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Best Ear Protection For Shooting

If you landed here wondering: What is the best ear protection for shooting? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We have found the top ear protection products when it comes to shooting, but some of the products can very well be used as ear protection for concerts, etc.

With all this in mind, here is a table that has a breakdown of what each headset and earplug we’re going to be reviewing can offer you. These are considered the best ear protection for shooting purposes. If you need the best ear protection for shooting 2018 then have a look at the table below and see our top recommendations.

NameNoise Reduction RatingWeightDirectional Mics/ Aux Inputs/ Microphone Jack
ClearArmor 14100134db9.4 ozNo
Howard Leight by Honeywell Sound Amplification Earmuff22db12.8 ozDirectional Mics and Aux Inputs
3M Peltor X2A24db10.4 ozNo
SureFire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs24db2 ozNo
Peltor Sport Tri-Flange Corded Reusable Ear Plugs26db.3 ozNo
3M Peltor Tactical 6S19db5.6 ozDirectional Mics
3M Peltor Comtac III21db18 ozDirectional Mics, Aux Input, Microphone attached
MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X with LED18db10.1 ozDirection Mics, Aux Input, Microphone Jack
Radians 25 Pair Disposable Uncorded Foam Ear Plugs32db<.5 oz="">No
Howard Leight by Honweywell SmartFit Corded Multiple-Use Ear Plugs25db1 ozNo

We definitely hope the list above has helped you pick the best ear protection for shooting.

I don’t think that anyone could argue that shooting loud, large caliber firearms is a lot of fun. But that fun come with a cost; the fact that, over time, exposure to any sort of loud noise will damage and degrade your ability to hear.  It’s a problem that many people face if they’ve spent a lifetime, say, playing rock and roll music, or working around aircraft engines, or if they’re avid hunters or people who enjoy the shooting sports. But it doesn’t have to be that way, especially for the people in that last category.

In the last few decades, there have been numerous attempts to lessen the sound produced by shooting and, thus, the damage that shooting can do to your ears.  Since gunpowder first became commonly used, be it in a cannon or a musket or blunderbuss, people have been using things like cotton to protect their ears.  In the early 1900s, technology and understanding of gunpowder and firearms had become advanced enough that the Maxim silencer was produced, attempting to control the escape of gasses from the discharge of a firearm.  These have advanced in the century since its advent, but they’re not widely available.

Best Ear Protection for Shooting, Concerts and Loud Environments in 2018

So, how can you enjoy shooting sports, hunting, and just plain plinking, but not run the risk of tinnitus and other damage to your ability to hear? Ear protection, of course.  I’m talking about ear muffs and ear plugs that will reduce the noise reaching your ears. These are rated (Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR) by how much they can reduce the noise you experience by.

Each point of ‘NRR’, means that it can reduce the noise you experience by a decibel point. Of course, that’s not the only aspect of the headsets to be considered. Some headsets have ‘noise cancelling’ technology, which basically means that it has microphones mounted on the headset which will shut off at a certain decibel level to protect your ears.

Some headsets have ports for you to listen to your various devices, like a radio or an iPod or what have you. Some have microphones attached, or jacks for a microphone, so you can speak to people via a radio (not included).

 

1

ClearArmor 141001 – The Quietest Model

Of all the options reviewed, and of all the headsets that could be found and all the earplugs, it was this model that was best able to muffle the sound from the surroundings. With a Noise Reduction Rating of 34 decibels, it is the most able to protect your ears.

Obviously, all that noise reduction ability comes at a price.  And the price is that, as the picture makes clear, the ClearArmor 141001 is a very thick set of ear muffs, with those layers providing the protection. 

With that noise reduction, you’d probably hope that you would be able to use some sort of directional microphone so that you could hear people around you, maybe hear the instructions issued by the rangemaster at your shooting range, but these ear muffs are all analog.  Because it’s nigh on impossible to hear instructions through these, I recommend that experienced shooters use these on ranges.

