How To Choose Best Ear Protection For Shooting

Prolonged exposure to sounds louder than 85 dB can lead to permanent hearing loss or tinnitus.

Guns and rifles are much louder than this. The shot from a shotgun or small rifle can exceed 140 dB while larger rifles can reach 175 dB or higher.

That’s why ear protection is crucial when hunting, practising in a gun range or doing any kind of shooting. It is very similar to motorcycling that we have discussed earlier.

Even if you shoot occasionally, such as during hunting, a single shot over 140 dB can cause hearing damage.

In this buying guide, we review the best ear protection for shooting. All our top picks are electronic ear defenders, the best types of ear protection.

Key Considerations When Buying Ear Protection for Shooting

A. Type of Ear Protection


Earplugs can reduce noise levels but they are not designed to protect you from impulse noise (sharp noise spikes such as those from a gun).

Foam earplugs are very effective at reducing decibel levels but they muffle all sound, making it harder to hear conversations and ambient sounds.

Silicone earplugs filter noise selectively but you can still miss some important sounds (such as a rustle in the bush) because they lack ambient noise amplification. Also, silicone earplugs have a lower SNR compared to earmuffs, meaning they offer less noise reduction.

Passive Earmuffs

Earmuffs are the best choice for shooting. They are comfortable to wear and offer more protection. There are electronic and passive earmuffs.

Passive earmuffs are cheaper and don’t need any batteries. They work much like foam earplugs – by blocking out noise indiscriminately.

We generally don’t recommend passive earmuffs for shooting. They block ambient sounds and conversations, which affects situational awareness.

Electric Earmuffs

Electric earmuffs are the best for shooting. They block out impulse noise while amplifying softer ambient sounds using integrated microphones.

Electric earmuffs significantly dampen the sharp sound of a shot while enhancing environmental sounds and conversations.

You don’t need to remove the earmuffs to talk to someone and you can clearly hear instructions when in a shooting range. If you are out hunting, ambient sounds still come through to your hears.

Electric earmuffs feature volume control, which lets you increase or decrease the ambient sound level.

B. Noise Reduction (SNR Rating)

The SNR value is very important when shopping for ear protection. It indicates the amount of noise reduction or attenuation the earmuffs offer.

Look for ear protection with SNR of at least 25 decibels.

C. Volume Control

Most electric earmuffs come with a volume knob that lets you reduce or increase the level of ambient sound. Turn down the volume when shooting and turn it up when speaking to someone.

Note: Even with the volume turned all the way up, a good pair of earmuffs will still protect your ears from loud gunshot.

D. Comfort

Look for soft padded earmuffs that you can wear for hours at a time without feeling uncomfortable. They should be adjustable to ensure they are a perfect fit.

E. Audio Input

Most electric earmuffs can also work as normal headphones. They feature an audio input port to connect to external devices such as your phone, a communication radio or MP3 player.

Note, however, that the sound quality in most electric earmuffs is average or worse. Don’t expect your earmuffs to sound as good as a dedicated pair of music headphones.

Best Ear Protection for Shooting: Top 5 Reviews

1. 3M Peltor SportTac Headset

3M Peltor SportTac is the best pair of earmuffs for shooting. They are more expensive than most other headsets, but they offer the best impulse noise protection and ambient sound amplification.

The Peltor SportTac has an SNR value of 26, meaning it reduces sharp sounds by an average of 26 decibels. This won’t completely block out the sound of a shot. Rather, you’ll hear the shot as if it has been taken from a safe distance away.

Sensitive microphones then amplify ambient sound so you can still talk to your hunting partner, hear the instructor’s voice or listen to sounds from the environment.

While most electric earmuffs struggle with wind noise, Peltor SportTac users say they did not experience any interference from too much wind noise. Somehow, the microphones are able to smooth out ambient sound for a more comfortable hearing experience.

The Peltor SportTac headset includes volume control to turn up or lower the level of ambient sound.

Though this is more for aesthetic rather than practical reasons, the 3M Peltor SportTac comes with interchangeable shells. If you choose the green headset, you’ll get an extra pair of orange shells in the package. The black option comes with spare red shells.

An audio jack lets you connect an external MP3 player or radio.

The Peltor SportTac headset runs on two AAA batteries that provide up to 600 hours of battery life, more than any other headset in our buying guide.

