I haven’t changed my mind. I still love my Walker’s Razor Slim Electronic Ear Muffs (see my review here). However, when I shoot rifles or shotguns, the Ear Muffs are not the easiest option for protecting my hearing.

Recently this was pointed out in painfully clarity. Unfortunately it happened to my wife, Frances. She was shooting a rifle we were reviewing and was using my Walker’s Razor Slims.

Unnoticed to me or Frances, when getting a good cheek weld on the rifle, the muff slipped up and when she touched off the round it blasted her right ear. She had tinnitus for sometime afterwards.

The same has happened to me in the past and I’ve tried to avoid this with using additional foam plugs in my ear canals.

In January, at the Dallas Safari Club Convention, Frances and I had the opportunity to interview Jack Homa of Electronic Shooters Protection about their ESP electronic ear plugs. Needless to say, my interest was piqued, and shortly after getting back home to Georgia I sent Jack results from a hearing test and ear impressions – both supplied by my audiologist.

Ten days later a pair of Stealth ear plugs arrived in my mailbox.

 

 

At the range

There are two crucial requirements that electronic hearing protection — muffs or plugs — must fulfill. First, they have to block out damaging sound frequencies. Second, they must allow the shooter or hunter to hear quiet conversation from guides or companions as well as game movements.

As I stated in the video, when I inserted the Stealth ear plugs and turned them up, I could easily hear normal conversations. My question was whether they would block out damaging decibels when shooting at the range or hunting.

I took my Walker’s muffs along with me for my first outing to my gun club. I needed to complete a review of a Daniel Defense PDW and could not afford to find out that the ESP Stealth plugs sucked without a fallback.

The first round I touched off through the 300 Blackout PDW was accompanied by an involuntary wince. The sound didn’t hurt, but I was definitely ready for the effect of the lack of full-coverage (as provided by my Walker’s ear muffs) to let in painful sound.

The Stealth ear plugs didn’t let such sound through. However, Daniel Defense equips their PDWs with a linear compensator to direct muzzle blast away from the shooter, so that may have helped.

That thought came to me about the time my range buddy, positioned two benches to my right, touched off a round with his muzzle brake-equipped rifle. The shock wave pushed against my face, but my ear heard only a low boom.

He actually kept apologizing throughout the morning for the noise he was making (with all four of his similarly-equipped rifles), but I assured him that he was helping me test the ear plugs I was using. The range work with the PDW included a lot or rounds down range, with the ESP product worn throughout.

Needless to say, I was relieved that the ESP Stealth electronic ear plugs came through.

My next opportunity to use the STEALTH ear plugs came when Frances and I headed to the Government Training Institute’s ranges near Barnwell, South Carolina. This was where Frances experienced the problem with the Walker’s Ear Muffs. I, on the other hand, found the ESP products able to handle a very different environment.

We had a stiff wind blowing most of the day, but I was able to hear Frances’ comments when she called my shots

The two rifles being tested that day were both equipped with muzzle brakes, but the extreme decibels were quelled whether standing next to Frances to call her shots or shooting the rifles.

They just work

As a hunter, especially one who mainly hunts with shotguns or rifles, I was particularly interested in how the ESP Stealth ear plugs would perform when I went after game. My chance for this final test of the Stealths came recently when I hunted quail with my host and friend, Keane Phillips. Keane is a member at Dorchester Shooting Preserve near Savannah, Georgia.

Cutting to the chase, when out hunting at Dorchester, I could hear not only my guide Jeff’s sotto voce directions, but also Keane’s low chuckles as I missed time and again. What I did NOT hear were the damaging frequencies from Keane’s or my shotguns.

I could also hear the friendly yaps of our companions.

The price tag of the ESP Stealth ear plugs is not inconsequential. The MSRP is $2100 (they have other models that range from $900 to $2400). But the custom-molded fit, the quality of sound they produce along with the capacity to hear people and game while providing excellent hearing protection make this a good example of a ‘pay once, cry once’ accessory.

