Calender Icon Last updated: July 11, 2020
When you’re planning on doing some shooting, one of the most important protection items you should have with you are ear plugs. We’ll cover the various types of protection in more detail below, but for those of you in a hurry here are our top picks from each category.

Here's the Best Ear Protection for Shooting, Backed by 18+ Hours of Research

sticker 5 out of 5 stars (5.0)
3M OCS1135 Ear Soft Earplugs
3M OCS1135
Why is it better?
  • Soft, pliable foam offers comfort for wearing over an extended time
  • Low-pressure foam makes plugs less noticeable
  • Earplugs are easy to roll down for quick and easy insertions
10
RESEARCHED SOURCES
3.1K
REVIEWS CONSIDERED
18
HOURS RESEARCHING
12
PRODUCTS EVALUATED

Our Top Picks

Rank
Picture
Name
Score
Buy
#1
3M OCS1135 Ear Soft Earplugs

BEST OVERALL

3M OCS1135 read review
Editor's Pick 5 out of 5 stars (5.0)
#2
Black Bullet Noise Cancelling Earplugs​

Black Bullet read review
4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7)
#3
Decibullz – Custom Molded Percussive Filters

Decibullz read review
4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5)
#4
Howard Leight by Honeywell Electronic Shooting Earmuff

Howard Leight by Honeywell read review
4.2 out of 5 stars (4.2)
In Depth Reviews
  • 3M OCS1135 Ear Soft Earplugs 3M OCS1135
  • Black Bullet Noise Cancelling Earplugs​ Black Bullet
  • Decibullz – Custom Molded Percussive Filters Decibullz
  • Howard Leight by Honeywell Electronic Shooting Earmuff Howard Leight by Honeywell
Table of contents
  • Ear Protection FAQ

Best Overall: 3M OCS1135 Ear Soft Earplugs

Pros:
  • Soft, pliable foam offers comfort for wearing over an extended time
  • Low-pressure foam makes plugs less noticeable
  • Earplugs are easy to roll down for quick and easy insertions
  • Poly bag keeps each pair of earplugs clean before use
  • Regular size fits most earcanals
Cons:
  • Universal size

The most basic form of ear protection is disposable foam ear plugs. Foam ear plugs help to muffle any sounds that occur.

While these plugs can work at a gun range, they can make it difficult to hear noises that are not the guns.

When you’re visiting a gun range, there may be an employee that let’s range users know when to cease fire, when the range is hot or cold, or when there is an issue.

There are some pros and cons to keep in mind when choosing foam ear plugs.

While foam ear plugs are typically very inexpensive due to the fact that they are disposable, they can be misused and not provide the protection you’re looking for.

Foam ear plugs can be easily inserted wrong making the protection less than it should be.

FEATURED SPECS

  • Style: Earplug
  • Material: Soft, pliable foam
  • Sound Level: 33 dB

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Limited 1 year warranty
  • CSA certified
  • Secure fit

Black Bullet Noise Cancelling Earplugs​

Pros:
  • Noise cancelling filter
  • Triple ribbed design
  • 21DB NRR rating
  • Optional extension
  • Waterproof case
Cons:
  • Some reports say they’re not for shooting

A step up from disposable foam ear plugs are reusable foam plugs.

Reusable foam ear plugs provide you with ear protection that you don’t have to throw away after a day of shooting.

Reusable ear plugs tend to be slightly more costly than disposable plugs but they are still considered inexpensive compared to other options of ear protection.

Reusable ear plugs are considered to be a better economical choice while they are still able to easily be worn and inserted.

When considering reusable foam ear plugs, you should also consider the fact that they are pre-formed which means that they may not feel as comfortable as the disposable plugs.

You will also need to clean the plugs after each use to prevent ear infections.

FEATURED SPECS

  • Style: Earplug
  • Material: Silicone
  • Sound Level: 21 dB

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Highest safety standards
  • Unaparalleled comfort
  • Quality construction

Decibullz – Custom Molded Percussive Filters

Pros:
  • Impulse protection
  • No batteries
  • Custom comfort
  • Ideal for everyday use
  • 1-Year Limited Manufacturer’s Warranty
Cons:
  • Terrible quality control

The next step up the food chain in hearing protection at the range is custom molded ear plugs.

These reusable plugs are actually custom molded to fit your ear, ensuring that your hearing canal is properly sealed off.

Custom molded plugs are better than regular reusable ear plugs in that they are tailor fit to you and the shape of your ears.

Generic plugs can chafe and be uncomfortable to wear, but a custom set can fit so well that you don’t even feel you are wearing them.

