Every time you go out to the range with your friends you expose yourself to danger. No, we’re not talking about the fact that you drink some beers and have loaded weapons near you. We’re talking about the fact that while you spend hour after hour having fun shooting round after round in targets, your ears are suffering because of the constant loud noise. But you can protect your ears if you buy hearing protection. The best shooting ear muffs not only protect your ears, but they can even enhance your shooting. The best hearing protection for shooting is offered by headsets that allow you to be fully aware of your situation at all moments. This way, you can shoot and hear the conversation around you, no matter if it’s your friends or your shooting instructor. More so, you can hear everything when you’re out hunting, so you might impress everyone with your new trophies.
Keep reading our comprehensive guide for ear protection that is elaborated by Tacticals.org Editors.
ClearArmor 141001 Safety Ear Muffs
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Professional Safety Ear Muffs by Decibel Defense
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Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro Electronic Earmuff
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Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector
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Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Sport
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3M Peltor TacticalPro Communications Headset
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Best Earmuffs For Shooting
1. ClearArmor 141001 Safety Ear Muffs
ClearArmor’s 141001 Safety Ear Muffs is an extremely comfortable headset. The headband is adjustable from both sides, so the headset will probably fit a large variety of head sizes. The headband is padded with synthetic leather for improved comfort and easier cleaning. It also has a Snug Fit design that will allow it to stay on your head even if you’re sweating or bending over. You can fold the headset for easier storage. The cups are made out of 2 layers of noise dampening foam and they’re designed to tilt and swivel so they will fit your head really well. The cushions are soft, comfortable and seal well around your ears.
This headset has a 31 dB Noise Reduction Rating, which is a pretty high level.
This is a noise-canceling model, so it will block out most sounds. This will make it great at the range, either indoor or outdoor, but it will probably not be the best model for you if you want to go hunting. You won’t be able to hear clearly anything that’s happening around you, so you won’t really be aware of your environment.
A great feature of this model is the warranty the manufacturer offers. If you’re not satisfied with the product, you simply get your money back, no questions asked.
2. Professional Safety Ear Muffs by Decibel Defense
Decibel Defense developed this headset with firearm use in mind. These safety earmuffs are capable of reducing noise by 34 – 37 dB. That’s one of the best NRR we found on the market, which might make it one of the best shooting ear muffs for you. The headset has a headband with extra padding but is foldable and lightweight. The headband is highly adjustable and you’ll be able to fit this model for a kid, and for a big-headed person as well.
Decibel Defense is so confident that their product is one of the best, if not the best available on the market that they advertise it as the “quietest and most comfortable” earmuffs you could buy, or you’ll get your money back. If a manufacturer is so confident with a product, you know it will at least be better than any other product in its price category.
Another great thing about this product is the fact that it comes with a great customer service to back it up. Any question or problem you might have related to the product will be solved right away.
All in all, this is a great headset. It is comfortable, yet tight and will reduce any kind of noise.
3. Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro Electronic Earmuff
The Howard Leight Impact Pro Sound is a headset designed especially for shooters. Its directional microphones are able to amplify all ambient sounds to a safe level of 82 dB. This will allow you to be more aware of your environment while at the range or, more important when you’re out hunting. If the noise around you goes above the 82 dB level, the microphones will automatically cancel out the louder noises. This will happen once you fire your weapon, so your ears will be protected. If the electronic ear protection is not turned on, the headset will passively block 30 dB.
The Noise Reduction Rating of this headset is 30 dB. This is an above average feature and will offer increased ear protection.
Besides environment noises, this model is able to amplify voices as well. This will help you greatly when you’re at the range or when you’re shooting with your friends. If you’re part of a tactical team, this feature is a most. It will enable you to hear voices and commands clearly while making you more aware of your environment and the movements around you. All the pressure points this model has are rubberized, so it will be protected from scratching.
4. Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector
Peltor’s Sport Tactical is a lightweight headset that benefits from 3M noise suppressing technology. This technology suppresses harmful, powerful noises, such as those from a gunshot, while amplifying low-level ones. This allows you to wear them with ease both outdoors and indoors. Because this model amplifies low-level noises it is ideal for hunters. This allows you to be aware of your environment at all times and hears even the faintest sounds, such as the rustling of leaves or the flapping of wings.
