Now Hear This!

Protect your irreplaceable assets
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Rifles Birchwood Casey

For rangework, Dave uses electronic earmuffs such as the eKrest model from Birchwood Casey while for hunting he likes Ear Shields. As a backup, he keeps a few sets of inexpensive earplugs in his day bag or pickup.

One of the nicest perks of this business has been the opportunity to meet writers whose work I’d long admired. It was a thrill to meet veteran writers — but a terrible disappointment to find in many cases we couldn’t carry on a conversation. Almost all were hard of hearing. Some were virtually deaf.

Now as an old-timer myself I have some hearing loss but as long as there isn’t too much background noise I get along fairly well. Most of my hearing loss came not from shooting but from summers on the farm, operating open tractors all day.

Although I knew enough to wear muffs when shooting, I didn’t wear them while hunting and no doubt those shots fired in the field without ear protection caused damage. I notice the younger generation of writers learned early to wear ear protection. Any hearing loss they incurred most likely came from loud rock music!

Rifles protective glasses

Protective glasses shield the eye against countless threats. These Birchwood Casey offerings are (left) Sighthawk Ballistic Shooting Eyewear and (right) Convert Three Lens Kit with interchangeable clear, yellow or tinted lenses.

Save What You Have!

The good news is, even for old timers like me, it’s never too late to protect what hearing you still have. The better news is with all the excellent hearing protection products we have today, there’s no need for youngsters to ever suffer hearing loss. For decades now I’ve never fired a shot without ear protection whether on the range or while hunting, and I still hear well enough, at least with my “good ear.”

Anyone who shoots a lot needs several styles of hearing protection. A casual hunter who fires five rounds a year to check his sights and two more to get his deer might find foam plugs adequate. Of course, if you’re reading this the odds are you are much more than a casual shooter. You probably spend considerable time at the range testing rifles and loads.

For such shooting I believe the basic, indispensable tool is a quality set of electronic muff-type hearing protectors — providing protection while letting you hear range commands. Since you can hear normal sounds, you’re less likely to take them off just as some guy two benches down lets loose with his short-barreled .300 Magnum.

Ear muffs

Even quality muffs will eventually show wear. If yours look like this, either replace the foam and the padding (if possible) or buy a new set.

Double Up

For range shooting I actually prefer both foam plugs and electronic muffs. Foam plugs are very inexpensive when bought in bulk and are surprisingly effective when used correctly. The idea is to roll them down between thumb and forefinger, insert in the ear canal, and wait a minute or two to allow them to expand and seal the canal. They should be considered one-time use only, not a hardship since they cost pennies.

I’ve used foam plugs alone while hunting. I’d carry a few in a handy pocket and put them in place if a shot seemed imminent. The only problem was if I was still hunting or tracking wounded game. In such circumstances a shot opportunity can come too quickly to stick in the plugs. Currently I use “Ear Shield” plugs for hunting — they’re light, compact, effective and still allow you to hear ambient sounds.

For extended shooting sessions I want larger, padded muffs since the bones around the ear canal can also transmit sound. The electronic types are absolutely worth the moderate additional cost. I’ve used such muffs for years, and it seems they keep getting better, lighter and less expensive.

Recently I’ve been using some eye/ear protective products from Birchwood Casey. Their eKrest electronic muffs are very well made, very effective, comfortable, and — with their carbon fiber construction — are lightweight and attractive. They run on two AAA batteries. They blocked the sound of gunshots very well; with normal level sounds such as conversation I could actually hear better with them than without.

A simple feature I like is their shape, tapering towards the bottom. Some muffs are bulky enough to hit the gunstock. With the eKrests there was no contact, whether shooting offhand, prone, or from the bench. With an MSRP of $49.99, eKrests are an exceptional value.

glasses

BC’s Universal Range Kit provides protection at a moderate price. To keep the cost down the muffs are non-electronic but nonetheless effective.

The “Eyes Have It”

Eye protection really deserves its own column. I’ve worn corrective lenses since about age 10 and can’t recall ever firing a shot without glasses. To see photos or video of people shooting without eye protection makes my blood run cold.
Actually, shooting is just one hazard to your eyesight. I once had a recoil plug get away while reassembling a 1911 pistol with a heavy recoil spring and the plug left a dent in the plaster ceiling. While riding a safari truck in Africa, the guide told me of a hunter who caught a thorn bush in the face and had an eye damaged. A nephew of mine got hit with a lure while fishing, the hooks digging into his face an inch from his eye.

Birchwood Casey offers several types of glasses, all of which meet the current ANSI Z.87 impact standard. MSRPs start at $8.99 for the basic model, $22.99 for the Convert Three Lens system and $24.99 for the stylish Sighthawk glasses.

Eye protection is an absolute must in so many circumstances. Try this simple experiment. Look at something you enjoy seeing, maybe a sunset or your infant daughter’s smile. Now shut your eyes tight. Which view do you like best? I thought so. Protect your eyes …

www.birchwoodcasey.com

www.howardleight.com

GUNS Magazine April 2019

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