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June 4th, 2021

Quiet Bands — Light, Easy-to-Deploy NRR 25 Hearing Protection

Howard Leight Quiet Band qb2 hearing protection earband ear

Howard Leight intra-aural inner-aural ear plugs ear band hearing protectionEffective hearing protection is a must whenever you are shooting firearms or when you are in the vicinity of gun-shots. For ultimate protection, we recommend a good set of tapered foam earplugs, topped by muffs. However, there are situations when you may prefer lighter-weight hearing protection that can be quickly removed. For example, if you are standing well behind the firing line as an observer, or if you are working as a rangemaster or waddie some distance away from the shooters. In addition, game hunters may only need hearing protection for a few moments when they take their shot, so something light-weight that can be deployed in seconds is ideal.

In addition to traditional ear plugs and ear-muffs, band-style protectors provide a third sound-blocking option. Howard Leight, a top name in the sound-protection business, offers the popular “Quiet Band”, a device with soft foam plugs attached to a plastic band worn around the neck. This “Quiet Band” product is comfortable, easy-to-deploy, and surprisingly effective.

NOTE: We do NOT recommend these for normal, sustained use when shooting firearms, as when shooting a match. Use muffs over plugs for that. However, Quiet Bands work very well if you are spotting for a fellow shooter, or are near the firing line. These also work great when running noisy machinery such as leaf-blowers.

Howard Leight Quiet Band qb2Three Quiet Band Models
There are three (3) types of Leight Quiet Band® sound protectors. We prefer the QB2 Supra-aural model (item QB2HYG, NRR 25).

The recommended QB2 Quiet Band positions cone-shaped foam pads next to the ear openings and holds them there with light pressure from the orange-colored band. There is also an Inner-aural version (item QB1HYG, yellow band, NRR 27), and a Semi-aural model (item QB3HYG, red band, NRR 21).

Our preferred QB2 Supra-aural (orange band) model is just as comfortable as the QB3 (red band) version, and offers much better protection. The QB1 Inner-aural (yellow band) model requires that you place the ear buds in the ear canal, so it’s not really any easier to use than conventional earplugs. That’s why we like the QB2 Supra-aural model best of all. Other users agree. Here’s what two QB2 owners had to say:

Hickok45 leight qb2“I first saw these used by Hickok45 on YouTube and he talked positively about them. I got two and gave them a try. At first, I didn’t think they were going to work very well. After some fiddling, I found they work pretty darn good. With my ears, they fit the best if the band starts on top of my head, I insert the plugs then rotate the band behind my head. PRESTO, perfect fit. Shooting the 9mm and 12 gauge out back was comfortable with no ringing afterward. [They are] small and easy to transport — just throw in the range bag. Yet, they are big enough to keep around your neck out of the way[.] I highly recommend them to anybody needing banded hearing protection.” — Tom W.

“Great for woodworkers — These are lightweight AND very effective at reducing noise. When not in use the band hangs loosely around your neck, out of your way completely. Very cost effective for a great product!” — Sheri D.

Quiet Bands Are Much Less Expensive Than Earmuffs
Quiet Band® sound protectors can be purchased online for under $6.00 per set. We like the QB2 Version which comfortable and easy to put in place. These currently cost $5.99 for one set or $21.95 for three QB2 bands with 3 extra sets of plugs. Alternatively, you can get the Leight QB3 Supra-Aural for $5.00 or the Leight QB1 Inner-Aural for $5.35. The QB3 features a flatter ear pad while the QB1 is designed the insert in the ear canal like conventional plugs. We think the QB2 is the best choice for most users.

For QB1, QB2, and QB3 ear bands, replacement ear buds are available and sold by the pair. You can also buy a Ten-Unit Bulk Pack of QB2 Quiet Bands for $45.50 with free shipping. If you run shooting matches or training programs, you can buy these in bulk for your Range Officers and pit workers. And there is a similar Sellstrom Banded unit with blue plugs for just $3.18 on Amazon.

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October 22nd, 2020

Suppressor Myth Busting — Do Silencers Degrade Accuracy?

Shooting Sports Suppressor Sound

Shooting Sports Suppressor SoundAre sound suppressors useful in competition shooting? In some disciplines, and in venues where sound “moderators” are permitted, the answer is “yes”. Some years ago Shooting Sports USA (SSUSA), published an interesting article about the use of sound suppressors (aka “cans”). The article explores the use of suppressors in Europe and in tactical matches in North America. You’ll also find an explanation of the rules and regulations governing suppressor ownership and use in the United States.