If you’re out in the middle of nowhere hunting with your shotgun, though, these make a great, and fairly low-priced solution to protecting your ears from the report of your firearm.

PROS
  • Very Affordable
  • Simple to use, and with no electric parts, water damage and sweat aren't a concern
  • Best NRR rating reviewed
CONS
  • Amazingly Bulky
  • Not comfortable for all face shapes and sizes
  • No directional microphone means decreased situational awareness
2

Howard Leight Sound Amplification Earmuff – The Budget Training Ear Protection

These have gotten very popular lately at shooting ranges, and at first, I must admit that I was skeptical.  It was a brand that I had never encountered before, and they didn’t look as sturdy as a lot of the established brands in the ‘electronic ear protection’ market.  I’m happy to report that I was wrong about them, though. This is the best ear protection for shooting if you are on a budget.

With a Noise Reduction Rating of 22 decibels, the Howard Leight Sound Amplification Earmuff is mid-level noise reduction, but with some advantages. In the picture above, you can see one of the two directional microphones (it’s the grey semi-circle on the far-left side of the earmuff), and you can see the volume control (it’s the grey bump on the right side of the same earmuff).  You rotate the volume nob to amplify (or quiet) the noise picked up via the microphone.  Or, if you don’t need to hear that sounds around you, you can just turn the headset off with it.  They run on AAA batteries, too, which is great since it’s a common size and not one of the weird sizes that some ear protection sets use.

They also have an AUX jack (that little silver circle down by the logo), which means that if you want to shoot while listening to your MP3 player or a  radio, you can do so.

There’s really no downside to these.  They’re priced well enough that if you were to lose them, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, and they’re designed well enough that when you put them on your head, they don’t fit terribly tight, as some headsets do.  The microphones and amplification of noises around you mean that you are going to be able to use these if you’re undergoing instruction, or shooting somewhere where you might need to be able to hear someone (an instructor, perhaps, or a rangemaster).  Overall, I would rate this as a good buy for anyone looking for an entry-level set of ear protection earmuffs, or someone who needs a few sets for some reason and doesn’t want to spring for a high-end set of such ear protection. 

PROS
  • Directional microphone and AUX input
  • Decently priced
  • Low profile means it can be worn with hats and even with most common helmets
CONS
  • Replacing the batteries requires disassembly
3

3M Peltor X2A – The Standard Ear Protection

For a long time, if you went to a range and you didn’t have your own set of ear protection, they would provide you with a range set (sometimes for a nominal fee).  Most of them looked like this.

That’s not necessarily an insult, though; it just means that it is a standard set of ear protection earmuffs.  Coming in with a Noise Reduction Rating of 24 decibels, they do a lot better than most of the competitors, and certainly better than any of the competitors with microphones in them.  If you buy these, you know what you’re buying; you’re buying a headset that is there to protect your ears, and no bells and whistles. 

There’s a reason for their popularity.  The lack of electronics makes them cheaper than the fancier competition, and they do the job well. 3M (the people who make Scotch Tape and many other products you use in your daily life) and Peltor are both well-known names to anyone involved in the shooting sports.  Those are names that stand for quality.

They’re a little bit bulkier than the ear protection I normally prefer, but if you’re just standing at a range or on a line, they’re going to do just fine for your needs.  These are great headsets for beginners who may be a little overwhelmed by their first time shooting, to make sure that the noise is kept to manageable levels, while also being a set that it won’t kill you to lose or damage by accident.

PROS
  • Decently priced
  • Simple, with no electronics that need be dealt with and protected
  • Very sturdy construction
CONS
  • No directional microphone
  • Extremely bulky
4

SureFire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs – The Forward-Thinking Ear Plugs

Ear plugs are a very common method of reducing the noise from firearm discharges.  In fact, they are closer to the original method than the earmuffs are; people used to stuff cotton or cloth or whatever else they had nearby into their ears to protect themselves from the loud ‘crack’ of their weapons.

