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Best Shooting Ear Pro: Range Often's Top Picks

Posted by RangeOften.com on Jan 21st 2020

Best Shooting Ear Pro: Range Often's Top Picks

Rule #1: Always wear appropriate hearing protection at the range.

Each time you step up to the gun line, ear pro is the shooter's most important piece of gear. That's why we devoted the time to picking out the best shooting hearing protection, both passive and active. In this guide, we're breaking down our top picks that we currently offer, and we're including honest reviews from customers with pros and cons, an overall rating, and what's best for your budget. Let's take a look at passive protection first.

New to ear pro? Check out our guide to Hearing Protection and Noise Reduction Ratings.


Best Passive Ear Pro

Walker's Premium Passive Folding Ear Muff (NRR 32 dB)

Why The Walkers?

You want affordable, passive muffs that provide the most hearing protection for big rifle or magnum calibers.

Pros

  • Very high noise reduction rating of 32 dB
  • Soft-cushion cups for better comfort
  • Ear cups snap in/out, replaceable
  • Good airflow, no hot spots
  • Good adjustability
  • Steel wire frame

Cons

  • Sized for smaller wearers (7.5 hat size or smaller)

Review

Walker's a pretty well-known name in the shooting muff world, with passive and active units favored by amateur and professional shooters. At around $20, these Premium Passive Muffs (GWP-EXFM5) aren't a gimmick. These muffs are simple but effective: They're ANSI S3.19-rated, so they're certified to provide the advertised noise-reduction rating of 32 decibels. The PVC ear cushions are soft and replaceable, while the muffs and headband are supported by an adjustable steel-wire frame. Some users report these muffs are tight around the skull, especially if you wear a hat size. They can be "broken in" and made loose with a little elbow grease, as the frame is flexible. Here are some shooter reviews.

Shooters' Scores & Feedback:

"These are the quietest muffs I've ever used. They are also comfortable on my size 7-1/2 head. My 10 year old loves them too; he says they fit better than his Walker's amplified muffs, but the amplified helps him hear better. These are great for the price. I would buy more."

"Cuts the noise, but too tight for more than a half hour of use. They caused TMJ problems for me. If you wear a hat size of 6 7/8 or smaller, they might be ok."

"Walkers muff arrived quickly and as described. Nice shipping, was faster than Amazon lol. The Walker's' are nice, they are extremely quiet -- and a little tight, at first. I wear a size 7 1/4 and these things were squeezing my noggin until I "broke them in" and bent the head band out a little. I will say, they're flexible and pretty tough. But if you wear any hat size larger than something like 6 7/8, you'll want to give the head band a little treatment and loosen it up a bit by putting some pressure on it. Otherwise, excellent. 5/5 on ear comfort itself and overall sound reduction is very high."


Peltor™ Sport Ultimate Hearing Protector (NRR 30 dB)

Why The Peltor Sports?

You want lightweight, compact passive muffs that are affordable and airy on hot days.

Pros

  • Low-profile, vented headband promotes air flow
  • High noise reduction rating (NRR) of 30 dB
  • Foldable, compact profile for storage
  • Affordable unit from a reputable name
  • Large, soft cups provide plenty of comfort

Cons

  • Heavier than other passive muffs
  • Rubber headband requires break-in

Review

3M serves active military units and professional shooters with hearing protection, so it's little surprise their commercial units often get plenty of favorable reviews. Their entry-level-priced Sport Ultimate muffs focus on comfort, providing large cups and cushions to reduce pressure on your head. The headband is simple but effective, providing adjustability, a low profile, and good air-flow for hot range days. Here are what other shooters have to say.

Shooters' Scores & Feedback:

"This Earmuff is right up there with the Optimes and Ultimate 10. The headband is a big improvement, and really this is the same one that ought to be used on the WorkTunes... The earcups are reinforced with strips of fiberglass patches? The foam padding is big and round and leaves room for the ears like your other Peltor Earmuffs. The gel HY80 ear cushions fit these perfectly. I believe the standard cushions fit these . I don't think the Optime 105 or the Ultimate 10 will fit them . They are a vast improvement but let's not count out the Optimes and Ultimate 10 just yet. They are a great addition and at NRR 30 db that's a great Earmuff. Head size? Don't worry about it! I have a 7 3/4 hat size and they fit great with a tad more room to spare. You can really wear these things all day. If they are a bit tight, give them time to stretch the more you wear them. You won't regret how well your protecting your hearing. Update... just got a pair of the Peltor Sport Bulls Eye Hearing Protector . Just the same as these just a low profile and at NRR 27 db. Superb quality and comfort in both. Good job 3M Peltor."