The price of these custom plugs is obviously higher than standard reusable plugs, but if you are going to spend a lot of time at the range they are definitely worth it.

FEATURED SPECS

  • Style: Earplug
  • Material: Silicone
  • Sound Level: 31 dB

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Premium Hard Case
  • Kit Includes Multiple Tip Types for Optimum Performance
  • Molding Process Allows Lots of Time to Get it Right

Howard Leight by Honeywell Electronic Shooting Earmuff

Pros:
  • Provides hearing protection + amplification of safe sounds
  • Directionally placed microphones enable natural stereo sound
  • Helps workers stay safely aware of their surroundings
  • Harmful impact noises suppressed down to a safe 82dB
  • Comfortable fit with newly designed “textile” headband
Cons:
  • Volume control

If ear plugs are not something you’re interested in using, shooting earmuffs are another popular option for ear protection.

Earmuffs are not inserted in the ear. They surround the ear to provide protection.

Earmuffs are easier to put on compared to ear plugs. They can be excellent at canceling out gun noises without canceling out regular noises.

For good suggestions on which ones to buy, check out our list of the best electronic hearing protection for hunting.

They also come with a few drawbacks. Earmuffs take up much more space than ear plugs. They may make you feel hot during warmer weather outings.

They can also be difficult to pair with protective glasses depending on the shape.chuc

FEATURED SPECS

  • Style: Earplug
  • Material: Soft, pliable foam
  • Sound Level: 33 dB

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Blocks hazardous noise
  • Amplifies ambient noise up to 4x
  • Air Flow Control Technology

Ear Protection FAQ

Ear Plugs

WHAT EAR PROTECTION IS BEST FOR SHOOTING?

A combination of earplugs and earmuffs is considered to be the best, most effective way to protect your hearing while shooting.

Every gun range differs a bit, and some simply echo more than others. The last thing you want to do is damage your hearing.

If you had to choose just one, ear plugs would be the way to go. They have a thicker layer of protection that’s directly in your ear canal, absorbing the shock of noise.

Earmuffs can still vibrate since they aren’t made 100% out of foam. The foam definitely helps with muffling the sound.

ARE EARPLUGS OR EARMUFFS BETTER FOR SHOOTING?

It all depends on your range. Are you in a stuffy, indoor concrete shooting range? You’re going to want to get ear plugs.

Outside on a private shooting range, like a police training-style one? Earmuffs will do just fine there.

Indoor ranges have walls, and no matter how much soundproofing they layer it with, the harsh sound of gunfire will reverberate back, even if it’s just a little bit.

Ear plugs do the trick in this situation.

But outdoors, most of that sound is travelling outward and away from where you’re standing.

Earmuffs are enough to withstand the immediate noise from the bullet’s explosion in your hands.

HOW LOUD IS A GUN WITH EAR PROTECTION?Man Shooting with a Gun

Let’s say, just for the sake of this example, that you’re shooting a 9mm pistol at a firing range.

Not exactly a huge stretch, right? Well that gun is going to give off just shy of 160dB worth of volume.

That’s decibels, the measurement of sound. For some context, 60dB is the volume of a normal conversation between two people, using their normal voices.

That’s not going to damage your hearing (obviously). However, 100dB is all it takes to cause permanent hearing damage over a long period of time.

120dB, or the sound of nearby thunder, can cause immediate and permanent hearing damage. 160 for a simple pistol is pretty harsh when you put it this way.

Luckily, we’re about to explain the NRR system rating and how it helps prevent this harsh sound from damaging your hearing, thanks to the help of shooting ear protection.

WHAT IS NRR IN SHOOTING?

Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR is a system used to measure the noise reduction that ear plugs and other protective equipment can offer.

It’s a bit tricky, but basically it scales from 0 to 33, with 33 being the most protective rating possible at this time.

In order to determine how many decibels of sound you will be exposed to, there’s a simple formula.

NRR – 7 % 2 = total dB you will be exposed to.

A rating of 33 NRR means that, if you subtract seven and then divide, you’ll only be exposed to 12.5dB worth of sound in most scenarios.

That’s enough to muffle gunshots, and it’s only 25% of the total volume of a normal conversation between two people.

If you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of person, here’s a YouTube video demonstrating how to make your own inexpensive game cart:

Searching for “What are shooting ear plugs?” online can yield many different results that will tell you the same things.

The most important thing to remember is that choosing the proper ear protection when using guns is a very important task that shouldn’t be done in a rush.

Finding your perfect ear protection match can protect you from hearing loss, allow you to feel comfortable while shooting, and give you a peace of mind.

Take some time to consider your options, try out a few different types, and choose the best type of ear protection that meets your needs.