The Adaptive Frequency Response feature is able to reduce background noise and make all types of conversations clearer. This makes the headset suitable for tactical situations when one needs to be able to hear commands and conversation. In addition to this feature, Variable Suppression Time is able to reduce the echo in indoor environments. This is why you’ll be able to use this model in all sorts of tactical situations and improve your abilities.
This model has a 22 dB Noise Reduction Rating or NRR, which is pretty much a medium range value. Hence, this model is a noise reducing model, not a noise canceling one.
A great thing about this model is the fact that it is able to reduce the wind noise, thanks to the recessed microphones. You can wear it while hunting in bad weather conditions and still be able to hear anything around you.
5. Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Sport
The Howard Leight is a noise-reducing electronic earmuff that’s able to reduce ambient sounds to 82 dB. This decibel range is a safe one, so your ears will be protected. This model is specially designed for firearms usage. The earcups have a low profile, which allows the stock to fit nicely on your shoulder. The headband is easily adjustable and this headset is able to fit a large variety of head sizes. The headband also has a compact folding design and you’ll be able to store it everywhere and take it with you in the backpack when you go hunting.
The directional microphones will amplify voices and this will help you while you’re out hunting with friends or will help you hear commands when you’re in a tactical situation.
This headset has a 22 dB Noise Reduction Rating. It is a medium NRR value. The NRR value is available no matter if the electronic ear protection is on or off. When the electronic protection is on, the microphones will amplify all ambient sounds to 82 dB. The amplification is cut off when loud sounds go over the 82 dB level.
A great feature of this model is the Air Flow Control feature. This allows the headset to have a slim earcup design, so you will be able to use your rifle or shotgun comfortably.
6. 3M Peltor TacticalPro Communications Headset
The Peltor TacticalPro developed by 3M is a headset able to amplify low-level sounds and protecting you from dangerous impulse noises at the same time. This model is able to protect your hearing with the help of a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 26 dB. A great feature of this headset is the fact that even though your hearing is protected and the NRR is in place, you can clearly hear an ambient sound and recognize voices in a noisy environment. Another great feature of this model is the fact that it can be used with other portable radios.
The deep earcup design is good for day-to-day use and the cushions really make wearing the headset comfortable. The headband is designed specially so it won’t put pressure on your temple. The cup microphones have a 360-degree ambient listening capability, so you’ll be able to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
The headset is controlled with the help of a touchpad. The touchpad has an ergonomic design and three buttons. In order to turn them on, you hold down the middle button and you can hear everything. The gel cups offer a comfortable, yet extraordinarily tight seal. M3 Peltor communication headsets are one of the best in this industry’s most reliable hearing protection gear.
How to Choose Your Shooting Earmuffs?
Whenever you go to the range with your friends you expose yourself to some dangers, even though nobody points a gun at you. The dangers you face are environmental, like loud noises that might hurt your ears or debris that might hurt your eyes. In order to keep yourself and your friends safe, you need the proper gear. In order to protect your eyes, you need shooting glasses and in order to keep your ears safe, you need hearing protection, like earmuffs. A gunshot, depending on its caliber and construction usually makes a noise between 140 – 190 dB. That’s way too high for your ears. Your ears are able to handle 85 dB without permanent damage, but if this level exceeds and carries on like that for a long time, permanent damage will appear.
That’s why you really need to protect your ears when you go to the range or out hunting. But buying good ear protection might be harder than you think. There are a lot of models on the market and some might not be the best shooting ear muffs for you. Before you make a decision, you need to know what you’re buying. That’s why we made this guide for you, so you can make an informed decision.
Noise Reduction Rating NRR
When you browse online for a hearing protection gadget, one of the first things you will notice is that everyone is talking about NRR or Noise Reduction Rating. You might be curious about what that is, so we decided to explain it to you.
Noise Reduction Rating or NRR is a measurement unit used to determine the hearing protection device’s effectiveness. It basically measures the device’s ability to decrease sound exposure in an environment. The classification of hearing protection devices is done using the estimated number of decibels they can reduce. This estimation is done and approved by the American National Standards in accordance with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. The higher the NRR value of a hearing protection device, the greater the noise reduction will be.
In order to find the appropriate device for you, you need to think about the main utility you will find for it. Will you use it at the range? If the answer is yes, you should buy a hearing device with a high level of NRR. Even if your weapon has a small caliber and doesn’t do a lot of noise, you can bet there will be other shooters out there, and some of them will definitely have louder weapons with larger calibers.
