Written By
Updated Jun 29, 2022 3:40 PM

A 9mm handgun has a 160-decibel report, which is loud enough to cause permanent damage without hearing protection. That’s why there are three things you need to bring to every gun range: hearing protection, eye protection, and common sense. I’ve been testing the best shooting ear protection over the past month to see, which offers the best comfort and decibel reduction. Here are my top picks. 

How to Choose Shooting Ear Protection 

Choosing the best shooting ear protection is all about fit and comfort.
The ear pro you choose will depend on your shooting discipline and how they fit your ears. Nick Setting

When you’re choosing hearing protection, you’ll first have to decide between over-ear and in-ear protection. Here are some pros and cons of each style. 

Ear Plugs

Pros

  • Low profile
  • Excellent noise protection
  • Usually less expensive than muffs

Cons

  • No sharing (Need to be sized for your ear canal.)
  • Wide quality spectrum
  • Can lose seal from sweat and movement

Ear Muffs

Pros

  • One size fits most
  • Many electronic and bluetooth options

Cons

  • Can be uncomfortable
  • Can interfere with cheek weld 

If you’re shooting in an especially loud environment, like an indoor range, the best shooting ear protection is to use both ear plugs and ear muffs at the same time. 

Active vs. Passive 

Passive hearing protection uses foam or specialized material to create a barrier that protects your ears. Active hearing protection uses both passive and electronic protection. The advantage is that the external microphone and internal speakers allow shooters to hear normally—keeping situational awareness—while blocking hearing damaging audio levels. 

Comfort

Some ear pro is comfortable all day, but others cause discomfort after a few hours. The key to comfort is padding used in over-ear and the fit of in-ear protection. Look for ear muffs with gel pads and ear plugs that offer a custom fit. 

Features

Shooting ear protection does more than protect your hearing while you’re shooting the best handguns—they also can play music and take phone calls. Bluetooth is just one of the great features of the best hearing protection. Here are a few others to look for: 

  • Compatibility with aftermarket gel pads
  • Custom fit
  • Size

Best For Indoor Shooting Ranges: Peltor Sport Tactical 500 

Peltor

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Key Features

  • Decibel Reduction: 26 dB
  • Bluetooth
  • Uses two AA batteries 
  • Ear cups have cut-outs for use with long guns
  • Adjustable headband

Why It Made the Cut

Excellent comfort, Bluetooth connectivity, and 26 dB of protection makes the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 a top shooting ear protection pick for indoor ranges. 

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Easily connects to your phone
  • Easy volume adjustment 

Cons

  • Creates a pressure point on the top of the head after a few hours use

Product Description 

The Best Shooting Ear Protection of 2022
The Peltor Sport Tactical 500 in testing. Nick Setting

I’ve been wearing the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 for shooting and cutting grass for long stretches to test comfort and noise protection. The muffs have a nice seal on them, and they effectively reduce noise, even in loud indoor ranges. I like that electronic ear protection allows you to hear conversations at a normal level. It’s a great feature if you want to hear people talking around you, but I always end up in a bay next to loud talkers that I’d prefer to drown out. The Sport Tactical 500 have a feature just for such an occasion. There are two large arrows on the muff that control the volume of sounds that enter the internal speaker. With the volume down, voices are reduced to a low rumble. If you want to drown out the world around you even more, you can connect the ear protection to your phone via Bluetooth. Podcasts and music are great to listen to, but I especially like the Bluetooth feature for using a shot timer app I have on my phone. A standard shot timer won’t work at an indoor range, and using the par timer on my PACT is obtrusive around other shooters. So, instead I set the par timer on my shot timer app, and the sound feeds directly into my ears only. 

The cups that come on the Sport Tactical are comfortable and nearly as good as the best gel cups I’ve used. I don’t think you’ll have to upgrade the cups unless you want maximum comfort. One area that does need improvement is the headband. After a few hours, the top of the band creates a pain point right at the top of my head. A cushioned band like the one on the Sordin Supreme Pro, would be ideal. 

Best For Hunters (Over Ear): Walkers Razor Bluetooth Quad 

Walker’s

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Key Features

  • Decibel Reduction: 23dB
  • Bluetooth
  • Two AAA batteries
  • Four hi-gain omnidirectional microphones

Why It Made the Cut

The Walker Razor Quad ear muffs have four microphones, which helps hunters retain the ability to know which direction a sound is coming from. 

Pros

  • Excellent situational awareness
  • Easy to pack

Cons

  • Not the most comfortable

Product Description 

I like to think that I’m getting smarter as I get older. During an action-packed deer drive, I had a realization—after the smoke cleared and my ears stopped ringing—that I didn’t need to damage my hearing every time I went on a successful hunt. After that day, I wore ear muffs whenever I hunted with a gun. From deer to upland hunts, I rocked my Walkers Razor Quads every time I pulled the trigger. 

I didn’t buy these ear pro specifically for hunting, they’re just what I had, but they ended up being a great choice. The reason why I still prefer them for hunting is the omnidirectional microphones. Most electronic hearing protection will allow you to hear just as well as you do with your naked ears, but you lose the ability to pinpoint a sound’s directions. You gain some of that ability back with the omnidirectional mics on the Razor Quads. It’s still not naked ear precision, but you can at least determine the general direction the sound came from.

