Why Electronic Ear Pro Is a Must Have

A lot of shooters seem to think it’s still 1995. I mean, every time I go to the range, there is somebody shoving little foam squishies in their ear. I watch as those little squishies shake loose or a shooter has to remove them to talk or hear range commands. At a recent steel challenge match, we had a guy slow every stage down because he had to remove his ear pro, hear the instructions, then reinsert them slowly as we all waited. That’s when I decided I had an article to write. Specifically, I’m going to talk about why electronic ear pro is a must-have.

Is Passive Hear Protection Bad?

No, obviously, anything that protects your ears is better than nothing. We all have budgets, and passive hearing pro is much cheaper than electronic ear pro. I get that so I won’t begrudge someone for spending more on their gun and less on their hearing protection if it gets them a higher quality firearm. However, if you’re rocking passive muffs or plugs and stick red anodized parts all over your AR, maybe we should discuss priorities.

Shooting the Benelli M4 with electronic ear pro

If you wanna understand why I believe electronic ear pro is a must-have, then please read on.

Why Electronic Ear Pro?

Better Situational Awareness

A range can be a dynamic place. On a good day, you are likely to hear several commands issued at the range. From fire, to unload show clear, and ceasefire. On a bad day, the RSO might call out your booth number. On a really bad day, some idiot might be wandering down range unbeknownst to him that he shouldn’t be doing that while everyone’s shooting.

Training with electronic ear protection
Electronic Ear Protection ensures you can keep your situational awareness high.

With passive muffs, it might be quite tough to hear the commands or even to understand them. Electronic ear pro ensures you can hear the world around you and hear those commands. In general, being at the range and firing firearms requires situational awareness, and the more you have, the better.

Let’s say you’re off the range and in the field. You might be hunting birds and firing dozens of rounds a day. A good set of electronic ear pro keeps your ears safe and allows you to hear the world around you. Good situational awareness can be invaluable.

Cause You Take Classes

You take classes, right? Or maybe you plan to. If so, you need to bring a set of electronic ear pro with you. You are paying an expert to teach you what’s what, right? If you can’t hear them, then what is the point of paying them? You’re still at a range, and gunfire is still going around. With that in mind, on-the-fly instruction might not be heard without electronic ear pro.

electronic ear protection in a firearms class
Ear pro in a firearms class should be electronic

Here’s what Larry Vickers has to say on the matter.

Students pay a lot of money to attend a class in order to receive instruction. It makes no sense to use hearing protection designed to eliminate as much sound as possible (gunfire or range commands from the instructor you paid money to listen to) in a class. Attending the class without electronic ear protection is brain dead.

It means you won’t be able to follow certain commands or absorb key training points, and you become a safety hazard to the rest of the class because you’re not on the same page of music as they are.

If you’re not sure what to buy, purchase something inexpensive to get you through the class, then ask during the class what the recommended brands and models are. Another point I like to make is that if you use a smartphone, you have no excuse to not have electronic hearing protection — period.

Timers and Ear Pro

Shot timers are one of the best investments you can make into your training gear. They provide objective data that allows you to improve. They can track the time it takes to draw, to make shots, the time between shots, and they can time your reloads, and so much more. At the core of a shot timer is a loud BEEP!

electronic ear protection
Electronic ear pro ensures you hear the beep.

That loud BEEP has to be heard for you to begin your reload, your drill, and to know when your time is up. A shot timer can be easy to hear on a range by yourself. The downside is when you are shooting at an active range, it might be tough to hear the beep over all the gunfire with passive muffs.

Electronic ear pro amplifies the noise around you, as long as it’s under a certain decibel level. The beep will be amplified and easy to hear when you are coming and going.


Honestly, modern electronic ear pro can loop in with your cell phone and even high-tech timers. They connect via Bluetooth, and you can take phone calls, listen to music, and hear the beep of a timer. Convenience is listed last because it’s nowhere near as important as the above reasons.

It’s still nice to listen to Wu-Tang as you blast away at the range. The best ear pro will have independent volume controls for both the noise blasted by the speakers, and the noise of the music can be controlled separately.

Electronic Muffs Are Too Big

Most high-quality electronic ear pro sets come in muff form. Admittedly, muffs can be a bit big for establishing a good cheek weld on a rifle. They can be bulky and hot in some environments. To you I say, you’re right. Drop the muffs, and grab some plugs.

electronic earpro from Otto, earbuds closeup

That doesn’t mean passive plugs. They make electronic ear pro in the form of plugs as well. They are often wired together, rechargeable, and completely convenient. Although, they do produce separate plugs for each ear if you prefer to drop the wire. They won’t offer the best protection compared to muffs, especially if it’s an indoor rifle range.

Hello, Tinnitus, My Old Friend

Ear pro by itself is a must-have. Electronic ear pro is a must-have for anyone who seriously shoots. It might not need to be your first purchase in the realm of firearms, but it should be one of your priority purchases. Buy once, cry once should be your motto with ear pro, but the good news is modern electronic ear pro isn’t super expensive. You can get a competent set of muffs or plugs for way less than 100 bucks. Don’t cheap out of your ears and eyes. If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you.

Red dots add a sting to your shotgun. Plus, they work day or night with ease.
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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