Expert Advice on Hearing Protection for Shooters: Interview with Champion Range & Targets

Expert Advice on Hearing Protection for Shooters

I recently interviewed Will Hemeyer, senior product manager for Champion Range & Targets. I asked him specifically about hearing protection for shooters. Here’s what he had to say.

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

WH—One of the key advantages of electronic hearing protection over passive hearing protection is surrounding sound can be amplified while harmful impact noises are not.  So, when using electronic hearing protection you are able to hear what is going on around you.  Most electronic hearing protection also has settings where it will amplify sounds so if you are using them in the field you can usually hear more than if you didn’t have hearing protection on at all. 

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—The actual circuitry of the electronics is designed to keep loud noises over 85dB from processing through to the speakers while any sound under 85dB is amplified.   

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

WH—There are really two main types of technology that are being used. You have clipping that will cut off all electronic sound, which are typically found on the lower end electronic hearing protection. Then you have compression technology that will compress any sound over a certain level so the lower dB sounds still come through. Compression technology is typically found on the higher quality products.

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

WH—Clipping and compression is done in the circuitry. The big advantage to more than one microphone is the units are able to give you a more 360-degree sound if two or more multi-directional microphone are being used.

GJS—Should shooters be concerned about battery life?

WH—Battery life is one thing that you should always care about. It is more of a hassle if you are in a range session and your batteries die. Typically most units on the market anymore have really good battery life and they also have a program in the circuitry that turns them off after a set amount of time. This is a very useful feature, as many users forget to turn them off and throw them in their range bag. If they didn’t have the auto-shutoff the next time they went to the range they would have to replace the batteries.

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—The Vanquish line was specifically designed to maintain optimal cheek weld without the units interfering with the stock.  The Vanquish line was designed from the ground up for the shooting sports knowing that we needed to find the perfect combination for shooters that provided unparalleled comfort, minimum interreference with cheek weld, top-notch sound quality and really good NRR ratings. 

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—This is really dependent on the shape and construction of the hearing protection. You will typically get a higher NRR in bigger bulkier hearing protection. The slimmer the hearing protection typically the lower the NRR rating.

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—For maximum protection I would double up with foamies with any over-ear hearing protection. This is especially true when shooting at in-door ranges, if I am going to be around a lot of rifles with muzzle breaks and loud pistols and this is where electronics really come into play because you can amplify the other sounds at the range.     

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

WH—There are a number of things that I look for and it really comes down to personal preference as people weight their requirements different. First and foremost to me, is if they are not comfortable, do not fit right you are not going to use them like you should. So making sure they are comfortable for an extended period of time and fit without the seal breaking in you intended position is very important. NRR is very important also. Always look for hearing protection that has the highest NRR value and meets your needs. Other important things to look for are the type of microphones and speakers. An omnidirectional microphone will pick up more sound around you versus a directional mic that pics up in the direction it is pointed. The speakers are important to give good clean natural sound so you will use them more than at just the range. I use my Vanquish Pro Elites on airplane flights because they have Active Noise Cancelation so I can connect to my phone or iPad and cancel out all surrounding noise. 

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

WH—We noticed that there really had not been a lot advancement in electronic hearing protection over the years. A lot of the product on the market has been an industrial hearing protection that has been adapted to work with the shooting sports and marketed to shooters. With the Vanquish line we started from zero to design a line of hearing protection for shooters by shooters. We knew that there were limitations with the overall shape and design of the ear cup and many shooters have issues when shouldering with their stock hitting their hearing protection, so we made the unique Vanquish design that minimizes this contact. We used many competitive products and were not thrilled with the sound quality, so we partnered with a factory that had produced high-end consumer electronics to be able to get the best sound quality possible. We also knew comfort was very important, so we are using premium materials to maximize comfort for shooters. 

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 Howard Leight Shooting Sports

Expert Advice on Hearing Protection for Shooters

Not long ago I interviewed Josh Lantz, from Traditions Media, which works with Howard Leight Shooting Sports. I asked him about hearing protection for shooters and dispel some confusion about the technology involved, and provide a great explanation as to why enthusiasts should consider an electronic pair.

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

JL—As opposed to passive means of hearing protection like foam earplugs or standard muffs, electronic hearing protection includes an amplification feature that allows wearers to hear and even amplify ambient sounds. The primary advantages of this feature are the ability to conduct conversation, hear range commands, or hear approaching game.

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? 