"Short review: Sport model is not too tight, and the silence these provide are better than I was expecting. I have a larger head but not as big as a pumpkin. For the last 20 years or so, (playing hard rock guitar and drag racer), I have needed to take extra measures to protect my hearing and have tried several leading brands and now pretty much use Peltor exclusively. I never use anything rated less than NNR30. The Sport model provides me with the best balance of comfort and noise protection. They can be adjusted to fit weather you have a walnut on your shoulders or a watermelon. For the amount of noise abatement, they are worth every penny!"

"I use these for sporting clays, trap, and skeet shooting. They work better than higher-rated foam earplugs in terms of noise reduction. I wouldn't use them at an indoor range, but that is why they make higher NRR versions.

They are lightweight and easy to stow for transport. I can get a good cheek weld with my guns. Adjustability is fine; I will wear mine over a baseball hat no problem and wear a size 7.5 hat. Reviewers stating that they were only for children are either not pulling the muffs out of the band correctly or have enormous heads.

My only issue is the same issue I have had with all shooting earmuffs: these get hot in hot weather. But 3 seasons out of 4, they are great."


Howard Leight Leightning L3 Earmuffs (NRR 30 dB)

Why The Leightning L3?

You want comfort and the ability to adjust the level of noise reduction.

Pros

  • High noise reduction rating (NRR) of 30 dB
  • Swap ear cups to increase or reduce NRR
  • Vented ear cups provide decent air flow
  • Headband offers high range of adjustment
  • Users report comfort during long range days

Cons

  • Don't fold in for compact storage
  • Headband and cups require break-in
  • May feel bulky or large on smaller shooters

Review

The Leightning L3's provide an NRR of 30 dB and Howard Leight's advertised "Air Flow Control" provides adequate noise reduction without making your head sweat. The snap-in ear cushions are replaceable and can be swapped out for three different levels of noise reduction. Passive muffs that afford the ability to increase or reduce noise reduction as needed is a nice bonus that provides better situational awareness at the range. Many users report the L3s are are comfortable but also initially stiff and require some breaking in. Here's what the shooting community has to say.

Shooters' Scores & Feedback:

"Works very well at the out door range while shooting a .44 Special. Much quieter than my old ear protectors so should be more than adequate for an indoor range as well. I do recommend using the soft foam plugs as well with these over if firing some of the heavier caliber handguns indoors but in comparison to other protectors, these are as good as any I have found and better than most. I find it just barely fits when adjusted to the largest size. I wear a XXL hat which are sometimes tight and think my hat size is actually 7 7/8 if your head is bigger than that you might need to think about shopping locally to find a large enough set."

"I use these for the shooting range for both pistol, rifle, and shotgun. It has enough sound deadening, but you can still hear people around you well. The fit is excellent, and I can wear them for hours. Great addition to my gun locker."

"I purchased the Howard Leight L3 earmuffs to use at the indoor shooting range, based on a recommendation from an experienced shooter, he was 100% correct. These earmuffs are great for women or men, my husband and I both wear them to shoot. Size reference: I'm a 5'2" 115lb female and kid's size eyeglass frames tend to fit me better than full size adult frames, my husband is 5'10" 170lbs with average size head.

PROs:

  • Great Ear Protection/sound reduction
  • Quality for the price
  • Comfort (the longest period I've worn them = 2-1/2 hrs)
  • Soft cups seal around safety glasses without pinching or pressure
  • Well made, no cheap brittle plastic
  • Easy, smooth adjustment
  • Fit women or men

CONs:

  • Full size and not slimline but overall look is good, simple black
  • A bit bulky because they don't fold down
  • Personally my preference is ear protection over aesthetic and they fit in my range bag just fine, my husband clips his on the outside of his bag."

