Once you start making regular pilgrimages to your gun range, you’ll quickly find that the extra cans most ranges supply leave something to be desired. Cleanliness, for one thing. I mean, nobody sits around making sure the earmuffs you pick up are free of sweat, body oils, Brylcreem, or for that matter, head lice. (Yeeeck!) You’ll also find that while cans are great for protecting your hearing while shooting, the very thing that makes them keep loud sounds out, keep you from hearing things like people talking next to you, instructions from the range master, et cetera. Of course, necessity being the Mother of Invention (the late, great Frank Zappa notwithstanding), inventors came to the rescue with earmuffs designed with stereo mics and a limiter function that allows any sounds under 85dB to be heard, while anything above is clamped down.
Technological solutions are usually good news. That is, until you find out what a little slice of tech heaven costs. Mic-enhanced cans can run upwards of $150 smackers per pair. So it was with a great deal of enthusiasm that I discovered Caldwell’s entry into the fray, the E-Max Electronic Earmuffs.
Caldwell, one of Midway USA’s “house brands,” markets a growing line of reasonably-priced accessories for shooters. The latest product in their stable is a set of Electronic cans that are low-profile in design, and sell for a lot less (around $25 retail) than the competition. They join the standard-profile set that Caldwell has marketed for several years.
Electronic earmuffs are not rocket science. Cups, mics, some electronic circuitry, a volume-on/off switch and a battery or two, and you’re good to go. The circuitry functions as a limiter, and the volume control sets how loud the sounds that are allowed through, will sound in your ears. Fairly simple stuff. The trick is, do they work? I mean, I don’t care how reasonable the price is, if they don’t work, they are useless.
I can report, happily, that the Caldwell cans work just fine, thank you very much, and work every bit as well as their more expensive brethren. (Which makes you wonder who’s buying all those models that cost four or five times as much.) Why low-profile? Turns out, you may find the standard-profile cans a bit bulky, especially if you’re shooting a rifle or shotgun. Why buy the regular profile model? Well, if you need the extra protection, the standard profiles reduce the sound by 25dB, while the low profiles cut it down by 23dB. Keep in mind, there’s nothing stopping you from wearing foam earplugs AND cans, which is actually a pretty decent solution, if you’re packin’ a .50 cal Desert Eagle or some similar canon.
I’ve owned several pair of Caldwell standard-profiles for years. I’ve found them to be effective, durable, and reliable. Like any electronics gadget, however, the mics can stop working. That’s when you either have to rely on a manufacturer’s warranty or treat the gear as disposable. If I’d dropped $150 for a set of “deluxe” cans, I’d be some kinda ticked if they bailed on me. But even at $25, I was admittedly a little disappointed when one of my three sets of Caldwell’s died. However, I learned there’s a huge advantage to be had when buying from Midway USA. I don’t know if it’s that they stand behind everything the sell, or that they go the second mile on things that they make themselves, but one phone call later, I had a new set of Caldwell cans on the way to my house, at no charge. Now THAT’S service. This, by the way is not an isolated experience…I’ve had occasion to call Midway USA a second time, for a defect in a range bag – again, they replaced the merchandise without a hitch. Good customer service is hard to find, now-a-days. Midway USA understands.
If you shoot indoors, Electronic cans are almost a necessity, especially once you go in for meets, IDPA or IPSEC shoots. Outdoors, they are a huge help. If you want a set of earmuffs that won’t break your budget, you can’t go wrong with the Caldwell E-MAX Electronic Earmuffs.
Caldwell E-MAX Low Profile Electronic Earmuffs (NRR 23dB) Green
Product #: 774928
List Price: $29.99
Sale Price: $24.99
Caldwell E-MAX Electronic Earmuffs (NRR 25dB) Green
Product #: 348524
List Price: $25.99
Sale Price: $22.49
My take: Electronic earmuffs are a must-have accessory for comfort when shooting at the range. Caldwell offers great cans at a great price, with great service to back ’em up. What’s not to like?