Former SSUSA Editor Chip Lohman tested three rifles from the bench and found that suppressors did not harm accuracy (at least with these rigs). In fact, all three test rifles (.223 Rem, .308 Win, and .338 Lapua Magnum), shot slightly better 5-shot groups at 200 yards with a suppressor than without. However, the suppressors did alter point of impact. Interestingly, velocity standard deviation (SD) values were lower with suppressors in place for all three test rifles. This observation calls for further study.*

CLICK HERE to Read Suppressor Article in Shooting Sports USA.

Shooting Sports Suppressor Sound

So the use of suppressors in competition could be a good thing. However, in the United States, current NRA High Power rules prohibit the use of sound suppressors. NRA Rule 3.16.1 subsection (a) states: “Sound Suppressors are not authorized for use in High Power competition.” In addition, there are some practical problems with suppressors — the heat rising off of a naked suppressor can create mirage problems (that’s why some shooters wrap their cans with a cover).

Despite such issues, it is now common to see moderators on rifles used in non-NRA-sanctioned tactical matches such as the Precision Rifle Series. For example, many competitors in the popular Steel Safari field challenge match use suppressors. The photo below shows our friend Zak Smith competing in the Steel Safari with his suppressed Accuracy International rifle.

Zak Smith Thunder Beast Steel Safari Suppressor

Commentary — What Can We Conclude?
Obviously, this three-rifle SSUSA test was not definitive. One well might observe different results with different types of suppressors, fitted to different kinds of rifles. Mounting a suppressor to any barrel will certainly affect harmonics and “tune”. But this SSUSA study does suggest that tactical shooters, who are allowed to use suppressors in competition, may find that the benefits of suppressors (significantly reduced recoil and less noise) outweigh any meaningful accuracy loss, at least in PRS-type matches.

*The article cautions that one should not extrapolate too much from the SD numbers, given the low number of test shots. Chronograph-maker Ken Oehler, when asked to comment on the SD values stated: “[You should] report the observed SDs, but draw no conclusions until… you can do more testing with larger sample sizes.”
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April 17th, 2015

“Say What?” — Forum Members Talk About Hearing Loss

hearing protection ear muffs NRR earplugs osha deafness

Hearing loss can be progressive and irreversible. If you are a shooter, this is serious business. You need to use effective hearing protection every time you go to the range. Even if you are away from the firing line, gunshot noises can damage your hearing. Good foam earplugs costs mere pennies but they can prevent deafness in your later years. Many folks also wear muffs over plugs. Some other shooters prefer the custom-molded ear plugs. Electronic muffs can be useful when you are away from the firing line because they allow you to converse.

Here are some comments from Forum members on the subjects of hearing loss and the need for proper ear protection. You can join the discussion in this FORUM THREAD:

“If you are young and don’t want to end up with profound hearing loss like I have… ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use hearing protection. This is from a guy who is social security/medicare eligible, has two Re-Sound aids at a not so cheap $2000.00 EACH… and now has religion! When I was young [we] never wore ear gear and laughed at the ringing after 100 rounds of 12 gauge at the skeet range. Now we live with the consequences. Be smarter than I was!” — Gary0529


“Take it from a 70-year-old that has been shooting 49 years. I now have a Re-Sound hearing aid in the left ear and a Cochlear Implant in my right. I still cannot hear. Custom molded plugs are best. Some are sold at gun shows and some are made by the folks that make hearing aids. They are cheap as compared to this $200,000 implant. DO IT NOW for everyone around guns.” — Richard King, King’s Armory


“Say WHAT? You have to type a little louder! I used to shoot without any muffs, when I was ‘young and indestructible’, and now I have about 40% loss. When I take youngsters and friends shooting, they get muffs and plugs. I’m not allowed suppressors where I live. I would use them if I could.” — Josh B.


