Firearms are loud, so it’s important that you have appropriate hearing protection when you’re out shooting.
Though many people prefer the extra noise reduction offered by ear muffs (see the top ear muffs for shooting here), the convenience of using ear plugs instead can’t be overlooked. They offer a much lower profile than any set of ear muffs and are far lighter.
A major perk to ear plugs is that they can be easily used with ear muffs for greater hearing protection when you need it most. In fact, you can actually achieve a noise reduction rating of about 4 to 8 decibels higher when you combine ear muffs with ear plugs. This translates into about 60% to 85% reduction in sound intensity. Sound intensity is the thing you are trying to avoid when protecting your ears so this is a huge improvement.
However, you can also use ear plugs on their own while shooting. Ear plugs offer a noise reduction of between 20 dB and 30 dB. This is huge and is comparable to most brands of ear defenders. They also don’t take up as much space as ear muffs, so they are perfect for lightweight hunting gear. Plus they are cheap, so great shooting on a budget.
We certainly aren’t saying that ear plugs are better than ear muffs, everyone has their own preferences on this topic, but ear plugs shouldn’t be overlooked. Ear plugs provide a quick, cheap and easy way of protecting your ears while shooting. Unlike ear muffs, you can bring 20 pairs with you and not even notice them so if you lose a set, it isn’t the end of your shooting day, unlike if you lose your only set of ear muffs.
A lot of people prefer ear muffs to ear plugs because they find them more comfortable. This makes sense, having something in your ears all day isn’t exactly natural. However, what happens if you lose your ear muffs? You are then stuck with a difficult choice to make. Leave the shooting early, or risk damaging your ears beyond repair. If you keep some ear plugs in your shooting bag when wearing ear defenders, if you lose them, you may not feel as comfortable, but at least your day isn’t completely ruined.
Ear plugs aren’t for everyone, but they do have a lot of fans thanks to their convenience and ability to block the noise of guns so well. If you prefer shooting with ear plugs, it’s important that you get a good pair. For you, we’ve rounded up a few of the best ear plugs for shooting on the market to help you find the pair that’s right for you.
1. Surefire EP4 Sonic Ear Defenders
These in-ear ear defenders from Surefire are a tactical product trusted by gun owners worldwide. They use a unique system for noise reduction that allows for harmless noise levels to be safely let through, whilst extremely loud noises are filtered out.
From a performance standpoint, these ear plugs are superb. Whilst the NRR is only 24 dB with the filter cap inserted, they’re designed for short bursts of loud noise, rather than continuous loud noise.
To ensure a great fit, they come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Most users will probably want the medium earplugs.
Further ensuring a solid fit in your ear is their patented EarLock design that fits ergonomically into the ear offering a fit that’s far less likely to slip out when walking or running.
The versatility of these ear plugs is impressive. They utilise a clever system that reduces the volume of dangerously loud sounds whilst still allowing you to hear ambient noise and conversations.
However, in situations where you’d prefer a higher NRR and don’t need to hear ambient sounds, you can simply insert the attached filter caps and use them in the same way as more traditional ear plugs.
Additionally, whilst not important for most users, the EP4s can be used as an earpiece for compatible radio communication systems.
Overall, these ear plugs are a great choice for shooting. However, these are also ideal for listening to concerts as they still allow you to hear the music.
2. Auritech SHOOT Ear Plugs
By Auritech, we have the SHOOT ear plugs. Like the Surefire EP4s, they use a design that allows safe sounds into your ear whilst blocking out any harmful levels of noise. They feature a universal fit design that allows them to give you a good seal no matter the size of your ears.
To extend their lifespan, these ear plugs are completely reusable. They can be easily cleaned, which is very important for everyday use. Given that they’re far cheaper than a pair of more custom fitted ear plugs, the potential longevity you can get out of them is very useful.
The noise filter inside the ear plug filters out dangerous levels of noise, preventing hearing damage whilst still allowing you to hear ambient sounds and conversation clearly. This is very useful when shooting, particularly if you’re hunting or just spending time at the range.
3. Shooter’s Aid Sonic Ear Plugs
On the more budget end of the spectrum, we have these ear valves by Shooter’s Aid. Like both the Surefire EP4s and the Auritech SHOOTs, these ear plugs use an ear valve design that allows you to hear normal conversations whilst still reducing the volume of unsafe noises such as gunshots or concerts.
Since these are a one-size-fits-all design, they lack the comfort that a pair of custom moulded pair of ear valves has.
However, at a tenth of the price, it’s worth trying these out before you decide to spend money on a custom set. Though not advised, users have reported increasing the comfort of the plugs by trimming the bottom section of each ear plug off.
Like many other ear plugs for shooters on the market, these feature an ear valve design that allows safe noises in, whilst blocking out the sound of gunshots.
Another major benefit to this design is that it eliminates that uncomfortable feeling of having your ears completely plugged. This drastically increases comfort over a pair of regular foam earplugs.
All-in-all, these ear plugs are a great option if you just want to try a set of ear valves without spending the money for a custom-moulded set such as those offered by ultimate ear.
Shooter’s Aid Sonic Ear Plugs are more than capable of blocking out the sounds of gunfire, but aren’t really comfortable enough for extensive use.
4. Howard Leight Laser Lite Individually Wrapped Ear Plugs
These Howard Leight Laser Lite ear plugs are available in packs of from 10 to 200, offering great value for money if you buy them in bulk. They are a single-use ear plug perfect for industrial work or shooting. They are made from polyurethane foam so they can be manipulated to fit anyone’s ears.
The shaped of these ear plugs also makes them very easy to use. The T shape aids in putting the plugs in and removing them, while the low pressure foam expands in the ear to ensure a tight fit and the best protection possible.
For shooting applications, these ear plugs are great. They hardly ever fall out, but we would recommend taking a couple of pairs in your shooting bag just in case. If you lose one when removing them, you’ll be glad of the extra packs. Plus, they don’t exactly take up a lot of space. Also, thanks to the bright colours, they are quick and easy to locate even in the deepest, darkest depths of your shooting bag.
5. 3M E-A-R Classic Earplugs
3M is an industrial leader in many fields, including hearing protection. These ear plugs provide all day protection while being extremely comfortable. After a few days of wearing these ear plugs, you’ll hardly notice having them in. They work wonders on shooting days even in the wettest conditions thanks to their moisture resistant properties.
These ear plugs are made from an energy-absorbing polymer foam. This means that they combat noise extremely well and are also mould-able to provide better comfort than most other ear plugs. Whether you are clay shooting or hunting for the day, it is worth taking a few pairs of these along with you.
Stick them in your shooting bag and pop a pair in before the shoot begins. Thanks to the bright colours, they are easily seen even when dropped, but the expanding foam secures so well in your ear, this is a rarity. For shooting applications, these ear plugs are some of the best to use. They block the noise extremely well and having a few pairs in your bag hardly breaks your back! For the money, these earplugs are invaluable!