You can barely contain the excitement of picking up your firearm for the first time. The thought of unloading a few magazines into some targets on the range is all you want to do with your life right now.
If you’re heading to the range for your first shooting session with your new gun, you need some decent ear protection as part of your PPE. Gun powder makes a loud bang. If you don’t have the right ear protection, it could end up permanently affecting your hearing.
On the range, you’ll be pumping out a few mags of ammo – that’s quite different from a home-defense situation which will probably resolve with less than 10-shots total. Repetitive firing from your gun on a range will end up damaging your inner ear. Let’s not forget about the other gun owners around you enjoying their target practice, either.
Gun ranges are busy places, with plenty of noise. If you don’t protect your ears, you’re going to regret it in your senior years when your hearing starts to fade prematurely. You need a set of ear protection to prevent hearing loss.
In this review, we’ll look at the best models available. Choose from earplugs or earmuffs and select a set of ear protection that suits your gunplay and your budget.
Our Top Picks
- 1 Our Top Picks
- 2 Shooting Ear Protection Reviews
- 2.1 Best Pick: Walker’s Razor Slim Electronic Muff
- 2.2 Premim Pick: Peltor Sport Tactical 500
- 2.3 Budget Pick: Ear Buddy Foam Earplugs
- 2.4 SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders
- 2.5 Decibel Defense Professional Safety Earmuffs
- 2.6 3M PELTOR X5A Over-the-Head Earmuffs
- 2.7 Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector
- 2.8 ClearArmor 141001 Shooters Hearing Protection
- 2.9 Mpow Professional Ear Defenders
- 2.10 Caldwell E-Max Low Profile Electronic Hearing Protection
- 3 Other Best Selling Options
- 4 Shooting Ear Protection Buyer’s Guide
- 5 What are the Types of Shooting Ear Protection?
- 5.1 Electronic
- 5.2 Passive
- 5.3 Which Is Better – Earplugs or Earmuffs?
- 5.4 What are Extra Features that Come with Shooting Ear Protection?
- 5.5 Are Earmuffs and Earplugs Durable?
- 5.6 How Do I Find the Best Earplugs?
- 5.7 How Do I Find the Best Earmuffs?
- 5.8 Do the Earplugs or Earmuffs Provide a Comfortable Fit?
- 5.9 Design and Appearance
- 5.10 What Price Can I Expect to Pay for the Best Shooting Ear Protection?
- 6 Shooting Ear Protection FAQs
- 7 Conclusion
If you don’t want to go through the entire review, you can rely on our top choices for your shooting ear protection. We investigated the best shooting ear protection and settled on these three platforms as the best hearing protection available.
- Best Pick: Walker’s Razor Slim Carbon Electronic Muff
This model offers you the best protection and excellent value for money. The Walker’s Razor cuts out the bad noise while allowing talk-through and a fast-reacting noise dampening system. You get an adjustable volume knob, as well as an attractive carbon finish on the ear cups.
- Premium Pick: Peltor Sport Tactical 500
The Peltor is the gold-standard of shooting earmuffs. This model features Bluetooth and can track voices to give you the best hearing isolation. These earmuffs also feature talk-through, and you get variable noise dampening that activates when you need it, leaving you to hear your instructor between shots.
- Budget Pick: Ear Buddy Foam Earplugs
If you can’t wait to get onto the range, then pick up some of these foam earplugs as a temporary ear protection solution for the shooting range. These plugs are single-use, and they provide a sufficient amount of noise dampening.
Shooting Ear Protection Reviews
Our top choices are an excellent option for any gun owner. Let’s unpack the offerings of these models in further detail and look at some other premium and affordable ear protection systems.
If you have more questions about selecting the right ear protection, go through our buyer’s guide section, and read through the FAQs. We’re confident you’ll find the information you need to help you select the right hearing protection.
Best Pick: Walker’s Razor Slim Electronic Muff
If you’re looking for the best shooting ear protection at the best price point, then the Walker Slim electronic earmuffs are the best option in this review. This electric headset features a pair of omnidirectional microphones that detect any noise above 89dB.
When the mics detect the sound, they react within 0.02 of a second to dampen the incoming gunshot noise. The noise reduction rating on this heat set is up to 23dB, and the 3.5-mm audio jack means you can play your favorite white noise through these headphones.