“For what it’s worth, I wear both ear plugs and muffs that have NO sound adjustment capability. As a youngster (15) I wore no ear protection either in shooting or motorcycle riding. I kept doing that until entering military service at age 18 where we had to wear ear plugs at the range. Started wearing ear plugs after that, except when motorcycle riding. At around age 53 my hearing started going south as a result of my own stupidity as a youngster and now some 15 years later I only have about 45% of my hearing left. So beware all — there is a price to pay if you don’t protect your hearing.” — Shynloco

hearing protection ear muffs NRR earplugs osha deafness

“Here are several points to consider:
1. The NRR (noise reduction rating) is determined by “experimenter” fit, not user fit, and trained listeners during the testing period. This results in inflated protection numbers compared to real-world protection.
2. Any disruptions in the protector/skin seal will greatly reduce the effectiveness. Think eye glass temple bars, lots of hair, ear wax, etc. A 5% leak results in a 50% reduction in effectiveness.
3. Double protection gives only 5-10 dB extra protection.
4. Bone conduction gives about 50 dB protection so hearing protectors are the weak link[.]
5. Keep the protectors in/on your ears. Over 8 hours, if you remove them for only 30 minutes (cumulative), the effective protection is cut in half.

So, if you are using a really good muff with NRR of 33 and a foam plug with NRR of 27, the real-world NRR would be about 35 dB, at best. This would attenuate a gunshot by that amount. The key is time versus exposure. Limit the exposure and you limit the dose.” — DelS


“Personally, I use Etymotic Research GSB-15 electronic blast protectors. They are rated at 26-28 dB, but inserted correctly, with the correct fitting tip, approach 38 dB. And, they have a compressor amplifier that allows you to hear soft sounds normally and with very high fidelity. As the sound level goes up, the gain goes down till at an ambient sound pressure level of around 90 dB SPL, the gain is unity, or what comes in goes to the ear canal. However, once the sound level gets to 117dB SPL, the amplifier cannot go higher. So, if you are firing a large rifle with an impulse noise of around 160 dB SPL, your ear only hears 117 dB SPL of that for an effective attenuation of about 40 dB. RIGHT! about the same as the mastoid bone! Can’t get any better than that.

What gives me the right to say all these things? First, a BSEE as well as the graduate course in Audiology and a hearing aid dispensers license. And working in research and product development for the ear the last decade of my career.” — Norm Matzen

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September 5th, 2013

Silencer Facts: 39 States Now Allow Sound Suppressor Ownership

Approximately 27,000 suppressors, also called “silencers” or “sound moderators”, are sold in the United States every year. That may surprise you because the main-stream media often incorrectly report that suppressors are illegal. In fact, suppressors are legal to own in 39 states, provided that the devices are acquired in compliance with federal and state laws (which are explained below). In most of those 39 states, owners of legally-acquired suppressors may use their “cans” for hunting. The American Silencer Institute (ASA) has created a graphic showing where suppressors are legal to own, and where they may be used for hunting. Take a look:

Silencer Jurisdictions Hunting map

SILENCER LEGALITY AND OWNERSHIP
Silencers are regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, under the oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). To legally purchase/possess a silencer you must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age to purchase a silencer from a dealer.
  • Be at least 18 years of age to purchase a silencer from an individual on a Form 4 to Form 4 transfer (contingent on state laws).
  • Be at least 18 years of age to possess a silencer as a beneficiary of a trust or as a member of a corporation (contingent on state laws).
  • Be a resident of the United States.
  • Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm.
  • Pass a BATFE background check with a typical process time of 60-120 days.
  • Pay a one-time $200 Transfer Tax.
  • Reside in one of the 39 states that currently allows civilian ownership of silencers.

NOTE: In addition to these basic Federal rules regarding silencers, particular states may have additional registration requirements or other regulations. Check with a knowledgeable firearms attorney in your jurisdiction before beginning the process of buying a suppressor.

BENEFITS OF SILENCERS

NOISE REDUCTION
According to OSHA, the threshold for a hearing safe impulse noise is 140 dB. Without hearing protection, exposure to any impulse noise over 140dB causes varying degrees of permanent noise induced hearing loss, which can also lead to tinnitus. Most well-engineered silencers take the dB level of their host firearm well below 140 dB, making those silencers effective primary hearing safety devices. You should always still wear hearing protection (muffs or plugs) when using suppressors.

RECOIL REDUCTION
By containing the explosion at the muzzle, suppressors significantly reduce perceived recoil energy, reduce the rifle’s rearward movement on recoil, and reduce rifle torquing and muzzle flip. The reduction of recoil (and rifle torquing/hopping) lessens shooter fatigue and helps the shooter get his sight picture back on target rapidly after firing. With smaller calibers, a suppressor may enable the shooter to maintain a nearly-continuous sight picture, following the shot into the target. In addition, by reducing felt recoil (and muzzle blast), a suppressor can help inexperienced shooters avoid flinching.

Map Graphic by American Silencer Association.
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