When preparing to hit the range for a day of sighting in or target practice, a gear bag must be packed up with ammunition, firearms, and other assorted equipment. There’s a checklist in your mind of the things you’ll need to accomplish whatever shooting goals you have set for the day. Maybe you have a new sight to zero in, or just need to sling some lead to realign and ground yourself after a long, hard workweek. Whatever the reasons, as you mentally check off the range packing list and load your gear bag, make sure one of the items included is vision and hearing safety gear. For all shooters, this should be number one on the list.
Eye and ear protection for shooting is critical gear that is often neglected, and this can be a costly mistake. It’s not enough to toss in your gear bag a pair of cheaply made and non-certified sunglasses, or sub-standard ear plugs and call it good. Hearing and vision are the two senses that every hunter, competitor, and tactical shooting enthusiast needs to enjoy the sport. Once these acute senses are gone due to prolonged sound exposure or accidents involving the eyes, so is the ability to see the target, and hear the elusive game sneaking through the woods. To protect the investment you have in yourself, and the shooting sports you love, top quality eye and ear protection is a must-have gear.
How to choose eye protection
Shooting eyeglasses or goggles come in three rating levels for ballistic protection.
US Civilian: ANSI Z87.1
US Military: MIL-PRF-31013 or MIL-PRF 32432
Also, eye-wear is either classified as non-impact or impact protective. Products that are designated high-impact have passed all ballistics tests and will carry a Z87+ label. Glasses that have not gone through such rigorous tests are marked with just Z87, with no plus sign.
Unless you are at high risk of fragments or ricochet, eye wear with the US civilian rating should prove adequate. You might consider US military rated spectacles or goggles if you hunt or engage in tactical maneuvers as they are required to withstand up to a .15 caliber (at 640 ft/sec) for spectacles and .22 caliber at 550-560 ft/sec for goggles. Mil-spec glasses also have clarity, chemical resistance, UV, and fit requirements that are useful in civilian shooting endeavors. Firearm companies such as Magpul, carry top-of-the-line eye wear which is generally mil-spec rated. Examples would be Magpul’s Terrain and Summit line of eye wear, as both carry a ballistic rating of Z87+ and MIL-PRF 32432.
When choosing eye wear keep in mind your typical shooting environment, as some lens colors work better in sunny conditions, and others are specialized for low light or snow reflective scenarios.
General purpose for bright to dim light conditions – Gray, gold mirrored, bronze or blue mirrored shades are ideal.
Bright snow conditions – Blue mirrored or rose lenses are best to tone down glare.
Good in rain or sun, but not snow – Green/gray colors work best in gloomy conditions.
How to choose ear protection
Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB,) and generally, anything louder than 80 dB is considered dangerous and conducive to immediate hearing loss. With a gunshot rated at 149dB, proper hearing protection is a must. There are two types of hearing protection. Electronic earmuffs damper loud noise but amplify quieter sounds, allowing you to listen to others talking around you, and passive earmuffs block sound using foam inner ear plugs or muffs worn over the ears. When looking to purchase ear protection, look for the product’s noise reduction rating or NRR.
For shooting indoors– products should have an NRR rating of at least 28.
Small caliber firearms– a minimum NRR rating of 25 is necessary.
Larger handguns and rifles– a minimum NRR of 25 is optimal
Heavy caliber weapons -25 to the maximum NRR 33 is needed.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the best protection comes from using both inner ear-plugs and over the ear-muffs at the same time.
Once you’ve decided what type of visual and auditory protection you need, shopping for eye-wear or ear protection that’s made to handle the repetitive gunfire experienced at the range is the next logical step. Many online gun dealers carry a full line of range gear, at reasonable prices. Therefore, shopping for these, and other accessories is so simple there is no excuse for showing up at the gun range without this critical safety gear.
This article has been contributed by Linda Mcwarth, who is a passionate blogger associated as a freelancer with Outreach experts like SubmitCore. She loves penning her thoughts while promoting businesses to target audience.