The headband is comfortable, providing plenty of support to the two earcups. You also get a built-in volume control dial, allowing you to adjust the audio input without fiddling with your connected device. The earcups contain dynamic HD speakers that provide you a clear and balanced sound.
- Premium Protection: Premium-quality stylish electronic hearing protection ear muffs provide ample protection for your hearing while on the range, making it an essential companion
- Designed for Easy Use: Designed with audio input jack and recessed volume control knobs for easy access and a hassle-free experience; Operates on 2 AAA batteries (included)
- Comfortable and Portable: Features a comfortable headband with a metal wire frame, providing comfort during extended use and folds for easy storage and transportation
- Effective Sound Control: Composite housing gives you more effective sound dampening. while independent volume controls give you greater control over sound
- Clear Audio Balance: Full dynamic range HD speakers for clear balanced sound with sound-activated compression reaction of 0.02 seconds, ensures that you don't miss any nuances
The carbon color is attractive, and the headset folds into a compact format that’s easy to fit in your pocket and take to the range. This headset is ideal for sports shooters or individuals that enjoy navigating tactical courses in outdoor environments.
You get plenty of ear protection, a stylish look, and excellent functionality with Walker’s Razor. Considering the quality of this headset, it comes at a very agreeable price point.
- Comfortable design
- Slimline form factor
- User-friendly operation
- Quick-reaction automatic noise suppression
- Built-in volume dial
- 23dB noise reduction rating
- Could do with more adjustment in the headband
Premim Pick: Peltor Sport Tactical 500
This headset gets our nomination as the best premium model in this review. Peltor makes some of the best shooting ear protection available, and this model is the company’s flagship headset.
The Peltor Sport Tactical 500 features Bluetooth functionality that syncs with your mobile device. If you’re not on the range, then this headset can sub as a pair of headphones when you’re out and about. We like that no audio jacks will interfere with your movement.
This headset features dynamic noise suppression. The system will adapt to the current ambient sound level and only dampens loud noises. The rest of the time, you have a clear talk-through capability, meaning you don’t need to remove the headset to heart your instructor speak.
- NRR: 26 dB noise reduction rating
- IDEAL FOR both indoor and outdoor shooters and hunters
- BLUETOOTH WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY to stream music and make calls
- DYNAMIC SUPPRESSION TIME measures the energy in gunshot noise and automatically sets suppression time for reduced echoes and increased comfort
- CLEAR VOICE TRACKING seeks voice within background noise and actively filters noise for improved speech intelligibility
This headset offers more noise protection than the Walker, with a noise reduction rating of 26dB. The comfortable design features padded earpads and a padded and adjustable headband. This headset is the ideal choice for sports shooters and tactical courses.
The ability to hear what’s going on around you increase your situational awareness. This benefit, in turn, boosts your accuracy, and your effectiveness on the tactical course and the shooting range.
- Tracks voices on the range
- Bluetooth capability
- Full dynamic noise suppression system
- Amplifies speech and low sounds while blocking gunshots
- Improves your situational awareness on the range
- 26dB noise reduction rating
- Premium price to match
Budget Pick: Ear Buddy Foam Earplugs
If you’re looking for a cheap pair of earplugs, then anti-microbial foam plugs are a great choice. These plugs are the most affordable option in this review, and they work remarkably well.
These earplugs fit into your inner ear, forming a seal that blocks the gunshot’s sound from entering. These plugs come in a range of sizes, designs, colors, and materials. The Ear Buddy Foam Earplugs are our top choice for a disposable option.
We like using these plugs under a tactical headset for extra noise protection while shooting in indoor ranges. Foam earplugs are an affordable and effective solution, but they do have a few drawbacks.
- BLOCK OUT THE NOISE, PROTECT YOUR HEARING, AND ENJOY A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP! Our noise cancelling ear plugs are perfect for sleeping, construction, concerts, hunting, shooting ear protection, snoring, and general hearing protection from all types of loud activity. Perfect for musicians, flying on airplanes, blocking wind while riding your motorcycle, attending a festival or rave, the gun range, & minimizing unwanted acoustics and sound like a spouse who snores at night time.
- VERY IMPORTANT** For optimum results ear plugs must be inserted exactly as directed; follow the simple instructions as they are stated on product package to experience outstanding results with our earplugs for sleep!