SureFire’s foray into the world of ear protection produced some interesting ear plugs.  They reduce the noise you experience by 24 decibels.  They are low profile enough that you can wear them under something else, or that you can use them while using a cell phone and not knock them loose, which is nice.  Something very interesting, though, is the little stoppers on the top.  When you remove them, it allows you to hear things appropriately positioned (like the aforementioned cell phone) near to the ear, but at the cost of about 5 decibels of noise reduction. Obviously, this has limited applications, but it is still a nifty feature nonetheless.

 They’re very reasonably priced for what they are, and my only real complaint with them (aside from my dislike of having things inserted in my ears in general) is that, as with all ear plugs, you will eventually find that ear wax collects on them, and that is just disgusting.  Keep them clean, and they’ll last for quite some time, and they’re cheap to purchase.

PROS
  • Light and low profile
  • 'Stopper' system
  • The price is just right for what you're getting
CONS
  • Can get disgusting if not clean properly
  • Stopper system is cool, but it also reduces the noise reduction when utilized
  • Have to know your ear size
5

Peltor Sport Tri-Flange Corded Reusable Ear Plugs – The Mid-Tier Ear Plugs

Peltor, of course, couldn’t stay out of the ear plug game, so they decided to offer up their very own ear plugs for the price minded shooter.

I like these a bit more than that SureFire ear plugs, and for one small reason – these, unlike the SureFire offerings, are one size fits all.  This means that you don’t have to worry about getting exactly the right one for your ears, which is nice, although at the price that these things tend to go for, that’s not really something that is a huge worry.

Those three flanges mean that you’re going to get three semi-permeable seals inside your ear, and together, they get you up to a Noise Reduction Rating of 26 decibels.  That’s an impressive feat for something so light, and these are a lot easier to clean than their competition. Overall, this is a great mid-tier ear protection for shooting.

Again, I don’t like putting things in my ears.  I know that there’s nothing wrong with it, but to me, it feels unnatural.  That being the case, though, I found these to be a snug fit, and I didn’t constantly think that they were going to fall out (a concern I commonly have with other ear plugs and ear buds).  I also find them a bit simpler to clean than some other ear plugs that are a bit more complicated than these.  Another great advantage is that these are neon green a color which doesn’t fit in almost anywhere, and because of that, you’re much more likely to find them again if you put them down and don’t remember quite where you did so.

These are a good choice for anyone who wants a simple and reusable ear plug that they can use for years to come, especially if you have two friends that you need to share them with.

PROS
  • Tri-flange system aids in noise reduction
  • Snug fit
  • Much easier to clean than certain other systems
CONS
  • No mic system or anything similar
6

Peltor Tactical 6S – The Best Value Ear Protection

These are the most common ear protection ear muffs that I have seen in years of shooting, and there’s a reason for it.  They have most of what you need, and a bit of what you want, and they manage to provide all of this at a very reasonable price. 

They come in at a Noise Reduction Rating of 19, which puts them on the lower end of the spectrum, sure.  But these are great for a variety of shooting uses.  To begin with, if you are looking for a lightweight headset that will also provide you with some directional microphones, this is it.  They don’t get much more lightweight than this.  The microphones are well made, and as with the Howard Leight ear protection up above, they will cut out amplification at a certain decibel level to protect your hearing.  They are run off of AAA batteries, again, which cuts down on bulk and makes it easy to find batteries. 

They come in a variety of different headband setups.  The one you see up above is the standard, but there are also ones that use a wrap-around headband that makes it easier to wear these while wearing a hat (or a helmet), and even a set that come with a metal headband that can be mounted on many modern helmets. This product is the best ear protection for shooting for the money.

When it comes to being low-profile, these ear muffs are about as low profile as you can get.  They’ve been used by many military and police teams in the past, and if you’re going to be shooting while still having a need to hear orders or commands, or if you’re just going to be instructing someone else on how to shoot more effectively, these are a great solution.  I would also recommend them for any competition, because they are so lightweight and they can be reconfigured to whatever the needs of the competition while still allowing you to hear what is around you during the shooting competition.

