6 Holiday Ear Pro Upgrades: Gifts for the Shooter in Your Life
If you or the shooter in your life have spent any amount of time at the gun range, ear pro is probably already in your range gear collection. However, when it comes to really treating yourself to a better range day, improving your ear pro is one of the best things you can do.
Oddly, quality ear protection is something that often gets neglected. Many range goers put off upgrading their hearing protection for a really long time, opting instead for the most basic hearing protection. If the ear pro works properly, that’s just fine, but a nice set of ear pro can last you for years of shooting and improve every range trip along the way. So, today we are going to focus on some proven upgrades to the standard ear pro – ranging from improved plugs to some rock-solid electronic muffs and higher-end but affordable wireless ear plugs.
Upgrades don’t have to be exceptionally expensive to add more comfort, function, and enjoyment to every range visit. Each of our picks has been tested by Guns.com staff, and that’s why they made this list. Let’s jump in.
Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders
Starting at the most basic upgrade, the Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders roll in well below the $20 mark. There are no fancy electronics on these puppies, just the useful addition of a few things that most earplugs sorely lack. First, they incorporate patented EarLock retention rings that ensure the plugs stay exactly where they should be even during hard range days and movement. Next, they have a small, capped port in the plugs that can be opened to allow you to hear conversations without removing your hearing protection.
If you’ve used plugs before, you probably understand how annoying and sometimes dangerous it is to remove them and put them back in your ears over and over again. It’s easy to pull them out and miss the part where you put them back in before the range goes hot again. Not so with the EP3s. We also found the carry case useful, as plugs are notorious for getting dirty or lost on outdoor ranges.
Walker’s Razor Slim Electronic Muffs
A favorite among some of our Guns.com staff, we’ve put Walker’s Razor Slim muffs to the test for years as personally-owned ear pro, and they have proven to be quite robust after many fairly abusive range trips. These electronic muffs have omnidirectional microphones that allow you to hear commands and conversations on the range, which is fantastic if you are taking a shooting course. They also fold into a very manageable size, and the “Slim” in the name is a reference to the overall width of the muffs, which are designed to avoid bumping against the stocks of rifles when shooting.
Razor Slims require two AAA batteries. From experience, the battery life on these is quite generous and can survive multiple day-long range trips. Toss an extra set of AAAs in your range bag and you’re set for a lot – and we do mean a lot – of shooting. The microphones can occasionally pick up wind, but the on-off/volume dial is easily accessed and can be simply lowered to remove any unwanted noises.
Walker’s AM/FM Digital Muffs
This one would have to be the odd duck on our list. Still, Walker’s AM/FM Digital Muffs have proven useful in multiple instances when boredom was accompanied by loud noises for us. Yes, there are fancier Bluetooth headsets that would allow you to rock out at the range or your workshop to whatever music, news, or movie audio you want – more on that later. These are not going to do that. But they do offer the tried-and-true AM/FM stations.
We’ve tested these on the range, where listening to music while shooting isn’t normally a thing we do. But when it came time to cut the lawn, sand wood, or run the saw, these were equally handy at entertaining and protecting our hearing. We will note that the controls can be a bit easy to bump, which can change the station on you. But that also means you have to knock your head against something. Also, and it is glaringly obvious, that rather large antenna can poke into things and will not win you any fashion awards. The set is also much bulkier than the Razor Slims, so don’t think of these as tactical muffs.
Howard Leight Impact Sport
One of the most popular upgrades and a common sight on the range among experienced shooters, the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs are often a bit pricier than the Walker’s Razor line. However, they have an avid following, and you can expect to get years of value out of a pair of Impact Sport muffs.
Like the Walker’s Razor, the Impact Sport muffs improve your awareness on the range with sound amplification microphones that also block high-decibel sounds like gunfire. They also take two AAA batteries with a generous lifespan before replacing is necessary. From experience, we’ve seen these muffs go through years of hunts and range trips, and they're still kicking.
Pro Ears Stealth Elite Earbuds
If you want to take your upgrade to the next level, then wireless ear pro with Bluetooth capabilities is probably the way to go. Moving away from the classic muffs and upping the tech, we’ve been testing out the Pro Ears Stealth Elite earbuds for the last couple of months. They’ve been great for range trips because of their compact size and the option to use them on ambient or isolated audio settings.
They come with a recharging lanyard that is Bluetooth enabled, and multiple ear-insert options make it easy to customize these to your own ears. These are basically three products in one, with ear protection, Bluetooth audio, and even ambient noise amplification at your fingertips.
Caldwell E-Max Shadows Earbuds
Caldwell E-Max Shadows are Bluetooth-enabled buds that can swap between your Bluetooth audio and active audio from your surroundings by just holding down on either of the buds’ panels. The wireless bud panels can also control sound volume. One of our favorite features is the E-Max Shadows case, which can be used to recharge the buds while you’re out in the field or at the range. We get about 5 hours of charge from the ear pro and multiple additional charges from the case.
Plus, they have an auto-shutoff feature when not in use. The buds have stayed in place with reasonably hard use like barrier drills and provided good – not exceptional – audio quality that was perfect for the noisy range. The Bluetooth audio, while not as good as your higher-end, purpose-built headsets, is good enough for watching movies and even taking online meetings and calls.