Do Gunshots Echo: Distinguishing Gunshots from Fireworks

Fireworks are a loud, entertaining, and unavoidable part of holidays celebrations. Unfortunately, some people celebrate the holidays using a more dangerous tool: guns.

So when you hear a loud shooting sound nearby, how can you tell whether it’s a gunshot or a firework?

That’s what we will discuss comprehensively in this post. But before we do that, let’s first take a look at a question that many people have about gunshots.

Do Gunshots Echo?

All sounds produce an echo. So yes, when someone fires a gun, the gunshots do echo.

However, whether you will hear the echo is a different question altogether. The answer depends on many factors, including how far away you are from the source of the sound and what kind of surface it’s being fired at or off of.

For example, if a bullet hits the pavement and you’re quite far away from it, then you would hear no echo. However, if you’re standing near the gun and the shot is taken in the air, you will hear a loud echo. 

How to Tell the Difference Between Gunshots and Fireworks

Generally speaking, the way to differentiate gunshots from fireworks is to pay close attention to the sound pattern. While fireworks make a crackling, random sound pattern with loud echoes, gunshots have a regular, consistent sound pattern with fewer and softer echoes.

That’s just the basic overview of how to differentiate a gunshot from a firework. There’s a whole lot more to know — and that’s exactly what we’re about dive into. 

First off, here are the three main differences between the sound made from gunshots and fireworks.

  1. While gunshots are consistent and often have no echo, fireworks are random and create loud echoes.
  2. While gunshots mimic a pattern with regularity, fireworks make a chaotic sound.
  3. While gunshots typically have a sharper pop-like sound, fireworks have an explosive bang-like sound.

To get an even deeper understanding of the sounds of gunshots and fireworks, it’s best to discuss them separately.

What Do Gunshots Sound Like?

Generally speaking, gunshots are sharp, loud popping or crackling sounds. The sound is usually consistent but not always perfectly so. There may be a slight pause between each gunshot.

The pop-like sound of gunshots can be attributed to the sudden release of air that happens when the gun goes off and forces its way out through the barrel.

All that being said, the sound of a gunshot largely depends on the caliber of the gun.

For instance, while a 9mm handgun has a soft pop-like sound, a shotgun has more firepower and makes an explosive bang that can be heard throughout the neighborhood. Similarly, a .22 caliber gun will produce a gunshot sound that’s much softer than that of a 2 caliber handgun.

What Do Fireworks Sound Like?

Contrary to what most people think, fireworks don’t just go bang! They make a whole range of sounds, including the following:

  • Whistles: These sounds are produced by fireworks that explode in the air.
  • Sizzles: These sounds come from fireworks that require you to light them on fire before they shoot off into the sky.
  • Bangs: These loud explosions happen only when a firework reaches its peak and explodes, lighting up the night’s sky with bright colors. 
  • Crackles: These are the sounds produced by fireworks that explode on the ground.
  • Pops: This sound happens when a firework is lit and goes off without shooting into the sky first. 
  • Crackling hearts: This sound is what happens when fireworks are set off in the shape of hearts.
  • Wheee’s: This sound is produced when fireworks are shot in the air with a whistle.
  • Fizzles: These sounds happen when there’s not enough gunpowder or fuel to make a loud bang or explosion. 
  • Chaos: This is what happens during firework shows where multiple kinds of fireworks go off at once, creating an explosive mixture of different sounds that sounds chaotic.

As you can see, due to the wide range of sounds fireworks make, they can be easily distinguished from gunshots.

What Should You Do If You Think You Heard a Gunshot?

If you think you heard a gunshot, the best thing to do is call 911.

It’s important not to act impulsively and go looking for trouble or become involved in any potential criminal activity that might be happening around where the shot was fired. Things like this only end up getting innocent people hurt — and could also potentially lead to legal trouble as well.

So instead of taking any unnecessary risks, if you think a gunshot was fired nearby or somewhere on your property, call 911. The police will send an officer to investigate the sound and make sure everything’s okay in your area.

Moreover, even if you’re not sure whether what you heard was a gunshot but you feel unsafe, call the police right away. After all, they’re used to responding to calls of people who’ve heard gunshots but aren’t sure where it came from — so don’t feel embarrassed about calling them out of the blue.

One last thing we want to mention here is that you should report any other suspicious thing you may have noticed that might necessitate an officer’s assistance to your area immediately.


The answer to the question in the title is yes, gunshots do echo. However, if you’re too far away from the gun or the bullet hits a solid surface like the pavement, you’re likely not going to hear the echo.

As for differentiating gunshots from fireworks, you have to pay close attention to the sound you hear. While fireworks make a crackling, random sound pattern with loud echoes, gunshots have a regular, consistent sound pattern with fewer and softer echoes.

Whether you hear gunshots or fireworks, if they make you feel unsafe, it’s important to call 911 immediately so police are aware and able to investigate.


  • Nathan Collins

    Having spent years working in the landscaping industry, Nathan Collins has cultivated a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. He is committed to helping others appreciate the beauty in their backyards, whether it's through identifying rare rocks and minerals or crafting the perfect landscape.

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