There was a period of over 49 years where as a shooter that stepped up to a trap shooting station with ear protection installed was considered some kind of off the wall outside. I even had a friend that was diagnosed with a major ear affliction that would cause him to go deaf in time that tried and gave up on using ear protection. A point in fact was that in time he did exactly that, go stone deaf.
My point is this, using ear protection was considered for wimps, and as a result of that my whole generation of shooters can’t hear much if anything from the left ear of a right hand shooter, and just the opposite of a left hand shooter. With the head down on a rifle the right hand shooter did get some protection by sound input and ear downward angle.
Over the past decade or two, there had been a great deal of change among shooters in the ear protection department. Nowadays protection systems range from simple foam earplugs to the use of very advanced sound sensing muffs, or inner ear installed systems.
As to the best system? That depends on what you’re doing when shooting targets or hunting varied game.
In general, I have seen shooters plug a spent 38 cartridges cases in their ears, or just paper rolled up as well. These are stop gap measures and in most cases not very good at all.
In terms of general use and a very low cost foam earplugs are the most common. I have attended shooting events that draw several thousand people and these earplugs are left around in piles for use by participants. The plug will reduce sound, but again are not the best when shooting heavy weapons, or over a sustained period of time shooting much of anything.
With a move forward however in the standard fully enclosed ear muffs the shooter gains a great deal of protection, but these units are bulky, had to wear over glasses or a cap, and in general are not very comfortable. By example, the 3M 105’s are a solid example of the standard muff protection system. I have hand several new sets of these units and also have one set that is over 50 years old, my mother gave them to be after the war. She was a loaded on the 50 cal line at Northern Ordnance in Minnesota and had to make use of these buffs every day for years.
I have replaced the inner foam lining as it just fell away over the many years I have been using them, but the outer structure has stood up well and they still produce good levels of sound reduction even when shooting high power rifles. Today my 105’s are the primary basic muff go-to system and I have them in my truck shooting bag at all times, as well as an extra pair in my office just in case.
Over the years I have lost a great deal of hearing in my left ear and enough so that my doctors have advised me to take extra positive care if I want to hear much at all in my later years. I recommend this style o ear protection when it comes to protection levels, pricing over the counter, and an ability to hold up over long periods of use.
Best Shooting Ear Protection
ProCase Noise Reduction Safety Ear muffs
As an example of the muff style ear protection system, I am offering the ProCase noise reduction system.
This unit is very affordable, lightweight, and mounts an ergonomic headband unit that makes use of soft padding which will reduce pressure on your head when using them over long periods of time.
This style earmuff allows a great deal of area space inside the cup and that means far less stress when being used in warm weather and the system also retains breathability as well.
The tough ABS shell which is quite common to several brands in this ear muff style system can take a pounding as noted by the set I have had for almost all of my active life in shooting sports.
This style unit is also foldable for compact transport, and general used afield.
Pro Ears Gold II 26
With a move to a system like the Orvis Pro Ere Gold II 26, the shooter gains the ability to turn off sound that is as high a dB rating as a rifle shot but still hear everything around you including sounds in the woods during a hunt.
The Orvis system is designed like the standard muff previously reviewed with one major exception.
These muffs make use of a microphone system that will pick up sounds, but at the instant a very loud damaging sound is emitted the unit will shut off and allowing the sound blocking muff system to take over.
I like this style when I am shooting long range target steel without the aid of a spotter. I find the muff engages the blocking system when I fire, but by the time the bullet travels 800 through one mile in yards, I can actually hear the slap of the bullet against the hardened steel plate.
In effect, the lock out sound unit protects the shooter regarding all sound over 82 dB and that means a day on the range in relative comfort.
This unit like many others in the same design uses a common AAA battery for power, makes use of simple rolling on-off knobs on the outside of the muff, and retains an overall fit that is generic in nature as well.
The price of these units is higher, but the advantages are many and they do perform well in the field.
In this type of unit built by Walker you have a small earplug, but it is in effect a very complex unit in that the plugs both cuts out the loud sounds, but aids the shooter in hearing normal sound level things around him or her.
I worked with the Walker system when they were called “ Game Ear” and they did work well indeed. I have a shooter friend that is up in years and uses them as a general use hearing aid every day.