- OUR ORANGE SLEEPING EAR PLUGS ARE REUSABLE UP TO 3 TIMES - Then they become disposable. These bell shaped earplugs are designed with a flare to maximize noise cancellation and safety. These noise reducing earplugs are made of ultra comfortable soft and squishy, non latex foam that is suitable for those with skin sensitivity.
- VERY HIGH NOISE REDUCTION RATING NRR OF 32 DECIBELS PROTECTS YOUR HEARING AND PROVIDES PEACE AND QUIET! Great for both men and women, side sleepers, workers, misophonia, military and industrial use. Bulk discounts available!
- YOUR HAPPINESS IS OUR #1 PRIORITY - We are committed to providing world class customer service! If you have any questions or concerns about anything please message us. We work around the clock to keep our customers happy!
They aren’t reusable, so eventually, you’ll end up having to buy more or invest in a headset anyway. These plugs have a good damping effect on loud noise. However, they sometimes shift out of position in your ear, resulting in the inner ear receiving more noise than it should.
- Inexpensive option in bulk at pennies on the pair
- Effective for dampening noise up to a 30dB noise reduction rating
- Compact for taking to the range
- Fitting to the ear might be frustrating
- Makes it challenging to hear voices
- Reduces situational awareness
SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders
These in-ear shooting earplugs are a reusable earplug solution, made from durable and comfortable silicon. These plugs offer you a noise reduction rating of up to 24dB, blocking out the noise from shots on the range.
The plugs feature a sealable canal, with plugs you can open and close to meet your preference. With the plugs in the open position, you’ll be able to hear low-level sounds like your instructor telling you what to do next.
These earplugs have a low-profile look, and they don’t stick out past your ear. They are the ideal choice for use with helmets, and you can even wear them under a headset for additional protection.
- 24dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) with filter caps inserted, Hear safe sound levels (with filter caps out) as if you weren't wearing ear plugs
- Soft, adjustable, triple-flanged stems provide secure seals in ear canals and all-day comfort
- Low-profile design allows you to keep them in place while wearing a mask, helmet, hat, or while using supplemental hearing muffs
- Patented EarLock retention rings utilize seven contact points to lock earpieces in place and fit the same way every time
- Made in USA from hypoallergenic, medical-grade polymer that's soft, durable, and long-lasting
The SureFire shooting earplugs come with a unique “Earlock” system, providing you with a tight, but comfortable fit that has excellent retention and won’t shift inside your ear. The flexible silicone doesn’t put pressure on your inner ear, and you can wear these plugs for hours without any discomfort.
The earpiece comes in three different sizes to suit your ear canal. There is also a leash that connects the two plugs which you leave hanging around your neck.
- A good choice for reusable earplugs
- Adjustable protection with removable filters
- Comfortable form factor in the ear canal
- Fits under tactical headgear
- Noise reduction rating 24dB
- Makes it challenging to hear low noises and voices
- Reduces your situational awareness
Decibel Defense Professional Safety Earmuffs
Check out the Decibel Defense professional shooting earmuffs if you’re looking for a superior level of hearing protection. This model features thick ear pads and a padded headband for optimal user comfort.
This noise reduction system offers sound-dampening with a 37dB noise reduction rating. These earmuffs are suitable for those shooters that are shooting large caliber weapons, and those that have sensitive hearing.
You can fold away this set after use for easy storage and transport. While this headset offers superior noise reduction during use, it tends to make it challenging to hear low-level noise. The non-electronic design means that they don’t have talk-through functionality like Walker’s and the Peltor.
These earmuffs aren’t advanced pieces of tech, but they’re suitable for people that want an affordable and effective headset for the soothing range or tactical course.
- Super-high noise reduction rating up to 37dB
- Additional ear cup padding for comfort
- A good choice for long shooting sessions
- Compact folding for transport
- No talk-through or low sound enhancement
3M PELTOR X5A Over-the-Head Earmuffs
These over-the-ear earmuffs are an excellent choice for superior hearing protection on the range. The 31dB noise reduction rating makes it possible for you to blank out all the harmful shots from high-caliber weapons and handguns.
The design of this headset enables you to position the earmuffs over a helmet, and the thick padding on the earcups provide hours of hassle-free use. The lightweight materials in this headset reduce operator discomfort, and the twin headbands balance the ear cups perfectly.
