June 20th, 2013

Recommended Gear: Howard Leight MAX-1 NRR 33 Ear Plugs

accurateshooter.com review Max-1 Howard Leight ear plugsBetween shooting, riding motorcycles, and working with gas-powered yard equipment, your Editor probably has foam plugs in his ears 8-12 hours a week. I’ve tried many different varieties of ear plugs, both the foam variety and the soft plastic flange-type plugs.

I’ve recently started using the Howard Leight MAX-1 plugs. Rated at NRR33, these are, quite simply, the best ear-plugs I’ve ever tried. No BS — these things really work. Among all disposable plugs I’ve tried, the MAX-1s are definitely the most effective at blocking noise, and they are also more comfortable than most other foam plugs I’ve used. In my experience at the range, these plugs block sound way better than most muffs (when worn without plugs underneath).

The first thing I noticed about these plugs is how much more effective they were than muffs alone. With muffs in place, a rifle report is still quite audible. With the red MAX-1 plugs, the noise from a shot is much, much quieter. Proof of the “real world” effectiveness of these plugs came when talking. The plugs work so well that I had trouble hearing words spoken by a colleague from just four feet away. With conventional (non-electronic) muffs I can hear a normal speaking voice from many yards away.

These MAX-1 plugs insert easily (if you roll them first), and the wide, flared outer bell makes them very easy to remove. Subjectively, these plugs seem more comfortable than most other foam plugs I have tried. They are certainly way more comfortable than the cheap, non-tapered ear plugs. MAX-1 plugs are available in both standard configuration and corded versions. These are cheap to buy — 20 pairs of non-corded MAX-1s cost just $4.25 on Amazon.com.

accurateshooter.com review Max-1 Howard Leight ear plugs

I’m not the only one who likes the Leight MAX-1 plugs. Here are some comments from verified purchasers on Amazon.com:

These ear plugs deserve all the raves they’ve received. They’re by far the best I’ve used and among the least expensive. They hold up very well when used repeatedly. This is the only brand I’ll buy from now on. — Joe

These things are as soft and gentle as they come and they block the noise out very well. I highly recommend them[.] — Byron

They are the best ear plugs I’ve ever used — and I’ve used many over the years. These are the only ear plugs I will ever use in the future. — Rhoda

My darling husband snores like the dickens. With a timid and hopeful heart, I purchased these ear plugs online. The first night I used these, I slept like a rock. The product is fantastic; the plugs stay small long enough when you pinch them so you can get them in, and they cancel out noises very well. I’m so happy I got these – they’re saving my marriage! — YC, Seattle

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May 31st, 2013

Great Deals on Top-Rated Earplugs

Earplugs hearing protectionLooking for bargain-priced hearing protection for your gun club or shooting association? Contributing Editor German Salazar found some great deals on high-NRR earplugs.

Cooper Safety offers discount pricing on bulk packs of quality foam earplugs. The Howard Leight ‘Max’ plugs are now just $26.88 for 200 pairs, less than 13 cents a pair! These are some of our favorite foam plugs. They are comfortable and they have a 33db Noise Reduction Rating (NRR 33), the highest certified protection rating measured. Corded versions are also offered for $24.95 for ONE HUNDRED pairs (note quantity difference). Cooper also has the easy-to-insert Howard Leight Laser Lite disposable plugs. These cost just $21.95 for 200 pairs — less than 11 cents per pair. The pink/yellow Laser Lites feature a “winged” shape that some folks think is easier to place in the ear. The Laser Lite plugs are rated at NRR 32, slightly lower than the Howard Leight ‘Max’ plugs.

Re-Usable SmartFit Conforming Plugs
If you prefer a re-usable type of earplug, we recommend the orange Howard Leight SmartFit corded plugs. These three-flange plugs employ Conforming Material Technology (CMT) so the orange insert actually softens and conforms to your ear canal as it warms with with body heat. The longer you wear them the better they fit. They are a little stiff when you put them in initially, however they quickly form-fit and become much more comfortable, with a very good seal.

Earplugs hearing protection

Howard SmartFit ear plugs have a 25 dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR 25). However, this Editor uses them regularly (I keep two sets in my range kit) and they really seem at least as quiet as most soft foam plugs. SmartFits are easily cleaned with warm water. These corded SmartFit plugs typically sell for a couple bucks at gunshops. You can save big-time by buying in bulk. Amazon.com sells 100 pairs of corded SmartFits for $68.95 (with free shipping). Each pair comes in a small carry-case.

Because SmartFits have a short stalk attached to the cord, they are easier to put in and take out over the course of a day. I prefer to use SmartFit plugs in situations where I’ll spend most of my time well away from the firing line (as when in the pits). I then insert them when I get closer to the action. In my experience, these are exceptionally effective when inserted properly. Though they have a lesser NRR than some foam plugs, in my ears, nothing silences noise better (once they’ve formed to fit). Others agree: “I have used many earplugs working in the offshore industry. I find these [SmartFits] far superior to others I have used. Tip — if you wet the end of the plug, they go in very easy and to the depth you need — Rick, Safety System Services”. You may want to try a pair — but be aware, some people can’t tolerate these because they are initially somewhat stiff. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em.

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