Tips to Make Sure an Optic Fits Your Pistol

Tips to Make Sure an Optic Fits Your Pistol

One size does not fit all when it comes to mounting a red-dot or reflex optic on a pistol. Bases on aftermarket units are not necessarily identical—so-called footprints—and the pattern milled into the slide of guns made to accept them varies by manufacturer, sometimes model. Adapters and plates remedy the conflict, but the number of incorrect combinations is dizzying. I contacted the experts and firearm and optics companies and asked for some tips to make sure the optic fits on your pistol. 

A semi-automatic pistol designed to accept an aftermarket red-dot sight has a combination of grooves, dimples or lugs milled into their slide. Its appearance, size and configuration are often company-specific, proprietary, and on only rare occasions mates perfectly with the footprint of popular aftermarket optics. Manufacturers that make handguns for that purpose address conflicting profiles by providing a selection of adapter plates. The approach is today’s most efficient method of mounting.

Tom Victa, pistol product manager for FN America explained (full interview here), “FN’s optics-ready FN 509s feature our patented Low-Profile Optics Mounting System, which has everything users need to mount most pistol red-dot optics straight out of the box, including a handy reference guide to tell you what MRD insert and screw set go with which optic.”

Smith & Wesson Senior Director of New Product Development Tony Miele said the company uses the Competition Optics Ready Equipment mounting system (you can read his complete explanation here). Purchase a C.O.R.E. model and, “Six mounting plates are supplied with the pistol that accommodate many of the popular optics for sale,” he said.

Glock cuts its slides for the company’s Modular Optic System. “We include an adapter set with every MOS [except Slimline models] that has four different plates to cover the vast majority of pistol optics offered,” according to my interview with PR and Communications Manager Brandie Collins. “If an optic does not fit, then the manufacturer typically provides an adequate plate. Slimline does not come with adapter plates and are specific to some of the new micro dots for narrow profile CCW pistols.”

Dimensional Analysis

The systems perform flawlessly at countless competitions annually and the advantages of lightning-fast target acquisition haven’t escaped the notice of self-defense enthusiasts. The setup is increasingly common on concealed carry guns. But which is best?

Each function flawlessly and come highly recommended by the experts. Victa, reminded that, “FN created the first factory red-dot pistol 15 years ago, so we know a few things about mounting red dots on pistols.” Most optics mount quickly and efficiently he said, and the company’s “… system allows for interchangeable steel recoil bosses and reduces overall height and weight for optimal performance.”

Collins added, “Glock is the number one selling pistol brand and has given a large focus on MOS.” There are 10 commercial models currently available.

Other Options?

You can also purchase a new slide or have a current one machined to anchor without adapter intervention. Rival Arms, a Texas-based firm with an enviable reputation for that service, explained by e-mail, “We offer two different optic cuts, RMR and DOC. The RMR cut, as you can imagine, is the same optic cut as the Trijicon RMR sight and will also work with other optics that follow this footprint (Trijicon SRO, Holosun 507c, Swampfox Kingslayer, TruGlo TRU-Tec Micro RMR variant, etc.). The DOC refers to Docter Optic footprint/set screw pattern, which is compatible with the following popular sights: Vortex Viper & Venom, Burris FastFire, etc.”

Optic-ready slides are available. “Currently we have three different footprints, the RMR, RMRCC and the Shield RMSC,” a Brownells gunsmith who asked to remain nameless responded. “The RMRCC and RMSC cuts are on the G43 and 48 slides. The RMR on 17, 19, 26 and 34 slides. Leupold DeltaPoint and Burris Fastfire are in the works and should be available second quarter [of this year].” As for which profile is currently most popular, he said the RMR because, “…there are other companies that use that footprint, so a person isn’t tied to a specific brand of optic.”

Failsafe Tips to Make Sure an Optic Fits Your Pistol

Regardless of your approach, the experts agree enthusiasts should check your preferred optic’s footprint, compare it to the slide cut or adapters provided and, when in doubt, contact customer service to ensure your purchase is the right one.

