10 Best Shooting Ear Protection [Electronic & Passive Hands-On]

Don’t want to go deaf?

Tested Shooting Ear Protection Muffs
Tested Shooting Ear Protection Muffs

The percussive vibrations of each gunshot actually kill vital little hairs deep in your inner ear.  And that can open the door to a high pitch ringing or humming noise that can last forever.

Three Electronic Earmuffs
Best Shooting Ear Protection

We’ve got the 411 on the best shooting ear protection…from affordable passive ones to the top-of-the-line electronic earmuffs.

We’ve tried them all over hundreds of hours at the range as shooters and range officers.

We’ll go over some preliminary info but if you want the results right away…check out our table of contents.

Table of Contents

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Shockwave, Meet Inner Ear

Everyone always talks about the middle ear.  That’s mainly the eardrum and those three little bones with cool names: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup.

But what really causes hearing damage though is what happens in the inner ear.

Anatomy of the Ear
Anatomy of the Ear

Inside, picture a spiral staircase.  Only this passage is just 2 millimeters wide and maybe 30 millimeters long all coiled up.

Sound races along the outside of the staircase, but in the middle are the organ of Corti (yup, sounds ominous) and the basilar membrane.  Both are long and thin, with the organ resting on the membrane.  All along this little assembly are tiny little hairs.  They register sound and transmit it through the auditory nerve to your brain.

But—and here’s the kicker—exposure to an intense sound—that’s 140 dB or more—can make segments of the organ of Corti separate from the basilar membrane.  Portions of it actually tear away and float around.

Sound Decibel Chart
Sounds you hear all the time can have a huge effect your hearing.

So you end up with an inflamed lesion that causes an accompanying chemical reaction.  Hairs die.  Scar tissue forms, and even with rest, the tiny hairs typically continue to degenerate.  A cascade effect takes over, and the entire auditory central nervous system goes deaf.

Researchers suspect that tinnitus—that high pitch noise inside your head that won’t go away—“begins as a result of the brain trying to regain the ability to hear the sound frequencies it has lost by turning up the signals of neighboring frequencies.”

One more thing: noise exposure is cumulative.  Each loud sound is killing ear hairs, so you need to be thinking about total exposure over the course of days, weeks and years.

Ready for some hearing protection yet?

Pregnant Women, Take Note

If you’re looking to go to the range while you’re pregnant, you might want to rethink that. There are some special considerations that you should know if before going.

Check out our complete article Shooting While Pregnant for more details!

“Proper” Hearing Protection

First of all, forget cotton balls, tissue, packing peanuts, or my personal old-shooter favorite, cigarette filters. 

While they are better than nothing, they are also next to nothing.  At best, you’ll get a reduction of maybe 7dB.

Cotton Balls as Ear Plugs
Cotton Balls are Barely Better than Nothing

Effective choices for hearing protection come down to

  • earplugs
  • earmuffs
  • combinations of the two and
  • some techy alternatives with sound-circuit technology.

There are so many options, there’s no reason not to protect your ear hairs.  From neon foam-on-strings to high-tech headphones, there’s something for everyone. 

What you should be looking for is a minimum noise reduction of 15dB, but 30dB is preferable.  Pair a good set of plugs with muffs and you might shut out another 10 to 15dB or so.

Decibel Comparison of Different Rounds
Decibel Comparison of Different Guns and Rounds

You know the load you like to shoot, but a conservative 140dB is a common figure for an average muzzle blast.  A .22 will be less, a magnum more.  With quality protection, you can start approaching a range that’s still loud—as in chainsaw- or sandblast-loud—but may be up to 1,000 times quieter.

9 Best Shooting Ear Protection

Circle of Shooting Ear Protection
Circle of Shooting Ear Protection

Earplugs

Traditional earplugs fit inside the ear, forming a seal that blocks sound. 

They come in a range of sizes, configurations and materials—from foam to hypoallergenic rubber and moldable polymers.  Earplugs tend to be more efficient at handling low-frequency noise.

Pros:

  • Least expensive option.
  • Highly effective.
  • Disposables available in bulk at pennies per pair.
  • Some rated 30dB or better.
  • Available strung or unstrung.
  • Reusable models washable.
  • Some models moldable for custom fit.
  • Compact for transport.
  • Good for tight spaces; no snagging.

Cons:

  • Fit constraints for narrow or wide ear canals.
  • Comfort varies widely.
  • Muffles all sound indiscriminately; works too well.
  • Foam models require proper roll-down insertion, removal and reuse.
  • Some models difficult to pair with muffs.
  • Moldables more expensive; may be difficult to alter.
  • Fumble-and-loss factor in dirty environments.

1. Disposable Foam Earplugs

The most affordable of the bunch and really protective at 32dB NRR (noise reduction rating).  Remember to compress them before sticking them into your ears.

17
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

There’s tons of other foam options but I would stay away from cylindrical ones…those are not very comfy.

2. SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders

Want something reusable and gives you two levels of hearing protection?

Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders
Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders

Enter Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders which have “filter caps” you can choose to have in or out.

Surefire EP3, One Open One Closed
Surefire EP3, One Open One Closed

Having it open gives you still decent protection against gun shots but allows you to hear range commands and regular talking.

They fit very well but keep in mind there are sizes…here I am comfy with Mediums.

Wearing Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders
Wearing Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders

Great for outdoor ranges and “normal” calibers…but if you’re shooting indoors or shooting magnums…I’d double-up with these inside and then earmuffs over.

14
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

There’s also EP4 Sonic Defenders which have a longer flange into your ears. I prefer the EP3s though.

Passive Protection

Traditional earmuffs come on a headband and have foam pads that cover and form a seal around the entire ear. 

For those who don’t like the over-the-head fit, a few versions have back-of-the-head wrap designs.  Muffs typically are better at screening out higher frequency sounds.

weak hand only shooting
Weak Hand Shooting Drills with Ear Muffs

Pros:

  • Convenient to put on and take off repeatedly.
  • Comfort level.
  • Easily paired with earplugs.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Foldable models compact.
  • One size usually fits all.
  • Durable.

Cons:

  • Can be bulky, heavy.
  • May snag or bump in confined spaces.
  • Comfort issues, especially in humidity, hot or wet weather.
  • Can interfere with proper cheek weld.
  • Issues with safety or prescription glasses and proper ear seal.
  • May not provide as much noise reduction as earplugs; can require pairing with plugs.
  • Hats or long hair, anyone?

My favorites and what I wore for a long time are the 3M Optime model and Shotgunner model.

Shotgunner & Optime Ear Muffs
Shotgunner & Optime Ear Muffs

3. 3M Peltor Optime 105

The Optime 105 is super protective with 30dB NRR but is also quite bulky.

Passive Shooting Ear Protection
Passive Shooting Ear Protection

It’s not heavy but it will seriously cramp on your cheekweld situation for rifles and shotguns.

Use if you’re shooting handguns…and especially if you’re at an indoor range where the sound reverberates.

20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. 3M Shotgunner II

For going slim…I really like the 3M Shotgunner.

Passive Shooting Muffs, Side
Passive Shooting Muffs, Side (L to R: Shotgunner, Optime 105, Optime 101)

I painted mine over and it served me well for years.  It’s less protection at 24dB but you can always double up if it gets really loud with compensated rifles.  Comfort is average but I found it to be fine for a few hours if I can take it off my ears during downtime.

Best Passive Ear Protection
20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Now, let’s dive into electronic ear protection that cuts out harmful shooting sounds but amplifies regular sounds like people talking.

5. 3M Optime 101 (Behind the Ear)

One of my newer passive earmuffs is the Optime 101 Behind the Ear which allows you to wear a hat, helmet, or face mask unobstructed.

3M Optime 101
3M Optime 101

I’d try these out if the other earmuffs aren’t to your liking.

Now how about we move onto…

Electronic Protection

Electronic Shooting Protection, Open
Electronic Shooting Protection, Open

High-tech electronics are stepping up the game for earplugs, ear cuffs, ear muffs, and every smart device in between. 

These focus on screening out the loud booms while letting you still hear conversations and the sounds of the great outdoors.

Pros:

  • Noise filtering; loud noises muffled but conversation and subtle noises amplified.
  • Comfort.
  • Small, compact.
  • Lots of options, including Bluetooth to enable smartphones.
  • Available in stereo.
  • Variety of formats—muffs, earplugs, semis and cuffs.

Cons:

  • Price point—usually $50 and up, up, up.
  • Batteries required.
  • Not always water-resistant.
  • Expensive to lose; fallen electronic cuffs and earplugs hard to find in the field.
  • Comfort.
  • Some models are bulky, heavy.

6. Howard Leight Impact Sport

My go-to recommendation is the Howard Leight Impact Sports.

Howard Leight Impact Sport
Howard Leight Impact Sport

They are super popular for a reason.  They are affordable and they work…15K reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star average.

It’s the first pair of electronic earmuffs people get when they are tired of yelling “WHAT?!?” when someone speaks to them at the range.

Howard Leight Impact Sports and Pro
Howard Leight Impact Sports and Pro

Affordable, decent protection at 22dB NRR, slim for rifle/shotgun shooting, and reasonably comfortable.

Plus they come with AUX-in for devices.

Best Budget Electronic Ear Protection
53
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The only thing I could knock them for was their comfort.  But with the newly released gel caps that makes them super comfortable.

40
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

These feel like the pads used in my favorite $200+ earmuffs further down the list.  AND they have cutouts for eye protection since after a few hours your glasses really dig into the side of your head.

7. Howard Leight Impact Pro

If you’re ready to jump up a notch you get 30 dB of protection and ability to hear people around you and range commands.

HL Impact Pro with Noisefighters
Howard Leight Impact Pro with Noisefighters

They are large, bulky, but surprisingly light and comfy to wear even for longer range sessions and provide amazing noise reduction.  I’d recommend these if you are shooting large caliber handguns or shoot at an indoor range. 