- HIGH ATTENUATION: Very high attenuation earmuffs recommended for high-noise exposure applications - NRR 31 dB CSA Class AL*
- ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES: High attenuation as a result of newly designed spacers, specially formulated earcup liners and innovative foam contained in the cushions
- COMFORTABLE: Wide, soft foam ear cushions and earcup tilting pivot points designed for high comfort and an effective acoustic seal with the head
- EXTENDED COMFORT: Internal stainless steel wire in headband helps maintain consistent force over an 8-hour period for extended comfort. Twin headband design helps reduce heat buildup
- DURABLE: ABS plastic cups create a rigid, high-strength and impact-resistant earmuff to handle tough environments
The adjustable independent arms on the earcups mean that you can tilt the ear cups forward to get a better fit. The insulated headband is shock-resistant, and they have a long-lasting, rugged, and durable design.
This headset is suitable for shooting on ranges. However, we wouldn’t recommend it for tactical courses. You might find it hard to hear low-level noises while wearing this model.
These earmuffs are suitable for other tasks than shooting, and they are a favorite choice of contractors looking for an affordable and effective hearing protection solution.
- Excellent noise reduction rating up to 31dB
- Adjustable tilt for the ear cups
- Very bulky form factor in the ear cups
- A bit of a tight feel on the ears
Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector
This headset is a good choice for kids that want to take up sport shooting. This electronic platform offers shooters a two-hour automatic shutoff system to conserve battery life when not in use. The earcups feature recessed microphones for filtering out low-level noises in your environment, letting you hear your instructor speak.
- NRR: 22 dB noise reduction rating
- IDEAL FOR both indoor and outdoor shooters and hunters
- VARIABLE SUPPRESSION TIME reduces echoes indoors
- ADAPTIVE FREQUENCY RESPONSE reduces background noise for clearer conversation and hearing of commands
- DURABLE RECESSED MICROPHONES help to prevent damage and reduce wind noise
The system automatically reduces loud noises above the 85dB mark. They use the same quick-reaction as the Peltor 500 system that won our choice for the best premium model in this review. Featuring a noise reduction rating of 22dB, this system is on the lower side, but it offers your kids effective protection against gunshot noise.
The padded earcups and headband are fully adjustable for a custom fit to your ears. This system is an excellent choice for kids and will last them until they turn pro.
- Slimline form factor
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Two-hour no-use shutoff
- Recessed microphones for windy conditions
- Premium Price
ClearArmor 141001 Shooters Hearing Protection
These specially designed earmuffs offer you a compact and easy-to-transport set of ear protection for the shooting range. This headset has a noise reduction rating of 34dB, making it a class-leading product for noise dampening.
This headset gets its high NNR from the design of the earcups. The SoundBlocker shell deflects away loud noise, while the acoustic foam filters mid to high-level frequencies. The NASA-developed LRPu foam in the cup absorbs loud noises above the 85dB range, keeping your ears safe.
- SonicSeal - ClearArmor's exclusive sound technology provides better protection to save your hearing.
- Comfortable, premium quality, lightweight, super soft ear ring foam for maximum long wear comfort.
- Padded head band adjusts to fit most head sizes . . . Industrial grade. . . Engineered to last
- Compact folding design for efficient storage. . . Snug reliable fit to keep our muffs on your head.
- ANSI S3.19 & CE 352-1 Tested Certified. . . Over head ear muff, perfect fit swivel cup design
This headset is so effective at blocking noise that many contractors rely on it on-site as well. However, at the shooting range, you can expect top sound-blocking performance from this headset. There are no batteries in this unit, and they have a lightweight feel despite the bulky appearance.
- Easy storage and transport
- High noise reduction rating up to 34dB
- Simplistic design
- No electronics
- Good ear cup padding for comfort
- Class-leading certification
- Bulky ear cup and headband form factor
Mpow Professional Ear Defenders
This headset is another versatile choice with many different uses outside of the shooting range. This model includes large earcups filled with sound-absorbent foam, providing you with an NNR of 28dB. You get two sets of earmuffs with your order, giving you double your money’s worth with this model.
The padded earcups and headband provide plenty of user comfort, even during extended periods of use. When you’re not using the headphones, you can turn the ear cups to lie flat on your shoulders.
- Unlike other Hearing Protection, V-Fort is Adjustable to 95% of Headsizes. Grab noise cancelling ear muffs from your bag and adjust by sliding the steel frame. Now do what you came for!