[This article originally appeared in NRA’s Shooting Illustrated magazine, and after deadline I received more information and here are links to comments provided by Leupold and Bushnell. Photo courtesy of Smith & Wesson.]

 —Guy J. Sagi has crafted the words and images that capture the spirit of the outdoor sports and beauty that surrounds them for magazines, websites and marketing materials for more than three decades.

Mounting a Bushnell Optic on Your Pistol

I caught up with Matt Rice, senior public relations manager of Bushnell recently, and asked him about mounting Bushnells on pistols. More importantly, we addressed the confusion over all the different footprints available.

GJS—In your experience does the footprint/adapter/slide cut situation seem slightly confusing to enthusiasts trying to mount an?

MR—Overall, I think the process of selecting, mounting and sighting in a red dot for most firearms owners is a fairly easy task. For those new gun owners or first-time users the process might seem a little more challenging. At Bushnell, we try to make the process as simplified as possible by providing you with the tools and instructions you’ll need when you buy the optics plus providing additional support through our website, Customer Service center and social media channels.

GJS—Do your optics come with adapters for mounting to most or all major handgun slides cut for mounting a red-dot or reflex sight?

MR—Depending on the type of red dot that you purchase, the associated mounting plate, adapter or riser is included with the optic. When specifically talking red dots that mount via a pistol slide cut versus a picatinny or weaver-style rail, our newest models, the RXS-100 and RXS-250 are configured on the Delta Point Pro footprint. This means that they will only be compatible with pistol manufacturers that offer that mounting plate. As pistol mounted red dots have grown in popularity, a large majority of firearms manufacturers now offer models that are shipped with multiple mounting plates (like the S&W M&P C.O.R.E). This essentially make the pistol optics ready, allowing the owner to correlate the right mounting plate with the red dot footprint(s) they own.  We (Bushnell) typically always include an additional mounting method such as a riser that will allow the red dot to go on a pistol or rifle with accessory rails so you have multiple options for use.

GJS—Can you tell me how many adapters/plates that is, or slide profiles (and you may have them as accessories I just overlooked on the website. If so I apologize.)?

MR—At the current time, all of our pistol mountable red dots utilize the Delta Point Pro footprint or can be attached to the firearm through the use of a Weaver low-rise mount.

GJS—Any reason you don’t mill the optic with integral footprints/bases that just go into each of the manufacturer’s preferred cuts in the slide (yeah, that would be stupid expensive and tough on inventory, but I’m looking for a quote, sorry)?

MR—Essentially what has happened is the reverse. Footprints are largely set on the design specifications of the red dot. So, firearms manufactures, wanting to make their pistols compatible with the largest number of optics, offer mounting plates that fit into the precut slide. This provides a firm attachment point for the red dot, helping it stay secured under recoil and in several cases being able to co-witness with the pistols standard sights.

GJS—What are the most popular mounts/slide cuts out there?

MR—Popularity has changed over the years. Currently, there has been a growing interest in the micro red dots for smaller, compact pistols. But overall, I would say the offerings lean towards Docter, C-more, RMR, Jpoint, and Delta Point Pro in no particular order.

[You can read comments from other experts in the field here.]

 —Guy J. Sagi has crafted the words and images that capture the spirit of the outdoor sports and beauty that surrounds them for magazines, websites and marketing materials for more than three decades.

Bond Arms as Home Defense Weapons

From Bond Arms

Bond Arms builds the smallest, most powerful personal protection pistols in the industry. Every day people trust their lives and security to these modern derringers for personal defense. At home, some folks hang up their holster in favor of a shotgun or carbine for protection. However, a compact yet powerful pistol is often the best choice for a home defense weapon (HDW). Here are five reasons for choosing a Bond Arms pistol for home security.

Consider this; the best home defense weapon is the one you have with you. Using a CCW for home defense means it’s with you wherever you go. A concealed weapon is less likely to escalate a situation than a shotgun or rifle in a confrontation at home, yet it is ready in a split-second should things intensify. Whether you’re in the house, garage or yard, a compact pistol deploys quickly and is always at your side.