Howard Leight, Side Profile
Howard Leight, Side Profile

They are pretty thick and will mess up your rifle cheekweld.

Plus…since they also fit the Noisefighters Gel Caps!

55
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

8. Walker’s Razor Slim Muff

Ok, no list would be complete without the Impact Sport’s arch-nemesis…Walker’s Razor Slims.  They look cooler and performance is pretty on par.

Walker's Razor Ear Protection
Walker’s Razor Ear Protection

I’d say get whichever one is cheaper or on sale…which usually are the Impact Sports.

And keep in mind the Walker’s don’t have AUX-in if that’s important to you.

44
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And oh yes…they also have access to Upgraded Gel Pads.

Walker's Razor, Side
Walker’s Razor, Side with Gel Pads

9. Pro Ears Pro Tac Slim Gold

For most you’ll be well-served with any of the Howard Leights with the possibility of upgrading to gel caps.

Next up is a bigger jump in price.

But with that you get much better cutoff and amplification.  Pro Ears has a stellar reputation and I like their Pro Tac Slim Gold edition.  They don’t make my Editor’s Pick because they fit a little tight for people and the ears aren’t as comfy as the MSA Sordins.

But if you want better sound quality and shutoff (plus the ability to change it for each ear), I like Pro Ears’ Pro Tac Slim Gold with 28dB NRR.

150
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

10. MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X

Most of my fellow competitors wear MSA Sordins for their comfort and sound quality.

MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X
MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X

I finally caved after I became range officer for a couple competitions.  That meant constant blasts for hours while still needing to hear everything.

I simply asked my competition buddies “what are the best electronic ear muffs” and the MSA’s got the majority of votes.

They already has built in gel caps and there’s a couple colors.  I of course went with the camo…

Supreme Pro-X Controls
Supreme Pro-X Controls

They are comfy for hours with their gel caps, have easily accessible button controls, great sound cutoff and compression, and allow for earplugs if the decent 22db NRR doesn’t cut it.

MSA Supreme Pro-X, Side
MSA Supreme Pro-X, Side

Plus they can attach to ballistic helmets and comms if that’s your thing.

Best Overall Electronic Hearing Protection
269
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What I wear when I shoot for hours and my main recommendation for when people want the best.

What do you think about the MSA Sordins?

Readers' Ratings

4.90/5 (451)

Your Rating?

Conclusion

MSA Supreme Pro-X
MSA Supreme Pro-X

To sum it all up…

To get great protection and not have to deal with earmuffs…get some disposable foam earplugs.

17
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Want to upgrade to some earmuffs?

I like the slim Shotgunner ones if I’m shooting rifle.

Best Passive Ear Protection
20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Otherwise if I want the most protection I go with Optime 105s which are bulky but the best rated.

20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Ready for electronic protection?  My go-to suggestion is Howard Leight.

Best Budget Electronic Ear Protection
53
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And for the best electronic earmuffs I’ve been rocking for the last few years…MSA Sordins.

Best Overall Electronic Hearing Protection
269
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Let me know if there’s any that we missed.  And if you’re looking for Best Shooting Glasses or Best Shooting Gloves, click those links to see our other hands-on reviews.

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92 Leave a Reply

  • Michael

    I wear hearing aids. What option will work best for me when shooting indoors and/or outdoors. As a newbie, I need to be able to hear the range instructor as well as protect my hearing. Thank you.

    1 week ago
  • Jennie

    Thank you for the review. My comment: I have difficulty with ear muffs fitting. The distance from top of my head to ears. Usually they are too long even at the shortest adjustment. Childrens are too tight and uncomfortable. I do use the SureFire which work well. I wear ill fitting muffs over them.

    2 weeks ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Sadly this is kind of a problem with muffs, I really haven't found anyone that makes a very small adult-sized set. I would recommend earplugs and if you need more protection to use muffs over that even if they don't fit perfectly. Go for comfort over perfect fit if you have plugs under them.

      2 weeks ago
  • Wes Devers

    I use Walkers (from Academy) that have the aux in port with foam plugs. Works great as the Walkers can be adjust so that we all talk in normal conversational level and yet still hear fine even with the foams in. Great combo!

    2 weeks ago
  • Dan Thorp

    I appreciate the charts and information above about how hearing works. I would like to add that it is always best whenever possible to double up with plugs and muffs. I have used several electronic muffs with plugs and with the volume turned up had no problem hearing range commands etc. Also I have read elsewhere that the combination of the decibel reductions with plugs and muffs, as you noted above, does not equal the real total of decibel reduction. I have read that you take the highest decibel reduction number of the plug and muff you are using add five to that to give you the actual total. The upgraded gel cushions are amazingly comfortable with glasses (Rx or sun) and helps with decibel leakage which you can get with some of the regular cup pads.