JL—Electronic hearing protection combines passive sound attenuation—either and over-the-ear muff or an in-ear plug—with analog or digital circuitry to compress or “shave the peaks” off dangerous sounds above a certain level. These models employ external microphones, internal speakers and a gain adjustment, allowing the user to hear surrounding sounds at normal or even louder-than-normal levels. When a dangerously loud sound (over 82dB for Howard Leight electronic earmuffs) is detected, the circuitry cuts off the amplification to the speakers inside the earcups until the noise returns to a safe level. During this period where amplification to the internal speakers is cut, the passive design of the muffs or plugs is what delivers the noise reduction, just as standard (passive) earmuffs or foam plugs do.

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

JL—Different manufacturers employ different technologies in their electronic hearing protection devices. These may include low-pass and high-pass filters that filter certain frequencies, along with various forms of compression which automatically adjust gain.

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

JL—Yes and yes. Many mistakenly refer to the amplification control on their electronic hearing protection as “volume,” but the adjustment settings really control “gain.” The difference is where the sound coming through the internal speakers is being regulated…not at the internal speakers themselves, but through the external microphones. Think of gain as controlling or regulating the sound entering into the microphones. Having a microphone for each ear allows for stereo sound, which gives the wearer better situational or directional awareness.

GJS—Should shooters be concerned about battery life?

JL—Battery life in electronic hearing protection varies widely. Analog circuitry provides longer battery life (up to 350 hours in Howard Leight analog models—Impact Sport and Impact Pro) than digital circuitry (up to 150 hours in Howard Leight digital models—Impact Sport BOLT). Models with Bluetooth connectivity greatly reduce battery life. People commonly forget to turn their muffs off, so Howard Leight electronic hearing protection models come with a 4-hour auto shutoff feature to preserve battery life. All Howard Leight models also include batteries.

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?

JL—Howard Leight’s popular 22 NRR Impact Sport and Impact Sport BOLT electronic earmuffs employ a slim ear cup design plus recessed cutouts that provide even more stock clearance when shouldering a firearm. Shooters should always select a hearing protection product with an NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) that matches their specific firearm and shooting conditions. They should realize that Noise Reduction Rating in over-the-ear muffs is largely determined by the size/volume of the ear cups. Slim and sexy is great, but the greater the volume/size of the ear cup, generally, the greater the attenuation. Howard Leight uses patented Airflow Control technology to maximize sound attenuation while minimizing ear cup size.

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?

JL—As previously mentioned, ear cup volume largely determines NRR. That said, materials, technologies and additional design factors can be employed to maximize NRR in a given ear cup size. I can’t speak for any other manufacturer, but at Howard Leight, the replaceable ear cushions that snap into their electronic muffs are integral to the earmuffs’ performance. This is something shooters should be aware of. If they replace or modify their cushions with aftermarket products, they are altering the design of the product, which may have negative impacts on performance with respect to NRR.

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?

JL—You’ve just described one of the loudest shooting situations possible. Shooters in this situation should employ hearing protection offering the maximum available NRR. That may mean Howard Leight Super Leight Foam earplugs which when used properly offer a 33 NRR, or Howard Leight Impact Pro electronic muffs, which deliver 30 NRR. Doubling up is also advisable in this situation, but shooters should be aware that “doubling up” with foamies under muffs does not result in a total NRR of both products. For example, wearing 33 NRR plugs under 30 NRR muffs does not result in a total NRR of 63. Realistically, one can expect to gain an additional 1-5dB of NRR, which still amounts to a significant increase in protection. Because sound intensity doubles every 3dB, if “doubling up” results in 3 more dB of protection, that still means twice the protection!

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

JL—Definitely NRR. It’s the performance rating system used in North America (and many other parts of the world) that appears on the packaging of every hearing device sold. Price, comfort and convenience regularly impact shooters’ hearing-protection buying decisions. Too often, however, performance—the variable that matters most—is not given adequate consideration. The best thing you can do—certainly with any new shooter—is give them the highest NRR available, so they are comfortable and enjoy the sport more. The higher the number, the better the product protects. There is a huge difference between a NRR of 23 and a NRR of 29. Remember that sound doubles every 3 dB, so a product with a 29 NRR is actually 200 percent better than a product with a NRR of 23. There are also considerations to be made based on what and where someone is shooting. For example, certain firearms produce more sound than others. A high-powered rifle that produces a peak of 158 dB is going to be 600 percent louder than a .22 cal. rifle that produces 140 dB. Shooters should make hearing-protection decisions accordingly. The shooting environment matters, too. Indoor shooting produces a lot of reverberation and covered outdoor shooting can be just as bad. Sound has nowhere to go in these environments. For louder firearms or indoor or covered shooting situations, Howard Leight’s Impact PRO electronic earmuff (NRR 30) or foam earplugs (up to NRR 33) are the smart choices.

