How did Hollywood create those resonant gunshot sounds in 1940s and 1950s B-Westerns?

atm-logoHow did Hollywood create those resonant gunshot sounds in 1940s and 1950s B-Westerns?

Rick Miller
Harker Heights, Texas

Our gun and Western film expert Phil Spangenberger has a lot of experience in this department. He says all movie sound effects are referred to as Foleying, named for Jack Donovan Foley, who created the field in 1927.

For gunshots, the firing takes place in post-production, enhancing the sound effect. You can create many different sounds, such as a bullet striking flesh or a ricochet. Spangenberger has created gunshot sounds many times in films, firing everything from percussion cap weapons to machine guns and automatic rifles.

Foley artists can also boost the volume on a gunshot or put in some echo at the end of the sound, all to enhance the listening experience.

Those Westerns of the 1930s and 1940s used full-load blanks, but with blackpowder, which gives off a softer sound than modern smokeless powder and its quarter or one eighths loads.

 

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Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian.
His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.

If you have a question, write:
Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008,
Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at
marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu

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