    1 month ago
  • Scoop Burt

    I guess you cant review everything but the Peltor Tactical 100 are $50-60 and offer superior comfort over the Walker favor and Howard Leight. I own all 3. The Howard Leight's were m5 go to for many years and I have bought 3 additional pair I have given as gifts. However after about 2 years the ear cups become stiff. Same thing happen with the Walker razor after about 6 months. Stiff ear cups. My Peltor Tactical 100 are 18 months old and still as pliable as the day I bought then. Good luck.

    1 month ago
  • Jtrosse

    If you are going to be thorough, how would not include electronic ear plugs such as the Walker brand Line. I really enjoy my Walker Razor ear plugs and they provide NRR 31dB protection.

    1 month ago
  • Ben

    Winchester has a set of 33db electronic muffs for about $12. Works great. You can get 4 of them for the price of a single one of the ‘higher end’ models.

    1 month ago
  • ron riley

    I've bought several pairs of ear muffs And also ear plugs at Harborfreight for a really decent price. The ear "muffs" were about $7 to $10 each, And they work just as well as brand name muffs I've paid $30 for. These are just "Dumb" ear phones. NO AMP, NO adjustable sound levels, nothing fancy. But decent. I've used them inside with 22 caliber, and outside with 380 auto, 9mm and 40 S&W. With No discomfort.

    1 month ago
  • Jonathan Teany

    "And keep in mind the Walker’s don’t have AUX-in if that’s important to you." Possibly new, but the Walker's do have a 3.5mm aux jack.

    2 months ago
  • Ian

    Do you have any opinions on the in-ear electronic options like the Walker's Silencer?

    2 months ago
  • Robert Miller

    Good info, but the DB amount is needed for each model.

    2 months ago
    • abukhalid muhasib

      exactly

      1 month ago
  • Bull o' the Woods

    There is another route by which sound can reach the inner ear: by conduction through the bones of the skull, in particular the mastoid bones behind each ear. I've never been comfortable wearing ear plugs alone because of hearing loss that can occur through bone conduction. Oddly, as I've become more deaf over the years, I find loud noises *more* painful rather than less. The most comfortable combination (for me) is foam ear plugs underneath the Optime 30db ear muffs. With that combination, even .50 cal. muzzle blast is tolerable. The downside is that I cannot hear anyone talking. So, when I'm training, I go for noise-cancelling electronic muffs. Because of the bone-conduction thing, I think it is a big mistake to wear only ear plugs, even if they are the uber-expensive Surefire Sonic Defenders. Your inner ears are still taking a beating from conduction through the mastoid bones. Ear muffs reduce that conduction.

    2 months ago
    • Pete in NC

      I've found that training new shooters, especially the ladies in my household, it's best to start them off with combination plugs and muffs. Helps prevent flinching, especially with pistols.

      2 months ago
  • Terminator Jay

    Great article, decent reviews, each muffs details could be more closely examined and compared against one another. Am surprized that Peltors (300's and 500's specifically ) weren't included too. But even more importantly, am rather amazed that "directionality", the ability to hear where and which direction sound is coming from, isn't included in this article. Could you amend this review with what is a very important and a really, really valuable feature of electronic ear muffs, whether in your yard, in your house, at the range, or in the field? I have quad-speaker shooting ear muffs, NR of 27, that both cut off loud sounds over 85db, and amplify quiet sounds 9X, with independent controls for each ear. I would chose nothing else; quad AND directional speakers, forever. Hands down. The ability to tell where any and all sound is coming from is priceless, and the amplification to literally have bionic hearing is simply amazing.

    3 months ago
    • Bull o' the Woods

      3M bought Peltor and now markets them as "3M Peltor." Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are all "3M Peltor" products. Based only on my own experience (I have owned #2, #3, Tactical 6S, and Comtac versions), the "passive" ear muffs (#2 and #3) are excellent while the electronic ear muffs are not very good. The Tactical 6S in particular never worked well.

      2 months ago
    • Mark

      I find it odd that all the excellent Peltor electronic hearing protection has been left out of this article. The RangeGaurd and Tactical 100 are similar in price to the Impact Sport. They are both more comfortable than the Impact Sport, and there are also gel seals to get both a better seal and greater comfort. The Tactical 300 and 500 offer much better hearing protection than the aforementioned options, and much better than your favorite MSA Sordin (not just overall NRR, but at each frequency range - feel free to check the data). You can also add gel seals to those and still be at less than half the price of the MSA Sordin. In my opnion, having tried most of the ones on your list, except for the Walkers and the Pro Ears, the Peltor 300s are the best all around AND best "bang for your buck." They currently sell. for about $75, and for another $50 you can get the gel ear seals.

      2 months ago
    • TD

      Which electronic pair did you have? Curiosity piqued.

      2 months ago
  • Jeff Cook

    Question, I have a set of Bose Noise Cancelling headphones that cover the ear. Can I use these instead of gong out and buying another set of hearing protection? Thanks for the helpful article.

