Eye and ear protection are absolutely necessary when using an indoor shooting range. The confined area and close proximity to other shooters means more noise. A lot more. With all those rounds going off around you, those free, foam earplugs simply aren’t good enough. They offer little protection and often leave your ears ringing, which means hearing damage.
Which ear protection, then, is the best for indoor shooting? Here’s what you need to know before buying.
Benefits of owning your own ear protection
If you’re regularly in situations where there are loud noises, you’ll not only end up with that annoying ringing in your ears, but also incur permanent hearing loss. Hearing loss can sneak up on you gradually, and there is no cure. There is only prevention.
While most indoor shooting ranges do provide free disposable foam plugs, those usually offer only the most basic level of protection. They are also uncomfortable to wear.
Your own personal set of earplugs or earmuffs minimizes those annoying distractions. You’ll protect your hearing, and be better able to focus on your shooting.
There are two main types of ear protection and hundreds of different models available. This means a lot of variability in price and quality. It can be daunting to make the right decision, so we’ve done the research to help make your decision easier. The following are some considerations you should keep in mind when choosing the best ear protection.
Earplugs vs. earmuffs
The biggest consideration when choosing ear protection for use in an indoor shooting range whether you want in-ear or outside-the-ear. Both earplugs and earmuffs have their place. Choosing between the two is largely a matter of personal comfort.
All shooters know to always wear shooting glasses, or some other kind of eye protection. In fact, it’s required at any indoor shooting range. Earplugs are useful because they don’t get in the way of your glasses or rifle stock.
Generally, over-the-ear muffs have lower NRR ratings when it comes sound reduction, but exactly how much varies considerably from brand to brand. However, earmuffs help reduce risk of ear infections or wax impaction.
For best results, use earplugs in conjunction with earmuffs for maximum protection.
The most important feature to look for, of course, is how much noise reduction the hearing protection provides. You’ll find this information listed on the packaging as the letters NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) and a number. The higher the number, the better the device is as dampening sound. Some even provide, electronically or otherwise, a feature that allows you to hear safe levels of sound. These block dangerously-high levels of noise, but allow you to hear other sounds, such as the spoken instructions given by range officers.
If your hearing protection doesn’t fit properly, then it’s next to worthless. It’s critical that your hearing protection, whatever the style, fit well. For earplugs, this means that they must expand to fit the entire ear canal. Earmuffs should be snug, but not pinchy. The best earmuffs are adjustable, which is great if you have a hard time with standard sizes.
There are a lot of different models constructed to a range of quality levels. Some simply aren’t up to the task of blocking the noise of a shooting range. The price can vary a lot, but the fantastic options we’ve chosen are all affordable. We’ve looked only at the best options suitable for use at an indoor shooting range.
ClearArmor 141001 Safety Ear Muffs
The ClearArmor Safety Ear Muffs offer the high level of hearing protection necessary at an indoor shooting range. The best features of these earmuffs are the outstanding quality of production and protection provided, combined with a great guarantee and warranty by the manufacturer. With an NRR of a whopping 34dB, this is top-of-the-line noise reduction at a reasonable price.
People say that the adjustable, padded headband is very comfortable and that the earpieces don’t become sweaty or irritating, even after hours of use. There are many reviews mentioning their suitability for use at a shooting range, and that they do not interfere with rifle stocks. There are some complaints about the tight fit for people with large heads or who wear hats, but for most the snug fit is a bonus.
Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Sport Sound Amplification Electronic Earmuff
The Howard Leight electronic ear muffs by Honeywell boast an NRR of 22. This model has some seriously amazing features to protect your hearing at the range. These earmuffs include microphones that automatically amplify quieter sounds, but cut out any sound over 82 decibels. Shooters also love the specially designed ear cups that allow full clearance of a rifle stock.
While the electronic system was generally very well-reviewed, if there are a lot of people at the range then you might have one issue using them. When there are constant loud bangs, the headphones will nearly always be dead quiet. As the primary goal is to protect your hearing, too much noise reduction is definitely better than not enough. However, when the range is less busy, you can increase the ambient sounds (such as conversation), unlike most earmuffs.
EarPro by Surefire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs
EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus from Surefire are another option designed to allow safe hearing clearly, while protecting your hearing from harmful sound. Hazardous noises over 85dB are reduced to a safe level. People who have problems with other earplugs report that the triple-flanged stem design fits into just about any ear. Most users find the specially-designed, color-coded earplugs fit very snugly and don’t wiggle loose like other earplugs.
Some shooters have mentioned that they’re not quite suitable for large caliber rifles, as the noise still seems loud. It’s also important to note that the earpiece will not provide the impressive NRR of 24dB if the noise-reducing filter is removed. That said, especially because they permit you to hear conversations clearly, the EarPros are a great option at a fantastic price.
Shooting at an indoor range without the proper hearing protection can cause serious, permanent hearing loss. It’s critical to choose the right ear protection with the highest levels of quality and effectiveness. There are various features in both of the different types (muffs or plugs) at a range of prices and suitability. The ClearArmor 141001 Safety Ear Muffs are our top pick. These earmuffs offer the highest level of protection and a snug fit at a great price.