What we like about it:

  • Great noise protection and ambient sound enhancement.
  • Interchangeable shells.
  • 2-hour auto shut-off to save battery life.
  • Foldable for easy storage.

2. Howard Leight by Honeywell 1013530 Impact Sport Earmuffs

Howard Leight is a popular headset for shooting protection. It’s not as good as the 3M Peltor SportTac headset, but it’s a more affordable alternative.

That’s not to mean that these earmuffs are bad. With an SNR value of 25 dB, Howard Leight provides very good protection against impulse sounds. Gunshots sound as if they are coming from far away.

Be careful not to turn the volume knob all the way up as it can make gunshots a tad too loud.

Similar to other electric headsets, Howard Leight earmuffs come with built-in microphones that pick up ambient sound and amplify it.

It’s a bit of a strange experience hearing the crunch of leaves and gravel under your feet much clearer than you usually do.

Unlike cheaper headsets, Howard Leight does a great job limiting wind noise by recessing the mics. This makes it easy to talk with other people and listen to ambient sounds.

The Howard Leight headset has a slim profile that makes it comfortable. You almost forget it’s even there. The headband is adjustable and you can fold down the headset for easy portability.

Other features include an audio jack, auto-shutoff after four hours of inactivity and removable ear cushions that are easy to replace.

The Howard Leight earmuffs ran on two AAA batteries that provide about 350 hours of battery life.

What we like about it:

  • Great ear protection.
  • Sensitive mics make it easy to hear conversation and ambient sound.
  • Comfortable slim profile.
  • Includes audio jack.

3. Mpow 094 Electronic Ear Defenders

If you are looking for an even cheaper headset, we recommend the Mpow 094 electronic ear defenders.

The Mpow 094 headset has an SNR value of 26 dB, making it as good as pricier options when it comes to keeping out harmful noise levels.

Where the Mpow 094 earmuffs don’t perform as well is sound amplification. Ambient sound doesn’t come through as crisply as with other headsets. But you can still talk to someone and hear other important sounds.

Don’t bother trying to use the audio jack unless you really have to. Sound quality is terrible especially for music.

The Mpow 094 headset runs on a rechargeable battery rather than the usual AAA batteries. A full charge gives you about 30 hours of use. A USB cable is included for recharging the headset.

As for comfort, the Mpow 094 ear defenders feel great. The padding is soft and you can adjust the fit for your head size. We also love the thin, low-profile design of the ear cups.

What we like about it:

  • Volume knob to adjust level of ambient sound.
  • Good impulse noise protection.
  • Very comfortable.
  • Rechargeable battery – no need to keep buying new batteries.

4. Awesafe GF01+ Electronic Shooting Earmuff

Awesafe is another good choice if you are on a budget. It has an SNR rating of about 25 decibels, so it’s as good as other electric earmuffs.

When you take a shot, the headset automatically turns the volume down to protect your ears then reverts to normal volume.

A volume button lets you adjust how loud ambient sound and conversations are. But don’t turn the volume too high as it can cause wind noise problems.

The Awesafe headset feels comfortable on your ears with soft padding to prevent pressure. You can adjust the headband to get the perfect fit.

The Awesafe earmuffs fold down for easy storage. You can carry them around in the provided case.

As for power, Awesafe uses a pair of AAA batteries with a life of about 350 hours. A four-hour auto-shut off keeps the batteries from draining too quickly.

What we like about it:

  • Good noise protection.
  • Amplifies conversations and ambient sound.
  • Includes carry case.
  • Comfortable fit.

5. Awesafe GF01 Electronic Shooting Earmuffs

Awesafe GF01 is a slightly cheaper alternative to the Awesafe GF01+ headset reviewed above. Noise protection is as good as in the GF01+ headset.

The Awesafe GF01 also has mics to amplify conversation and ambient sound to a max of 82 dB.

Other shared features include removable ear cushions (makes replacement easy), automatic shut-off to prolong battery life, volume control, foldable design and adjustable headband.

The only major difference between the Awesafe GF01 and Awesafe GF01+ earmuffs is a carry case. The Awesafe GF01 doesn’t come with a case, which explains the slightly lower price.

What we like about it:

  • Low price.
  • Good noise protection.
  • Amplifies conversation and ambient sound.
  • Removable ear pads for easy replacement.

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