Training with a single weapon system for personal and home defense ensures proficiency under both extreme stress situations. Bond Arms derringers’ break-action design is easy to load, shoot, and reload and doesn’t jam like the more complicated semi-auto and pump-action firearms. When the bad guy kicks down your door, rest assured knowing a Bond Arms pistol will fire when you pull the trigger.

All firearms in the Bond Arms family are small and agile—a vital consideration for moving within a house’s close confines. Long-guns, on the other hand, are cumbersome and can disclose an occupant’s position. Despite their short barrels, Bond Arms pistols are accurate and deliver precise shots at home defense distances.

Pistol cartridges are less prone to over-penetration within the home and are superior to rifle cartridges in most cases. Another safety consideration is firearm retention during a struggle. Criminals can quickly overtake a homeowner wielding an awkward long-barreled gun but retaining a pistol and using it a point-blank range turns the tables on the aggressor.

Bond Arms chambers barrels in powerful cartridges including 10mm, .45ACP, .357 Mag, 9mm Luger, .45LC/410 bore shells and many more. Ammo makers load an assortment of self-defense projectiles for these cartridges. So, whether loaded with hollow-point bullets or buckshot, impacts from a pistol-length barrel are equally devastating as from their long-barreled cousins from across the room.

Mounting Optics on a Smith & Wesson

I asked Tony Miele, senior director of new product development at Smith & Wesson about mounting optics on a Smith & Wesson pistol recently. He wasn’t very talkative, but explained a little more about the company’s C.O.R.E. system.

GJS—Is the cut on your slides for optics compatible with other systems on the market or do enthusiasts need to purchase your adapter/plate to mount a red dot?

TM—The plates are supplied with the gun.

GJS—If other units can be used, is there anything owners of your optics slides need to watch for or keep in mind (offshore knockoffs, etc.)?

TM—Not that I’m aware of.

GJS—Is there an advantage to your system over others on the market?

TM—Six mounting plates are supplied with the pistol, that accommodates many of the popular optics for sale.

[You can read comments from other experts in the field here.]

—Guy J. Sagi has crafted the words and images that capture the spirit of the outdoor sports and beauty that surrounds them for magazines, websites and marketing materials for more than three decades.

FN Optics-Ready Pistols and Mounts

I recently interviewed Tom Victa, FN America pistol product manager, and asked him about FN optics-ready pistols and mounts.

GJS—Is the cut on your slides for optics compatible with other systems on the market or do enthusiasts need to purchase your adapter/plate to mount a red dot?

TV—FN’s optics-ready FN 509s feature our patented Low-Profile Optics Mounting System, which has everything users need to mount most pistol red dot optics straight out of the box, including a handy reference guide to tell you what MRD insert and screw set go with which optic. Whether you’re new to optics-ready pistols or coming from a different platform and want to upgrade to an FN 509, you have everything you need in the case to transition to your FN setup right away.

GJS—Is there anything owners of your optics-ready slides need to watch for or keep in mind?

TV—We believe there are many great pistol optic options available out on the market and even more coming soon, but they are all a little different.  This is why we developed the patented mounting system, so as the user you can mount up most optics with everything that comes with the pistol regardless of your optic preference.

GJS—Is there an advantage to your system over others on the market?

TV—FN created the first factory red dot pistol almost 15 years ago, so we know a few things about mounting red dots on pistols.  With the FN 509 Tactical and MRD models, we took a fresh approach to mounting an optic to a pistol.  Our patented Low-Profile Optics Mounting System allows the user to direct mount the most popular red dot pistol optics straight to the slide.  The system allows for interchangeable steel recoil bosses and reduces the overall height and weight for optimal performance.  FN lead the way for factory red dot optic ready pistols and continues to drive forward the with FN 509 Tactical and MRD pistols.

GJS—Is there anything you’d like to add to help dispel confusion on plates/adapters/footprints?

TV—We developed our system to do exactly that–dispel any confusion. With our optics-ready pistols and patented optics mount, we eliminate much of the guess work for the customer. Want to mount a Trijicon RMR? No problem, you have what you need in your case. Deltapoint Pro? Same story. As a customer who may be new to pistol optics, we wanted to create a system that was easy to use and flexible to offer the most versatility in optics. Just grab that handy quick setup guide, find your correct plate and screw set, and away to the range you go in just a few minutes.