This is, all around, the best value for your dollar.  It’s also very easy to replace parts that wear out (like the foam cushions, for example), which may happen after years of use.

PROS
  • Directional microphone system means you can still hear when you need to
  • Lightweight and low-profile means comfort
  • Snug design with any headband variant
CONS
  • Battery operated means you can find your batteries dying at the worst possible time
  • Not waterproof
7


3M Peltor Comtac III – The Operator’s Choice

If you have the money, and you want to look like (or are) a professional shooter, whether in a military or police capacity, or just an instructor who teaches classes, this is the ear protection for you, hands down.  Just be warned, the price is commensurate with that status.

This has all the bells and whistles.  It’s battery operated, of course, running on AAA batteries.  It comes with a hookup for any radio you can think of (or, if you’d rather, you can run an iPod or something similar via an AUX cable and an adaptor).  It also comes equipped with a microphone, so that you can talk over whatever radio you’re using.  Or you can just detach it if you don’t need it.  It has the usual directional microphone, and it allows you to amplify the sound, and just as with the rest that provide such a microphone, if the sound gets above a certain decibel level, it will cut out to protect your hearing. It can offer all this to you, as well as a Noise Reduction Rating of 24 decibels.  Not bad at all, don’t you think?

As with most Peltor/3M made headsets, the foam rings on it are easily replaced, which is good, because if you sweat on those things, they are going to slowly begin to fall apart.  It happens with all ear protection, but Peltor tends to make it easier than most to replace them

If you’re recently enlisted in the military, or if you’re a police officer who does a lot of shooting, these are the ear protection you should buy, without a doubt. If you’re a professional instructor, these might also be appropriate for you.  If you’re someone who is the occasional shooter, or someone who goes hunting and never goes to the shooting range?  I won’t lie to you, you probably will not be well served spending multiple hundreds of dollars on ear protection like this. If you have the money, though, and you want the best headset out there?  This is the one that you’re looking for, believe me.

PROS
  • Low-profile and lightweight for your comfort and ease of use
  • Directional microphone system
  • Equipped with a microphone to interact with most radio systems
CONS
  • The price
  • They're not waterproof, but water-resistant
8

MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X with LED – The Weekend Warrior

Let’s say that you would really like to own the last set of ear protection ear muffs I talked about.  But let’s also say that you took a look at the price and were not willing to spend that much, because you don’t need it as often, or you don’t need the coolest look ear protection on the block. If that’s the case, or if you’re looking for a quality set of ear protection head muffs, but also ones that have directional microphones and all the bells and whistles you can get from high-end (and high price) offerings like the Comtac series, then look no further. MSA’s Sordin Supreme series has you covered.

MSA is a well-known name, not just to shooters, but to construction workers, firemen, and anyone who works a job requiring ear, eye, or head protection.  They make a lot of equipment for those kinds of jobs, for protecting workers of all stripes, and it just makes sense that they would eventually branch into ear protection for the shooting world.

The MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X sports the usual directional microphone system, but uses buttons instead of a rotating dial.  This is something I found quite preferable about it, personally.  It runs on AAA batteries, again, as so many of these do. It functions much the way that the other directional microphones do.

One thing that really confuses me about this model is the LED light.  It just comes across as an unnecessary source of light.  I know that a lot of shooters, especially those in the military, are beginning to use helmet mounted low-visibility LED lights for reading maps and other similar things, but this LED light is just kind of baffling. That’s really my only complaint with the offering from MSA.

If you’re looking for a high-end set of noise reducing ear muffs, but you don’t want to spring for the Comtac III, then the MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X is just right for you.