    3 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Maybe, but we do not recommend it unless the specific model you have also has a rating of at least 22db reduction. Noise canceling headphones come in two flavors, passive and active. Passive is basically the same as hearing protection and uses thick foam and other materials to deaden sound. Active canceling uses sound waves to target a range of frequencies to deaden sound. Active only works on that range of frequencies though and due to the nature of firearms shooting, they do not do well at protecting you from the complete range that you may encounter while shooting. So while technically both passive and active do have some hearing protection properties, how much and what kind is questionable. Thus why it is better to just get hearing protection that is actually designed and tested to function as such.

      3 months ago
  • Gidon

    I bought the Walker's Razor after reading this article. So far I used it only while shooting my handgun, it was great. I joined a ten meetings shooting tactical course and could hear the instructor excellently and it blocked the gun sounds well. All of my friends were drooling! I am looking forward to use it with my m16. Thank you for this great article!

    5 months ago
    • Gidon

      By the way, I also use it around the house with power tools and for silence. They are an excellent buy.

      5 months ago
  • Rod

    I noticed you dont have any info on the Gloryfire electronics set. They seem to compare to the Howard Leight Impact sports. Do you, or anyone, have any experience with those?

    6 months ago
  • Randall

    Quality products, to be sure. But a 33NRR doesn’t reduce db levels by 33db. The NRR is only the first number in the equation. Subtract 7 and divide by 2. 33-7= 26, 26/2= 13. Your effective noise reduction is 13db. Doubling up on hearing protection does help, but does not double or compile the NRR. Add 5 points to the greater NRR and the same formula applies. Like it was stated early in the essay, some is better than none. But always try for appropriate levels of protection for the situation. There’s a reason why those guys on the airport runway don’t settle for the foam earplugs.

    6 months ago
  • Abc

    Thanks for the hearing protection info. I double up on the protection with the muffs being electronic so I can talk to people. The Ear Buddy ear plugs seriously irritant my ears after an hour. A steroid cream is required to relieve the irritation. Other brands of plugs do not cause this problem. Ear Buddy does not report the composition of the plugs.

    7 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      ouch! Random allergies are never fun :(

      7 months ago
  • Jeff

    I see nothing in your article about plug type electronic hearing protection (ie... walker game ear ect.). I use two pair (1 in each ear ) with great results.

    7 months ago
  • Simon Blanchard

    Are there any ear defenders that are durable, that last longer than 12 months? I've had 3 pairs over the last 4 years break apart at the "bridge". The plastic stress fatigue fails. The bridge part used to be made of sprung steel and that lasted 20 years before the rivets holding the ear muffs to it rusted off. Any brands or models that still use sprung steels would be appreciated.

    8 months ago
  • Nathan

    your link to "Best shooting gloves" goes back to this page. Thank you for the info. What would you recommend for shooting a rifle? Most ear protection, that I've seen, are mainly for pistol use.

    9 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Link fixed! Thanks for letting us know. All of the hearing protection we covered is good for pistols and for rifles. You should lean more toward some of the higher-rated sets for rifles and strongly consider doubling-up with muffs and in-ear protection if you plan on shooting indoors or with magnum rifles.

      9 months ago
  • Pete

    I have the Walker Razor Slim and they do have an audio input. You stated that they do not.

    9 months ago
    • David

      Was going to say the same thing. I really like my Walker Razor Slim.

      2 months ago
    • GIDON

      Mine do too

      7 months ago
  • Derek Lau

    Very informative article! I've tried passive ear plugs and ear muffs, electronic ear muffs (Peltor tactical), and finally custom ear plugs with a filter that allows me to hear voice commands. It's hard to beat custom ear plugs for the protection and ability to get a good cheek weld. I do wear the Peltors when attending class and I need to clearly hear the instructions or carry on a conversation.

    10 months ago
  • Mark Naiman

    I am confused... My Glock17 on indoor range producing up to 175Db. Safe(or unsafe) level is 120Db. So, I have to reduce 55Db. Let's say ear muffs reduce 30Db plus 4-5 Db for ear plugs. 55-34=21Db left. What did I miss? Mark

    10 months ago
    • SharpCanines

      Randall explained it correctly above: "Randall Quality products, to be sure. But a 33NRR doesn’t reduce db levels by 33db. The NRR is only the first number in the equation. Subtract 7 and divide by 2. 33-7= 26, 26/2= 13. Your effective noise reduction is 13db. Doubling up on hearing protection does help, but does not double or compile the NRR. Add 5 points to the greater NRR and the same formula applies. "

      1 month ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Decibels are not a linear measurement, they are logarithmic. So the math doesn't work out just being X-Y=Z. Hearing protection also doesn't stack like X+Y=Z either, again because of how decibels are on a logarithmic scale. This makes it a real pain to muddle out what kind of hearing protection you need, but generally speaking - almost any hearing protection over 20db will be enough for outdoor shooting. Indoor shooting, I recommend earplugs and ear muffs when possible since the noise echoes and bounces around you. Listen to your body though - if your ears hurt after shooting, you might need more protection or more comfy protection. Hope that helps, let me know if you have more questions!