If you plan on using the hearing protection device when you go hunting, you should go for a model with a lower NRR level. You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times, so a higher level might impede this. Also, when you go hunting, you might also bring a companion with you, like a dog or a friend. This means you need to talk to them, and to hear their reaction. A lower NRR level will help with this as well.
Classifying them by their NRR levels, the headsets would fit in these main categories:
- Up to 20 dB – Not suitable for firing any live round weapon, not even handguns. Suitable for most air handguns and air rifles.
- 20 to 22 dB – Suitable for all air handguns and air rifles. Can handle most live round handguns.
- 22 – 25 dB – Suitable for all handguns, can handle most low caliber rifles.
- 25 – 28 dB – Suitable for all handguns, most rifles, and low gauge shotguns.
- Over 29 dB – Suitable for all usual weapons, including larger gauge shotguns.
Noise Cancelling or Noise Reducing
There are two main concepts developers use when they design the hearing protection devices. The first concept developed was the noise-canceling one. This design is still largely used by manufacturers all over the world. The newer, improved design is the noise-reducing one. It is used on a smaller scale by manufacturers but offers some advantages over its competition. In fact, both designs have advantages and disadvantages and we’ll explain them below.
- Noise Canceling Models – Noise-canceling models come with a large variety of NRR levels, from low ones, up to 20 dB, to high ones of over 30 dB. You can pick any model you want and it will get the job done. They usually have large earcups that cover most, or even all your ear. The cups are usually made out of leather or rubber for extra comfort. The headband is usually very adjustable, so you’ll be able to fit one pair on many head sizes, which is an advantage if you plan on sharing it with friends or family. Most models have foldable headbands for easier storage. The main advantage of noise-canceling models is that you can wear them whenever and wherever you like. You can wear them at a theme park in order to reduce the noise, or at a concert. That is the main disadvantage, as well. Because you can wear them anywhere, most developers don’t design these models with slim earcups. Instead, they go for big, large ones. That might prove to be an impediment when you try to shoot with a rifle. The stock of the gun might not sit comfortably because of the earcups, or you might find a position in which the stock is sitting just fine, but it pushes at the headset.
- Noise Reducing Models – These models also come with a large variety of NRR levels, though most of them are above 20 dB. They might have large earcups that cover most of your ear or smaller, slimmer ones that cover it only partially. The main advantage is that they are specially designed with shooting in mind. Their earcups are usually slimmer so the weapon’s stock will fit in nicely next to them. Some models even have headbands that sit on the back of your head, not on the top of it, so you’ll be able to handle the stock without hitting the earcups and bend to reload your weapon without fearing the headset will slip. All models have adjustable, padded headbands and their earcups can be adjusted, as well. The main disadvantage is that they are electrical and this will add to their weight. Not only the 2 – 4 batteries will add to the weight, but the wiring will as well. The main advantage is that you can use them and be aware of your environment at all times. They are able to reduce the ambient noise to a certain, not harmful level, usually at 82 – 85 dB, and augment low-level sounds. They are great for hunting when you want to hear everything that moves beside you, be it a branch or the flapping of wings. They are also very good for tactical situations when hearing a low sound can make a world of difference.
Designed for Shooting vs Designed for General Use
Both electrical and normal headphones have many designs. Some of them are specially designed for shooting, while others aren’t. Both designs could help you at the range, and both have advantages and disadvantages.
- General Use Hearing Protection – You’ve seen this type of headsets all around you. Parents put them on their infant’s ears when they go out in loud places, such as concerts or public gatherings. Some people use it when they do housework, such as lawn mowing or leaf blowing. They are worn by many workers, like carpenters, people that drive bulldozers, or people working in an airport.
You might think that is a guy driving a bulldozer can still hear after wearing them on a 6-hour shift, they’ll definitely work for your weekly range visit. But it might not be as simple as that. You see, when the bulldozer driver gets in the vehicle, he knows exactly what needs to be done. But when you go to the range, you need to be able to hear your instructor. You also need to be aware of your surroundings, even at the range. Accidents might happen when you have a loaded gun in your hand and somebody taps you on the shoulder without you expecting it. The main advantage of this type of headsets is that it will definitely block some noise. The main disadvantage is that sometimes you need to be able to hear some of it.