- Enjoy the Comfort of hearing protection for shooting range, mowing, DIY, construction, woodworking, drumming, chainsaw. the Padded Headband, Cups and sturdy foam to make you appreciate the moment.
- Say Bye to the Frustration of Broken Ear Muffs for Shooting. The HQ ABS cups, a solid metal frame and the flexible headband make the adult ear protection survive under high levels of stress.
- Foldability Ear Defenders Adult are Easy to Carry. Small packaging with earmuffs for shooting range saves shipping space. This reduces Vanderfield's Carbon Footprint on our mission to a Green Planet.
- Safely Trust Vanderfields. Your safety is #1. We provide tested ear protection headphones (ANSI S3.19; CE EN 352.1) with accurate info (SNR 32dB: NRR 26dB) to enable you to experience life.
There is an adequate level of adjustment in the headband and the earcups, allowing you to create a custom fit. Set your preferred angle, and don’t worry about the headset slipping off while you’re shooting.
These headsets are excellent value for money. However, we don’t recommend them for tactical courses. They do tend to dim the low-level noises in your environment, reducing your situational awareness.
- Simplistic and reliable design
- Above-average noise reduction rating of 28dB
- Foldable for easy transport to the range
- Very adjustable
- Comfortable headband and earcups with extra padding
- Two headsets in a pack
- Heavy feel around the ears
- Not a good choice for tactical courses
Caldwell E-Max Low Profile Electronic Hearing Protection
Professional shooters worldwide rely on Caldwell shooting headsets to protect them at the range and on tactical courses. This electronic model is battery-powered and comes with an adjustable and lightweight setup that enhances user comfort.
The padded ear cups sit comfortably over your ears, blocking all sound, with an NNR of 25dB. The electronic platform reduces gunshot sounds instantly, protecting your ears from damage. The on-board microphones pick up low-level noises, helping your filter them out so you can hear your instructor speak.
- SPECS: Experience high quality stereo sound while confidently protecting your hearing with 23 NRR (Noise Reduction Rating).
- COMFORTABLE: Featuring an adjustable headband and padded ear cups, you’ll find a custom fit to ensure proper noise cancellation and hearing protection. A slender, low profile design provides a closer cheek weld, allowing for more accurate shooting.
- EASE OF USE: Runs on 2 AAA batteries (not included).
- FEATURES: Dual microphones in each ear provide directional clarity, amplifying sounds below 85dB to the ideal volume with push button controls. Includes an audio jack for connectivity.
- CONVENIENT: With a compact design, Caldwell folding muffs easily fit in your range bag.
There’s no need to remove this headset. The long-lasting batteries and talk-through allow you to hear your instructor clearly, without taking off your headset. You also get a volume dial and a 3.5-mm audio jack that allows you to plug the headset into your mobile device and use it as standard earphones.
- Snug, streamlined form factor
- Powered by AAA batteries for more convenience
- Includes a built-in audio jack and volume dial
- Enhances your situational awareness by letting through low-noises
- Easy to track voices
- Above-average noise reduction rating of 25dB
- Batteries make it feel heavy
- Needs more adjustable positions for the ear cups
Other Best Selling Options
- PROTECT YOUR HEARING - Walker's Razor Ear Muffs have an ultra low-profile design featuring extra slim ear cups, for a secure fit; these ear muffs protect against hazardous noises, while still letting you clearly hear everything going on around you
- SOUND AMPLIFICATION - Walker’s Razor Ear Muffs amplify safe sounds using two hi-gain microphones to provide clear omni-directional hearing; The low end frequencies are enhanced to produce accurate, natural sound
- RUGGED DESIGN - These muffs feature a rugged design with a rubberized coating, helping to prevent damage to the interior electronics; the housing is made from a sound dampening composite; the headband is a padded metal wire frame
- EASY-TO-USE CONTROLS - These muffs have a volume control knob on the outside that is slightly recessed - a perfect balance between providing easy-to-use controls, and preventing accidental volume adjustments; the battery door also opens from the exterior
- LISTEN TO MUSIC - These ear muffs also have an audio input jack, allowing you to plug in your phone or other favorite sound source, effectively converting these ear muffs into a set of headphones with hearing protection
- Ultra low-profile, light weight, slim design with rubberized ear cups
- NRR 27 protection from noise
- Compactly folds up for easy transport and storage
- Features sound dampening composite housing with a comfortable headband with metal wire frame
- [Ear Protection Safety Muffs] Featured sound dampening composite housing & foam prevents harmful sound from reaching your ears, and the specially designed foam ear pads, providing you with the maximum protection (NRR 26dB/SNR 31dB) to meet your requirements. The small form factor helps to keep your muffs from getting in the way of what you are doing, making you safer. Low profile cuts-out earcups are ideal for use with rifles and shotguns without more interference.