      10 months ago
      • Mark

        Thank you. Tomorrow I am on the range, will report back.

        10 months ago
  • bravo

    win99779 runs about $20 and is rated at 25dB, and each ear has its own controls.

    10 months ago
  • KRW

    I have been the range Master for the 3 largest Sheriff's Department and assisted in training and qualifying a 4000 man department. I have tried them all it seems like over the years (25). I certainly suggest the electronic muffs as they allow you to hear far better than anything I have tried. I prefer the MSA, HOWEVER, I THINK THEIR SERVICE IS TERRIBLE. I have two pair one if which is inoperable due to a battery compartment issue. MSA wants $150.00 just to check them out, then the cost of repair and possible parts makes it a non-repairable unit as far as I am concerned. I would rather take my chances on a new set, possibly the behind the neck Pro Ears. They have a 5 Year warranty. End of Rant.........

    11 months ago
  • David

    I will be looking at the msa. My dad has significant hearing damage and I am starting to get the ringing that doesn’t go away. $270 is a lot cheaper than the rest of life with hearing aids. My dad started wearing them at ~35. Now he has $12k in his ears just to hear.

    1 year ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      I often double-up on ear pro, highly recommend that if you're shooting indoors or large calibers.

      1 year ago
  • Terry

    a friend bought the peltor and couldn't install in his bump helmet (wires too short) - I have Howard L Impact sports in my helmet and it's a tight fit but works. I bought the HL Pro based on your review and will use at the range as over the skull ear pro. Have some Walkers too and am satisfied...really like the Pro with the 40 rating

    1 year ago
  • Edwin

    Thanks for a great article and the charts, i want to make sure everyone understand how important is to take care of the hearing health., not only when shooting but also at the job site. You see i work in construction and people really took for granted the noise., ear protection is very affordable and accesible these days when you compare the pain physically and emotionally on loosing your hearing the cost is nothing. Thanks

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      You're so welcome Edwin, and it really is!

      1 year ago
  • robert dey

    Otis Technology has a slim fit (no muffs) set of passive sound chamber "ear shields" with a 31 db reduction rating. Only cost around $20 . Worked fine for me and no stock interference. Have you tested these?

    1 year ago
  • Brian

    I have the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 and like like it a lot. My only two issues are the cheekweld when shooting rifles and they are heavy so after an hour the head strap get uncomfortable. I am interested in the MSA's but I don't want to go down in NRR rating.

    1 year ago
  • Paul Jay

    Hi Eric, Another outstanding article by you and the staff. After just a bit of research, I purchased the,"Impact Pro." What appealed to me most was the 30 NRR rating. I just tried them at an open range and found them comfortable to wear and in my case, possessing excellent sound reduction quality - definitely a big improvement from my former (not Impact Pro) pair. Off the subject a bit, but I would also would like to mention that your, "Bullet" article is excellent. Keep up the good work.

    1 year ago
  • Rich

    Peltor Tactical, best electronics all the way.

    1 year ago
  • Larry

    I use Bud's disposable ear plugs (32 dB) plus 3M Peltor Optime muffs (30 dB). An audiologist at work told me you can't add 32 + 30 for 62 total NRR when using plugs + muffs. More like 2/3 of the sum, so around 42 dB total NRR. I wear glasses but don't have any problem with the muffs. I shoot 9mm, .45 ACP, 12 gauge, 5.56, and 300 Blackout indoors. I've never had ringing in my ears afterwards.

    1 year ago
  • Aaron Bentham

    i,ve spent many a long hot day on the range wearing Howard Lieght Impact Sport and i absolutely love them, they are comfortable and easily suppress any bangs.

    1 year ago
  • Derrick

    My Walker Razors just broke. It was the cheap plastic piece holding the ear muff to frame. I picked up Peltor Tactical 500 and they are fantastic. I would put between the,Howard Leight and MSAs.

    1 year ago
  • Judith Mason

    I'm new to your site, and LOVE the analysis you do on products. That being said; I'm a girl (gal, woman, whatever) with a small head. The headband an the muffs I've used never adjust down far enough, so they always ride a bit too low. Similar issue with the safety glasses; too wide at the temple is the main problem when wearing with muffs. My little bean-head could really use some better fitting gear. I know you have some ladies contributing regularly to this site. What do they use? Thanks a million for a technically excellent, and super fun to read site!

    1 year ago
    • Wargirl51

      Judith I’m so glad u posted cause I’m a girl (ya whatever) too and I have the same problem with sizes. Not only that when I go to buy things men don’t take me seriously.! And a lot of places don’t carry Sig products or to Fit them, or me. I love pew pew I’m addicted to this site, learning all the new technology of today. It is teaching me to be a better shooter and safer one. And yes, now that I have my new M-17 gonna take that class!

