You need hearing protection when you shoot firearms, whether you do your training inside or out. When I shoot indoors I wear inner ear protection and then outer ear electronic protection. Usually you need less hearing protection when you shoot outside.
When I train outside it’s usually under professional instruction. This creates a race condition: I want hearing protection, but I need to hear the commands from the instructors. I used to wear foam earplugs and then electronic over-the-ear protection but this was overkill for pistol classes. The majority of my training is spent with handguns, so I started leaving out the inner ear protection and wore the electronic protection.
Earlier this spring a fellow student wore inner ear protection only during a pistol class. I was skeptical, but he said he didn’t have any problems with excessive noise and he could hear the instructors. I thought I’d try them out. At the very least they could replace the foam Howard Leight Max plugs I like so much.
I bought the Surefire Ear Pro and ran them for a few classes. Here’s my review.
The EP4 is on the left, the EP6 on the right. The EP6 uses foam tips made by Comply as opposed to the soft plastic flanges of the other models.
In short, the Ear Pro uses a polymer flange to reduce sound entering the ear canal. This is a basic concept used in canalphone headphones and I’ve reported on it several times. The EP4 and EP5 have three flanges, the EP3 model has two flanges. Some people have more narrow ear canals and benefit from a two flange. The EP3 model only has a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 19, which in my opinion isn’t enough for firearms training, even outside. The three flange model has 24NRR.
All models, regardless of the number of flanges, have a Hocks Noise Braker.
All models also have the “EarLock” feature, which is a soft rubberized structure that fits alongside the external part of your ear. This part of your ear is called the “concha.” One of the nice things about the Surefire Ear Pro’s EarLock is that it insures a secure fit inside the ear canal. Most of the people I train with don’t know how to properly insert foam earplugs and they don’t put them in far enough. The EarLock positions the Sonic Defenders properly.
The other nice thing about the EarLock is that the Ear Pro stays put under sweaty, strenuous conditions. I wore them during an advanced handgun class with a lot of dynamic movement including running, getting down to the ground and back up again while shooting, etc and the Ear Pro never budged.
The Surefire Ear Pro was pretty good for the handgun classes where we mostly shot 9mm and .40 S&W. I plugged the canal tubes for extra sound reduction and could still hear the instructors fine.
However, during an advanced class with various drills I shot .223, 7.62×39 and .22LR. I figured the rifle rounds would be too much for the Sonic Defenders, but I was very surprised that the .22LR’s report was too “sharp” for the Ear Pro to be effective. I don’t know exactly why it happened, but the Surefires didn’t block out enough sound. I sensed the (unfortunately) familiar ringing in my ears after the first burst of four rounds of .22. I put my electronic over-the-ear protection on and went back to work.
The Surefire Ear Pro Sonic Defenders aren’t effective enough by themselves for me. Do I recommend them even though they “failed” when shooting .22LR? Yes, and here’s why.
The Sonic Defenders very easy to use. Most people don’t know how to properly install foam earplugs, and for that reason alone I think every shooter should have a pair of Ear Pro.
The second reason I think people should buy them is that they are inexpensive. Ranging from $9 – $26 depending on models and options the Surefire Ear Pro is cheap enough to buy multiple pair. I keep a pair in my, uh, “adventure bag” just in case something bad happens. In some situations you may have enough time to slide the Surefires in before the shooting starts or continues. You never get your hearing back after a catastrophic incident. I do my best to protect the hearing I have left.
You should be able to pick up the Surefire Ear Pro at a number of places online and in meatspace. I like buying mine from Amazon.