View Full Version : Advice for best hearing protection for range

August 23, 2011, 08:42 PM

As a total newbie to the shooting sports, I am in the process of purchasing
all my accessories for the range. I currently have outstanding hearing, and
I wanna keep it that way!

What brand/style of hearing protection will have provide the best protection?

Everyone seems to love the electronic Howard Leights low profile green
muffs, doubling up with ear plugs.

Would this be a great combination to protect one's hearing?

Or any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


August 23, 2011, 10:37 PM
Hi & welcome to the wonderful world of firearms and the shooting sports industry. :)

To answer your question(s), I'd look at the simple throw away styles sold here; www.policehq.com . Another good brand is the ZEM style sold in the main NRA store; www.NRA.org .
Some gunners use both ear muffs and ear plugs but I honestly do not think that route is needed with normal range use(small calibers, limited range trips).

I'd also look for other good items like a ball cap or hat, eyewear or protective shields, elbow & knee pads(if you run & gun or do tactical drills).
One big issue is NOT to wear open collar or polo type shirts for shooting semi auto weapons if possible. My good friend shot my new PX4 C model 9mm with a short sleeve tennis shirt. A hot spent case flew up & went right down his bare chest! Ouch!
FWIW; I advised him NOT to wear that shirt before we went to the indoor pistol range. ;)

Clyde F
www.Brownells.com www.uscav.com www.galls.com www.qmuniforms.com www.cabelas.com www.cheaperthandirt.com
ps; As for eyewear, go with a proven well made style like 5.11, Wiley X, Gargoyles, Ray-Ban, etc.

August 24, 2011, 08:50 AM
I user the foam inserts and put the muffs on top.

For one thing, I already have hearing loss and a buzz in my ear.

I discovered the buzz in my ear when I woke up early one morning in January and heard cicadas. And I thought, "Wow, the cicadas are up early today." Then I realized that in January in Chicago, at about 5° below freezing - there are no cicadas.

I've lived with this so long that I mostly tune it out - but basicaly I have a buzz in my ears that sounds just like cicadas - it goes all the time.

The second thing is, I was at the range last Saturday and people were popping off their 9mm and 22 pistols and everything was nice and quite until the guy next to me started firing .44 magnum.

Those were loud.

I'm glad I had two-ply hearing protection.

You can never over-protect your ears, but each time you fail to adequately protect your hearing, you will suffer some damage and hearing loss.

I think the rubber or silicone push in plugs are better than the foam IMO - the foam insert in my right ear creeped out of the ear canal last time, and I don't think that happens with the rubber or silicone ones with the flanges.

Don P
August 24, 2011, 08:50 AM
I use Peltor ear muffs model # H10A with a NRR 30db and Howard Leight ear plugs with a NRR 33db which together will give you the NRR of 38-40db. Protect those good ears you have, wish I took better care in my younger days.

August 24, 2011, 08:57 AM
Ya, +1 on what ClydeFrog said about what you wear.

I got lazy a few weeks ago and wore penny loafers to the range with no socks.

Of course a hot casing landed right in there just a little bit forward of my ankle. It lodged between my foot and the inside of the shoe.

It's Murphy's law.

August 24, 2011, 09:30 AM
The other thing that you should do is make sure that your hearing and eye protection work well together.

I have ear muffs that I like a lot because they have a lot of spring pressure and clamp down on my ears really well, but they don't have a lot of plyable cusion material. Those ear muffs didn't fit well over my protective glasses. The temples - the parts of the frame that extend over and/or behind the ears, kept the ear muffs from laying flush, so the muffs were propped open a crack right behind my ears.

So I switched eye protection to glasses that had flatter temples and to muffs that had more foam (Peltor), that could mold over the temples and lock the sound out.

The other solution would have been to get glasses that are hold on by an elastic band and wear them outside of the muffs.

August 24, 2011, 10:54 AM
I would recommend some good electronic muffs since with plugs and std muffs it is inevitable you will get caught off guard with them off (talking to someone, etc.) when some on the line fires off. Not often but eventually. With electronic muffs you don;t need to remove them to talk. I like the Peltor TAC7S.

August 24, 2011, 11:59 AM
countzero has the secret sauce:
I user the foam inserts and put the muffs on top.

August 24, 2011, 12:09 PM
What did you say? I just use foam plugs.:d

August 24, 2011, 01:03 PM
The topic is interesting. I have been in law enforcement for almost 20 years now, and I remember my first trips to the range at ... with no hearing protection at all. Imagine a row of twenty guys shooting Cetme C 7'62x51 rifles and no one wearing plugs or muffs. Same for the 9mm pistol practice. It took a complaint from the Unions and we got proper protection. Fortunately I have no damage from that time and my hearing is excellent.

However... there is something I wonder. I haven't ever been in the military, and I wonder how these guys handle this or with what kind of stuff. I've seen earplugs with some kind of "valve" that triggers upon a certain decibel level, still allowing to hear conversations around you well enough.

