(Last Updated On: February 23, 2021)

A hand-picked selection of the best hearing protection you can get for recreational shooting, and how you can pick the right one.

NameNRRAttack TimeDirectional SoundPrice
Peltor Sport Tactical 500 Best Over-all26dB3-5msYes BUY
Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt Strong Runner-Up22dB0.5msYes BUY
Act Fire Shooting Earmuffs Best Budget23dB20msYes BUY
GLORYFIRE Electronic Shooting Earmuff Best for Hunting25dB20msYes BUY
PROHEAR 030 Most Versatile22dB10msNo BUY
Walker's Game Ear Razor Slim Most Comfortable23dB20msNo BUY

How to Pick the Best Hearing Protection for Shooting

Man wearing hearing protection while shooting (From: Pixabay)
Man wearing hearing protection while shooting (From: Pixabay)

No one can deny the ear-splitting volume of gunshots. That’s why finding the right hearing protection is more important than ever for shooting.

However, it isn’t as simple as grabbing any hearing protection and expecting it to work for you.

Hearing protection devices (HPDs) specifically designed for shooting have unique features that can drastically improve your overall experience compared to using regular HPDs.

Features such as directional sound amplification and cut-outs may not make sense with regular hearing protection devices but are valued functionalities that every shooting HPD should have.

With that being said, there are additional factors you should consider when choosing hearing protection devices for shooting. Here are some of them:

How much NRR do you need?

The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is a rough estimation of the maximum noise protection a particular hearing protection device (HPD) can give you in decibels.

For example: If an HPD advertises that it has an NRR rating of 27, that means the device will reduce noise levels up to 27dB.

Although there aren’t any standards or minimum NRR requirements for hearing protection when shooting, you should always prioritize getting the highest rating possible.

Unsuppressed gunshots can reach ear-splitting volumes between 140-190 dB. This means hearing damage is almost inevitable in a busy shooting range.

This is why you need as much protection as you can get. You should aim for 22dB, at the very least.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that NRR ratings aren’t accurate. These ratings do not actually reflect real-world application. A process called derating must first be done in order to get more realistic values for NRR ratings.

What are electronic earmuffs?

Instead of the typical choice between earmuffs vs. ear plugs, one of your main questions for HPDs for shooting is all about whether you should go for passive or electronic earmuffs.

  • Passive earmuffs: Passive earmuffs are ordinary earmuffs or headphones that block sound through their physical components. These earmuffs usually have large and thick ear cups with substantial padding to reduce background noise. They are mostly recommended for blocking continuous noise such as those from lawnmowers and other industrial machines.
  • Electronic earmuffs: Electronic earmuffs protect your hearing by dampening the sound of gunshots, while also letting you have effective communication with other people. They achieve this by placing multiple microphones strategically, which picks up and filters only the necessary ambient sound, like voices.

When it comes to shooting, you should almost always go for electronic earmuffs. Although they’re more expensive, the ability to communicate with people definitely makes it worth it. With electronic earmuffs, you can easily talk with your buddies in the shooting range or team up with your companions when hunting wild game without sacrificing your hearing.

Directional Sound Amplification

Hearing protection for hunting (From: Pixabay)
Hearing protection for hunting (From: Pixabay)

If hearing protection devices for musicians let you hear your surroundings by using acoustic filters, HPDs for shooting take this up a notch by incorporating advanced technologies to amplify specific sounds.

Sound amplification is the volume increase of low-level sounds. These sounds include the rustling noises of wild game, or team communication.

On the other hand, directional sound amplification also increases the volume of low-level sounds but has the added benefit of letting the listener pinpoint where the sound is coming from.

This works by using electronic components and multiple, strategically placed microphones to pick up the environmental sounds that you wouldn’t normally hear with an uncovered ear. After which, it then plays it through the headphone speakers inside the earmuffs.

However, the quality of directional sound amplification can vary depending on HPD models and manufacturers. Some only have stereo amplification (you can only tell if the sound is coming from the left or right), while others have 3D/surround sound amplification.

For hunters, it’s highly recommended to go for the more advanced directional sound amplification feature for optimal hunting. Whether you’re listening to the soft pitter-patter of footsteps of wild game, or the whispering commands from an allied hunter right next to you, this feature will definitely come in handy in a plethora of situations.

But for exclusively range shooters, the stereo sound amplification is just fine.

It’s important to note that most HPDs with sound amplification have volume limits. This means that the amplified sounds you hear cannot exceed 85-90dB. This is deemed as the safe listening level by the World Health Organization (WHO). You can’t go above this threshold regardless if you turn the volume up.

Attack Time

When exposed to a loud sound the HPD’s amplifiers turn off. When it goes away, the amplifier turns back on and resumes amplifying environmental sounds.

