debunks the myth of silencers' — actually known as suppressors — magical power to completely muffle a device that produces tiny explosions. It's quite nicely detailed, too. Watch.

Important points: a pistol can produce 160 decibels of noise. That's the whirring of a plane engine concentrated into a single, screaming ear-punch of sound. Snap a suppressor on that sucker, however, and you get... 126 decibels. That's still a whole lot of noise. We're talking chainsaw levels here. Suppressors, then, quiet down guns a little, but not enough to, say, let you meticulously pick off everybody in a cramped warehouse corridor weapons facility lava level.

RagnarRox, however, makes a point I really like about why it's fine that most games — and movies and TV shows — get suppressors all wrong. There's a utility to it. We immediately know what they mean and, more or less, how they will function without games having to explain it at length. Even if it is the gun equivalent of using the word "literally" to mean "figuratively", we're inundated with it. It's a thing that just makes immediate, unconscious sense. In entertainment (which many games are), that's great. It's helpful. It gets us into the action more quickly.

That's interesting to me. Games can infiltrate our brains — kinda like Sam Fisher with a magic sound obliterating tube screwed onto his gun — in ways we hardly even notice. Don't get me wrong: it's helpful to know how these things actually work in real life, but pervasive rule sets across games — and even large swathes of popular media — are powerful things. Little (and big) alterations that separate fact from fiction. And we just kinda... get them, for the most part.

I'm not saying it's always good when everyone believes something works a certain way because games or Hollywood or whoever said so (in fact, it can be actively harmful), but it's food for thought. Can you think of any other things that have entirely different utilities in real life versus games? Any that are as pervasive as suppressors?


    Yeah, I've always noticed how wrong they always got silencers. It's why I usually spend my time infiltrating with my fists or crossbow, taser, etc.

    Couldn't watch the video here but this is a common point that annoys me in oh so many movies. I've actually had friends argue and say why would people keep putting it in movies if it's wrong. It's really at the point where a large portion of society think a silencer will just make a gun totally quit.

      I read another article recently (possibly here) where an ex-military advisor to games devs and movie studios encouraged them to get it wrong in believable ways. Apparently a lot of criminals and paramilitary groups "train" by watching american movies and such. Having them doing things the way they see it in movies allows the real soldiers to better deal with them.

        ^ This

        The less realistic they make movies and games the more of a fighting chance the real world has when some cretin goes postal - like just yesterday in the US a teacher managed to subdue a school shooter while he was reloading

        I believe that was on cracked. I didn't see the bit abount encouraging them but he mentioned there that insurgents will comicly hide behind boxes thinking they can't be shot through and will just run out shooting with no regard for their ammunition.

      Won't somebody think of the children

      Good, let them think that. So when they decide to strap one on and sneak into some where they'll find out immediately they are no longer invisible ninja assassins.

        An invisible ninja assassin with a rocket launcher, grenade launcher, 2 types of machine guns, desert eagle, large knife, energy weapon and enough ammo and health kits to provision an army.

        But still silenced.

    Jumping I guess would be another common example. Even in semi realistic games characters can jump 2 meters straight up.

    Also Nathan Drake has the finger strength of a god.

      Yeah I always laughed at the insane climbing skills shown by characters in games like Uncharted and Assassins Creed.

      I remember AC Black Flag, Kenway comments that his skills are the result of being a sailor which really added some weight to it.. "Every finger a fish hook, that's how you tell a true sailor"
      Still a little overboard but it was good to see some logic applied to it.

        That would be the Uncharted with the Tree of Life in a lost city full of murderous yetis? How dare such a game be unrealistic!

          I call him "clamp hands" Only way to explain the grips. Also he must have some nut protection, flying into all those walls with both arms above his head all the time.. yowch.

      Not just jumping, but movement speed. Game characters can generally sprint at double Olympic record pace for hours on end WHILE jumping two metres in the air every few seconds.

      A game with realistic movement would be awesome IMHO.