The Razor Quads benefit greatly from aftermarket gel cups because without them, you can’t wear the ear pro for much longer than an hour without a headache. 

Best Passive: Howard Leight Leightning L3

Howard Leight

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Key Features

  • Decibel Reduction: 30 dB
  • Padded headband
  • Designed for pistol shooters

Why It Made the Cut

The Leightning L3 are an affordable passive ear muff with impressive decibel reduction. 

Pros

  • Efficient noise reduction
  • Comfortable
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not ideal for rifle or shotgun shooting 

Product Description 

Serious shooters invest in Gucci gear like electronic or even custom hearing protection. But, everyone should have at least one pair of Howard Leight Leightning L3s for guest shooters or for times when you forget your primary pair. These muffs are about $30 and offer an impressive 30 dB of sound reduction, and that’s a lot of shooting ear protection for the money. 

The downside of these muffs is they are bulky and will interfere with the cheek weld on most shotguns and rifles. But, these are an excellent option for maximum hearing protection, especially helpful for new shooters. 

Best For Kids: Walker’s Game Ear Kid’s Muff 

Walker’s

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Key Features

  • Decibel Reduction: 23 dB
  • Passive hearing protection
  • Suitable from ages six months to eight years
  • Colors: Coral, Highlighter Yellow, Next Camo, Blue, Green, Orange, Pink

Why It Made the Cut

A simple, and effective, muff that fits youth shooters. 

Pros

  • A lot of color options
  • Designed to fit youth shooters
  • Light

Cons

  • Most effective when used in conjunction with ear plugs

Product Description 

best youth shooting ear protection
The Kid’s Muff are made to fit youth shooters for comfort and protection Nick Setting

The best rifles for an adult aren’t the best for young shooters, and the same goes for hearing protection. That’s why these kid-sized muffs are ideal for getting a young shooter started. They’ll fit their head for comfort and a good seal. They also come in a wide range of colors, so they’ll be psyched to put them on. If you’re headed to an indoor range or someone is shooting a braked rifle nearby, it’s a good idea to use some foam plugs in addition to the muffs because the muffs alone provide 23 dB of protection. 

Best For All-Day Comfort: Walker’s Razor Slim

Walker’s

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Key Features

  • Decibel Reduction: 23 dB
  • Bluetooth 
  • Two AAA batteries 
  • Four omnidirectional microphones

Why It Made the Cut

These light ear muffs are exceptionally comfortable and have unique features that set them apart. 

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Padded headband
  • Low profile

Cons

  • Batteries die if you forget to turn it off 

Product Description 

The Walker’s Razor Slim hearing protection have the same omnidirectional microphones I liked in the Razor Quads. That features is excellent, but they are also comfortable enough to wear all day. 

The padded headband, soft ear cups, and scant weight make these ear pro so comfortable. I also like that the headband can be extended enough that it sits above my enormous head—keeping the headband off my head reduces pressure for all-day comfort. They’re also so light that I hardly notice I’m wearing them. 

Best Ear Pro Upgrade: Aftermarket Gel Cups

Howard Leight

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Key Features

  • Affordable
  • Fit many of the best shooting ear protection

Why It Made the Cut

If you want to maximize comfort for all-day use, then upgrade your ear cups to a gel cup. 

Pros

  • Comfortable 
  • Cooler than foam 

Cons

  • Added expense 

Product Description 

A gel cup is the best thing you can add to an ear muff to increase comfort. They are easy to install and cost about $30. Here are some gel cups that fit popular shooting ear protection. 

FAQs

Q: Should I look for in shooting ear protection?

The best shooting ear protection is comfortable and has more than 20 dB of protection. 

Q: Are ear muffs better than ear plugs?

Ear muffs are easier to take on and off, and don’t require custom fitting. Ear plugs must be fit to your ear canal but offer more comfort and protection than muffs. 

Q: What is the highest dB for ear plugs?

Anything over 25 dB of reduction is excellent performance for ear plugs. 

How I Evaluated the Best Hearing Protection

The Best Shooting Ear Protection of 2022
The best shooting ear pro was tested under real-world conditions. Nick Setting

Testing the best hearing protection involved shooting, hunting, and wearing them for long periods. While doing those tests, I judged each pair on the following criteria: 

Comfort

I’ve shot USPA events that go all day, and with bad ear pro, you end up with a headache after wearing them for six or more hours. Comfortable ear protection makes a huge difference, and I’m a stickler for any pressure points or discomfort felt after an hour of wearing the ear pro. 

Noise Reduction

Shooting ear protection needs to protect your ears, and they do that by effectively blocking sounds higher than 100 dB. I tested this by wearing the ear pro at the range and while cutting grass with my very-loud mower. 

Fit

Hearing protection must fit the user for comfort and protection. I evaluated how flexible each pair of ear pro was on shooters of different sizes. 

Final Thoughts

The best shooting ear protection makes a day at the range much more enjoyable. Choose the pair that best suits your needs, and wear them each time you pull a trigger. 

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