Hearing protection is not the sexiest topic under the sun but keeping your hearing intact is incredibly important. Suffice it to say, people that spend time with firearms (as well as those who grow old!) are naturally more prone to hearing loss.
That covers most of us.
I’m always looking for a better product and have experimented with all manner of plugs and digital electronic protection devices.
I don’t particularly like plugs because I find them too intrusive. I’ve come to the conclusion that good old-fashioned muffs (with noise reduction technology) combined with a foam plug are the most comfortable and effective solution.
There are some caveats to this formula. The design on some of the sets can be bulbous and get in the way of a rifle stock. Thus, when you’re on the range and the design isn’t ergonomically correct, it can shove your ear off the muff, thus defeating the purpose.
I hate it when that happens.
Enter the Peltor Sport Tactical 500. Manufactured by 3M, it combines technology with comfort. In addition to providing noise suppression technology it also picks on the ambient sounds thus allowing one to converse ‘normally’. This model also has Bluetooth. (What doesn’t have Bluetooth these days?)
Thus, you can even take a phone call or listen to music, a podcast or Presidential speeches. Listening to broadcasts or answering my phone aren’t particularly important to me while I’m at the range but if they are to you, voila, you’ve got that feature available.
To get up and running with this product simply pry open the lid to the battery chamber, load a couple of AAs and you’re off. Peltor also offers a Li-ion battery pack so that you can charge the unit but it’s only available through Amazon and of course is extra. (It’s a proprietary item–you can’t just add AA sized Li-ion batteries).
To turn on the system simply press the triangular ‘on’ button on the right hand muff. To turn on the Bluetooth just press the cover (with the Bluetooth icon down) long enough to hear the little digital voice tell you that it’s on.
To adjust the timer on the ‘suppression system’ you press the Bluetooth button and the on/off button simultaneously and you’ll hear a robotic female voice tell you that the “setup menu adaptive suppression timer is on”. It sounds like something from Star Trek. If you forget, the system will shut down all the electronics automatically after two hours.
I had a chance to really test out the noise suppression technology the first day out at the range. To my undiluted pleasure (and no doubt to other range-goers) some sadist brought his S&W Magnum 500.
It was painfully loud to the point where you could feel the concussion. When this special person commenced, the bench emptied around him. I wish I could say the Peltor 500 was able to obviate all the noise but this device has its limitations.
Under ‘normal’ circumstances, with the usual 9mms and 45s that populate the range, this system worked very well and as alluded to above, I was able to carry on a conversation and hear the rangemaster.
The Peltor was comfortable to wear.
The ‘cups engulfed’ my ears securely without being a nuisance. It was a wee bit heavier than I’d like but not onerously so.
For those who need or want Bluetooth, the technology worked quite well. I tested it at home (in tandem with my cell phone) and was able to listen to a “Freakonomics” podcast and even took a phone call from my friend Louie. The quality of sound was crisp and clear.
My conclusion: The Peltor Sport Tactical 500 is quality gear from 3M–a firm known for manufacturing first class products. It’s comfortable, has better than average sound suppression and everything functions the way it’s supposed to. Price is as little as $114 on Amazon (which rates it at 4 1/2 stars. If you don’t need Bluetooth, you can purchase the Sport Tactical 300 model which has incrementally less hearing protection and is approximately $50 less.