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

JL—This is the golden age for shooting sports. We have great products that employ wonderful technologies and designs to improve our experiences. But this is also the age of counterfeit and deception. Every day, products flood into the USA that are cheap imitations that often do not perform as advertised. My advice when it comes to buying electronic hearing protection is to always buy a reputable brand, whether that is Howard Leight or another top, trusted brand. My second message is to hunters. We don’t usually lose our hearing while shooting at the range, we lose it in the waterfowl blind and other hunting scenarios, because for some reason we still don’t wear hearing protection when we take to the field. There are no more excuses. Today’s electronic hearing protection choices allow us to protect our hearing while maintaining the social aspects of hunting as well as our ability to hear approaching game. 

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

Electronic Hearing Protection for Shooters

Electronic Hearing Protection for Shooters

The technology built into electronic hearing protection ensures firing-line safety and comfort, yet somehow manages to squeeze casual conversation and range commands through at audible and even enhanced levels. I asked the experts what kind of wizardry is at work in today’s electronic hearing protection for shooters.

“Electronic hearing protection works on ‘clipping’ the top of the loud sounds to make them less damaging,” explained Wes Harris, founder and CEO of AXIL Hearing Performance, who speaks with unusual authority on the subject [Complete interview is here.]. His company has produced cutting-edge models for the past 26 years and, along the way, he’s launched his own chain of hearing clinics fully staffed by audiologists, established others for pharmaceutical companies and developed more than 50 hearing aid systems.

“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 an entirely different sound via the program that has been programmed into the digital circuitry,” he explained when pressed on the subject. “This is the absolute best hearing protection you can buy.”

Circuitry employed by the battery-operated units isn’t necessarily created equal, either, according Will Hemeyer, Sr. Product Manager for Champion Range & Targets [Full interview is here.]. “There are two main types of technology that are being used,” he explained. “You have clipping that will cut off all electronic sound, which is typically found on the lower-end electronic hearing protection. Then you have compression technology that will compress any sound over a certain level, so the lower dB [decibel] sound still comes through. Compression technology is typically found on the higher-quality products.”

Josh Lanz is a team member at Traditions Media—marketing agency for Howard Leight Shooting Sports—whose passion for educating enthusiasts about hearing protection shows [Full interview is here.]. “Electronic hearing protection combines passive sound attenuation—either over-the-ear muff or an in-ear plug—with analog or digital circuitry to compress or ‘shave the peaks’ off dangerous sounds above a certain level,” he explained. “These models employ external microphones, internal speakers and a gain adjustment, allowing the user to hear surrounding sounds at normal or even louder-than-normal levels. When a dangerously loud sound (over 82 dB for Howard Leight electronic earmuffs) is detected, the circuitry cuts off the amplification to the speakers inside the earcups until the noise returns to a safe level.” During that lull in electronically manipulated sound, noise (range commands) still pass through the passive protection at reduced levels.  

The electronic wizardry seems straightforward, but the fact sound varies in frequency can muddy transmission in cheap units. Dr. Bill Dickinson, Doctor of Audiology, CEO and co-founder of TETRA Hearing said, “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.” [Complete interview is here.]

Modern advances in electronic hearing protection for shooters  makes it obvious quality units are a healthy and wise investment, but what about rifle shooters frustrated with cheekwelds compromised by earmuffs? Today there two solutions.

“Howard Leight’s popular 22 NRR Impact Sport and Impact Sport BOLT electronic earmuffs employ a slim earcup design, plus recessed cutouts that provide even more stock clearance when shouldering a firearm,” Lanz responded.

“There is a long floating misconception that the bigger the ear pro and earmuff, the better the protection and that earmuffs give the best protection,” cautioned Harris. “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 earmuffs gives added, excellent protection.”  

The protection continues to improve every year. Here’s my earlier look at the subject, which includes more info on standard ear muffs and a short history on how hearing protection was first developed.

How to Compare Tactical Flashlights

How to Compare Tactical Flashlights

Not every handheld and battery-powered light source is the same and picking the wrong one can have dire consequences in a survival or self-defense situation. I interviewed Michael F. Dineen, Streamlight vice president of sales and marketing, recently as part of my series of stories on how to compare tactical flashlights. I started with some background on the ANSI/PLATO FL 1 2019 standards his company and other major players in the industry honor.