PROS
  • The price, compared to the Comtac III, is much more reasonable
  • Directiona microphone system with an AUX jack and a radio jack; can even equip a microphone for broadcast (not included)
  • Comfortable and low-profile
CONS
  • The LED light is a weird touch that doesn't seem to have any real purpose. It also drains the battery
  • Changing out batteries requires disassembly of the ear muffs
9

Radians 25 Pair Disposable Uncorded Foam Ear Plugs – The Choice For A Fun Day Out

If you’ve ever been in a very loud area for a short amount of time, whether for work, for recreation, anything like that, it is likely that you were offered something to protect your hearing.  Now, if you were lucky, or someone of import, they probably provided you with something that looked like the headphones up above.  But if you were just an entry level employee, more often than not you were given something like the image above, those orange ear plugs that have become so common, even airlines sometimes include them in flight bags for passengers.

But believe it or not, they are actually the second best at reducing the noise your ears experience.  That’s right, those little orange pieces of foam.  They have a Noise Reduction Rating of 32 decibels. And you can get 25 pairs of them for less than the price of most of the ear muffs on here. 

There’s a reason that they’re so cheap, of course. They don’t last for more than one use, and even if they did, you probably wouldn’t want to.  They also don’t manage to retain their shape very well after use, which is a problem with foam in general.  They’re  very good at what they are designed for, and that is to be used once, and to be used to give a large group of people hearing protection for a couple of hours. Their price reflects this.

So, if you’re taking a bunch of buddies out who have never been shooting and you need a quick solution to your hearing protection concerns, this is the way to go.  And at the price, you could afford a shooting outing with your friends every few weeks or so with no worries.

PROS
  • Generally the cheapest option on here, by a 'per unit' measurement
  • Surprisingly good at filling the ear canal and blocking noise 
  • Easy to use for anyone of any age, no sizing required
CONS
  • One use only
  • Getting them wet or too cold makes them almost useless
10

Howard Leight By Honeywell SmartFit Corded Mutliple-Use Earplugs – The Long-Lasting Budget Solution

We’ve talked about Howard Leight’s ear muffs up above, but not everyone needs that.  Not everyone needs to pay for a somewhat complex system so that they can hear people talking to them when they’re not firing, or hear their surroundings when they’re not actually sending lead downrange.  Howard Leight earplugs are a great solution to this need for simplicity when you still want a trusted name and a product that will last.

To begin with, the fact that it comes with a carrying case is nice.  A lot of people who do a lot of shooting tend to carry their ear plugs in their pocket, and that means that they’re picking up whatever germs and debris are in your pocket.  Do you really want to, after that, put those plugs in your ears?  I wouldn’t, but plenty of people do.

It comes with two sets, too, which is nice in case you lose one.  The lanyard is another nice touch, because when you’re not shooting, but rather listening to an instructor, you are going to be able to hang them around your neck.

These ear plugs come with a Noise Reduction Rating of 25 decibels, which is impressive when you realize that they’re not only inexpensive, but that they are basically rubber with a bit of cord tied to each end. These are a great option for someone who is just looking for something simple and not too expensive.

PROS
  • Very reasonable prices
  • Easy to use and low-profile
  • Good noise reduction for such a simple system
CONS
  • No microphone system
  • Needs to be cleaned after each use

Best Ear Protection For Shooting - Buyer's Guide

So, when it comes to finding the best in shooter ear protection, here it is.  I know that we’ve covered a variety of options in both the ear muff and ear plug markets, so here are a few of my recommendations.

I don’t think it can be argued that the best combination of ear protection from noise and making sure you can hear what you need to hear is the Comtac III from Peltor and 3M.  The downside, of course, is the price.  You’re paying for professional equipment, and it costs real money.

When it comes to the best ear plugs for noise reduction, I would have to go with the Surefire 4 Sonic Defenders.  They manage to not only be great at reducing sound levels, but they also allow you a bit more flexibility, all while maintaining a low profile.

Finally, for those of you budget minded, the Howard Leight products are a great option, whether you’re looking for ear muffs or ear plugs. They may not be the highest NRR ear plugs or ear muffs, but they’re great products for the price.

Conclusion


So, if you’re looking for ear protection, keep these brands in mind, and whatever you choose, make sure that you use it. Your hearing is at stake; don’t end up with tinnitus when the solution is so simple (not to mention affordable).