A necessary piece of equipment for all shooters is hearing protection–its a must. Sometimes, if on extended shooting sessions, I’ll even use double hearing protection (earplugs plus earmuffs). There is an endless supply of different types of hearing protections, from cheap foamies to super expensive electronic noise canceling headsets with communication equipment connections. As a frugal shooter, I always try to find the best performance vs. price ratio. When I saw SureFire’s name on hearing protection, and at an extremely reasonable price point, it caught my attention. After about 3 months of use while shooting for reviews and just for fun on a variety of different guns, I’m ready to tell you about SureFire’s EP3 Sonic Defender earplugs.
Hearing protection is about as personal to people’s preferences as the guns they shoot. Some like over the ear, some like ear plugs, some like to use both. I personally prefer ear plugs, and I wanted a comfortable fit with solid performance. I had been using the custom fitted ear plugs I received in the military, but they weren’t that comfortable; I would use earmuffs instead but sometimes they could be distracting, and plus they mess up my delicate shooting hairstyle. I was hoping the SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders could provide both comfort and performance, and I can honestly say that they do.
The SureFire Ep3s are about the size of a quarter, consisting of an outer portion (the black part in the pics) which sets in the ear’s helix (inside the earlobe), and the plug potion, which of course goes down the ear canal. Instead of just using standard plugs like my military issue EPs, the use of the helix support really adds to the comfort. Standard ear plugs seemed to shift on me, when talking, or just through a bunch of movement, and it would cause a degradation in performance. The helix support keeps the plug in place in the canal, which in turn keeps them comfortable, and keeps the plug in place.
The SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders also have a plug on the outer potion of the earplugs which can be used when extra hearing protection is needed. When the plugs are out, it makes hearing lower level noises like conversations easier to pick up. The plugs are quite small though, and getting the plugs in and out while the EP3s are in can prove to be a challenge. Nevertheless, with the plugs out, the SureFire EP3 will still lower damaging levels of noise and still allow you to hear conversations. I personally shot with the plugs in; I found I needed the extra hearing protection when shooting a .308 or louder cartridge. According the SureFire’s website, the EP3 Sonic Defenders will lower sounds above 85db to safe levels, and provides 24db worth of hearing protection.
Well they’re comfortable, but how are they against hazardous noise protection? I used the SureFire EP3s with a .50 BMG, a 12 gauge, a .308, and countless other types of cartridges and I never experienced any type of ringing in the ear afterward. Even with my military issue ear plugs, a long day at the range would result in some slight hearing distortion after. The SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders were as effective as they are comfortable.
You can see from the picture above, that the SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders are hardly noticeable. I’ve actually been asked at the range if I was wearing hearing protection.
One thing that should be noted about the SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders is that they really need be seated correctly (the stem in the canal snugly) and they need to be the correct size to be truly effective. If I didn’t have one set in correctly, I could notice a dramatic shift in noise reduction ability. So its imperative that the EP3 Defenders are worn correctly to be effective.
Hearing protection isn’t the most expensive thing on the shooter’s list, but I would mark it as one of the most necessary. I was surprised with the non traditionally low price point that SureFire offers their outstanding hearing protection. I know SureFire does not design its products around price points, but rather quality based on a very demanding market (typically law enforcement and military), so seeing the EP3 Sonic Defenders offered on their website for only 12 bucks is a steal considering how effective they are. To get the same type of performance, one would almost have to get noise canceling ear muffs which tend to cost anywhere from 60 to over 200 dollars. So, if you need some dynamic hearing protection, allowing you to hear low level noises and still have hearing protection while shooting, and don’t want to pay a lot (almost nothing), then I would seriously take a look at the SureFire Ep3 Sonic Defender ear plugs.