GJS—Streamlight is a member of PLATO, but meeting those standards has to be time consuming and tough. Without giving away costs, can you put that into perspective for readers?

MFD—Streamlight was actually instrumental in forming the original coalition of flashlight manufacturers to create the standardized tests and uniform rating system, so we are extremely committed to this process. Providing standard measurements is indeed very time consuming and demands many hours of rigorous testing for each product by our engineering team. The end result is that customers are able to rate and compare the most important features of our lighting tools, including lumens, peak beam intensity, beam distance, impact resistance, run time, light output and water resistance.

If you’re wondering how today’s tactical flashlight has evolved into its current form, here’s a quick look.

GJS—How rampant are false output claims in the lighting industry?

MFD—Compliance with the ANSI/PLATO standard is voluntary. While most leading U.S. manufacturers have been adhering to these guidelines for more than a decade, some companies, including some foreign- based manufacturers, do not comply with the standard. The real key to industry-wide adoption of the standard is consumer demand for this information at the point of sale. By choosing only products that display these ratings, customers can be assured that their flashlights will perform as advertised. Why buy a product from a company that does not display these critically important measurements? 

GJS—Are the false claims encountered more often in products on store shelves, or bargain basement Internet sites?

MFD—The most common misuse of the ANSI standard is found on the Internet.  The online platforms such as Amazon, eBay or Walmart have not risen to the challenge of dealing with this issue. It really is a false advertising issue in that some claims made by the less than reputable sellers are not even possible, and yet there is no restriction in the online environment to deal with it presently.

GJS—Any tips readers should use to avoid being ripped off?

MFD—Not unlike other things in life, if it sounds like it is too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Also, pay attention to how the ratings act together.  If a company says its flashlight gets 5,000 lumens, but it only runs at 5,000 lumens for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, this is important to know. A more reputable company might explain how it achieves 1,000 lumens but for a longer period of time.

GJS—Tips for how to compare tactical flashlights in regard to the output in lumen, lux, or candlepower and which are more important?

MFD—A lumen is a unit of luminance.  As used in reference to flashlights, it represents the total amount of visible light emitted by the incandescent bulb or LED of the flashlight. While a flashlight’s lumen output is a key metric to evaluate, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Lumens are a measurement of all the light inside the beam angle—not necessarily brightness. The light’s candela or peak beam intensity, on the other hand, measures its down-range “throw,” and represents the brightest spot in the light’s focused beam.  So you need to focus on both measurements to evaluate overall brightness.

Final Note

 Manufacturers are not required to be a PLATO memberor adhere to its testing protocols. Here’s a link to companies that have voluntarily enrolled, if you’re curious. The organization’s icons often appear in marketing materials or on a product’s web page, but it may not appear on the packaging—where space is at a premium. Here’s a link to the artwork to look for and what each means.

As for an ironclad set of tactical flashlight standards, there really are none exclusive for law enforcement or self-defense purposes. The PLATO standards simply provide yardsticks for accurate comparison between portable lighting sources. Impact and water-resistant ratings are a good place to start when shopping for a self-defense flashlight. Of course, that performance will work well if you’re looking for a long-lasting unit for camping.

Tactical Flashlight Standards

Tactical Flashlight Standards

Are there any tactical flashlight standards, and does that battery-powered unit you’re considering meet them? I interviewed Michael Hess, vice president of Armament Systems & Procedures (ASP) about its lighting systems, and the critical role an association—Portable Lights American Trade Association (PLATO)—plays in educating consumers on the products and their real performance.

GJS—Why does ASP belong to PLATO?

MH—We serve a particularly demanding customer base—law enforcement—where the stakes for mission-critical products are high. Probably no product on an officer’s belt gets more use than a flashlight, and it is not overly dramatic to say that it’s a tool with life-and-death implications. So it is crucial to us that we make promises we can keep, test our products to the highest and most consistent standards, and that our products are compared objectively to those of other best-in-class companies who share our commitment. That is why we joined several of those fine competitors to establish PLATO; it provides a central body to establish, maintain and regularly update these standards and practices; a shared resource for communicating them; and a “policing” arm to ensure they are used properly.

Misleading Numbers?

 GJS—How rampant are false claims when it comes to tactical flashlight standards? 