Best Active Ear Pro

Walker's Razor Compact Active Ear Pro (NRR 23 dB)

Why the Walker's Razor Muffs?

You're a female or youth shooter who wants affordable, low-profile, effective active ear pro for smaller calibers.

Pros

  • Good noise reduction rating (NRR) of 23 dB
  • Slim, low profile for good cheek weld to rifle
  • Fast response time and bounce-back (0.02 seconds)
  • Headband offers simple but effective adjustments
  • Long battery life, easy AAA battery power

Cons

  • Won't fit shooters with larger heads
  • Stiff fitment initially, requiring break-in
  • Inadequate protection for big calibers

Review

Whether shooting small or intermediate cartridges, or introducing your better half or children to shooting, Walker's Razor Compact muffs are a great choice for affordable active ear pro. These slim muffs are designed for smaller female or youth shooters, providing a very slim profile that's perfect for a Ruger 10/22 or small-caliber rifle or pistol. The headband is perforated and adjustable, and power is sourced from simple AAAs. These muffs are simple and forego the bells and whistles, like a headphone jack. A recessed volume control is provided on the right ear cup, in the form of a dial wheel. Walker advertises a noise response time for 0.02 seconds, and reviews rate their performance and sound control favorably:

Shooters' Scores & Feedback:

"I have used these alot since purchasing and they are great. I have worn impact sport (comparable) that my friends have and those work great but they do not offer any variety, just the same green ones everywhere. I decided to try these after reading customer reviews. Happy with my purchase, ordered a pair for my dad after using for a few months, and would recommend these to anyone looking for an upgrade from regular earplugs or upgrading from other earpro. They do not get in the way of my cheek weld when shooting my long guns, which I was concerned about. They work great at the range when shooting my handguns as well. You can hear conversations from the opposite end of the firing line, not sure if that is good or bad but thats up to you to decide lol. I would imagine that they would work great for hunting as well. Good luck!"

"These should be compared to the howard leight impact sport. they are in the same price range and claim the same NRR. these are a much more comfortable fit and the head band is better. But the most important feature that sets them well above the impact sports is sound compression instead of sound cutoff. These do not shut off like the impact sports they compress sound and stay on like higher end ear pro. This means you can still hear even when there are people shooting around you."

"The Razor is a good value for the price. The sound quality isn't gonna blow your socks off but the club I belong to has frequent breaks to change targets and I can now clearly hear when they call the line. The slim design is good for prone shooting as well."


Peltor Sport Tactical 100 (NRR 22 dB)

Why the Peltor Tactical 100s?

You want low-profile muffs, plenty of features, and comfort for small to intermediate cartridges. 

Pros

  • Good noise reduction rating (NRR) of 22 dB
  • Provides good, full ear seal with eye pro worn
  • Variable suppression time reduces indoor echoes
  • Adaptive frequency response reduces background noise
  • Durable recessed microphones reduce wind noise
  • Runs on AAA battery power, 2-hour auto shutoff

Cons

  • Lower NRR compared to other units
  • No low sound amplification

Review

Peltor's Sport 100 active muffs are the company's -- and one of the market's -- most popular active ear pro units. For a price below the $100 mark, you're getting all the features normally reserved for much more expensive units: Variable suppression for indoor ranges, adaptive frequency response for clearing up voice comms and reducing background noise, an automatic shut-off, a 3.5mm audio jack for your phone, radio, or music, and surround sound filtering for additional clarity in outdoor or windy environments. To top it off, the 100s can be fitted with recharable Li-Ion batteries and charged via a micro-USB port under the audio jack. The only downside to the 100s is the 22-dB NRR, which is suitable for smaller cartridges, though inadequate for most .30-caliber or bigger rifle rounds. If you're shooting .22-cal rifles or handguns, the 100s are a top choice. Here's what other shooters say.

Shooters' Scores & Feedback:

"I've used the Howard Leight Impact Sport and the Peltor Sport Tactical 100 and I'm liking the Peltors way more because of the ear seals on the Peltors. I get a full seal with prescription glasses and that keeps the sound of gunfire out especially in a indoor range. I can hear people too pretty easily with the electronic sound feature. Don't get me wrong the Howard Leight Impact Sport are good muffs too and cost less than the Peltors but with my glasses I wasn't getting a full seal and the sound of gunfire slipping through the ear seals was getting annoying and I want to protect my hearing. So if you're looking for electronic muffs and have prescription glasses I would suggest the Peltors."