        I read some essay on how DoomGuy is basically the most powerful video game character in the world based on measuring human height, applying it to distance, run speed, and a conservative estimate of the maximum weight he can carry while travelling at top run speed for a theoretically infinite period of time.

    Video GamesEvery Single Form of Media That Combines Visual and Audio Stimuli Get Gun Silencers All Wrong

      My favourite dodgy depiction was the 'silenced' .50 cal M-95 Barrett from CoD. HUGE round, tiny suppressor and a report quieter than a flea's fart.

      ...seems legit. :p

      Last edited 23/10/14 4:04 pm

        yeah, or the silenced barrel for it on payday 2, yeah, sure, the guards aren't going to hear that at alllll...

      Not all, believe it or not!
      The Project Reality Mod for BF2 had the odd suppressed weapon that was very accurate, in that the volume didn't necessarily change, just the characteristics of the sound, meaning it was harder to hear at longer ranges.
      In fact, that whole game was amazing in the sound department.

      Last edited 23/10/14 7:37 pm

    this just in: movies and video games make stuff up.

    In tomorrow article, The Goonies: How they never would have found that treasure in real life.

      Whoa Whoa Whoa.......... I mean I can see the goonies not being able to find the treasure in real life, but if you start with the whole there is no way Chunk could have jumped from the mast of the ship and slid down the sail with a cutlass to save the day then you and I are gonna have to disagree my friend.

        I hate to be that guy, but I think you mean Sloth and Chunk did that. But I'm still with you, player.

          That's all good mate, I wrote it in a hurry and then later realised it was sloth and chunk. I am surprised no one else picked it up yet.

          I like your style keepin it real, player player !

          your allllllright by me.

    Yeah its a bit BS. I am not a gun enthusiast, but I have a mate who is, He once had a birthday where a few of us went camping and shooting (not my thing but I went because I've known the guy for like 30 yrs). One night we (read he and others, while I was just carrying the gear, I did shoot a few rounds but not at any living thing) were out doing some shooting under the moonlight, on a ridge overlooking a small valley. There were some wild pigs below us not sure how far away (maybe like a few 100m) it was dead silent and the pigs were chilling by a dam. we were lying there while he lined up the shot and then.....

    FUCKING BANG !!!!!!!! my right eardrum felt like it was shattered, every living thing In the valley (and about a 1k radius around us) hightailed it the hell outta there (he also missed the shot). And that was with a silencer on the gun....every time I play a stealth game since then I'll call BS.

      That reminds me... I know a guy who was a sniper for a few years. He's completely deaf in one ear. Occupational hazard. Gets some kind of tax-free pension for life.

    I'm glad he spoke of the subsonic round. It's a critical factor in limiting the noise of a weapon's report, and I don't think I've ever seen it approached, even in Mil-sims.

      Arma Lets you equip subsonic ammo, and the Battlefield games justify the horrific drop in muzzle velocity for suppressed weapons by saying they automatically come equipped with subsonic ammo.

        I was hoping ARMA did, but since 3 came out I fell in love with the helicopters and I rarely spend time on the ground, unless someone's clipped my wings. :p That's sweet! I'm gonna have to go check that out.

    Do normal silencers actually reduce weapon damage by 25% too?

    Anyway, we're talking about games. Games where you can get shot in the head repeatedly with a high powered rifle and be ok if you hide behind a wall for a while to recover. I'm not sure silencers are the biggest issue...

      Silencers alter the ballistics of the round, yes. So this means things like speed, trajectory, penetration. But silencers (as opposed to suppressors) specifically might only be used with a certain range of ammo types, ie like a subsonic one that will have different ballistic characteristics again.

      Though there was no mention of how finicky silencers (again, as opposed to suppressors) are in operation, the constant retuning, for lack of a better word, and maintenance after X number of shots fired as they become increasingly inefficient at suppressing the report.

        Just like in the Jagged Alliance games, where you need to repair the silencer as well, not just the gun itself.