MH—There is plenty of trouble to be found, but it depends on where you look. Higher-end, reputable brands tend to have higher standards and not take chances with their reputations or risk liability. They may or may not all adopt and implement PLATO testing and standards, but for the most part we find that they do make an effort to be honest and accurate in their claims. Less established, less scrupulous manufacturers tend to be the source of the most egregious claims. This is not a golden rule—some well-known brands have made inaccurate performance claims, and some “cheap imports” have actually advertised honest specs—but more often than not, brand reputation correlates with standards and practices.

Here’s an interview on tactical flashlight standards with one of the pros from Streamlight.

GJS—Are the false claims encountered more often in products on store shelves, or bargain basement Internet sites?

 MH—Much like brands and manufacturers, when it comes to retailers, “better is usually better.” Specialty stores (particularly those serving first responders, high-end sporting goods purchasers and similar customers) are more likely to sell products that maintain and advertise accurate standards. Whereas deep discount stores and “too good to be true” bargain websites and infomercials are more likely to offer lights that were built to hit a price, not a performance requirement. Quite literally, flash over substance. Again, it is not a rule without exceptions, but by and large, a combination of unknown brand and unknown (or very low-end) seller should lead consumers to be skeptical—or at least cautious.

 GJS—Any tips readers to help readers avoid rip offs?

MH—Buy products from well-known and respected brands, from retailers who are not predominantly deep discount-driven. And of course, we feel that consumers should stick with flashlight manufacturers who have adopted PLATO standards—it is the closest thing to an absolute assurance that what is ON the package correctly represents what is IN the package. Anyone who is buying a light for safety purposes should be especially careful.

If you’re wondering how today’s tactical flashlight has evolved into its current form, here’s a quick look.

Output?

GJS—Lumen, lux, candlepower, which are the tactical flashlight standards a user should consider?

MH—All are valid performance metrics, but lumens is the most widely accepted universal standard, especially in professional markets like ours. It represents the total output of a flashlight, and we believe it is the most straightforward way for consumers to compare apples to apples. That said, one of the many reasons a group like PLATO is so important is that all lumens are not created equal. Improper measurement—whether with the intention to deceive or simply as a result of lack of knowledge or proper equipment—can yield wildly varying results. PLATO members test their products on the right equipment, using the right protocols, so that one participating manufacturer’s lumen is the same as another’s. It is all about transparency to the consumer.

GJS—Is there anything you’d like to add or say to people considering the purchase of a weaponlight or flashlight for their bug-out bag?

MH—One of the many things we like and appreciate about PLATO is that it has helped raise the level of awareness about—and demand for—high performance in flashlights. Unfortunately, too many people have been led to believe that anything with aggressive styling, a matte-black finish, bold claims and some slick packaging and marketing is “tactical.” And that couldn’t be further from the truth. Among other things, in order to be a genuine tactical asset, a tool must perform the way the manufacturer promises and the user expects it to, every time. Anyone who thinks otherwise should walk with a police officer into a dark house or alley on a moonless night.

Final Note

Manufacturers are not required to be a PLATO member, or adhere to its testing protocols. Here’s a link to companies that have voluntarily enrolled, if you’re curious. The organization’s icons often appear in marketing materials or on a product’s web page, but it may not appear on the packaging—where space is at a premium. Here’s a link to the artwork to look for and what each means.

As for an ironclad set of tactical flashlight standards, there really are none exclusive for law enforcement or self-defense purposes. The PLATO standards simply provide yardsticks for accurate comparison between portable lighting sources. Impact and water-resistant ratings are a good place to start when shopping for a self-defense flashlight. Of course, that performance will work well if you’re looking for a long-lasting unit for camping.

Tips to Survive When Civil Unrest Comes to Visit

When Civil Unrest Comes to Visit

The willingness of opportunistic criminals to hijack peaceful protests and compromise the First Amendment rights of others is frightening. When civil unrest comes to visit today, it turns into riots and assaults on innocent citizens that dominate the news. The thoughtful speeches delivered before criminals gain control of the streets get lost in the din.

Calls for social change do not hold an exclusive on the danger, either. Hurricanes and other natural disasters are more common catalysts. Criminals understand the chance of getting caught are minimized when law enforcement coverage is dangerously thin. Angry mobs maximizes anonymity.

When civil unrest comes to visit, it’s a different opponent. Each situation is unique, but if the unthinkable visits your neighborhood—as it has in the suburbs of Chicago—here are a few exposure-reducing tactics.   

Avoidance

Quality self-defense courses deliver this message multiple times. Avoid confrontation at all costs.