[You can read comments from other experts in the field here.]

—Guy J. Sagi has crafted the words and images that capture the spirit of the outdoor sports and beauty that surrounds them for magazines, websites and marketing materials for more than three decades.

Leupold Optic Pistol Mounts

I recently interviewed John Snodgrass, Leupold tactical product line manager, about options available to enthusiasts looking for Leupold optic pistol mounts.

GJS—The DeltaPoint Pro has become a huge success for Leupold, but does it ship with the hardware for mounting on a handgun?

JS—The DeltaPoint Pro is not shipped with a mount due to the multitude of differences from pistol manufacturer to pistol manufacturer. This helps keep the cost to the consumer down so they’re not being charged for mounts they wouldn’t necessarily need. Leupold does sell individual mounts to match with specific manufacturers’ firearms that use the rear sight dovetail to mount the DeltaPoint Pro. Most pistol manufacturers that produce “Optics Ready” pistols provide adapter plates with the gun that match the most common red dot sight footprints. The DeltaPoint Pro is compatible with any adapters that specify the J-point (or DP-Pro) footprint.

GJS—What about your micro version?

JS—The newly released DeltaPoint Micro is designed to mount on specific firearm models and therefore does include the necessary mount and hardware to install the sight on those specific models.

GJS—The footprint/adapter/slide cut situation seems slightly confusing to enthusiasts trying to pick and mount an optic. Is there a way enthusiasts can alleviate the confusion, like calling customer service or is there a Leupold resource on the web they can refer to?

JS—This definitely can be confusing as there are several differing footprints depending on manufacturer. As mentioned…most optics-ready pistols are provided with the necessary adapter plates to fit most common footprints. The customer that purchases a DeltaPoint Pro for a non-optics ready pistol can find the appropriate mount through our website under the Mounts category.  https://www.leupold.com/shop/mounts/series/deltapoint?p=2. Should there be any confusion our product experts in the technical services department can be reached by e-mail or phone to assist.

[You can read comments from other experts in the field here.]

—Guy J. Sagi has crafted the words and images that capture the spirit of the outdoor sports and beauty that surrounds them for magazines, websites and marketing materials for more than three decades.

Pistol Optics Mounts Available at Brownells

There’s no lack of confusion when it comes to mounting red dot or reflex sights to a pistol. I recently asked a gunsmith at Brownells about this and pistol optic mounts available at Brownells.

He asked that his name be withheld, a request we’re honoring. For this short piece his answers come after the GS (for gunsmith) letters.

GJS—How many different cuts/footprints are available in slides from Brownells?

GS—Currently we have three different footprints. The RMR, RMRCC, and the Shield RMSC. The RMRCC and RMSC cuts are on the G43 and 48 slides. The RMR on 17, 19, 26, & 34 slides. Leupold Delta point and Burris Fastfire are in the works and should be available second quarter [of 2021].

GJS—Which cut/footprint is the most popular in your opinion?

GS—I’d say the RMR footprint is the most popular from what we see. Big reason is that there are other companies that use that footprint so a person isn’t tied to a specific brand of optic. Also the size makes it pretty easy to custom install on most guns. Not to mention the RMR and Holosun have really good reputations for durability.

GJS—Do you think there’s some confusion when enthusiasts select a slide for mounting optics?

GS—There is. I think a lot of that comes from the optics companies using their own footprint and not really doing a good job of explaining to the customer what it mounts to. Not to mention that every year there seems to be a new optic and new footprint so it becoming more difficult to keep them straight.

[You can read comments from other experts in the field here.]

 —Guy J. Sagi has crafted the words and images that capture the spirit of the outdoor sports and beauty that surrounds them for magazines, websites and marketing materials for more than three decades.

Mounting an Optic on a Glock

I had the opportunity to ask Brandie Collins, public relations and communications manager for Glock, a few quick questions to clear up footprint confusion for readers interested in mounting an optic on a Glock. The company’s Modular Optic System (MOS) addresses much of the frustration in an elegant manner.