If I went cheaper, I would worry that I would risk my longterm hearing or lose the capacity to hear the voices and natural sounds at the range or the hunting field.

 

Mike Arnold writes for a number of outlets; links to other articles can be found here.

[All photos and video courtesy of Frances Arnold, Keane Phillips and Mike Arnold.]

 

25 COMMENTS

  1. I am an occasional shottie shooter. I’ll keep my ear plugs & earmuffs(oh and they have gel cups for those Razors that aren’t 2000bucks(!)). They “seal” pretty well…

  2. Very nice if you can afford them or can get an “amigo” deal.

    However…gonna need another “stimulus” check to even consider a pair of these.

    Think I’ll stick with my 3M Peltor Sport Tactical 500 muffs and Moldex soft green foamies for the time being. This combination does not appear to be further damaging already blasted ears (thanks to US Army, law enforcement and heavy equipment).

  3. Michael A, Barnwell, SC. I have friend that lets me kill his turkeys over by Allendale. Ever eat at Duke’s?

  4. Do these earplugs simply block noise infiltration? Or do they block noise AND employ active sound cancellation?

    • I’m not aware of *any* hearing protection with active sound cancelling that would be meaningful for shooting. These are the usual passive protection, active amplification but boy do they try to play it up in their product description:

      “The enhanced intelligent algorithms identify unwanted background noises without suppressing the sounds you want to hear, protecting your hearing from noises over 90dB”

      Translation: If it’s over 90dB they won’t amplify it, if it’s under they will amplify it. “enhanced intelligent algorithms”, lol

  5. Things that don’t suck. I am going to replace the barrel on my 1911 with a drop in match. As we know each barrel manufacturer claims they’re that best. Any suggestions/ I prefer a chrome moly over stainless.

  6. I personally HATE muffs and was really interested….right up until the MSRP showed it’s ugly face. Good Lord are they proud of them things!!😳

    • That they are, but, what we can hope is that the price comes down as the technology is developed.

      Electonic muffs used to be super expensive. Now one can get a pair that works for under $100.

      These’ll be the same with any luck. I can still see custom fit being a premium, but the price will come down.

      • Walker’s makes a few in that ~$100 range that are very usable (at least the couple I own are excellent). I presume with these ESP ones the sound quality is higher, but honestly I’ll take the Walker’s at 95% less.

  7. Foamies and a set of $30-40 30NRR muffs are what i use, works well. $2,100 is too much to spend on something i cant shoot, drive, or screw.

  8. Muffs protect against bone conduction. Plugs don’t, even if they’re $20k and cover every micrometer of your ears.

  9. Foam ear plugs (PROPERLY USED AND INSERTED) offer up to 33dB protection. Put a quality pair of active ear pro over them (I prefer PELTOR COMTAC) and you have the best of both worlds.

  10. My wife has suggested more than once that I consider hearing aids. And as a concealed carrier, I want something that lets me hear quiet sounds and blocks loud noises like gun shots. The ESP Stealth product sounds like the best of both worlds.

    Hearing aids don’t do anything to reduce noise volumes. There are non-prescription non-medical device hearing amplifiers that increase sound levels and some limit the amplification of loud sounds — but it is not clear how well they limit loud sounds from reaching the ear. Etymotics makes some of these and has a good reputation for sound isolation. Hearing aids cost about $2k, amplification devices are $500-600. Should the amplification devices not attenuate loud noises sufficiently, the ESP device may be the best choice.

  11. “Needless to say, my interest was peaked…”

    “Needless to say, my interest was piqued…”

    The second one sounds the same whenever spoken, but looks better whenever written.

  12. I hate earmuffs for shooting too, but not so much when working with loud machinery. Thing is, earmuffs interfere with a good cheek weld when I’m shooting and then get knocked off my right ear by the gun’s recoil. So, sometimes I wear both earmuffs and earplugs. I like the idea of ESP Stealth earplugs, but for $2,100.00, sheeit!

  13. I like my OTTO Noize Barriers under $400.
    Outdoor range they are good.
    Indoor range NOT so good, i still use the foam plugs and muff combination.

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