Shooting exposes your ears to very loud noises that can do a lot of damage to your hearing. Without proper protection, you could experience hearing loss or develop tinnitus.
Given how important your hearing is, it makes sense to choose some high-quality ear defenders for shooting. This is especially true if you go shooting regularly.
If you take children to the shooting range, you also need to make sure they also have some good ear muffs to protect their more sensitive ears.
It’s not enough to wear ear plugs when shooting—you need some ear defenders that are designed to protect your ears from extremely high decibels.
Choosing Ear Defenders for Shooting
Here are some things to think about when deciding which pair of ear defenders is right for you.
Ear defenders vary greatly in price. While you can’t put a price on your hearing, you want to make sure you’re getting value for money.
Top-quality electronic ear defenders usually cost over £100, while good passive ear defenders can be bought for less than £50. Ear plugs are much cheaper, but as we said earlier, they’re not adequate for shooting.
Electronic or passive ear defenders?
In contrast to regular passive ear defenders, electronic ear defenders cut out high-volume sounds and amplify low-volume sounds, so you can still hear quieter noises like people speaking or bird sounds with your ear defenders on.
The electronic components of the defenders don’t offer your ears any additional protection, but they make the shooting or hunting experience much better as you can hear what’s going on around you.
If you regularly go game shooting, you should get yourself a good pair of electronic ear defenders. If you’re clay shooting or going to a shooting range, being able to hear background noises isn’t so important, so you should be fine with passive ear defenders.
Now we’ve gone over the basics of what you need to know about ear defenders, here are our reviews of the best ear muffs for shooting available in the UK.
Best Electronic Ear Defenders for Shooting
1. 3M Peltor SportTac Headset
The 3M Peltor SportTac ear defenders are some of the best out there when it comes to quality of construction. They’re designed specifically for shooting and hunting, and with an SNR rating of 26 dB, they do an excellent job of dealing with the noise of shots. These ear muffs are electronic, so they will amplify the quiet noises around you while detecting and reducing the sound of loud noises.
- Each pair comes with interchangeable green and orange shells
- Hearing protector level can be adjusted to your requirements
- Battery life of around 600 hours
- Takes 2 x AA batteries (included)
The 3M Peltor SportTac ear defenders are great for grouse hunting and clay pigeon shooting. They are extremely efficient in cutting out gunshot sounds without cutting out lower volume noises. The only real drawback with these ear protectors is that they aren’t waterproof, which can be a serious problem in the UK. Read our full review of the 3M Peltor SportTac ear defenders here.
2. Honeywell 1013530 Howard Leight Impact Sport Earmuff
These electronic ear muffs block out gun shots and other sudden loud noises while amplifying quieter ambient sounds to enhance your shooting experience and hear what other people are saying.
- Amplifies ambient sounds up to 82 dB (about the volume of a telephone ringing) and reduces louder sounds
- NRR 22
- Battery life of around 350 hours
- Takes 2 x AAA batteries (included)
The Howard Leight Electronic Folding Earmuffs by Honeywell are excellent for blocking out loud gunshot noises while amplifying quieter noises so you can carry on a conversation with your shooting partners. They’re cheaper than the 3M Peltor SportTac Hearing Headset reviewed above, but have a considerably shorter battery life at around 350 hours rather than 600 hours.
3. MSA Sordin Pro X
MSA Sordin ear defenders are widely regarded as some of the best electronic ear defenders for shooting on the market. However, they’re also some of the most expensive ear defenders you can buy, so it makes sense to weigh up their pros and cons carefully before purchasing a pair.
- Folding headband
- 2 waterproof microphones for a stereo effect
- Waterproof battery area
- Suitable for left- and right-handed shooters
- Aux input for connecting other audio devices
- Takes 2 AAA batteries
- IP67 rated (can withstand being immersed in water)
If you can afford them, the MSA Sordin Pro X are some of the best electronic ear muffs for shooting on the market. However, cheaper options like the 3M Peltor SportTacs will do a more than adequate job for most people, which is why these ear defenders aren’t first on our list.
Best Passive Ear Defenders for Shooting
1. Peltor Bull’s Eye I Ear Defenders
These ear defenders from respected hearing protection brand 3M’s Peltor range are designed specifically for shooting. The cups are designed so that they won’t get in the way and distract you while you’re shooting.
- 27 dB SNR
- Collapsible headband
- Replaceable cushions and inserts for improved hygiene
- Adjustable ear cups
- Good value for money
- Folds down to make them easily portable
- Effective at dampening loud noises
- SNR is quite low for passive ear defenders—not ideal for long shooting sessions
These ear defenders are very comfortable to wear. They feel light and don’t get in the way when you’re shooting. However, the SNR is relatively low at 27 dB, so you might want to get something with more protection if you’re shooting for long periods of time.
2. 3M Peltor Optime III Ear Muffs
A good passive (non-electronic) alternative to the 3M Peltor SportTac ear defenders is this pair of ear muffs, also from 3M. The 3M Peltor Optime III Ear Muffs protect your ears from sounds as loud as 95-110 decibels. Since they’re not electronic, they will block out both loud and quiet noises.
These ear muffs come in a universal size, and can be adjusted to fit using the headband. They effectively seal the ears off from outside noise.
- Adjustable headband
- SNR 35 dB
The 3M Peltor Optime III Ear Muffs are some of the best passive ear defenders out there. They’re very well designed and effectively reduce even the loudest noises. If you don’t need electronic ear defenders that amplify quiet noises, you can save a lot of money buy buying these instead.
In addition to shooting, these ear defenders are a good choice for racing or using in noisy work environments like airports and factories, or just blocking out traffic sounds or noisy neighbours.
3. Vanderfields NR35X2 Ear Defenders
The Vanderfields NR35X2 Ear Defenders could be a good budget alternative to more expensive products from 3M Peltor. They can be used for blocking out sound in all kinds of environments, including the shooting range.
One nice thing about these ear defenders is that they look like regular headphones, so if you want to wear them in other places out in public apart from the shooting range, you won’t get funny looks.
- 26 dB NRR
- Foldable design
- Adjustable padded headband
The Vanderfields NR35X2 Ear Defenders are a good pair of passive ear defenders for shooting, provided your head is on the smaller end.
Since these ear defenders are relatively small, they could be a good choice for ladies and kids. They’re not as bulky as some other ear defenders, so they shouldn’t interfere with your gun mount while shooting. It’s also nice that they look like normal headphones.