- Headsets Designed for Shooting – This type of headsets block out the noise just like the ones used by infants or children, but they come with some other advantages. They have special microphones that “listen” to the environment. This enables them to make low-level noises louder. This also enables them to cut off all noises above a specified limit. Another great feature is the fact that they are able to amplify voices. The microphones will not block voices, but will actually enhance them. So you’ll be able to hear your instructor or your friends at the range without any problems.
Types of Hearing Protection Devices
The terminology for headsets may confuse you. There are two major types of hearing protection devices: electrical and nonelectrical. Both types have advantages and disadvantages.
- Nonelectrical Hearing Protection Devices – This category includes the majority of products on the market. They can vary largely on their prices, depending on their features. Some of the cheapest models have a basic, rudimentary design, similar to that of headphones. The earcups are large and their finishes are usually made out of cheap rubber or leather imitation. The headband usually has thin padding and is slightly adjustable. They can block out up to 20 – 22 dB.
The medium and high priced models have better finishes and features. Their design is usually different from every manufacturer, but they usually have leather or rubber finishes. The headband is highly adjustable so it would for a lot of head sizes, it has consistent padding so it’s comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. The earcups are also adjustable and they usually have good quality leather and rubber finishes. Most of them have special designs that allow them to fit snugly on the top or on the back of the head. They have a folding design for easier storage. The NRR levels are different for every model, but most of them have levels of above 22 dB.
The main advantage of this type of headsets is that they are usually cheaper and weigh less than their electrical competition. Their main disadvantage is the fact that the ear cups aren’t designed with firearms in mind, so they might be too bulky to fit the stock next to them.
- Electrical Hearing Protection Devices – This kind of devices are usually specially designed for shooting. This is why they usually have special features that are able to help you shoot better. These models have comfortable headbands that are usually adjustable and can fit most types of head sizes. The headband is also comfortable, so you can wear them for an extended period of time. The earcups are usually designed with firearms in mind, so they are slimmer, which makes the stock be able to slide next to them. The earcups are also protected from shock and scratching.
A thing most people miss when they think about electric hearing protection devices is that even though they’re not on, they will still block out the noise they’re supposed to. This means that if you buy a headset that’s supposed to have an NRR level of 32 dB, it will be capable of blocking those decibels even if it’s not turned on, even if it doesn’t have batteries in it at the moment.
The features you use when you turn it on are the following. Most electrical models have microphones able to listen to the environment. When they hear low-level noises, they will enhance them. If someone around you is talking, you’ll be able to hear them clearly, but you won’t be able to hear the environmental noise. But when you fire a weapon and the noise goes above the 82 – 85 dB limit the hearing device is allowing you to hear, it will cut off all the sound enhancement so your ears won’t suffer.
This makes them the best ear protection for shooting.
Best Hearing Protection For Shooting Comparison Chart
|PRODUCT||ITEM WEIGHT||PRICE||BATTERIES||NRR RATINGS|
|3M PELTOR TACTICALPRO COMMUNICATIONS HEADSET||1 pounds||$$$$||2 AA batteries required.||26|
|PROFESSIONAL SAFETY EAR MUFFS BY DECIBEL DEFENSE||12 ounces||$||No battery required||37|
|PELTOR SPORT TACTICAL 100 ELECTRONIC HEARING PROTECTOR||1.2 pounds||$$$||2 AA batteries required.||22|
|HOWARD LEIGHT BY HONEYWELL IMPACT SPORT||1 pounds||$$||2 AA batteries required.||22|
|HOWARD LEIGHT BY HONEYWELL IMPACT PRO ELECTRONIC EARMUFF||15.8 ounces||$$$||2 AA batteries required.||30|
|CLEARARMOR 141001 SAFETY EAR MUFF||9.4 ounces||$||No battery required||34|
Before buying any protection gears such as earmuffs or shooting glasses, you should know that it doesn’t really matter which type or model you choose. You protecting your ears is what really matters. Electrical ear muffs or nonelectrical ones, hearing protection specially designed for shooting or designed for general use, your safety comes first. There are over sixty million Americans that own firearms and many of them don’t use hearing protection devices; that is a mistake you don’t want to make. Your ears are able to withstand noises of 85 dB for a very long amount of time without permanent damage, but values above this level will cause permanent damage over time. A gunshot usually measures between 140 -190 dB, so it will cause permanent damage to your ears faster rather than later. Use our best shooting ear muffs reviews to find out what is the best hearing protection for shooting available on the market, and make sure you take it with you next time you fire a weapon.