What You *Really* Need to Know About Shooting Ear Muffs


Shooting ear muffs aren’t just useful equipment, they are perhaps the most important piece of shooting equipment after your gun.

The best shooting ear muffs protect your hearing and are the mark of a responsible, trained shooter. However, not all ear muffs are created equally, and there are a great many on the market that barely meet the safety needs of shooters, while others are marvels of design and electronic engineering that allow shooters to engage in normal conversation, while dampening the sound of gunshots.

We’ll look at some of these shooting ear muffs, and help you decide for yourself which ones are the best.

Types of Shooting Ear Muffs

Before we go any further, it is import to note that shooting muffs generally take the sound of a gunshot down to a somewhat safer level. Sound is measured in decibels, and this article does an excellent job of detailing just how gunshots affect your hearing, and what to look for in earmuffs.  We can see that the best shooting earmuffs reduce sound by about 33 decibels, and brings most common handgun calibers down to a safer level. These earmuffs will be just about the bare minimum to bring something like the more powerful .308 down to safe levels.

Now that we’ve been introduced to some complex health and safety data about hearing protection, and sound rating, let’s look at the types of earmuffs out there.

Most earmuffs are what are called “passive” hearing protection. They block sound, and offer no added refinements. These are your common and inexpensive earmuffs for shooting, and as long as they’ve got a decibel reduction rating around 30 decibels, will be perfectly fine for most shooting. Some, like these muffs by Decibel Defense offer a noise reduction rate of 37 decibels, and are strangely affordable for their quality.

But because we leave at the peak of the greatest period of technology and industrialization the world has ever seen, we really should be looking at some nicer shooting earmuffs.

We know that earmuffs cancel sound. Unfortunately, most shooters don’t want all sound canceled out. Hunters would like to hear noises in the woods around them, people at the range would like to talk to each other, or it might just be nice to hear the world around you between shots. Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of electronic earmuffs.

Electronic Earmuffs Explained:

Electronic earmuffs combine passive earmuffs with cutting edge sound processing technology. Equipped with one or more microphones, and circuitry that cuts off the sound when sharp noises are encountered, these rank as the best shooting earmuffs for any purpose. They are most popular with hunters and sport shooters at the range, as the ability to hear what is going on around you, or engage in conversation while still protecting your hearing is invaluable.

However, not all electronic earmuffs are created equally. When first introduced, they were expensive, but have become increasingly more affordable, which has lead to a proliferation of low quality electronic earmuffs.

When looking for the best electronic earmuffs for shooting you want to consider a few things.

  • How many microphones does it have? One microphone is fine for the range, but a hunter will want two, so they can better track the direction of sound.
  • What is the noise reduction rating? As always, more is better in this case.
  • What is the sound quality? While it may not be so important at the range, clear, high quality sound is important when hunting.
  • Are they weatherpoof? Again, not a big deal at the range, but really important when hunting.

Some electronic earmuffs for shooting include a battery saving auto shutoff feature. This is really nice, because it is easy to forget to turn off your earmuffs. While electronic earmuffs have battery life running into the hundreds of hours, there is no need to waste batteries. The downside to an auto shutoff is that it might turn off when you want it the most when hunting, but the odds are pretty slim, and it just takes a moment to turn it back on.

Passive Earmuffs

There isn’t a whole lot that can be said for passive earmuffs beyond “get the highest rated ones you can find.” There are special commercial grade earmuffs designed for use in environments with prolonged noise exposure. These will offer whisper quiet performance when shooting, but at the cost of totally isolating most sound around you. On the other hand, if you are shooting very high powered rifles, or are in a really noisy shooting range, they might be just the ticket.

One of the quickest and best ways to improve the performance of your earmuffs is by also wearing soft foam or rubber earplugs along with the earmuffs.  Not only can this make marginal earmuffs safer, but it can make the best earmuffs for shooting even better. And if nothing else, if you carry quality earplugs with your earmuffs, you’ve always got a spare or backup set of hearing protection with you.

Shooting earmuffs are affordable – even cheap – and they make the difference between a lifetime of hearing loss/reduced quality of life, and a lifetime of pleasant, safe and comfortable shooting.

Pick the best ones you can afford, and then maybe throw a set of foam plugs on too. The ears you save will be your own.

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