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.]