      11 months ago
  • Mark Wynn

    Already lost hearing off the high side with 30-year USAF career , so went with the Howard Leight Impact Pro. Mostly pistols, 9mm & .45 ACP, at indoor range in winter. They are comfortable, easy to adjust for bare-headed or over a cap, and good sound suppresson. Sometimes I add foam plugs if positioned next to a boomer. (You know, when the shock waves from next door are blowing your eyelids around.) Buy the carry case at the same time as the muffs and they'll stay clean and like new for a long time.

    1 year ago
  • Patrick Brichta

    Great article but it's a shame you left off the Walker Excell 500, yeah a bit more pricey by about $75.00, but the ability to connect a phone via Blu-tooth is priceless. When on the range if your happen to get that annoying call from home You wont run the risk of blowing out your ear drums trying to take the call that will keep you out of the dog house. Also you can stream your favorite John Wick play list while you shred your way through paper bad guys...Or is that just me...

    1 year ago
    • Ryan M Staebler

      Thanks for that one!

      1 year ago
  • 1776 or Bust

    I may have to get those gel pads

    1 year ago
  • Rudy F.

    I can tell you that losing your hearing is not a good thing for anybody...what little I have left, I dearly cherish it, but I didn’t lose my hearing from gun fire but from Agent Orange, and I found out that not only from AO but from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there is nothing I can do at this point, protect what’s left.

    1 year ago
  • JohnCZ

    I have been shooting now for over 40 years and was also an artillery Gunner (RAA) so most could guess that my hearing isn't what one would call perfect. I shoot mostly braked 300 win mag and have found that the only hearing pro I now rely on is MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X. They are expensive but excellent, build, noise reduction, noise filtering and noise directional. Awesome quality, bought myself and my wife a pair and seem to wear hearing pro always now because I cannot afford to lose any more hearing. Spend the money and protect your ears, mine ring all the time and it is horrible!

    1 year ago
  • tgwnca

    Nice article.. good to know the db canceling numbers on models. Back in the 80's when I shot a lot, I had a pair of ear plugs that would cancel the high, sharp gun fire sounds. Yet still was able to talk normal levels. It had a metal cancelling unit in the ear plug that I believe operated on the sound waves it received. Anyone remember or know of these plugs? Lost mine in moves and can remember the manufacturer. Norton I think?!

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Thanks, so glad I could help out! Not sure of the old school brand though.

      1 year ago
  • Harry

    I imagine you got the msa muffs for free. 18 or 22 db nrr is worthless if guns are going off around you. You will have hearing loss if any one is shooting 38 super, 10mm, 44 mag or ANY high intensity cartridge. You should be ashamed of yourself shilling those muffs. I would tell you face to face but you probably are deaf by now. Enjoy your worthless $249 ear muffs. Major fail!

    2 years ago
    • John Parkman

      Mad bro...WTH??? I love people who go on forums and just rage for no reason...and I have your fries and your participation trophy when you want them...

      1 year ago
    • JohnCZ

      I paid for my MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X and can tell you that they are rated appropriately, most ear muffs fail in the lower frequency area where rifle fire (especially magnums are). Read there marketing and they are blocking high frequency (the easy stuff) it will have you believe the others are competing when they are not. I have the hearing damage as a result. MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X are $500 in Australia and worth every cent.

      1 year ago
  • Elmer

    Hi, thanks for the nice write up but I am confused. I always thought that the higher the number, the better the protection was for ear protection. If that is true, why does everyone favor a unit that is (seemingly) substantially less protective (MSA @ 22 and the Impact Sports Pro @30 db)?

    2 years ago
    • David

      Generally, 22db is enough reduction to prevent hearing damage and since the MSAs are a LOT more comfortable out of the box, they are preferred by a lot of people. If you need more protection than that you can combine the MSAs with some form of in-ear protection to boost the sound reduction. Impact Sport Pros are a lot heavier, don't have nice gel cups standard, and are less comfy - but have a higher rating. Aftermarket gel caps like the Sightlines help with comfort, but they are still a heavy and bulky unit. What hearing protection is best for you just depends on what you're doing and what you need it to do.

      2 years ago
  • Pilou

    Hi, Thanks for this review. I just wanted to mention that the HL Impact sport are only to be used outdoors. If you are indoors, they don't muffle the sound enough and you need to upgrade to the bulkier impact pro (or the cheaper passive Peltor, or the more expensive MSA sordine)

    2 years ago
    • David

      I've never used any earmuff indoors that was good enough on its own, I choose to always double up when I'm at an indoor range.