GJS— Is the cut on your slides for optics compatible with other systems on the market or do enthusiasts need to purchase your adapter/plate to mount a red dot?

BC—We include an adapter set with every MOS (except Slimline models) that has four different plates to cover the vast majority of pistol optics offered.  If an optic does not fit, then the manufacturer typically provides an adequate plate.

GJS—If other units can be used, is there anything owners of your slides need to watch for or keep in mind?

BC—Not really however, as mentioned, the slimline MOS models vary as they are new on the market.

GJS—Is there an advantage to your system over others on the market?

BC—Glock is the number one selling pistol brand and has given a large focus on MOS (10 commercial models) to the market that it is in the best interest of optic manufacturers to prioritize their products to Glock pistols.

GJS—Is there anything you’d like to add to help dispel confusion on plates/adapters/footprints?

BC—If your optic does not fit using a Glock adapter plate, I recommend reaching out to the optic manufacturer as they will have an adapter plate. Slimline does not come with adapter plates and are specific to some of the new micro dots for narrow profile CCW pistols.

[You can read comments from other experts in the field here.]

—Guy J. Sagi has crafted the words and images that capture the spirit of the outdoor sports and beauty that surrounds them for magazines, websites and marketing materials for more than three decades.

Expert Advice on Hearing Protection for Shooters: Interview with TETRA Hearing

I recently interviewed Dr. Bill Dickinson, co-founder and CEO of TETRA Hearing, and asked him to dispense some expert advice on hearing protection for shooters. Here’s what the audiologist with 29 years of experience had to say.

GJS—What are the major advantages of a shooter using electronic hearing protection?

DBD—Electronic hearing protection is mostly all about the hearing side and less about the protection side. A finger tightly sealed in the ear canal or a foam plug does an adequate job of protecting, but it also does a perfect job of creating a poor listening experience. Hence, combining an amplifier with the protection was supposed to create a better listening experience, and it did 20 years ago. The problem is that until TETRA, most of the electronic circuits on the market are using low-end amplifiers, that is literally 20-year-old technology. TETRA uses a very high-end, premium sound system and is fully committed to creating an exceptional listening experience whether on the range or in the woods, and then fully protect at trigger pull. We only use the very same sound processing chips used in high-end hearing aids, so TETRA provides the ultimate and most natural hearing experience on the market.

GJS—Without diving too deep into the technology, how does electronic hearing protection let conversations and range commands pass?

DBD—In short, amplification circuits in general are capable of separating loud sounds from softer sounds and can process those inputs differently. Basically, soft inputs get amplified the most and as the sound input increases, the amount of amplification decreases. The more channels or bands of sound processing, the better a circuit can target desirable sounds and separate them from undesirable sounds.

It is best to think of this in music. You can have a single singer with no instruments and you turn the words up or down in volume since it is just the words. Add in a guitar and now you have to balance between the guitar and the singer, or one will drown out the other. Now add in drums, and bass guitar, and backup vocals….The more input requires more balancing of each input, so that everything is balanced. If the drums are turned up too loud, it will drown out or distort all the other inputs. All of this balancing is done with multiple channels or bands to manage the different sounds.

It’s the same thing processing in an amplification circuit. Everyday life on the range or in a hunting situation has multiple different sounds at multiple different loudness input levels. If you only have one or two channels of sound processing—like almost all electronic shooting protection— then all sounds are combined in one or two channels and it all gets distorted. However, if you can separate all incoming sounds of different frequencies and different loudness levels into multiple bands, then you can control the sound processing in each of those bands to have a balanced output in the end… just like a song on the radio. TETRA has 12 or 16 channels/ bands of sound processing, which is what allows the output sound to be highly monitored and controlled.

GJS—Is there clipping or filtering involved, and if so it the blocked noise determined by frequency or loudness?

DBD—As in the above channel description, yes there is a ton of filtering going on to get the appropriate sounds in the specific frequency bands and then there is sound being limited by different ratios in each band, but in TETRA we do not just peak clip sound. Peak clipping causes significant distortion, so we do significant processing to slowly reduce sound before it is limited, thus no distortion in the final output.

