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What Safety Gear Do I Need?

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

(Included as part of our more comprehensive Gun Safety 101 article).

Female shooting instructor pointing at target in indoor range.

Everyone knows that guns are loud, and wearing ear plugs or earmuffs while shooting has become widely accepted common sense. However, protecting the eyes is overlooked more often than not, and the extent to which noise can still be damaging to the ears is frequently misunderstood.

Let's start with the ears. Although there are a number of things that can make a gunshot quieter (shooting outdoors, the type of muzzle device, length of the barrel, type of ammo, type of gun, etc.), none of it is hearing safe. In fact, even in an ideal scenario of shooting outdoors with an excellent silencer and subsonic ammunition, it's still very likely too loud to shoot without hearing protection.

OD Green CZ Scorpion SBR with CGS MOD-9 Silencer and Red Dot
Subsonic 9mm through a great silencer? Yep, it'll still make your ears ring. Ask me how I know.

Generally speaking, some of the only guns that can achieve truly hearing-safe levels are SOME of those chambered in .22LR, coupled with CERTAIN silencers. As technology develops, there will be exceptions, but to this day it's very difficult to get below that dangerous noise threshold. To make matters worse, many types of hearing protection won't reduce the noise level enough to prevent hearing damage with louder firearms or indoor ranges. In particular, earmuffs -- especially since things like glasses and head shape can prevent a good seal around your ear.

While earmuffs can be very practical, convenient, and offer many more features...believe it or not, those cheap little foam ear plugs are superior to any earmuff on the market in terms of actual reliable hearing protection. The good news is that you can take advantage of both!

Most experienced shooters have figured out that they can "double up," or wear ear plugs beneath a set of electronic earmuffs. The plugs provide the bulk of the hearing protection, and the electronic earmuffs add even more while also doing a fantastic job at piping in external sounds at safe volumes, greatly enhancing your situational awareness and ease of communication with others. It's definitely the smart way to go for any shooter.

Disposable foam ear plug hearing protection
Foam ear plugs. Not Cheetos.

Now we'll move on to the often-forgotten eye protection. A lot of shooters will unfortunately go years without wearing any sort of ballistic-rated shooting glasses, right up until they feel their first piece of shrapnel hit them in the face. There's nothing like a bit of sharp metal narrowly missing an eye to make you reconsider your safety choices.

You may wonder why there would be shrapnel flying at a simple shooting range, but it definitely happens. A big culprit is steel targets that have been positioned too close to the shooter, resulting in shreds of steel and bullet bouncing back at you.

Other causes include certain malfunctions in your own firearm, certain ammunition, and of course a catastrophic explosion of the gun (it can happen). Unfortunately, it really doesn't take much to do permanent damage to an eye.

Finally, many shooters take advantage of gloves, and will avoid open-toed shoes or loose-fitting clothing. These are a little less self-explanatory and can be more a matter of preference than absolute necessity. However, some guns (looking at you, AK-47) can scrape or pinch a finger, burn a hand, or with some pistols even draw blood if your hand is in the wrong spot while firing. These are rare occurrences and generally pretty minor, but gloves are hardly a bad idea if you do a lot of shooting on a regular basis. As for the fitted clothes and closed-toed shoes, many ranges actually require these to prevent hot brass casings from flying somewhere it shouldn't. Lethal? Probably not, but nobody wants to stand near a shooter with a loaded gun while they desperately try to fling scorching hot brass out of their shirt.

Lucky for you, we've already done the research on which products work best! You can find the highly rated and highly effective eye and ear protection that we love to use ourselves in our store.


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