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January 21st, 2021

Say What? Beware the Risks of Concussive Hearing Loss

Mark Kuczka Accurate Ordnance hearing protection dB noise muzzle brake PRS muffs earplugs concussion concussive hearing loss

Did you know you can damage your hearing even if you are wearing the best hearing protection available? Well, have you ever heard of concussion (or concussive) hearing loss? There is no amount of anything you can put in or over your ears to protect you from concussion loss. My audiologist explained to me the concussion comes through the facial bone structure and damages the ear’s tiny bones.

Editor’s NOTE: This a very important article that explains how you can suffer inner ear damage and hearing loss even if you use quality earplugs and/or muffs. Read that again — hearing loss even with typical hearing protection. This kind of concussive hearing loss can result from shooting with muzzle brakes in confined spaces. Using a suppressor (aka sound moderator) can reduce the risk of concussive hearing loss. You may not have the ability to use a suppressor, but this article explains how you should be more mindful of your hearing.

Why I Use a Suppressor (Preventing Concussive Hearing Loss)

Report by Mark Kuczka, Accurate Ordnance

It must have been the road noise. I thought I was having a hard time hearing my five year old daughter speaking to me on my cell phone because of the road noise. That old SUV was kind of loud inside. Until I switched the phone to my left ear and suddenly I could hear her just fine. Wait, what just happened? I moved the phone back to the right ear and there was that muffled voice again. That’s when I knew I had a problem.

“What?” Lots of us in the shooting community have lost some hearing along the way due to our time on the range or in the field. Those of us who hunt have certainly discharged a firearm or three without ear protection and without concern for our hearing. After all, it’s just one shot, right? How much can it hurt?

Actually, that one shot DOES hurt your hearing. Any sound over 140 dB is immediate hearing loss. It just happens to be killing a small amount of our hearing so most of us continued the practice without a care. Living with hearing loss now makes me wish I could go back 20 years and better protect my hearing. I can’t change what I did in the past, but going forward I can certainly do the most to protect the hearing I still have.

I decided to shoot about a year’s worth of matches with just braked rifles. That year is when I lost significant hearing in my right ear and some in the left. I’ve gone back to shooting only suppressed rifles whenever possible.

Mark Kuczka Accurate Ordnance hearing protection dB noise muzzle brake PRS muffs earplugs concussion concussive hearing loss

I shot my first suppressed firearm, a .22 LR pistol, in 2003. After a few rounds I wondered why everyone (who can do so legally) didn’t shoot suppressed? No one drives without a muffler. Why would you? Point is I immediately appreciated the hearing protection benefits of suppressors. That passion got me into the business of selling suppressors and it wasn’t long before I was one of the biggest retailers for companies like AAC, SWR, SilencerCo, Ops Inc. and others. [Editor: The author’s business, Accurate Ordnance, no longer sells suppressors. So this article is NOT a sales pitch. Mark just wanted to share his experience so others might protect their hearing.]

Mark Kuczka Accurate Ordnance hearing protection dB noise muzzle brake PRS muffs earplugs concussion concussive hearing loss

Did you know you can damage your hearing even if you are wearing the best hearing protection available? You’ve heard guys say, “I’ll wear plugs and muffs, so I’ll be just fine shooting that .50 BMG!” Well, ever heard of concussion (or concussive) hearing loss? Yeah, I hadn’t either. I’ll sum it up the way the last audiologist I spoke with about my hearing loss did – there is no amount of anything you can put in or over your ears to protect you from concussion loss.

A hand grenade went off right next to a buddy of mine. He lost some hearing as a result of the blast. No one is really surprised by that. I mean it is an EXPLOSION. It’s loud. Duh. But I had no idea the blast from a muzzle brake could basically hurt my hearing the same way. The doctor explained to me the concussion comes through the facial bone structure and damages the ear’s tiny bones. Same thing as what can happen through any TBI (traumatic brain injury).

Hearing loss diagram inner ear

I’ve owned quite a few different suppressors over the years and have shot just about everything out there. I’m still as big a fan as ever. However, I wanted to see if using a suppressor in PRS (Precision Rifle Series) and similar matches was actually a hindrance. Some people feel the added length and weight of a suppressor can make getting into some shooting positions slower or problematic. So I decided to shoot about a year with a muzzle brake instead of a suppressor. I sure regret that decision…

Getting Headaches at PRS Matches Was Warning Sign
It is fairly common in PRS matches to shoot through pipes, vehicles, inside “shoot houses” and around other obstacles that echo a rifle’s blast. I noticed I was starting to get headaches about halfway through a day of PRS match shooting. I knew the issue wasn’t hydration. I mean look, if you are peeing every other stage down at the amazing CORE range facility in mid-summer you are NOT dehydrated. So, what was causing the headaches? It wasn’t until I went back to shooting suppressed in those same environments that it became clear the little mini concussions from that muzzle brake was causing my headaches. And of course the doctors confirmed that.