GJS—Does that filtering begin with the microphone and is there an advantage to more than one mike?

DBD—From a technical standpoint, filtering occurs in a pre-amplifier, not a microphone. Most single or two channel systems do not even incorporate a pre-amplifier or if they do, it only makes gross filtering—like all bass or all treble.

Two microphones make a big difference in separating location of different sound inputs—like speech in front and noise somewhere else around us. In this case, two mics do separate noise (back/side) from speech (front) since we are almost always positioning the speech of what we want to hear in front of us. Unless, like in a car scenario with a driver/ passenger and we can dedicate a mic arrangement from getting sound on the side.

For shooting protection, two mics serve no additional benefits —other than for the manufacturer who can sell it for more money perhaps!

GJS—Should shooters be concerned about battery life?

DBD—After 29 years in the hearing industry, I see hearing aid battery life as a non-starter. Batteries are easily accessible and inexpensive and last 10 to 20 days each and easy to replace. In 29 years, I have yet to see any consumer advantage or disadvantage across various battery life scenarios.

GJS—Getting a good cheek weld with some electronic hearing protection when shouldering a rifle is a real challenge. Does your company have models that address the problem?

DBD—TETRA absolutely removes this issue for the shooter. We were dedicated to creating a fully in the ear design to overcome this very issue.

GJS—Do you recommend doubled up with foamies when using hearing protection, say for example when shooting a .50 BMG at a firing line with a metal roof? 

DBD—Short answer is yes. There are multiple variables tied to needing double protection, but yes this example above is very much spot on for when double protection is needed.

A significant benefit with TETRA in a double protection scenario is that you can amplify the soft speech from using a TETRA in the ear, as well as double protection. This has been a tremendous benefit for the shooting community.

GJS—Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?

DBD—In short, protecting the ear does not and should not be associated with creating a poor listening experience—lets call it what it is, a crappy listening experience. Hearing protection doesn’t have to suck!

Extending that thought process, in terms of range safety, there should be some minimal baseline criteria for minimal hearing ability. Being able to monitor range environment via hearing is a major component to keeping a range safe, or taking instructions from a shooting instructor or range officer. Take an average mild or moderate hearing loss and put in foam plugs or non-electronic earmuffs is basically creating a deaf shooter—and most shooters have much more than a mild hearing loss. Good communication is mandatory for creating a safe range environment.

Not only does TETRA not create a significantly hearing-impaired shooter but providing exceptional amplification, we also customize true hearing ability for the TETRA user by custom programming for each ear. This is the exact same process that occurs with expensive hearing aid purchases.

Additionally, good and effective hearing is mandatory for proper instruction, which is much bigger part of gun ownership than ever before. As well as what was expressed before about proper head and cheek position.

I interviewed more experts on today’s hearing protection for shooters. Here’s what they told me.

Expert Advice on Hearing Protection for Shooters: Interview with AXIL Hearing Performance

I recently had a chance to interview Wes Harris, Founder and CEO of AXIL Hearing Performance who’s been in the business for 26 years. I asked him for his expert advice on hearing protection for shooters.

GJS—What are the major advantages of a shooter using electronic hearing protection?

WH—Maintain situational awareness, 360-degree hearing and that competitive edge in all your shooting activities, while protecting the hearing you have at the same time! 

 GJS—Without diving too deep into the technology, how does electronic hearing protection let conversations and range commands pass through while blocking the dangerously loud report of a firearm

WH—Modern electronic and digital technology allows the simultaneous advantage of enhancing your hearing to hear the desired sounds around you, i.e. range commands, general conversation and the detailed sounds you need to maintain the edge in your sport, while automatically compressing the loud sounds that bombard your ears/hearing.

GJS—Is there clipping or filtering involved, and if so it the blocked noise determined by frequency or loudness?

WH—Electronic hearing protection works on ‘clipping’ the top of the loud sounds to make them less damaging. Digital technology ‘filters’ or ‘compresses’ loud sounds, by actually converting physical sound waves entering your ears into digital code, which can then be changed to be an entirely different sound via the program that has been programmed into the digital circuitry—this is the absolute best hearing protection you can buy.