          I wish I could give you an extra up-vote for mentioning JA alone! :p

    I thought the were called silencers after The Maxim Silencer, the name of the first model that was sold commercially?

    While we're at it, can we discuss how bumping into a guard and running away will not cause the guard to forget about it 30 seconds later?

      How about being able to carry a rocket launcher in you back pocket?

    Yeah! Right on! Let's all complain about silencers! All games should be 100% realistic.

    * How come I can instantly heal myself with a medpack by running over it? Or standing behind a wall for a few seconds?
    * How come I can collectively survive hundreds if not thousands of bullet wounds or sword/mace/weapon hits across a game?
    * How come I can carry thousands of kilograms worth of gold without slowing down?
    * And where are my full motion control games, where I have to physically be able to run 5 kilometres in order to do that in a game.
    * I should have to accurately shoot a gun or wave a motion controller in the exact way that happens on screen in order for it to happen!

    On second thoughts, I'd rather games remain FUN. Silencers are mechanics over realism, and that's just FINE by me.

    Last edited 23/10/14 5:51 pm

      Don't have an anneurism, no one's saying otherwise.

      There's your explanation for how medkits work.

    a regular supersonic round will not do much with a silence, it cant contain the sonic crack, but with subsonic rounds, that yeah, actually DO do less damage ( :P ), they are pretty quiet. Iv seen somebody firing low velocity .380 rounds out of a suppressed barrel at St Marys indoor range, and it was bloody quiet!

    I don't know about you guys but I would rather have fun than worry about realism.

    Just thought id chip in my 2c

    Whilst I agree most silencers (suppressors whatever you want to call them) dont actually reduce the sound that much, if at all, military grade or high grade silencers do in fact suppress a huge portion of the sound.

    Heres a link with a silencer that is in fact almost exactly like you see in the films.

    Enjoy :)

    Its always interesting how everytime these articles pop up, there'll be a parade of people who will talk on about how they want their game to be fun and not Ultra-realistic.

    Last I checked, none of these articles actually complain about the game mechanic at all. Its just a fun fact to know that the game mechanic you know and love, isn't actually real. In fact a lot of game mechanics are stylised and exaggerated. Its fine by me, its fine by a lot of people. Knowing that something isn't real doesn't diminish people's enjoyment of a game. It seems to me that some people only find enjoyment by being blissfully ignorant...

    On the topic of silencers, FarCry 2 had a silenced shotgun...though it would be interesting if someone correctly modelled the amount of gunfire in a typical COD match at real life volume. Everyone would be deaf by the end

      I don't know if you're implying this or not, but silenced shotguns are actually a thing. I know this from watching lots of Sons of Guns, not from any actual real world firearm experience.

      And from what the show makes out, the measure of a good suppressor is being able to shoot it without causing damage to people's hearing if they're not wearing ear protection, though it's probably still as loud as hell.

    A few things to note, suppressors do make the noise from the initial boom significantly more directional. This is increasingly true with the size of the suppressor.

    Partially because of this, and partially because of the redirection of the sound waves within the baffles of a suppressor the noise drop-off is much quicker. This means that 100 feet from a regular shot fired will sound closer to the original volume, while 100 feet from a suppressed shot will be noticeably quieter than the original. I have been told by an actual suppressor owner that at about 75 yards a well suppressed .45acp sounds like a car door closing with regular force.

    Suppressors also help to modify the frequency of the sound, which reduces the level of noise carrying through walls and such.

    Also important to understand, the decibel scale is logarithmic, which means that every 10 decibels, measured sound is twice as loud. So from 126 to 160, sound becomes about 3.5 times louder. Pretty significant reduction.

    This is a good video, because it helps dispel myths. I personally hate these myths because it has bred fear in people who don't understand suppressors. They are a very convenient and cool safety device for target shooting and hunting, as when hunting they help to not disturb all wildlife within 5 miles. You're right, they are not magic devices that turn machine guns into nerf toys.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now