Attack time, sometimes referred to as reaction time, is the speed at which the earmuffs react to lower external sounds to a safe level. It is the time lag between when the gunshot and the instant the HPD reacts to stop the amplifier and reduce the sound to a safe level.

The faster the attack time, the better.

Most hearing protection have varying attack times. The fastest of which being 0.5ms while the average is somewhere around 20ms.

Design functionality

Police wearing hearing protection device (From: Pixabay)
Police wearing hearing protection device (From: Pixabay)

There are several design factors to consider when choosing hearing protection for shooting. It’s important to take note of the features that you care about. And with this in mind, you can choose a model that best suits your specific needs.

Cut-outs

Certain hearing protection devices come with cut-outs. This helps contour the shape of safety glasses or the gunstock to the side of your head. The crevices on the earmuffs make it so that it won’t feel awkward to lean on the gunstock while shooting. This is because the gunstock fits right onto the cut-out.

Low profile design

Whether you prefer to wear something inconspicuous or just hate bulkier earmuffs in general, a low-profile design is definitely something to consider. This also helps when you need to hide in cramped areas to hunt game.

These models are usually lighter, smaller, and offer more opportunities to use them due to their size.

Tactile controls

Glasses and hearing protection devices are important safety gear that every shooter should have. Shooters also need other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like shooting gloves.

Shooting gloves are usually thick. So it’d be difficult to find and access regular headphone buttons without taking off your headphones when wearing these.

That’s why reliable tactile controls are essential. This helps you to easily know exactly what you’re pressing, where it’s located on the HPD, and how many times you’re pressing it even with gloves on.

Portability

Some HPDs have more portable designs than others. If portability is that important to you, then you’ll generally want HPDs that can fold well. Having a compact design also makes for easy storage. Bonus points if it comes with its own carrying case.

Long-lasting aesthetics

If looks are important and you want to maintain the general style of your HPD, then you’ll want a device that has been specifically treated with this purpose in mind. As sleek as they look, some HPDs possess long-lasting properties in their exterior design. These protect them from UV degradation. It also provides anti-scratch properties in its paint/designs.

Durability

HPDs are constantly being exposed to harsh environments and extreme conditions. That’s why it’s important to look for hearing protection devices that can take a beating.

If you often find yourself hunting in inclement weather, it helps to get an HPD that is specifically advertised to be sweat/water-resistant. Its durability also depends on the kind of materials that were used. This is why it’s good to look out for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and other synthetic materials for HPDs.

Comfort and Fit

Overall, the comfort and fit of an HPD are two of the more crucial yet underrated factors you should consider when choosing hearing protection. Whether you’re in the shooting range or out hunting in the wild, you’re more than likely to wear these for extended periods.

That’s why it’s important that the HPD can fit snugly and comfortably on your head. This is to minimize the incentive of taking them off. By doing so, you won’t be exposing yourself to potentially dangerous sounds.

Comfortable shooting HPDs usually have large and soft ear cups that fully encompass the ears. Having vented headbands also helps for additional airflow. You should also look out for padded headbands which provide more support to the head.

Lastly, adjustable/rotating sliders can provide better conformity to different head shapes/sizes. The more the earmuffs can adjust to the size and shape of your head, the more comfortable it will be.

6 Best Hearing Protection for Shooting in 2021

Peltor Sport Tactical 500

Best Overall
Close look at Peltor Sport Tactical 500 (From: Amazon)
Close look at Peltor Sport Tactical 500 (From: Amazon)

Key features for shooting

  • NRR: 26dB
  • Derated NRR (OSHA): 9.5dB
  • Sound Amplification: Yes
  • Directional Sound: Yes
  • Attack Time: 3-5ms
  • Volume Limit: 85dB
  • Weight: 0.93 lbs

As made by the manufacturers of the renowned 3M Worktunes, It’s not that surprising to see Peltor Sport Tactical 500 as the best over-all pick for this list. It has the highest NRR rating among other HPDs on this list. Plus, other additional features that would prove to be very useful during any shooting sessions.

This hearing protection device uses smart features and other 3M proprietary technologies. These effectively suppress gunshot noises while amplifying low-level noises. It also has clear voice tracking that specifically amplifies voices for improved communications. This helps you hear your teammates’ voices or commands above everything else.

Automatic Dynamic Suppression is one of the more important selling points of the Peltor Sport Tactical 500. It measures gunshot energy and the corresponding surrounding echoes, then adjusts the suppression time accordingly. These combined allow for optimized comfort and communication.

Whether you’re firing a low-caliber pistol or a high-powered AR, this HPD can keep you safe and comfortable. It’s especially more effective for indoor shooting. This is due to the increased gunshot echoes caused by the sound bouncing off the walls.

Recessed microphones can be found on both sides of the headset. This design choice reduces the sounds of wind and fan noises from being picked up. It also improves the durability of the mics as well.