Do you know if they use any protection?. Otherwise, my guess is that they have to end up with hearing loss sooner or later. Just figure out being behind a .50 cal Browning with no hearing protection...

August 24, 2011, 01:32 PM
my son-in-law gave me some foam plugs he was issued, same as i buy.

August 24, 2011, 01:38 PM
I use foam plugs with muff over.
Downside, I often cannot hear the range officer commands.
Considering going with the Walker electronic plugs plus muffs. The electronic plugs amplify normal sounds but shut-off with loud sounds. There are muffs that do the same thing. Those combined with regular foam plugs might be the best bet yet.

August 24, 2011, 03:43 PM
I've tried the electronic ear muffs...not a fan. I have hearing damage from a year of Vietnam with no hearing protection; small arms fire, artillery, riding in helicopters, etc.

I usually try to find a set of ear muffs with the highest decibel rating. When I shoot alone (no one else at the range), it does the trick. When there are other shooters, it's inevitable that someone has a cannon for a pistol and those times I put some of the expandable foam hearing protectors in my ears with the muffs over my ears.

Good eye protection is a must and it is a good practice to wear a baseball style cap (bill forward) to keep out the hot brass that may otherwise come down in your face.

As mentioned above in another post, wear a shirt or at least an undershirt with a high, tight collar. Nothing shows off your dancing style more than hot brass on your bare chest or belly. During the summer months it may be a bit uncomfortable but I try to wear a long sleeve shirt. It keeps the hot brass off of my arms and also prevents lead, gunpowder, and other chemicals from making contact with my skin. It is for the same reasons I always wear long pants when shooting...just makes me cringe when I see people shooting in loose fitting short sleeve shirts and shorts. Those are usually the people that complete the look by wearing sandals. I always recommend sox and a shoe that can be laced tight such as sneakers. Keeps the hot brass from between the toes or falling at the arch of your foot if you wear topsiders.

Some of my friends wear shooting gloves...good idea if you have sensitive skin but I prefer to shoot with my bare hand unless it is so cold out that I have icicles in my mustache. Although that rarely happens here in Florida.

Only other thing I can think of right now is after the shooting is over and you take your guns home to clean, make sure you have a well ventilated area as the chemical fumes can be irritating. I have a work area in my outdoor back patio with an overhead fan that keeps the air moving. And just one more thing, after you put your guns back into your range bag and have cleared the range, make a stop at the restroom and wash your hands and arms to get the lead and other chemicals off of your hands and arms. Probably a good idea to wash whatever clothing you wore for the same reasons after you clean your guns.

August 24, 2011, 04:58 PM
For non-electronic muffs you want the double wall construction which will give you 30+ NPR rating. Home improvement stores sells a 30 NPR Peltor model (black with red stripe) under the 3M or AO Safety brands for about $25-$30. Significantly quieter than my 27 NPR muffs.

Also I key thing for either style of muffs is to get gell ear pads which seal out noise much better than the foam style.

August 24, 2011, 10:59 PM
I considered bringing up the e-muffs & wolf ear type systems. They have a lot of merit but many decent ear muffs or hearing protection systems cost a lot of $ and are not really what a new or entry level gun owner needs.
Top of the line equipment or LE/military type ear plugs are out there but these units aren't cheap. :(

ps; I was able to buy a great set of custom made polymer ear plugs with a high db rating(34-39). I got them at a large gun show in Richmond VA in the early 1990s. I still own them in 2011. ;)

August 24, 2011, 11:16 PM
A similar question was recently asked at the shotgun forum about hearing protection for Skeet shooting. I responded:I'm in the same boat as the others -- for me, muffs hit the stock with rifles and shotguns. I use my muffs only for handguns. For years I used "Sonic" generic ear plugs, but I'm happier since getting custom molded ones 25 years ago. In my corner of the world, they're what we NSSA skeeters use. There's often a "plug person" and large shoots. Also, Cabelas (http://www.cabelas.com/hearing-protection-enhancement-cabelas-custom-fit-ear-plugs.shtml) claims to have them available ($18) in their stores. But, I've never seen custom plugs used with a lanyard on a skeet field.

In the 80s is was squadded with NSSA World Skeet Champ Alan Clark in a 12-ga event. It's the custom to arrive at a Skeet field well before your scheduled time, but Al was typically tardy -- one of the championship perks. We delayed our start waiting for him. At the last minute he hurriedly drove up, screeched to a halt, grabbed his trusty R-1100, his vest, a box of shells and headed to station one. Then he stopped and patted his empty breast pockets. Something was amiss! He asked me for a cigarette and took two from my pack, tore the filters off, and lit one. No big deal I'd seen this before -- he'd misplaced his smokes. Then, to my surprise, something I'd not seem before: Since he'd misplaced his ear plugs, too, he stuck the filters in his ears and went on to shoot another 100-straight.

