And Your Auditory Assets Too
By John Connor
From The January/February 2009 American Handgunner Issue
It’s true; I admit it: I’m a fanatic about eye and ear protection. But if you’re gonna be a zealot about something, protecting your peepers and preserving your auditory assets ain’t a bad obsession. For me, one close call was enough: having my unprotected eyes punched full of high-velocity grit from a round impacting a plastered mud-brick wall in front of me, blinding me for several minutes and scratching my corneas. And hearing? Like most infantry combat vets and cops who’ve busted caps in enclosed spaces, I’ve already got enough hearing loss and don’t want any more! Huh? What?
With eye and ear protection, I practice a sorta “pyramid plan,” with lots of cheap foam earplugs and low-end range glasses on hand, mostly for friends, family and other forgetful folks. That’s the base. At mid-pyramid are inexpensive but effective “passive protection” ear valves and muffs, and daily-wear sunglasses built to meet or exceed ANSI Z-87.1 specs for ballistic resistance. At the pyramid’s top are “active” sound-amplifying gunshot-suppressing electronic devices and dedicated premium shooting glasses.
I recommend this approach — but you don’t have to run out and buy a buncha stuff today. Just get yourself some protection right now, and have a plan for building that pyramid, okay? Here are some examples of protective gear that’s Good To Go!
All Sports Glasses Infinity Blues
These “Infinity Blues All Sports Glasses” from Walker’s Game Ear are serious range protection for under ten bucks, and their multi-lensed “Optical Quads,” listing at $49.95, combine fashion with multi-function.
Walkers Game Ear IV
For hunters, Walker’s Game Ear IV offers protection plus high definition amplification and power boost control in a unit you can wear comfortably for hours in the field.
Power Muff Digital Quads
Walker’s premium Power Muff digital Quads have four receivers, full volume controls, and give the user ability to fine-tune boost to fit individual hearing needs. You can tune `em up to where you’ll hear empty brass clinkin’ forty feet away while suppressing gunshots with a 24dB Noise Reduction Rating. The sound quality is superb, and positioning of the four receivers assures 360-degree pickup of ambient sounds and suppression from any angle.
Who needs military-spec impact resistant goggles? Two thirds of you readers live in either tornado, hurricane, flood or earthquake areas. Ask folks who were in Katrina’s path if they coulda used `em. My two favorites are these ACE Tactical Gogglesfrom Blackhawk! and Revision Eyewear’s Desert Locust. You can get `em now, or the day after you need `em – maybe.
Wiley-X Climate Control
With their removable “Facial Cavity Seal,” Wiley-X Climate Control glasses can do double-duty as goggles too. Prescription wearers note: Wiley-X offers 44 prescription-ready frames and 15 lenses – you select the frame, give `em your prescription and they do the rest!
Eye Armor M300
Live Eye Wear specializes in safety glasses which fit over your prescription specs, like these Eye Armor M300’s. Precise sizing for every noggin and all frames is available in most of their designs.
Ray-Ban DOWN & Ray-Ban flipped UP
Here’s Uncle John’s favorite: Ray-Ban makes lots of sports frames, and your optometrist can optimize your prescription for best focus on front and rear handgun sights plus targets out to distance. Ray-Ban’s flip-up polarized shade is held in place by small powerful magnets rather than failure-prone clips.
Oakley Half-Jacket XLJ Array
Issued worldwide to elite military units, Oakley’s Half Jacket XLJ Array is a sleek, stylish multi-lens system including clear, smoke and amber Plutonite lenses. They block 100-percent of UVA, B and C rays and provide military-level impact protection. I found them very comfortable and effective.
Revision Eyewear’s Hellfly glasses are sporty-stylish and tactical-tough, available in several different frame colors and lenses. They weigh just one ounce, but meet or exceed both ANSI Z-87 and military impact resistance standards. There’s a frame color and lens for everyone — the “Khaki Camo with Flame Lens” is my daily-wear choice — and the women of the Connor Clan say they have high CDI and TC Factors (those are the “Chicks Dig It” and “Tacti-Cool” ratings). Prescription lenses are also available.
Howard Leight folder Impact Sport 1 or Impact Sport 2
Howard Leight’s electronic Impact Sport range muffs are fold-up, slim profile and very light both in weight and wallet-impact. These battery-operated puppies boost normal sounds up to 8X, and do a great job of suppressing gunshots. Check the price and you’ll be surprised — then check the performance and you’ll be amazed!
RO1538 Quiet Band
The Quiet Band by Howard Leight looks kinda goofy, but it’s very comfortable and effective. Unlike corded designs, these will park right around your neck and stay put when the plugs aren’t stuck in your ears.
RO1517 Leight & RO1521 Airsoft
At the base of your pyramid, keep lots of disposable earplugs like these from Howard Leight around. The corded, flanged earplugs aren’t expensive at all and very handy too.
Genesis shooting glasses by Howard Leight offer adjustable temples and lens inclination, a ventilation channel between frame and lenses, and anti-fog coatings on four lens color choices. These Espresso’s also meet ANSI Z-87 and military impact standards.
Yo, music lovers! These AM-FM Radio Range Muffs from Howard Leight let you rock out while you’re sighting in. Toggle back and forth between AM and FM, and don’t worry — they’ll protect you from yourself: The radio won’t exceed 82dB and damage the hearing you’re trying to protect!
SureFire Folder: EarPRO
If these SureFire EarPro EP-3 and EP-4 Sonic Defenders had been around for my first combat tour and years as a cop I might have escaped hearing damage and loss. I was initially extremely skeptical of their ability to allow normal noise and conversation levels to be heard while blocking noises like gunshots — with no electronics. I put `em in and literally crept up to a firing line foot by foot, testing them, right up to where I could feel muzzle blast. Hours of comfortable use later, I was convinced. You’ll find a sizing guide at www.surefire.com and more info on them. I keep two pair handy all the time.
EP450 (Fox Ears)
EP450-A Fox Ears by SureFire are right on top of the protection pyramid. They’re costly, listing at $780, but shrinking this level of technology down to where it fits comfortably in your ears ain’t a cheap proposition. Using digital compression technology, Fox Ears amplify low background sounds by as much as 22dB, and suppress dangerous sound levels by up to 29dB. These low-profile, soft hypoallergenic polymer plugs can remain in place while you’re wearing a hat, helmet, headphones — even while using a phone. They can also be custom-tuned to your particular needs and level of hearing damage by a qualified audiologist. If your hearing damage is significant — or, if you’ve escaped hearing damage so far — you really need to check these out.