Moreover, its lightweight form factor, low-profile design, soft ear cup cushions, and adjustable headband improves overall comfort for long hours of usage without ear fatigue. Additionally, the headband uses a vented design. This allows for optimal airflow and lets you wear the device with hats more comfortably.

With its intuitive and tactile button set up in addition to the voice guidance system, the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 gives you full control of the settings without having to remove the headset. This allows for continuous hearing safety without sacrificing ease of access and functionality.

Lastly, you won’t have to worry about using this headset during slightly inclement weather. This is because of its weather/water/sweat-resistant properties.

Just remember that although these are the best hearing protection on the list, they’re also the most expensive.

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Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt

Strong Runner-up
Close look at Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt (From: Amazon)
Close look at Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt (From: Amazon)

Key features for shooting

  • NRR: 22dB
  • Derated NRR (OSHA): 7.5dB
  • Sound Amplification: Yes
  • Directional Sound: Yes
  • Attack Time: 0.5ms
  • Volume Limit: 82dB
  • Weight: 0.66 lbs

The Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt is a strong-runner up due to many reasons. It’s mostly thanks to it having an attack time of 0.5ms, which is the fastest attack time on this list. This HPD will help you achieve uninterrupted hearing. The lightning-fast attack time makes it so that you get instant protection after every gunshot.

Additionally, the Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt promises up to 5x directional sound amplification. To give a quick perspective on what it means, other similar HPDs only average out at around 4x sound amplification. Therefore, whether you’re tracking prey or listening to instructions, wearing this will give you superhuman hearing to identify even the smallest twitch. .

Its auto shut-off functionality turns off the earmuffs after 4 hours of inactivity. This helps in prolonging the overall battery life. With this, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn off the device. Saving battery life means you don’t have to constantly buy new batteries. The easy snap-on lid also allows for convenient battery replacement.

The low profile ear cups, overall slim design, and rifle cutaways allow for better accuracy while shooting and gun-to-cheek placement. The cut-outs allow you to use a tight gunstock cheek weld for better intuitive sighted/unsighted fire. It allows you to do this without disrupting the protective seal of the ear cushion.

It’s also good to know that this HPD comes with other convenient add-ons. These include an extra pair of replacement ear cushions, 2 AAA batteries, and a belt clip for portability and hands-free carriage.

However, be careful when turning the volume all the way up with these on. These earmuffs may be prone to creating annoying high-pitched feedback noises.

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Act Fire Shooting Earmuffs

Best Budget
Close look at Act Fire Shooting Earmuffs (From: Amazon)
Close look at Act Fire Shooting Earmuffs (From: Amazon)

Key features for shooting

  • NRR: 23dB
  • Derated NRR (OSHA): 8dB
  • Sound Amplification: Yes
  • Directional Sound: Yes
  • Attack Time: 20ms
  • Volume Limit: 89dB
  • Weight: 0.75 lbs

If you’re looking for a suitable shooting HPD without breaking the bank, then the Act Fire Shooting Earmuffs may be your best bet. These earmuffs are more in the affordable price range. However, that doesn’t mean that they lack meaningful features.

This device possesses the minimum standard functionalities needed to make it useful in almost any other situation where you need hearing protection. Whether you’re shooting guns at the firing range, sawing wood at your workshop, or mowing the lawn, this HPD is applicable for use in all those situations and more.

The Act Fire Shooting Earmuffs uses a new internal chip for their sound amplification. This promises realistic and clear amplified stereo sound. Not only do the internal amplifiers increase the volume of low-level sounds, but they also accurately determine the direction it is coming from.

In addition to amplifying sounds, these ear muffs lower noise exposure by up to 23 dB. Although other tactical noise-cancelling HPDs also let you hear quiet sounds while protecting your hearing, this device stands out by amplifying those quiet sounds while having little to no sound distortion.

It also sports one of the cooler designs on this list that almost every American tactical shooting enthusiast would enjoy. The incorporation of the American flag is a modest addition to the overall design.

This HPD uses Japanese imported paint. This makes it so that the device has better protection against the irradiation of UV, natural fading, and surface damage.

Just remember that to bring down the cost of these earmuffs, the manufacturer had to sacrifice its build quality in the process. Don’t expect this HPD to be the most durable or last as long as other premium models.

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GLORYFIRE Electronic Shooting Earmuff

Best for Hunting
Close look at GLORYFIRE Electronic Shooting Earmuff (From: Amazon)
Close look at GLORYFIRE Electronic Shooting Earmuff (From: Amazon)

Key features for shooting

  • NRR: 25dB
  • Derated NRR (OSHA): 9dB
  • Sound Amplification: Yes
  • Directional Sound: Yes
  • Attack Time: 20ms
  • Volume Limit: 82dB
  • Weight: 1 lb

The GLORYFIRE Electronic Shooting Earmuff is our pick for the best HPD for hunting. This is mainly due to it having the highest sound amplification (up to 6x) on this list. It also has one of the most accurate directional sounds.