Don P
August 25, 2011, 08:42 AM
considered bringing up the e-muffs & wolf ear type systems. They have a lot of merit but many decent ear muffs or hearing protection systems cost a lot of $ and are not really what a new or entry level gun owner needs.

One use ear plugs $1.50 and Peltor H10 muffs $35.00 give a NRR db of 36-38.
Not terribly expensive. Even shorter money muffs will do the job with ear plugs.

When using dual protection, especially for low-frequency noise, the earplug you select is the key. We
suggest a high-quality foam plug like the E•A•R® Classic® or E•A•RSoft® foam earplug together with a
small and comfortable earmuff such as the Peltor® H6 or E•A•R® Model 1000 earmuff. Once you have
properly inserted the earplug (see E•A•R® Plug Instruction Booklet for details), the selection of a
particular earmuff is essentially unimportant. Therefore, smaller, lighter, less-expensive choices make the
most sense. Alternatively you can select from any of our foam or premolded earplugs together with an
E•A•R or Peltor muff of your choosing (see EARLog 13 for additional details on attenuation to be gained
when products are combined). In general, combined protection provides approximately 5-dB gain over
the more protective of the individual devices at most frequencies.

NOTE: When wearing an earmuff and an earplug, OSHA gives credit for 5-dB of additional protection
above that of the higher attenuating device. See the OSHA Technical Manual.

August 25, 2011, 10:05 AM
I use both NRR 33 foam earplugs (http://www.earplugstore.com/holemaxusauf.html) (I buy them by the case for motorcycling), and NRR 26 Peltor TacPro earmuffs (http://www.opticsplanet.net/peltor-protac-electronic-headset-collapsable-folding-headband-mt15h7f-sv.html) with the gel earcup kit (http://www.opticsplanet.net/3m-peltor-gel-earseals-for-peltor-headsets-us-made-hy80a.html) (much better fit, probably boosts the NRR rating one or two). I double up when people break out the large weaponry; otherwise I stick with muffs unless I need a good cheek weld on a rifle.

My safety glasses are ESS Suppressors (http://www.opticsplanet.net/ess-crossbow-suppressor-one-eyewear.html), with flat temple pieces that still allow a good fit for my muffs.

it is a good practice to wear a baseball style cap (bill forward) to keep out the hot brass that may otherwise come down in your faceYup; nothing like having hot brass fly between your glasses and eyes to emphasize why you should wear a cap. I've worn a visor when a cap feels too hot, but then you risk brass landing on your head and staying there. At least if I ever start balding I'll have an excuse!

I do wear a polo shirt to the range, but then again I've got some neck "brands" from hot brass.

August 25, 2011, 07:46 PM
Cheap foam ear plugs with inexpensive ear muffs over top of them is pretty hard to beat.

August 25, 2011, 08:30 PM
Look for products with the highest NRR and double up. I have seen many with only a 26 rating. That is not acceptable to me. In general prolonged exposure above 85dba can cause slight hearing loss. Short exposures above 100dba can cause permanent hearing loss. Many cartidges are much louder than this in the 130-140dba range. If you think using one layer of some types of hearing protection will be enough, you are not doing yourself or your hearing any favors. Protect yourself before it is too late!

August 26, 2011, 01:53 AM
I've been on a few indoor ranges with different semi auto pistols like the S&W 3913 9mm, the Glock 21 .45acp, the big 96D .40S&W and a dirty, janky 3rd Gen Glock 19 9x19mm.
Its a real #%*+er when hot cases smack you in the head or neck.
Shooting left handed isn't a big help either with most firearms. :(
Maybe I'd use more "wankster" holds(tilt the semi auto OG style) lol.

Bud Helms
August 27, 2011, 08:37 AM

Stephanie B
August 31, 2011, 05:57 PM
On the range, I wear foam E*A*R plugs and muffs. For the indoor range, those go on before I go through the door. At the public outdoor range (controlled by rangemasters), I put in the foam ones before I get out of my car. The muffs go on at "commence fire" and come off at "cease fire".

August 31, 2011, 06:14 PM
My advice would be to double up with canal plugs and earmuffs over 30db. I use usgi canal plugs and a set of Proear33's. I also suggest reading up on db and sounds pressure. I was stunned about how backwards I was on my understanding of db and how it relates to hearing protection.

August 31, 2011, 08:30 PM
You want both plugs and muffs - the plugs to protect the ear canal, the muffs to add to that and to protect the area around your ear from transmitting vibrations to your middle and inner ear.

Do NOT forget your EYE protection as well - remember, though, that glasses will interfere with the seal form the muffs to some degree, so the smaller the pieces going around your ear, the better and another reason why plugs + muffs = hearing when older

This is NOT the area you want to go cheap as hearing loss is not reversible