For about 6 months or so, I have been using the new Opsmen Earmor M31 electronic earmuffs for most of my time spent at the range, after first seeing them used extensively during one of AZTEC Training Services‘ Larry Vickers course. Opsmen was founded in early 2016, but the Earmor design has been around for a number of years, as I can see it is in service with many Asian law enforcement and some military units. I was told they had been doing the OEM for those before establishing the Opsmen brand. For the purpose of the article, I will be comparing the Opsmen Earmor M31 to the super popular Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic earmuffs, which I own two different sets.
The Opsmen Earmor series is a compact electronic earmuff and is priced under $100. In addition to the M31 model, there is the PTT microphone equipped M32 model for use with your communication gear, and the helmet mounted variants of both models. My version 1 M31 model weights in at 11.4 ounces with 2x AA batteries, which is just 1 oz. more than the Impact Sport. The Earmor headband models are priced under $50 and the helmet mounted models starting at $75.
Two features that the Opsmen Earmor has that clearly stands out from the Howard Leight Impact Sports are: the ear pads and headband are more comfortable due to having better padding, and more importantly, the Opsmen Earmor is water and rain resistant with a IPX5 rating. According to the IPX standard, the level 5 means it offers protection from 6.3mm spray of water (12.5 liters per minute) in any direction for at least 3 minutes. Here’s a Youtube video of the IPX5 testing in a controlled environment. Because of its thick soft ear pads, the headband on Opsmen Earmor doesn’t need to have as much clamping force from the headband as some other earmuffs on the market. That translated to more comforts and you can wear it for hours.
While it has good protection for rain and dust, the Opsmen Earmor series is not water submersible (that’s IPX7 and above) rated. So, don’t go scuba with it.
Front profile of the Opsmen Earmor M31. The Opsmen has thicker cup units than the slim Howard Leight Impact Sport, probably due to the M31 thicker padding, its individual horizontal battery compartment on each cup, and the environmental sealing needs more space.
The Earmor and the Impact Sport are both using a similar analog sound clipping technology. The sound reduction for gun fire is about the same for both, although I feel the Opsmen maybe marginally better probably due to its physically thicker ear cups. Both have the same 22 dBA sound reduction rating. On a technical note, the Impact Sport is known to use the active sound control to get its rating. That works by generating an anti-noise that has an opposite wavelength to the sound that the earmuffs received. Although it’s a mature technology that commonly used in heavy industry and aviation, but for firearm hearing protection it works on some but not others. The supersonic crack of a fired bullet has a extremely short duration and it’s very loud comparing to the constant humming of jet engine, rotor wash or heavy machinery. The Howard Leight Impact Sport is letting noticeable more sound through when it’s off or with dead battery. While I don’t know if the Opsmen Earmor M31 uses the active sound control or not, but it performed the same with its electronic on or off.
One area that the Impact Sport is better is in sound quality with less background noise, amplify speech and environmental sounds to a higher volume, as well as having more amplification levels. Opsmen told me that their audio quality trade off is mostly because of their water resistant microphones and cost that they made the M31. Sure, there are some waterproof electronic earpro with great sound quality but those are usually cost hundreds more.
The Opsmen Earmor has a 360-degree sound pickup pattern with the following sound attenuation data:
|Test Freq.||Mean Attenuation||Standard Deveation|
|125 Hz.||17.7 dB.||3.1 dB.|
|250 Hz.||19.1 dB.||1.9 dB.|
|500 Hz.||24.7 dB.||2.3 dB.|
|1000 Hz.||29.6 dB.||2.3 dB.|
|2000 Hz.||30.1 dB.||3.2 dB.|
|3150 Hz.||37.6 dB.||3.2 dB.|
|4000 Hz.||40.0 dB.||3.4 dB.|
|6300 Hz.||41.7 dB.||2.7 dB.|
|8000 Hz.||40.5 dB.||3.1 dB.|
The ear pad and foam cushion used on the Opsmen Earmor series are waterproof. Those soft textured pad feels significantly better than the smooth rubberized pads used on the Impact Sport. The controls on the Earmor M31 are consist of 3 rubber buttons. Press on the center power button and a loud beep comes on to signify it’s on. Press that center button again, the beep sound comes on again before the Opsmen turns itself off. The “+” and “-” volume buttons work the same. However, there are only 3 volume levels. Which, I wish it has more with perhaps an additional level in between the three.
The battery compartment in each ear cup are secured with a tethered metal cap. The aluminum thread where the cap screws on to is brass coated to prevent thread binding. Although lacks an O-ring, the battery compartments are sufficiently sealed against water spray or rain. On the Howard Leight Impact Sport, the battery compartment has no sealing at all and its door is just a flimsy piece of plastic that it keep popping off when I dropped my set on hard concrete floor at the range.
Because of it’s sealed design, the ear pads on the Opsmen Earmor M31 is not user replaceable. On the Impact Sport, the ear pads are just held together by couple of plastic tabs and you could take them out for replacement or upgrading to a set of gel pads. Opsmen is now offering headband covers with even better padding or ventilation mesh, and in various colors for the Earmor series. Those headband covers are made to be general fitting and should also work on the Howard Leight Impact Sport, as well as any earmuffs with a similar size headband.
A compact folding design, the Opsmen M31’s ear cups could be folded inside of the headband to father reduce the overall size. The construction of the unit seems to be well made and I have no issue with it in my 6-months of usage. On the otherhand, my two set of Howard Leight Impact Sports all developed reliability issue within a year. The first set stop sound clipping completely right after six months of use. Howard Leight gave me a warranty replacement set without problem, but after a year of use that set developed a random slight delay in its sound clipping. Just enough to hear tiny bit of the crack of the bullet before the sound clipping kicks in. Opsmen is new to the US market, but so far my Earmor M31 set is holding up just fine.
Shwell, our newest contributor, is using his new Opsmen Earmor M31 in FDE at the Big 3 East range facility. He has the latest M31-V2 version which has some small design changes externally and it’s now priced the same as the Howard Leight Impact Sport, at around $40 on Amazon.
All of the Opsmen Earmor models come in three colors: Foliage Green, Dark Earth and Tactical Black.
The Opsmen Earmor electronic earmuff is also available in the helmet mounted versions as the Earmor M31H and M32H models. The PPT microphone equipped M32H is shown in picture.
Opsmen Earmor M31 Electronic Earmuff specification:
Noise reduction: 22 dBA (NRR22)
Weight: 11.4 oz. with battery
Power: 2x AA battery
Battery life: 250-350 hours w/ 4 hour auto-shut off
Audio adjustment: 3 level
Sound Clip off: 82 dBA
Audio Input: 3.5mm jack (PTT microphone on the M32 version)
Water resistant: IPX5 rating (rain and splash proof)
Warranty: 1 year
Price: $40 +/- on Amazon