"Only used a couple times so far, my old ones were able to amplify sounds and these ones don't so only 4 stars. Very good sound though and comfortable. I really like the fact that sounds are not distorted like a lot of the other ones on the market. I expect the auto shutoff will come in handy as I have often left my old ones on a killed the battery."

"I'm a firearms instructor so I use my equipment pretty heavily. I had a higher end pair that was stolen and I didn't feel like spending $300 again to watch them walk away. These work well. I had the Howard Leight (and still do) but I picked these up as well and they're definitely worth the extra money for the comfort. The electronic side is okay, about what you'd expect for this price range. I also use them in my woodworking shop so I'll keep them on for hours at a time. No headaches or marks left. Good to go."


Peltor Sport Tactical 500 (NRR 26 dB)

Why the Peltor 500s?

You want all of Peltor's bells and whistles with a high enough NRR for shooting big calibers.

Pros

  • Exxcellent noise reduction rating (NRR) of 26 dB
  • Loads of tactile, easy-to-control button features
  • Variable suppression time reduces indoor echoes
  • Adaptive frequency response reduces background noise
  • Clear voice tracking actively refines human voices
  • BlueTooth connectivity for music or making calls
  • Runs on AAA battery power, 2-hour auto shutoff

Cons

  • Rugged construction requires some breaking in
  • Rubberized headband could use padding for long wear

Review

Peltor's Tactical 500 active muffs are their top-of-the-line model for shooters who work with larger calibers, 30-cal and higher. The 500s offer all the features of their entry-level 100 units, in addition to Clear Voice Tracking and Bluetooth. With an NRR of 26, shooters report being able to comfortably shoulder .308 with the reported decibels. The 500s employ tactile button controls on the outer ear cup casing for Bluetooth, volume, and ON/OFF. Built-in voice guidance also announces your controls, which is helpful when making adjustments during live fire. The 500s are also rugged, combining a steel wire frame, tough plastic shells for the cups, and metal fasteners. The rubberized headband is also durable, but may lack in comfort until the band and ear cups broken in and softened up. Below are are reviews from shooters at the range.

Shooters' Scores & Feedback:

"My first exposure to electronic ear protection. I did a lot of research and consulted several Range officers at the local gun range. They were very high on this product. Used them for the first time at the indoor range this week. What an incredible surprise. Able to hear conversation much more clearly than with the naked ear. I was a little concerned my ears would be not be protected because it seemed like I didn’t have any protection on. Pleasantly surprised to see I was perfectly comfortable shooting 9mm handgun and shotgun. Also comfortable with larger caliber weapons and rifles being fired in adjacent shooting bays. Previously I had to step away from these shooters when I was wearing ear plugs and other ear muff protection. Very pleased with this product. It is a bit difficult getting the batteries in but definitely not a deal breaker. Highly recommend this product."

"Works great! Only reason I'm giving it a 4 star is I wish they had a higher noise reduction rating, would like to see it at around 30-36 or higher. The Tac 500 is very clear and it handles the indoor range well. There are loud exhaust fans at my range and the Tac filters it all out except for the voices. Highly recommend. Another thing I like is the open head band because I hang my Tac on my hip (using a belt clip for a power drill) and the hanging rod slips right through the opening in the head band. Very happy with it."

"Whoop! These are the bomb! After 18 years with my original Peltor Sport Tactical headset, the left ear has a short. I just upgraded to gel ear pads on them less than a year ago. So while seeking a replacement set, I tried everything under the sun ... from $42 to $270. These need the gel ear cup upgrade, but they outperform everything on the market. Howard Leight, Walker, MSA Sordin Pro-X Premier ... yep ... even them! I moved my relatively new gel ear cups to these and I could not be happier. The bluetooth is a great feature, if you are running an iPhone timer app or if you are having a chrono day and want to listen to some podcasts. Turn it off for matches, training or whenever you don't want it. The noise suppression is amazing and the Clear Voice Tracking is awesome. The headset is different, but neither a positive or a negative, over the old Peltors or the best of the new stuff."


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