By Nathan Shonts

When I first started shooting I knew just enough to know I needed to protect my ears. Somehow. So I went down to my neighborhood Wally World and picked up a $15 pair of muffs that I reckoned would do the job. Then I learned my lesson. While I was at the range, the left muff fell off and I was left with the bells of St. Mary’s ringing in my head for the rest of the day. Seriously, though, if you’re serious about shooting you need to be serious about your gear, but being serious doesn’t mean your gear has to be seriously expensive. Just seriously good . . .

And seriously good is what Howard Leight Impact Sports electronic earmuffs are. They’re equipped with two directional microphones — one on each ear — that let you hear ambient noise (think human speech) you while they block out any sound louder than 82 decibels (think gunshots). That means instead of screaming to your buddy that he just made a helluva shot, you can carry on a normal conversation and still protect your ear drums.

They have a standard RCA input jack so you can connect your phone and listen to tunes while you shoot. If you want to do that. For some reason. And they come in any color you want as long as you want olive drab.

While they’re about the best performance/value option out there for pistol shooters, there is a downside — like most over-the-ear hearing protection, they can interfere when you try to get a solid cheek weld on your long gun. The lower halves of the muffs are slightly tapered (the call them cut-outs) to minimize this, but your mileage, mounting position and noggin may vary.

And while they’re comfy and create a good sound seal to keep those decibels out, they’re naturally warmer to wear in hot weather than inside-the-ear options.

Bottom line: they work, they’re comfy and they’re awfully affordable for a quality electronic hearing pro option. With a street price around $60, they’re darned hard to beat.

Specifications:

Sound Amplification:        up to 3x
Battery life:                            350 hours
Automatic shutoff:             after 4 hours
Batteries:                                 2 AAA
Noise reduction rating:    22db
Weight:                                     10.5oz (with batteries)
MSRP:                                       $55

Ratings: * * * * *

Durability: * * * * *
I probably have close to 30 hours of use and have not had a single hiccup to date.

Simplicity: * * * * *
One knob to rule them all. Controls on, off and volume.

Functionality: * * * (* *)
I held back two stars because it really depends on what you will use them for. If you are a pistol shooter, look no further — these are perfect. If you’ll be shooting long guns, you’ll want to make sure they don’t interfere with your cheek weld.

Overall: * * * *
You won’t go wrong with these, even if you just buy them for handgun shooting. Great ear protection at a great price.