Let me stop here and say I am NOT anti-brake. Muzzle brakes are useful tools and for some situations are the best tools. An aggressive brake can be more effective at reducing recoil than a good suppressor. A suppressor does add some recoil reduction, just not as much as most quality brakes. Don’t forget to factor other variables, such as caliber and rifle weight, into the equation though. For example, a 15-lb 6mm Creedmoor rifle doesn’t need much recoil reduction in the first place.

Mark Kuczka Accurate Ordnance hearing protection dB noise muzzle brake PRS muffs earplugs concussion concussive hearing loss

So, I started shooting matches long before the PRS even existed and always shot suppressed in those days. The suppressors made communication with a partner or RO easier and it was just a more pleasant shooting experience. On the recommendations of a few people I decided to shoot about a year’s worth of matches with just braked rifles. That year is when I lost significant hearing in my right ear and some in the left. I’ve gone back to shooting only suppressed rifles whenever possible and especially at matches. I’ve only once or twice found the extra length of the suppressor made it a little more inconvenient to run a stage, but not by much. Trust me, the points I missed were not because I took two extra seconds getting the muzzle in a port or window.

My hearing is something I value and will do everything to protect from this point forward. You’ll never again see me on a match field with an un-suppressed rifle. To me the minimal gains of running a braked rifle aren’t worth losing more hearing.

Choosing a Suppressor — What to Consider

Okay, so I have hearing loss that I can’t get back and realize I need to go back to shooting matches with a suppressor. But which one? I’ll still be shooting matches with custom fit plugs so I just need something to add a little recoil reduction and kill that concussion.

At our shop, Accurate Ordnance, we generally recommend direct-thread suppressor solutions to our customers. The main reason for that is all the problems we’ve seen with other fast-attach muzzle devices. It doesn’t take much tolerance stacking to result in accuracy issues. There are a few exceptions for us and the Rugged Suppressors products top the list. Since the Razor 762 uses a muzzle brake adapter on the rifle to attach the suppressor, I can use the same suppressor on my .223 Rem training rifle. My primary match rifles are chambered in 6mm Creedmoor and 6.5 Creedmoor and the muzzle threads on those is a standard 5/8×24. My .223 Rem training rifle has .5×28 threads on the muzzle, which is standard for that caliber. Thus, the muzzle adapter interface lets me share the suppressors between all the rifles. And on that .223 Rem training rifle I have the option of switching the end cap on any of the Rugged products to a .223 aperture size, which makes the suppressors slightly more sound efficient (meaning quieter).

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January 8th, 2021

Legislation (H.R. 95) Would Make It Easier to Buy Suppressors

Hearing Protection Act suppressor silencer thunderbeast
Thunder Beast Arms suppressors from the SilencerShop.

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress to make it much easier to buy a suppressor (aka silencer). Well it’s about time! While other countries permit (and even encourage) suppressor use with minimal regulation, the USA still requires local police involvement, lengthy waits, onerous background checks, fingerprints, and a $200 tax stamp just to own a metal cannister that reduces the noise of a firearm. That doesn’t make sense. At last some politicians are working to change those restrictions.

The Hearing Protection Act (H.R. 95)

U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan of South Carolina has introduced H.R. 95, The Hearing Protection Act. This bill would remove firearm suppressors from the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA), eliminating onerous and duplicitous background checks. Instead, suppressors would be regulated under the 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA) with the same background check that is required for a retail firearm purchase.

Hearing Protection Act H.R. 95 Jeff Duncan NFA GCA

It makes sense to change the law. Currently it is a major, costly burden to obtain a suppressor even though firearm suppressors are legal to own and possess in 42 states. Some countries actually REQUIRE the use of a suppressor when hunting or recreationally shooting. In Europe, suppressors are widely available and can often be purchased in a hardware store without a background check. So why is America so different? Because we have stupid, antiquated laws that do not recognize the many benefits of suppressors.

H.R. 95 Hearing protection act suppressor silencer law tax stamp Class III

How to Obtain a Suppressor Currently — Too Many Hurdles and “Red Tape”
Under current law, an individual purchasing a suppressor must locate a retailer that is regulated as a NFA Class III dealer, complete a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Form 4 with the model and serial number of the suppressor, and obtain two passport photos and fingerprint cards from a local police department. The local chief law enforcement official must receive a completed copy of the application. Then the form, photographs and fingerprints must be sent to ATF along with a check to pay the $200 tax. Currently, it takes ATF about nine months to process the paperwork. Then, the customer can obtain the suppressor from the NFA Class III dealer upon an additional background check through FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Congressman Duncan’s legislation would eliminate those requirements and make suppressors available with the same paperwork, record-keeping, and background check procedure that is currently required for purchasing a firearm. So if you can buy a rifle, shotgun or pistol now, you could also buy a suppressor, with no extra fees, licenses, tax stamps, fingerprinting, or police approvals.