With these on, if your prey does so much as to step on a crunchy leaf or breath a little too loudly while you’re in the vicinity, you’ll definitely be able to hear it and hunt it down with ease. Being able to hear the sound cues you wouldn’t normally hear will give you the hunter’s edge and improve your overall hunting experience.

Its padded headband design and soft ear cups improve its overall comfort for all-day usage. Comfortable earmuffs will keep you safe by preventing you from prematurely taking off your HPD.

These earmuffs also have decent noise reduction. Although it doesn’t provide the highest noise reduction on this list, it still provides solid hearing protection that can’t be ignored.

The Gloryfire Electronic Shooting Earmuffs also use a high-quality sound microchip. This maintains high-quality sound when listening to music.

Make sure you’re careful when using the earmuffs outside in inclement weather. This HPD is not waterproof.

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PROHEAR 030

Most Versatile
Close look at PROHEAR 030 (From: Amazon)
Close look at PROHEAR 030 (From: Amazon)

Key features for shooting

  • NRR: 22dB
  • Derated NRR (OSHA): 7.5dB
  • Sound Amplification: Yes
  • Directional Sound: No
  • Attack Time: 10ms
  • Volume Limit: 82dB
  • Weight: 0.63 lbs

The PROHEAR 030 is the most versatile HPD on this list. This is mainly due to its Bluetooth capabilities and intuitive volume controls. These features put together make for an improved shooting experience.

Aside from this list, PROHEAR 030 is also listed in our top picks for the best Bluetooth hearing protection.

Its integrated Bluetooth 5.0 technology allows you to keep a stable connection with your media player device. This connection works up to a range of 33ft. Being able to connect to other Bluetooth-enabled devices and seamlessly stream music can drastically improve your overall shooting experience. The best part is that there are no wires involved.

It features wide ear cups, ultra-soft cushioned ear pads, and a thickly-padded headband. This allows you to wear the PROHEAR 030 for much longer without experiencing ear fatigue.

These make it especially useful during those extra long shooting/hunting sessions. Moreover, it features a telescopic and ergonomic headband design. This allows it to fit different head shapes and sizes.

Weighing in at only 0.63 lbs, this HPD is the most lightweight one on the list.

Its compact folding design means you can bring this wherever you go. This can be used in different environments other than just shooting. Whether you’re using a chainsaw, loud power tools, or firing gunshots, these earmuffs will keep you safe all throughout.

It also features high-quality rubber paint coating. This improves the earmuffs overall durability, longevity, and feel.

Just be sure to stockpile on extra batteries. This HPD consumes batteries quickly and there is no way to tell how much battery life you have left. The lack of a battery indicator means you won’t know if you’re at 70% or 7% until it’s too late.

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Walker’s Game Ear Razor Slim

Most Comfortable
Close look at Walker’s Game Ear Razor Slim (From: Amazon)
Close look at Walker’s Game Ear Razor Slim (From: Amazon)

Key features for shooting

  • NRR: 23dB
  • Derated NRR (OSHA): 8dB
  • Sound Amplification: Yes
  • Directional Sound: No
  • Attack Time: 20ms
  • Volume Limit: 89dB
  • Weight: 0.89 lbs

Comfort and a low-profile design are important factors in shooting hearing protection. If that’s what you’re looking for, then the Walker’s Game Ear Razor Slim is definitely what you need.

The Razor muffs are specifically engineered to have the lowest possible profile possible. It does this without having to compromise the muffs’ hearing protection and sound amplification properties as well.

As such, this HPD has the slimmest design among all the other hearing protection within this list. Shooting long guns feel a lot less awkward when wearing lightweight and slimmer hearing protection.

Its slim size and form factor doesn’t sacrifice comfort and functionality at all. The ear cups have a good amount of space for your ears. Also, the thickly-padded ear cups and headband lets you wear the device throughout the day for all-day comfort.

This is also one of the few HPDs with ample headband clamping force that lets it stay snugly in place. You can even wear glasses with these on without having them break the protective seal around your ears.

Additionally, the device also features a highly tactile and accessible volume control. The raised ridges on the volume knob allow you to accurately adjust the sound levels. Yes, even when you’re wearing thick shooting gloves.

Of course, it’s also worth talking about the hearing protection it provides. The Razor Slim makes use of a sound-activated compression circuit (SAC) to block out sounds that go over 89 dB in just 20ms.

Just note that these earmuffs may be prone to creating white noise or humming sound when in use. This sound becomes a lot more prominent when you turn the volume all the way up.

Lastly, it comes with 2 AAA batteries to get you started and is available in a variety of colors.

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