- [Lightweight, Durable & Comfortable] The lightweight, thin hearing protection is made to be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Wide ear cups with incredibly soft cushioned ear pads and a headband covered in substantial padding let them sit comfortably over ears; High-quality rubber paint on your earplugs will improve their durability and give you a greater sense of touch.
- [Portable & Adjustable] Any size and shape of head can be accommodated by the adjustable headband. (With a bag for carrying) You may easily carry them everywhere due to their compact folding design, as well as store them in your own bag, luggage, ammo box, etc.
- [Wide Application] These imported earmuffs are supported by certified protection of ANSI S3.19-1974 (American National Standards Institute) and CE EN 352-1 (European standard), recommended for hunting, mowing, woodworking, aircraft, chainsaw, gardening, fireworks, and machining, as well as other noisy conditions.
- [After Safes-Service] 1-year warranty with ensured customer satisfaction. Additionally, feel free to get in touch with us if you have any queries or suggestions. We are available around-the-clock to assist you.
Shooting Ear Protection Buyer’s Guide
This buyer’s guide will help you with your choice. There’s a model of hearing protection that’s right for you, whether you’re going to the range for a first shooting session or a seasoned shooter looking for a new set of ear protection. We unpack everything you need to know about what to look for when purchasing your new headset.
Read through our FAQ section for further guidance on finalizing your choice. You can rely on our top picks for the best shooting ear protection.
Why Is Ear Protection Important?
We already touched on this point earlier, but it’s worth reiterating. Gunshots produce damaging levels of sound, well above the 80dB to 85dB “safe zone” for your hearing. Research shows that sound levels above this range result in permanent hearing loss, depending on the noise level and duration of exposure to the sound.
A gunshot produces anywhere from 120dB to 140dB, making it far above the 85dB threshold. If you’re shooting in an emergency home-defense situation, then the chances are you won’t have the time to put on ear safety equipment.
However, you’ll also likely be shooting less than a magazine worth of bullets. Unless the robber is armed, a few shots are all it takes to defuse the situation. In this case, leaving your ears unprotected isn’t great, but we doubt you will endure permanent hearing loss.
However, shooting on a range or a tactical course means that you’ll probably be dumping a few hundred rounds of ammo. The people around you will also be doing the same. That’s a lot of noise for your unprotected eardrums to deal with, and you can expect adverse hearting reactions, such as severe ringing in your ears that lasts for days afterward.
Therefore, using earplugs or earmuff headsets to muffle the gunshot is your best means of keeping your hearing intact.
What Is the Best Range and Hunting Ear Protection for Shooting?
Some shooters make the mistake of thinking that if they are on an outdoor range or hunting, they don’t need ear protection. The reality is that noise does dissipate outdoors, and there’s less echo or containment of the sound than if you’re at an indoor range.
However, the firearm is discharging close to your face. As a result, your ears will take a terrible beating from the sound of the shot.
Hunters need ear protection too. However, hunters only release one or two shots at a time when bringing down an animal. Therefore, lugging around a headset as part of your hunting kit may seem impractical.
It’s for this reason that hunters prefer to wear earplugs instead of headsets. Earplugs keep the sound levels to a minimum. They are lightweight and compact enough to slip in your pocket or hang around your neck without any noticeable weight.
As a bonus, earplugs are inexpensive, and you get disposable or reusable options. If you’re a sports shooter, and you’re going out for a heavy day at the range or tactical course, take along some disposable foam earplugs to wear under your headset for extra protection.
What Is the Noise Reduction Rating?
You’ll notice that all makes and models of earplugs and earmuffs come with a “Noise Reduction Rating” (NRR). The NRR refers to the efficacy of the headset or plugs at muffling sound. This sliding scale typically starts at around the 20dB mark and can get up to as high as 40dB NRR.
The higher the rating, the better the sound protection the equipment offers you for your ears. The American National Standards and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration came up with the NRR system for workplace safety. However, it’s a suitably compatible scale for calculating protection from the sound of gunshot noise.
