I hear what you're saying. Not that it makes much difference, but I should qualify that I live in Wyoming; which means that for all intent and purpose, our shooting ranges "99+%" are outside. Sometimes the back yard ( I have property). And I've hunted a lot of 7mm Mag obviously without hearing protection. I wouldn't think of shooting a gun in an indoor range without hearing protection. And I'm also not out there for 1-2 hours without hearing protection. As I said; it's about 10 minutes and about 20-30 rounds. Mix of 5 different calibers. I don't believe that small amounts of gun fire is harming my hearing. Like I said; I wouldn't do it for the entire 500+ rounds that I shot for an hour or two. But it is important to understand what you have to work with in real life. And I do believe that when you are in unfamiliar territory; e.g. different town, walking down streets, etc... that a smaller gun that your mind "KNOWS" isn't going to be loud or kick, can be much more affective for the inexperienced shooter.
Now; do I consider myself inexperienced? Not really. And probably, most of those that visit a forum such as this isn't that inexperienced. As such; I have no problem carrying my Sig P220 45acp most everywhere. (Except when I'm at a formal event or a very warm day with very light clothing; then it's the Walther 32acp). But it always worried me that with the adrenaline rush, rapid heart beat, and fear kicking in; that the inexperienced shooter might only get 1 accurate shot off when using a larger/louder/more kick gun. Whereas with a 32/380; a lot more accurate shots can usually be made. And more accurate from a smaller gun is better than only 1 from a large gun. Assuming you get the one. But each shooter is different. They have to determine how they feel. My wife and daughter can shoot the Walther PPK 32acp quite fast and dump the whole magazine in the size of a grapefruit at 30 feet. (Probable max distance they'll need). Thus, they love that gun, and hence the reason I had to get an FEG AP-MBP 32acp walther clone. (They WON'T give me back my Walther as a secondary carry gun.
But I believe those 2 ladies would be more effective with that Walther than they would with my Sig 45acp, Springfield 45acp, S&W Mod 13 357/38 or any of the other guns I have.
And that is what it's all about. The conservative constitutionalist's definition of "GUN CONTROL". "Hitting What you Aim At". That's also something we practice and have fun with at the end of each shooting outing. We "Safely" practice quick draw rapid fire. The girls do it with the 32's. I do it with the 45's. 30 feet and we tape up paper plate. Get 5 of 7 in the paper plate; you live. Get less than 5 in the paper plate, you pray. (Just a game, but it helps us take our MIND out of the equation). Like walking down the stairs with a full hot cup of coffee. If you look at it and concentrate, you WILL spill it on your hand. If you don't think about it, you'll be fine. I try to get the girls out to the range at least once every couple of months for a couple hours. If you practice enough, you can let your subconscious take care of the shooting so your conscious can take care of the bad guy and your surroundings.
Anyway Chris. I appreciate your concern. And I'm definitely not suggesting people go out there and shoot without protection. But I do believe that you do owe it to yourself to at least try a magazine/cylinder or two once or twice without ear plugs. (OUTSIDE). The body reacts to sounds differently. With everything else going through your mind; only getting 1 shot off when you need it, because of the flinching or reaction, isn't the time to find that out. But definitely protect yourself.