Stay put until you’re absolutely certain it is safe to venture out. Even a short drive to the store can get you caught up in a situation like this. What you may think is a perfectly safe trip can turn dangerous. On Oct. 11, for example, the Portland Historical Society became the scene of violence. Thankfully the statues of Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln toppled at night, now during hours when schoolchildren visit.  

Florida may soon consider making it legal to shoot looters.

Do not wander into the parking lot or front yard, even if you think something is amiss. You may live in a state where you can lawfully protect your property, but you’ll be outnumbered and outflanked by attackers. Plus, in the confusion law enforcement could mistake you for an armed criminal. Your possessions can be replaced, you cannot.

Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations or locations, even if you’re just driving through. Stopping to help a victim is a wonderful thing, but even that’s fraught with peril.

Avoid protests, including peaceful ones. Law enforcement will be blocking interchanges, increasing delays and driver frustration. Add 30 minutes to your commute by taking another route rather than risk exposure and complicating the scene for authorities.

That, of course, requires staying up to date with the latest news. It’s unpleasant, but the details it provides are a powerful self-defense weapon.

In the House

Maintain homefield advantage by keeping yourself and family at your residence until things are completely safe. You know the turf and, in theory, have a safe room where everyone can survive until the cavalry arrives. Double check those supplies and batteries in the flashlights.

Charge your cell phones. Your home-defense firearm should be within arm’s reach at all times, loaded. Home invasions are lightning fast. Lock all doors and windows. Don’t open the door to strangers.

Coordinate with neighbors beforehand by exchanging phone numbers and, if you’re comfortable doing so, bugout emergency plans. If urban unrest comes to visit, they can confirm if the cat just wants back in or it’s a prowler under your bedroom window. Return the favor when asked.

Fill your vehicle’s gas tank beforehand and back it into the driveway or garage if you have one. Hurried evacuations should not begin in reverse gear or with a stop at the neighborhood filling station.

Do not, however, pre-load vehicles with your bug-out bags. Criminals may invade the garage or break into the cars without touching the house. Don’t risk losing critical survival gear. You should always, but particularly during unsettling times, also have a bug-home bag to help reach the house and your family safely.

If you have time, police tools, loose bricks, garden gnomes, lawn chairs and objects from the yard. Don’t leave impromptu projectiles laying around.

Round Up

If a teen or young adult in the family is out when violent unrest breaks out, call and provide details of the safest route home. Prearrange a rendezvous point if bugging out is imminent. Remind them not to shut off the motor while waiting. Turning that ignition key consumes lifesaving seconds if attacked.

In many emergency situations cell phone networks get overloaded and voice calls drop or will not connect. Text messages, however, require less bandwidth and often wiggle their way through the bottleneck. They also stage, retrying automatically until a certain number of attempts fail. It’s a great way to punch information through when civil unrest comes to visit. It also keeps your hands free for other duties.

When travel is unavoidable—collecting the younger children, for example—go armed if legal and with a partner. An extra pair of eyes and ears is invaluable and, if the unthinkable happens, they’ve got your 6.

If it’s a natural disaster, get a solid report on conditions prior to leaving. If the power’s out a reliable source like this battery-powered radio from Midland is a good source.

Escape—Final Option When Violence Comes to Visit

The final option when civil unrest comes to visit, one we all hope to avoid, is to bug out to a location away from the crime. Once again, plan your route around potential bottlenecks and monitor news reports to ensure the destination is safe. Just because it was when you left the driveway doesn’t mean it will be an hour from now.

Most of the violence has been visited on major metropolitan areas, but criminals can hijack the First Amendment for their goals anywhere—including rural America. And there’s a contentious Presidential election on the horizon.

How to Select Self-Defense Pistol Sight Color

How to Select Self-Defense Pistol Sight Color

Photo courtesy of HIVIZ Shooting Systems

Millions of Americans now have their first handgun for personal defense. Getting on target, quickly during a criminal attack is critical, so I asked an expert how to select self-defense pistol sight color.

I interviewed Trevor Young, director of sales at HIVIZ Shooting Systems. His comments follow, abbreviated for space. You may also be interested to read answers from a Truglo expert on the topic.

GJS—Is a black front sight ideal on a self-defense handgun?

TY—A black front sight on a carry/self-defense handgun is not necessarily ideal as it does not help front sight focus in all lighting conditions, especially in a situation of increased stress. That’s why we at HIVIZ Shooting Systems strive to create sights for every handgun on the market; to allow the user to have choices in handgun sights to best fit their situation.