What are the Types of Shooting Ear Protection?
When you’re shopping online for the best shooting ear protection, you’ll notice that you have two options – passive and electronic. There’s a significant difference between the two specs, so read through this section to understand the right platform to meet your needs.
With electronic earmuffs, you get plenty of exciting upgrades over traditional earmuffs. Electronic systems come with noise-canceling tech, as well as talk-through and a mic, allowing you to communicate with your instructor during your run.
The downside of choosing an electronic platform is the need for batteries. Batteries add weight to the headset, and they need recharging or replacement after a long day on the range. The best part about wearing an electronic headset is that you don’t have to touch it again after putting it over your ears.
The talk-through capability means that the platform picks up low-end noises and filters out the loud gunshots. If communication on the range is essential to you, consider an electronic model with talk-through and low-level noise amplification.
These earmuffs or earplugs operate without any need for electronics. However, you might find that it’s more challenging to hear low-level noises on the range. Passive systems typically offer higher noise reduction ratings, all the way up into the 40dB range.
However, they reduce situational awareness, which can be a problem for sports shooters or shooters navigating tactical courses.
Choosing the right system for you depends on your needs as a shooter, and the budget you have to spend on your new hearing protection.
Which Is Better – Earplugs or Earmuffs?
That’s a personal preference, depending on your shooting requirements. As mentioned, if you’re a hunter, then your requirements for noise protection will be different from that of a competitive sports shooter.
Technically, earplugs will offer you the best protection. These models fit inside the ear canal, blocking noise from entering the inner ear, killing the tiny hairs that filter out loud noise.
However, earplugs can be somewhat annoying for sport shooters. You might miss low-end sounds like people talking to you. Some headsets come with talk-through capability, allowing you to hear your instructor clearly while dampening the gunshots.
As mentioned, it’s also possible to use these two systems in conjunction with each other. However, this level of noise protection might block out all the sound, but it reduces your situational awareness.
That’s the last thing you need on the tactical course. In this situation, losing one of your senses can make a huge difference in your performance.
What are Extra Features that Come with Shooting Ear Protection?
As mentioned, some headset models come with active noise-canceling and talk-through, allowing you to hear low-range sounds, while blocking out the harsh noise of gunshots. Earmuff headsets will have far more special features than earplugs.
Some models come battery-powered, and they offer voice tracking, allowing you to heart your instructor clearly on the range. You also get adjustable volume switches, and some headsets also come with mics that will enable you to sync them up to other team members.
Some models also feature a 3.5-mm audio jack for use with music players, and others have the same functionality using Bluetooth compatibility.
Are Earmuffs and Earplugs Durable?
When it comes to durability, earplugs offer the most extended service life and resistance against damage. If you drop your earplugs and accidentally step on them, the chances are that they will work just fine when you wear them next.
However, if your electronic headset falls off your head, then the impact with the ground might damage the audio system. Ensure that you keep your headset secure when not in use and prevent any damage from accidental falls or knocks.
How Do I Find the Best Earplugs?
When selecting a new set of shooting earplugs, you need to consider the NRR and the fit. Look at the earbud design and compare it to other earbuds you use for earphones or other PPE purposes. Do the earplugs look comfortable?
Most models come with a silicone material that’s soft on your ear. However, you won’t know if they are a good fit until you put them in your ears and give them a try. Earplugs that don’t fit well will start to hurt your ears after 30 or 40-minutes of use.
Some models come with different size silicone plugs, allowing you to customize the size of your earpiece to your preference.
Never share your earbuds with anyone. Some models might not offer anti-microbial foam or silicone, resulting in the transfer of viruses and other germs.
How Do I Find the Best Earmuffs?
Choosing the best earmuff headset for the shooting range isn’t as challenging as you think. There are three basic components of a headset you need to look for in a prospective model.
The first is the ear cup and NRR. Most electronic headsets with active noise-canceling functionality will work in the 22dB to 26dB range. These models come with earcups that have a slimline form factor. These earmuffs are good for tactical courses and shooters that need to communicate with teams or instructors.
Non-electronic models typically feature larger ear cups, with more of a bulky design. However, then often have much higher noise reduction ratings than the electronic counterparts. The average NRR on these headsets is between 26dB to as high as 40dB.