      2 years ago
  • Sam G

    I've tried many cans and plugs and combinations of both over the years and used some while I was active duty, including my flight helmet. The bottom line is very simple, if you can afford MSA cans, that's really the optimal choice. But shelling out $300 for them puts them out of reach of many. Interestingly the $12 Surefire foam sonic defenders work pretty well, their achilles heel is that most indoor ranges won't let you use them by themselves, well technically they would let you, but their insurance companies forbid shooters from using them by themselves. PS, The only negative I can throw out about MSA cans is simple, if I ever find the cretin that stole my MSA cans, I'm going to catch that ganav and fill half his ears canals with expanding Gorilla Glue. My MSA's were both scribed and have ultraviolet personalized markers on them, so when you see this retired soldier walking behind the shooters with a seemingly invisible uv flashlight, you know what I'm looking for. ;)

    2 years ago
  • John Grayman

    Thank you! An outstanding article on very necessary hearing protection for all those who regularly use firearms. More in-depth and informative than anything else on this important subject that I've read in years—years! I only wish that we'd had information like this when I was a young man. If we had, maybe, I wouldn't be listening to the ringing inside my head right now! I was more than 30 years old before 'ear muffs' began regularly showing up on firing lines. Like tens of thousands of other older shooters I fired off many many thousands of rounds without using any sort of hearing protection at all; and, once again, like tens of thousands of other older shooters, I'm paying for it now. (The only redeeming grace? Tinnitus is a lot easier to live with and listen to than much of today's popular music!)

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      So glad we could help out, John. Crazy to think 30 years ago people shot without protection.

      2 years ago
      • James R Dowis Jr

        Thirty + years ago I never once thought about hearing protection. I had never been to a range, indoor or out. I shot clay pigeons in the field behind my house, had a deep drainage ditch in the back left side of my yard that I set up a neat pistol range in so the sound wouldn't bother my neighbors so much. (it would bounce of the sides of the ditch and be absorbed by hy head). And I will never forget the time me and a friend were fishing in a small lake surrounded by steep banks or hills in North GA. The warm sun kept the fish from biting but there were hundreds of turtles lieing on logs , limbs and rocks enjoying the sunny day. At nineteen years old the only logical thing to do was spend the next couple of hours using my electric trolling motor to sneak up on the sleeping turtles and ambush them with my 357mag. The noise eched off the water and surrounding hills and I was forever cursed with a high pitch ringing in my right ear that I am barely aware because it is muffled by the louder high pitch ringing in my left. The lesson here of is: If you feel you have to muder helpless little mud turtles use earplugs or ear muffs. Or maybe you should leave the poor things alone. You might consider .22 short or even a baseball bat. You would still have to live with your concious but tinnitus is forever.

        1 year ago
  • Jeff

    Excellent article Scott. Very informative. I just purchased, directly from Noisefighters, a pair of gel noisefighters for my HL Impact Sport ear muffs. This past winter I acquired a pair of Walkers "Razor" ear muffs because I was tired of wearing my HL Impact Sport muffs. I'm hoping the new gel inserts eliminate the pain / uncomfortableness I was experiencing. I'll keep my Walkers as ready back ups and primarily for pistol shooting. Thanks again for the great article on something so important as hearing protection. Once you lose all or part of your hearing it's gone for the rest of your life.

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Let us know how you like the inserts. So far we love them!

      2 years ago
  • cecil works

    What about hearing protection for wearers of hearing aids who can not hear with regular ear muffs on ?

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Hi Cecil, unfortunately I'm not sure we have the expertise to help answer that question.

      2 years ago
  • cecil works

    What about electronics for people that wear hearing aids and need to hear range commands ? I cant wear hearing aids and ear muffs.

    2 years ago
  • Andy

    great article. although I already suffer with a severe high frequency hearing loss and tinnitus ( air force and model airplanes) I always use the combo of gel ear plugs and ear muffs. I'm 70 years old and plan to shoot for many years to come! ANDY New Orleans

    2 years ago
    • Julie

      I have hearing loss as well and do the same. I also have read that women have more sensitive ears and it’s a good idea for them to wear both anyway. Even if they haven’t lost hearing like I have.

      2 years ago
  • Adam

    I use SoundGear electronic plugs when I'm hunting. It will amplify noise that is under 80db, but suppresses noise that is higher. I knew that they were great for hunting when I clearly heard a leaf hit the ground 10 yards away, but my 12 gauge sounded like a thud. They're spendy, but I've destroyed my hearing enough already. They are comfortable enough to wear all day out in the woods. SoundGear

    2 years ago
  • Jeremy

    I use SureFire XP something plugs under my Howard alright Impact Sports. I can converse just fine, but shooting is rather quiet.

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      That Bluetooth capability might come in handy...I'll have to check it out soon.

      2 years ago
  • Vernon Wolley

    What about a 12 gauge shotgun how many dB?I had an older guy (I’m 62) tell me that a shotgun is stupid loud inside of your home for self defense purposes. He recommended against using one. I’m inclined to still keep my Mosberg 930spx by the bed at night!

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      I'm pretty sure it's in the same league as a rifle or handgun. If you can get a suppressor that is probably the best...

      2 years ago
  • Kirb

    I couldn't help but notice the last picture featured an HK XM8, is there a commercial version of this gun and where can i buy it?

    2 years ago
  • Chris

    Peltors?

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Definitely...I like my peltors. I started with the big optime iii and used the shotgunner model for the longest time before taking the dive into electronic protection.

      2 years ago
  • Tim Lange

    Don't forget sub-sonic ammunition can help too!

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      You're right, Tim!

      2 years ago
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