GJS—Is there any time black is optimal?

TY—As with every type of sight, a black front sight on a carry/self-defense handgun can be ideal given the right lighting, target color and shooting conditions. However, the preference for most users should be the sight that gives the user the ultimate advantage in any conditions considering the purpose of the handgun and black would not be the best choice given other products on the market. We at HIVIZ Shooting Systems understand the importance of quick sight acquisition in any situation and that’s why we’ve come up with a broad range of sight options and colors to fit the need.

Why Color?

GJS—Is adding color an advantage for self-defense?

TY—Adding contrast to the front sight is always an advantage when it comes to self-defense, or any type of shooting where quick sight acquisition is important. Adding contrast is key as it helps acquire the front sight in your peripheral vison long before a solid black sight would. The result is that you can maintain a full view of the target and your front sight while moving the firearm into a shooting position and then transition into a sight picture in one fluid motion. Consequently, target engagement and accuracy will be better.

GJS—Is painting the front sight good enough to get the job done?

TY—In order to shoot accurately you must be able to align the sights. Adding contrast, or enhancing the sight, will aid in picking the sights up easier allowing for faster alignment of the sights. While paint will be better than a plain black sight typically, it would not work in all shooting conditions and has a limited lifespan. However, with few exceptions, a tritium/fiber optic sight will get the job done. That’s why we designed the HIVIZ LiteWave H3 Tritium/Litepipe Sight. It combines Tritium with the HIVIZ Litepipe technology for 24 hour illumination, for day and night performance, ensuring fast sight acquisition and a bright sight picture in any situation.

GJS—Do different colors perform better in different lighting conditions?

TY—The human eye can see a range of visible light and this changes in different lighting conditions however, green/yellow is the general color that the human eye can see first and the best in all light conditions. We offer several HIVIZ Litepipe options for several of our sights in this color as well as others, including orange and red. Orange tends to be next in line for color choices behind the green/yellow with red becoming the least desirable due to the fact that red is a more difficult color for the eye to pick up across multiple lighting conditions.

GJS—Why is tritium so effective, and why is it surrounded by a white ring?

TY—Tritium is an effective source for sights because they are reliable, provide a consistent sight picture regardless of lighting conditions and require no batteries or charging. Designed for nighttime and low-light conditions, tritium/fiber-optic sights, such as our HIVIZ LiteWave H3 Tritium/Litepipe Sight, give the user the best advantage at a true sight picture when it matters. The sights also include a white ring that fills the small void in sight clarity where tritium/fiber-optic is less effective allowing the sights to be more effective in these lighting conditions.

Personal Preference

GJS—What’s your self-defense pistol sight color?

TY—I personally have a preference for sights with orange Litepipes. That being said green is my default color as I know I will be able to see it in the toughest light conditions the best.

GJS—Is there anything I overlooked that you want to tell readers?

TY—We can debate about sight shape, blade width, adjustable, fixed and so on. One thing we can all agree on is that to be accurate you must be able to form a solid sight picture, and I believe that fiber-optic and tritium are unmatched in their ability to help all shooters achieve this goal. Because of this, we have worked hard to provide the best HIVIZ products to help advance the art of shooting. Our patented LiteWave H3 Tritium/Litepipe Sights provide the best performance for a carry gun ensuring fast sight acquisition and a bright sight picture day or night. We pride ourselves on being a leader in the shooting world and continue to provide the best sights on the market for the success and enjoyment of the shooting sports.

[Readers considering a laser for their pistol, should read my interview with experts on the advantages of green over red.]

Are Black Sights Best for Self-Defense?

Are Black Sights Best for Self-Defense?

Handguns are the overwhelming favorite for personal protection, but many wear a serious shortcoming for the mission. Criminals attack fast, often at night, so I posed a question to an expert about target acquisition. Are black sights best for self-defense?

Pliny Gale, marketing manager for TRUGLO, provided some insight.

GJS—Are black sights best for self-defense or is white or color a better option?

PG—Simply put, bright dots attract the eye. A bright-colored sight is easier to find in low light. Even in full daylight, the increased contrast of a bright color makes it easier to properly focus on the sight. Bright white lines or dots increase contrast, but certain colors can improve visibility even further. Ultimately, it is the same reason tennis balls, warning signs and even things in nature like flowers or poisonous insects use bright colors—to be seen easily and quickly.

GJS—Is there any advantage to certain colors in different atmospheric conditions?