H.R. 95 Hearing protection act suppressor silencer law tax stamp Class III

“This legislation removes barriers to owning an accessory that makes recreational shooting and hunting safer, more accurate and allows shooting ranges to be better neighbors”, said Lawrence Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “Firearm suppressors are a safety device designed to make recreational shooting safer. They were originally listed under the NFA over concerns of poaching during the Great Depression, but that never bore out. Even today, suppressors are exceedingly rarely used in crime.”

H.R. 95 Hearing protection act suppressor silencer law tax stamp Class III

Firearm suppressors reduce the report of a firearm from a level typically about 165 decibels — roughly equal to that of a jet taking off. Sound levels that high can cause instant and permanent hearing loss. A quality suppressor can reduce the sound by 30 to 35 decibels. That suppressed noise level is still loud, but will not permanently damage hearing. Suppressors work similarly to a car’s muffler, redirecting exhaust gases. The suppressor/silencer was first patented more than 100 years ago by Hiram Maxim.

H.R. 95 Hearing protection act suppressor silencer law tax stamp Class III

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November 19th, 2019

The Mother of All Muzzle Brake Tests — PRB’s Epic Research

Cal Zant Precison Rifle Blog AccurateShooter Muzzle Brake Test Noise Recoil Reduction Video

Are you looking for a muzzle brake for your rifle? Then you MUST check out the epic Muzzle Brake Test performed a few seasons back by PrecisionRifleBlog.com. This massive, data-driven field test was organized by PRB head honcho Cal Zant. Over a period of months, Cal and his team tested 20+ muzzle brakes designed for 6mm, 6.5mm, and .30-caliber precision rifles. Hundreds of hours went into this research, which provided vital new insight and empirical data for several aspects of muzzle devices. Cal put a huge amount of labor/engineering into these tests and his findings deserve to be widely read.

Sound Level Test | Recoil Reduction Overview | Staying on Target | Muzzle Blast Test Results

Cal Zant Precison Rifle Blog AccurateShooter Muzzle Brake Test Noise Recoil Reduction VideoThe Muzzle Brake Overview Article covers designs, specs, and prices of 20+ brakes. Then separate, detailed PRB articles cover sound levels, recoil reduction results, ability to stay on target, muzzle blast/ground effects and more. SEE PRB Muzzle Brake Test Results SUMMARY.

GO TO PRB Muzzle Brake Test SUMMARY »

PRB muzzle brake test

Recoil Reduction
Cal created a system to directly measure the entire recoil force signature of each muzzle brake using high-speed sensors. Although the recoil cycle happens very quickly (around 1/100th of a second), his test equipment could record up to 1,000 force data points during a single recoil cycle! He fired over 1,000 rounds of match-grade ammo through four different rifles: 6XC, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win, and the monster .300 Norma Magnum. He literally spent thousands of dollars on this part of the test, to ensure he got it right.

Cartridge Types Tested: 6XC, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win, and .300 Norma Magnum

Cal Zant Precison Rifle Blog AccurateShooter Muzzle Brake Test Noise Recoil Reduction Video

Ability To Stay On Target
David Tubb helped Cal develop this part of the test, because David believes this is the most important aspect of a muzzle brake. Using a laser and high-speed camera, Cal was able to objectively quantify how well each design helped you stay on target.

Noise Level
Muzzle brakes are loud, but some are louder than others … three to four times as loud. Cal enlisted the help of an expert from the suppressor industry to precisely measure how much louder each muzzle brake made a rifle. Each brake was tested in accordance with MIL-STD-1474D using calibrated military-approved equipment, and the noise level was also tested at the shooter’s position.

Cal Zant Precison Rifle Blog AccurateShooter Muzzle Brake Test Noise Recoil Reduction Video

Recoil Reduction Summaries by Caliber
In the detailed summaries of recoil reduction test results, PRB provides hard data that might surprise a few people and even dispel a few myths. Particularly interesting is Zant’s comparison of recoil reduction with a suppressor compared to muzzle brakes. How do you think the suppressor performed compared to the brakes? You may be surprised.

Here are brake test findings for 6mm and 6.5mm. Click image for Test Results.

Cal Zant Precison Rifle Blog AccurateShooter Muzzle Brake Test Noise Recoil Reduction Video

Here are brake test findings for .308 Caliber. Click image for Test Results.

Cal Zant Precison Rifle Blog AccurateShooter Muzzle Brake Test Noise Recoil Reduction Video

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