The earcups should also feature good padding that wicks away sweat from your ears while remaining comfortable enough to reduce operator fatigue in extended shooting sessions.
The second thing to look for in your headset is the headband. Some models come with plush padding, while others have a slimline form factor. Choose the model that meets your personal preference.
The final factor for choosing your headset is the additional extras, such as audio jacks, volume controls, and talk-through capability.
Typically, hunters prefer using earplugs, as they are lightweight and inexpensive. Sports shooters tend to favor headsets. Choose the models that meet your requirements.
Do the Earplugs or Earmuffs Provide a Comfortable Fit?
When selecting your earmuffs or earplugs, the most critical aspect is the fit and comfort. Some earmuff models might start to irritate your outer ear during extended use, making them feel sore. Similarly, earplugs that don’t have a proper fit in the ear canal may start to hurt after around 30-minutes of use.
Design and Appearance
If you’re buying a headset, then you might want to consider your options. If you want a set for the range for static shooting, then a set with large cups and an NNR of over 30 is a good option. These headsets offer the best sound protection for indoors.
However, these headsets are bulky, and they don’t suit situations where you need to rely on advice from your shooting instructor – especially in a tactical competition. These tournaments are usually outdoors, and you don’t need a bulky headset with maximum protection.
In this case, you’ll need a headset with a slimline form factor. These headsets sit comfortably on your ears, facilitating communication between you and your instructor via talk-through sound dampening. The sleek, slimline design is more appealing visually, but not as effective as larger models.
Most electronic headsets only feature NNR of between 22dB to 28dB. Therefore, to boost your ear protection on the range, wear some disposable foam earplugs underneath your headset.
What Price Can I Expect to Pay for the Best Shooting Ear Protection?
When it comes to protecting your hearing, does money even factor into your decision? Unfortunately, we would all like to have the best hearing protection, but that means less money for other exciting items like red dot sights and trigger upgrades.
However, your hearing protection isn’t something you should skimp on with your budget. A cheap pair of effective earplugs is less than $30, and you can pick up a top-of-the-line headset for less than $200.
We have models at various price points in this review. Choose a set of hearing protection to suit your needs and your budget.
Shooting Ear Protection FAQs
Understanding why you need ear protection is vital. Loud noises on the range will slowly erode your hearing, leaving you with extensive hearing loss over time.
Ear protection is a must-have piece of equipment for the range. Here are a few frequently asked questions to give you more insight into the importance of ear protection while shooting.
What is the decibel rating required for shooting ear protection?
If you work in a busy office, you’re exposing your ears to around 65dB of noise. In contrast, a gunshot from a 9-mm handgun can produce up to 140dB. Noises over 80dB can start to erode your hearting capacity, and frequent exposure to these noise levels results in permanent hearing loss.
Can loud noises kill you?
Sound levels over 177dB will start to interfere with your heart and lungs. Noise levels that exceed this range can start displacing bones and interfere with your breathing.
What is the noise level of a standard 9-mm gunshot?
A standard 9-mm gunshot is around 140 to 160-dB, depending on the manufacturer. This kind of noise will instantly damage your hearing without protection. However, if you’re letting off a few shots in a self-defense situation, that’s not going to ruin your hearing.
However, repeated exposure to gunshot noise over a shooting session at the range will leave you with a permanent ringing in your ears.
Are earplugs enough protection for shooting?
Yes, in most cases, simple foam earplugs are all you need to prevent hearing loss at the gun range. However, these foam earplugs can sometimes slip out of position, resulting in impaired protection. You can also use them under most earmuffs as additional protection.
By now, you should have a good idea of the best shooting ear protection to suit your needs and your budget. However, if, for some reason, you’re still unsure about your purchase, why not rely on our top choices for your ear protection?
We think that Walker’s Razor slim carbon electronic earmuff is the best overall shooting headset for any tactical or practice situation. You get adequate hearing protection, and the set still lets through low-level noise, allowing you to hear our instructor without removing your headset.
However, if you have the budget, and want a step up over the Walker, then the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 offers you the best protection, comfort, and functionality in shooting ear protection. This headset is everything you need, it’s lightweight, and it comes with talk-through for low-noise identification and smart-tracking for voices.
If you don’t have the cash for a headset right now, that’s ok. Load up on ammo and pick up some foam earplugs for a few bucks. These disposable plugs provide plenty of heating protection at an affordable price point.