PG—This is a question of brightness versus contrast. The human eye is most sensitive to green and green fiber tends to gather a lot of light, so it typically is the brightest at dawn/dusk. When shooting during the day, any color fiber is generally very bright so many shooters prefer to look for contrast. A red front sight easily contrasts brown dirt, green foliage and blue skies—making it the preferred option for most competitive target shooters of all varieties.

[Readers considering a laser for their pistol, should read my interview with experts on the advantages of green over red.]

Tritium and Fiber-Optic

GJS—Why tritium?

PG—Unlike reflective materials, photoluminescent paints and fiber-optics, tritium vials create their own light. Tritium does not require any light exposure to glow and shooters don’t ever have to worry about batteries running low or getting cold. If you want to see your sights in low light or complete darkness without needing an “on” button, tritium is the way to go—delivering reliable brightness for about a decade.

GJS—Why is a fiber-optic tube better than just paint?

PG—Bright paint is great, but with a single reflective surface it will only be as bright as the light around it. Fiber-optics are reflective on the inside, which means they gather light along the entire length of the fiber and channel it to the ends. Looking at the end of a cut fiber-optic optic will be brighter that its surroundings. Fiber-optics are a great passive way to increase brightness.

GJS—Is there anything you’d like to add?

PG—TRUGLO owns the patent to, and to is the exclusive manufacturer of TFX® technology (Tritium + Fiber-optic Xtreme). This technology combines the daylight benefits of fiber-optics with the night-time benefits of tritium to produce a dot that is bright both day and night. The fiber-optic and the tritium vial are sealed together in a capsule for strength and durability that endures far more than other fiber-optic sights.

Are black sights best for self-defense? Gale’s answers make it obvious: If you’re a new handgun owner and your sights are dark and dank, up front and at the rear, it’s time to consider and upgrade.

Bolt-Action Rifle Photography 101: Perspective

Bolt action rifle photography

Bolt-action rifle photography presents a challenge, regardless of the gun’s make or looks. If you take the image fully broadside the firearm’s length makes it look like a toothpick.

Backgrounds from that angle drown the subject in color and texture. That compromises the ability to inspect details and gauge overall proportions. For that reason all my editors request that every story includes full lengths on white. If you’re getting photos of your firearm collection for insurance purposes, you should too.

Bolt action rifle photography
Bergara B14 Ridge in .22-250 Rem.

They’re not exactly attention-grabbing, though. The above image is the same Bergara B14 Ridge Rifle appearing at the top this story. Let me know if you agree the forest scene is better at catching your interest. Finding something right for my review in Predator Xtreme magazine was important.

On white is great stuff for an insurance claim or, God forbid, law enforcement use. It’s sterile and emotionless, though. Finding a dynamic angle is one solution if you want something a bit more entertaining.

Bolt action rifle photography
Angle is critical in bolt-action rifle photography. This photo from Savage Arms is much more interesting than the broadside above, although the ability to gauge proportions is compromised.

Most firearm companies provide publicity photos for their rifles. The one above from Savage and has an angled perspective that effectively compresses the view. It’s also a bit more dynamic, with the scope’s glass reflecting light and muzzle visible.

Bolt-action rifle photography done this way makes the firearm look shorter than it is, unfortunately. That’s why editors, and insurance companies, lean toward including at least one broadside.

Perspective

Perspective is key in any image, but it is particularly critical on long guns. Move the camera even a few inches and it can ruin a technically correct firearm photo.

Below is the same Bergara B14 Ridge. It never moved from the same position as the photo above. The camera and tripod did, unfortunately.

Bolt action rifle photography

My strobist style execution is spot on, but the image stinks. The editor never received that one and when I look at it now it’s like fingernails screeching across a chalkboard.

Final Thoughts on Bolt-Action Rifle Photography

Every photographer has a unique style, and not every firearm enthusiast likes the same guns or images of them. That’s part of what makes the industry fun and keeps it constantly evolving.

Keep that in mind as you take photos of your own guns. Some backgrounds will work with the right rifle if you’re taking full lengths. You might even prefer your digital camo M700 to sort of disappear into it, anyway.

There are, however, ways to highlight key features, even when its dusk in a dark forest. We’ll get deeper into those in the next few installments.

In the meantime, thank you for visiting my modest blog. Feel free to leave a complaint in the comments and I’d particularly love to hear from any of the 5 million new gun owners. I sure hope everyone has a glorious and healthy day.

Don’t miss the next installment on bolt-action rifle photography by hitting the subscribe button on the right side of this page.