This unit is quality constructed, retains a “ secure it’ system, and uses digital sound processing. Each plug retains individual volume control, and the unit has an 80-hour battery life.
Built with integrated omnidirectional microphones which produce very clear low-level sound. This system is powered by #10 battery’s and four are included with the new set.
The foam ear buds included with the plugs are small medium and larger. The buyer can adjust the fit to perfection versus using a one size fits all approach.
The set of Walkers I owned worked well for over 10 years before becoming lost in a boating mishap.
Caldwell Bluetooth Rechargeable Ear Plugs
Again in the area of small ear plugs the Caldwell blue tooth system is a system that is compatible with various mobile devices, carry’s a 23 dB noise reduction rating, with a battery life of 5 hours per charge. The carrying case retains enough power to recharge the plugs 4-5 times.
Sound quality is of a stereo level, and the earplugs retain both left and right control channels. The on/off switch in each unit is illuminated, and the units will turn off without touching the controls in four hours of no use. The units come with multiple sizing tips to fit varied ear sizes correctly.
Howard Leigh by Honeywell
In terms of this Honeywell designed ear muff set I can attest to the fact that my Hornady muffs obtained several years ago are exactly the same unit as listed here, and they are outstanding.
I like the fit, general weight displacement when used for long periods of time, and the on/off auto sound control feature as well.
These muffs feature a low profile design that clears the rifle stock. The system uses an adjustable headband design and folds for easy storage.
This is an area that I can address in that I hate a headset that bangs into my rifle stock especially when that rifle is made with a high grade walnut in a rifle costing over $2000.00 and change.
The muffs include an AUX input and a 3.5 mm connection cord for MP3 players and scanners. The muffs are multi functional along with sound suppression.
The unit includes 2 AAA batteries being this is the power source for the system. Working life is about 350 hours. I have found however that these muffs die a quick death if you forget and leave them on.
Howard advertises a full complement of nine variations in this system. It would seem like there is something for everyone.
EarzOn shooting Protection
Getting toward the very latest in hearing protection and in the small plug design are the units offered up by EarzOn. These earplugs are state of the art and being offered during by CAVCOM Inc, WildEar EarzOn ( TM ).
According to my information what has been provided by one of my hands on sources, the new plugs are not a foam style system, by rather a soft silicone based material, and as such retains a good working lifeline in the field. These ear plugs are soft touch and as such offered a great deal of comfort to the user.
Getting into these plugs requires that the buyer send a cast sample of their ear to WildEar located in Walker Minnesota USA. This can be done by using a local audiologist so that a cast can be made of your ear regarding the points that the ear plugs will contact your individual ear canal. Getting an impression of the ear and sending that to the manufacturer will then allow them to make an exact duplicate in soft silicone which will meet the requirement needed for total ear protection. These molded plugs are not electric or modified with batteries, or wiring in any way.
CavCom is a company that is an expert in industrial hearing protection worldwide. This is all they do and they do it well. The company also offers electronic ear protection, and by contacting them at wildear.com you can get the full range of services offered by this specialized ear protection company.
In the previous material, I have given you some possible options when searching out ear protection as applied to shooting sports.
Be advised that I do not guarantee results for any product but I do know that based on hands-on experience when shooting the line on a 1000 yard course ( Boulder City Nevada) that when 338 Lapua, 25 Nosler, 300 Normal, 300 PRC, and massive 50 BMG are in use even the basic ear muff can offers a great deal of protection.
In my business here in South Dakota I build special sub sonic barrel extensions called Metro Gun Systems. I have been working in the sub sound shooting business for about 25 years to date and I know what loud is, and exactly what protection should look like as well. Believe me, anything is better than nothing, but some units are better than others to be sure.
I have been writing firearms and outdoor material of over 50 years to date. I have hunted across the world including Russia and a great deal of time professional hunting in Australia. I currently live in the American west and hunt all across the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the Big Horn mountains. I have specialized much of my work as a load developer in shotguns and rifles. I have run a small company that builds suppressor barrels of my design, and load tests for writing purposes and consulting. My commercial names include Ballistics Research & Development / Metro Gun Systems.TM. Web site www.metrogun.com.