GJS—Does that filtering begin with the microphone and is there an advantage to more than one mike?

WH—Additional ‘filtering’ is available through directional microphones on various ear pro devices to help filter the oncoming sounds through the use of two microphones. This is helpful for larger ear devices, i.e. ear muffs, etc. but is not needed for small in-the-ear hearing and protection devices.

GJS—Should shooters be concerned about battery life?

WH—There are several great options on various ear pro for satisfactory battery life, i.e. hearing aid batteries for small in ear devices, AA or AAA batteries for ear muffs, rechargeable lithium batteries in the lanyard for new electronic earbuds are the main options that work well.

GJS—Getting a good cheek weld with some electronic hearing protection when shouldering a rifle is a real challenge. Does your company have models that address the problem?

WH—AXIL Custom Edge Series (Custom 360 is most popular and absolute top of the line in the field)

GS EXTREME Earbud is the most cutting-edge earbud available and for a great price. GS Digital gives all the advantage of digital and small in the ear for a very affordable price. All above 3 models and styles have 0 interference with cheekweld as all ear muffs do. These options are also far more comfortable to wear daily without the bulk of the earmuffs.

GJS—Is the decibel reduction about the same in all electronic hearing protection and how much of it is determined by the seal/construction of the ear muffs?

WH—Good hearing protection ranges between 20-30 dB Noise Reduction Rating- the higher the number the better the protection. There are a few options that go as high as 31-32 but 20-30 is the general range.

Many ear muffs do not seal the ear adequately and leave space for unnecessary exposure to sound. Getting a proper seal on ear muffs or in ear products is everything to getting great hearing protection. Well fit, great sealed in ear protection gives you the best seal available and therefore the best hearing protection. Sealing the ear canal off is the first and most important level of hearing protection you should always focus on.

GJS—Do you recommend doubled up with foamies when using hearing protection, say for example when shooting a .50 BMG at a firing line with a metal roof?

WH—If you are shooting indoors with concrete or metal surroundings make sure to seal the ear canal off properly and then doubling up with ear muffs on top of that is always a good idea to have the highest protection possible.

GJS—When selecting a set of electronic hearing protection, what are the most critical ratings they should look for?

WH—There are two types of hearing protection:

1. The physical blocking of your ear canal to minimize oncoming sounds. This is rated as the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) which means the amount of dBs the physical plug minimizes the oncoming sounds by. Make sure your ear pro has 20-30 dB NRR- the higher the better.

2. If it’s electronic or digital hearing protection, then when sounds come out of the hearing device, you want them to be limited to a max of 85 dB to protect your hearing. This essentially is the technology shut off level. So just look and make sure you can see at what sound level by dBs the technology will shut off at- there is not a rating for this- just a number to watch for. 

GJS—Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?

WH—There is a long floating misconception that the bigger the ear pro and earmuff, the better the protection and that ear muffs give the best protection. We constantly see ‘The Top Ten’ Ear Pro of the Year and it’s all ear muffs that are listed.

The path of least resistance is where the greatest exposure to the inner ear happens and thereby damage to the cochlea/inner ear occurs. The absolute best and most critical hearing protection is to seal the ear canal off. Properly fit in ear protection is the best there is, then if you have extreme situations, i.e. large calibers, indoor shooting ranges, etc. and you have sensitive hearing, then doubling up with ear muffs gives added, excellent protection.

Then pay attention to the two types of hearing protection-see above-Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)- preferably between 20-30 dB NRR and then the Technology Shut Off-, preferably around 85-90 dB. Then add the features that you want, i.e. volume controls, push buttons, Bluetooth audio, type of battery, type of fit, lanyard, etc. to your ear pro and you will have ear pro that will last you a long time and you will be happy with and get the advantage of great hearing and hearing protection in all your shooting activities. 

Plus, if you need hearing aids for hearing loss and daily hearing aid wear, you can now get them with hearing protection built in, so you have the best hearing aids and hearing protection money can buy and have the best hearing system on the planet through custom fit in ear and behind ear hearing aids with protection.

I interviewed more experts on today’s hearing protection for shooters. Here’s what they told me.

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