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Be a Smart Shooter: How to Choose Range Protection

Bluegrass Firearms

Range gear is not just about looking like an operator.

Ever want to go shooting, but don't know what you need? This is a dilemma for many new shooters and even old pros. What is truly adequate protection at the gun range and what are just gimmicks?

In this guide, I'll show you the basics of how to choose range protection for your next outing.

Hearing Protection

This item is an absolute must. I cannot stress that enough. Whether you're shooting outside with little echo or at an indoor range, you must wear hearing protection. Gun shots have a very high volume and can severely damage your ear if it's not properly protected.

Sound is measured in decibels. Anything with a Noise Reduction Ratting (NRR) of 21 db or higher is a good choice. There are two main types of hearing protection: ones that fit in your ear and others that fit over it.

In Your Ear:

The ones that fit in your ear are little foam pieces that you mush with your fingers, put in your ear and allow them to swell to fill the ear canal. They make great hearing protection because they are small, easily stored, and don't get in the way of a cheek-rest on long guns. This type of protection is adequate and convenient, but has its limitations. They do not do well in enclosed ranges, or with high-powered firearms that have much louder decibel operations, or in ranges with multiple lanes operating at once. They don't have enough material to stop so much sound from entering the ear. Use them sparingly.

Over Your Ear:

The other main type goes over the ear. These can be either analog or electronic. Electronic headphones only muffle sounds over a particular decibel level. You can be on the range and when no one is shooting hear your friends talk to you perfectly, but when a gun is fired that sound is muffled.

It's great technology; however, the downside of these is that they are more expensive than the analog ones that muffle all sounds. The over-the-ear headphone is a great choice for louder firearms and crowded ranges. I personally use Champion headgear and I love them. The issue here is that they are big, difficult to pack in a range bag, and can get in the way of shooting a long gun.

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Eye Protection

I think eye protection should be used synonymous with hearing protection. These two pieces should be non-negotiable on the range and most ranges' safety officers won't let you on without both. There are tons of different styles, frames, coatings, and materials used in glasses. Eye protection doesn't have to be stylish, scratch-resistant and I don't get caught up in the polarized vs. non-polarized debate. I want to focus on dexterity and precision of the lenses.

When picking out your eyewear for the range, make sure you pick a pair with strong lenses to bear impacts. Look for lenses that have high ballistic ratings or companies that sell to military and police departments like Oakley and 511 Tactical. Yes, they are on the expensive side for glasses, but don't put a dollar amount on your eyes. There could be that off-chance that some shrapnel comes back down the range and hits your eye protection. It happens more often than you think.

Another thing I look for is a quality-cut lens. Look for lenses that have a quality and uniform cut all along the lens' surface. A way to test this is to put them on, stare at a vertical line (perhaps the shelving the glasses were displayed on), focus on it, then move your head back and forth. If the vertical line doesn't move as you slowly shake your head, then they are high quality lens. Cheap or imitation lenses will have imperfections in the surface of the lens and obscure your point of view.

This is important to ensure you have true sight alignment and not just a warped image of sight alignment from your shooting glasses. Again, I use and recommend Oakley and 511 Tactical.

511 Tactical

There is a lot more to know about range gear than just how you look. I have seen cheap gear malfunction on the range and those guys didn't care how cool they looked after the fact that they got hurt.

Always be safe on the range and know how to choose the right range protection.


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Be a Smart Shooter: How to Choose Range Protection