Use It or Lose It
Hearing protection (EarPro), should be used whenever possible while firing a firearm or conducting any other task involving loud noises. I do not understand it, but I have known some guys who chose not to wear EarPro, either because it is inconvenient or because they didn’t think it was “cool.”
Whatever the reason, this is ridiculous and stupid. Especially considering that once your hearing is gone, it is not coming back. Not only is being deaf and/or having tinnitus much more inconvenient that wearing hearing protection, but it significantly diminishes your situational awareness.
I used to be able to relate to the inconvenience of wearing hearing protection at the range. Especially the Marine Corps insertable EarPro (that apparently never worked as was recently discovered). This was until I was introduced to electronic hearing protection.
Best of Both
Electronic hearing protection utilize a microphone/amplifier system to filter out harmful decibels while also acting like a hearing aid. Many of these electronic earmuffs are used by the military and law enforcement agencies because some devices have the added benefit of allowing you to wire them to communications.
These premium devices typically price anywhere between $300-$500!
For the average shooting enthusiast, spending hundreds of dollars on a pair of ear muffs is unreasonable. This money would be more useful spent on training. However, there are other electronic hearing protection options that are more than enough for most civilian applications.
I like to be transparent about the fact that if you use the links above to purchase items that we review, we receive a small commission. However, this is an honest review and I have gotten many years of good use out of the Howard Leights, and am confident the Walker’s would perform to the same standards.
Howard Leight Impact Sports
When I purchased Howard Leight hearing protection years ago, I did not have high expectations. These expectations were due primarily to their price. However, after using them for over 5 years, I can say that they should be in every shooter’s range bag. Even if you own a high-speed-low-drag $500 pair, having these would be a cheap backup or work great for guest shooters (and wives/girlfriends).
Traditional hearing protection can be such a pain to constantly have to take off when you’re trying to hear someone. However, these allow you to simply adjust the mic sensitivity so you can hear with them on.
More Decibel Reduction
Usually I like to wear double hearing protection when shooting indoors, like the Howard Leights over some Surefire Sonic Defenders. This provides a greater decibel reduction. I then turn up the volume on the internal speaker of the Howard Leights so that I can still hear conversations.
I lost the first pair of Howard Leights I purchased in 2012, and had they been a $230 pair of MSA’s, I would have been very upset. However, I bought another pair of Howard Leights and they worked just as well as the previous pair.
The biggest complaint I have about the Howard Leights is the factory ear cups. After many hours at the range they can become very uncomfortable. I discovered the Valholl Gel Cups, which replace the Howard Leight factory cups. These also create a better seal around the temples of your eye protection.
I don’t use these exclusively for shooting either. They are perfect for mowing or trimming the yard, working with loud power tools, or keeping your calm when dealing with a screaming child (#DADLife). No, seriously, if you have a newborn who won’t stop crying while you hold them, these earmuffs are a lifesaver.
Howard Leight Specs
- Colors: Black, OD Green, Multicam, Teal, Pink, and Purple.
- Integrated directional microphones amplify range commands and other sounds
- Mic actively listen and cuts off when a sound exceeds 82dB
- Low profile design allows for clearance with rifle stock
- Adjustable headband
- AUX input
- Uses 2 AAA batteries w/ 4 hour auto shut-off
- 350 hour approximate battery life
- 22dB noise reduction rating
- Price: Depending on color, price ranges from $47 – $70 on Amazon
- Low profile
- Poor seal around eye protection (Solved with Valholl Gel Cups)
- Not comfortable during long term use (Solved with Valholl Gel Cups)
- Subpar sound quality
Although I have owned and used the Howard Leights for years, I was aware of a competing brand. Therefore, I decided it would be irresponsible of me to give a review without a comparison.
Walker’s makes a few variations of electronic EarPro, but I got a pair of their Razor X-TRM. Walker’s also makes a slim version, but I have not used these and it looks as though the gel cups are not the same material as the X-TRM (I might be wrong). They also sell them in different color schemes, as well as a Bluetooth option!
No Upgrade Needed
One thing I really like about the X-TRM’s is that they come standard with very comfortable gel cups. These provide a relatively good seal around eye protection. I also believe the internal sound quality is much better compared with that of the Howard Leights. If I am wearing these while my MacBook is playing music, the sound quality is similar to if I had an audio jack connected.
The decibel reduction is indistinguishable between the two brands, in my opinion. The Razors compress around your head significantly more than the Howard Leights, and after wearing them for a while, I did notice some discomfort.
Another important consideration is how much the ear muffs interfere with shooting, particularly obtaining a proper cheek weld with a rifle. For me, neither the Howard Leight or the Walker’s pose an issue when obtaining a proper cheek weld.
- Gel filled ear cups
- Active sound suppression
- 2 Hi Gain Omnidirectional mics
- Audio input jack with cover
- High Definition sound output
- Powered by 2 AA batteries
- Protected mic
- Price: Depending on color, price ranges from $40 – $60 on Amazon
- Good seal out of the box
- Protected mic
- Excellent sound quality
- A lot of compression around head and ears