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Gear & Stuff

The Curious Origins of the Ghillie Suit by WILL DABBS

This scumbag guy becomes eligible for release from prison in 2038.

In May of 2017, a father of three named Troy Johnson donned a ghillie suit and stalked a 12-year-old girl as she was heading to school in New South Wales, Australia. The 31-year-old abducted, subdued, gagged, and raped the child. Police searched his home and seized several items of evidence that supported the resulting charges. There were allegations of other assaults and attempted assaults as well. This freaking loser supposedly suffered some kind of medical episode after his arrest and was subsequently hospitalized. He appeared in the Wyong Local Court after his discharge and was ultimately sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Behold the face of the monster.

I struggle to comprehend what could drive a person to do something like that. Not meaning to sound uncharitable, but whatever his “medical episode” was, I can only hope it was something fairly agonizing. Most anything involving a power drill, a propane torch, or an intractable intestinal blockage would be OK with me. What makes this whole sordid tale pertinent to today’s discussion, however, was his attire. The ghillie suit has a long and fascinating military history.

Origin Story

The Gille Gubh was some sort of primitive Scottish forest spirit.

Gille is a Scots Gaelic term that describes a young man who works outdoors. Gille Dubh translates to “Black-Haired Youth” or “Dark-Haired Lad.” The Gille Gubh is some kind of bizarre earth spirit adorned in moss and leaves that figures prominently in Scottish mythology. The general understanding is that ghillie is a poorly-translated version of this term.

The yowie is the Australian version of our own Sasquatch. I find this image surprisingly disquieting.

Our Australian comrades call their ghillies “yowie suits.” This is a reference to the yowie, a mythical aboriginal creature akin to the Sasquatch. While there are a dozen or more local names for this thing, they all describe a hairy ape-like hominid that stands and walks upright. I rather suspect the yowie accounts for more than a little lost sleep among Australian children.

Factory-made ghillie suits will reliably transform a human being into a big pile of sphagnum moss. This one sells on Amazon.

The ghillie suit is simply a camouflage outfit designed to meld a sniper into the background vegetation and leave him essentially invisible on the battlefield. In years past, ghillie suits were handmade as part of sniper training. Traditionally, this involved sewing strips of burlap of various colors onto an old camouflage uniform until the end result was adequately leafy and bulky.

The original Lovat Scouts were formed from a cadre of skilled woodsmen.

The first recorded use of the ghillie suit in combat was by the Lovat Scouts during the Second Boer War. This Scottish Highland Regiment was mustered by Simon Fraser, the 14th Lord Lovat. The first batch of troops for this motley band was drawn from gamekeepers, professional stalkers, and similar men of the earth who toiled on Scottish estates.

The Lovat Scouts established a well-deserved reputation for effectiveness in combat.

The Lovat Scouts were initially commanded by the Honorable Andrew David Murray with Lord Lovat as 2IC. After 17 months in action, Murray was killed and Lord Lovat took command at age 29. He served until the end of the war in 1902.

Changes to warfare at the dawn of the 20th century were fairly transformational. These 1900-era Lovat Scouts look like a fairly manly group of guys.

At the dawn of the 20th century military tacticians were still trying to define themselves in the age of long-range repeating rifles, high explosives, smokeless powder, and belt-fed machineguns. In the Lovat Scouts we find soldiers well informed in fieldcraft and marksmanship. When combined with some innovative leadership these rugged men ultimately changed the way wars were fought.

The Black Watch was a legendary Scottish combat unit.

The Lovat Scouts were attached for a time to the Black Watch, but that relationship ended in the summer of 1901. A year later the Lovat Scouts returned to England and were disbanded. With chaos on the horizon in Europe, the Lovat Scouts were reformed in 1903 as two regiments. From these troops were drawn a group of dedicated sharpshooters that became the British Army’s first operational battlefield sniper unit. The unit was dissolved and reconstituted another time or two before finally finding itself deployed as two separate regiments in September of 1915 to Gallipoli.

The First War to End All Wars

These WW1-era Commonwealth snipers were armed with a variety of precision rifles, most of which sported offset optics.

The WW1-era Lovat Scouts Sharpshooters were formed into ten platoons. Each platoon was led by a commissioned platoon leader and consisted of 21 soldiers and NCOs. That first sniper unit totaled 220 specially-trained men. In a fairly prescient bit if tactical acumen, each platoon was subsequently attached to a particular Army Corps to be tasked out to subordinate units as needed.

The Lovat Sharpshooters were skilled at collecting tactical intelligence.

These sharpshooters were indeed renowned for their facility behind a rifle. Their weapons were typically variations of the standard-issue Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) that equipped most of the British Army. The SMLE was itself exceptionally capable for its day. However, it wasn’t necessarily their facility as snipers that so endeared the Lovat sharpshooters to their supported units.

Early ghillie suits were improvised affairs.

These early snipers were highly esteemed for their covert intelligence-gathering skills. On a battlefield bereft of drones and spy satellites, the accurate establishment of enemy locations and dispositions made the difference between success and failure. While using little more than 20-power spotting scopes these skilled warriors could offer great detail on enemy movements within ten miles and still offer reliable insights out to twenty. Major Vernon Hesketh Prichard, a legendary soldier and adventurer whose story we will no doubt explore eventually in this venue, was quoted as having said of the Lovat sharpshooters, “Keener men never lived…if they reported a thing, the thing was as they reported it.”

The Guns

The SMLE is a capable bolt-action infantry rifle. The addition of a low power optical sight optimized the long-range effectiveness of these weapons.

When faced with the prospects of protracted trench warfare, the British set out to equip their sharpshooters with precision rifles worthy of their mission. At first, these dedicated marksmen were equipped with a motley array of repurposed scoped hunting weapons. However, by 1915 the British government began mounting 3x and 4x scopes atop SMLE and P14 Enfield rifles. During the course of the war roughly 10,000 rifles were thusly converted. The optics on these weapons were not standardized until 1918.

These awkward offset scope mounts were designed to allow access to the stripper clip guide. This optic is built by the Periscopic Prism Company.

Though the SMLE fed from a detachable 10-round box magazine, most loading was still undertaken by stripper clips from the top. As a result, early scopes featured offset mounts to allow access to the rifle’s action from above. Later versions were center-mounted to facilitate a more effective cheek weld. These weapons had to be either loaded from the bottom using magazines or loaded from the top one round at a time. A skilled rifleman was expected to fire between 20 and 30 aimed shots per minute.

The SMLE was a popular British infantry rifle.

The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk I was first introduced in January of 1904. The SMLE’s 25.2-inch barrel represented the sweet spot halfway between that of the original Lee-Enfield rifle and the carbine version. The SMLE was distinguishable at a glance by the stubby little bayonet boss protruding just below the muzzle. The subsequent WW2-era Mk IV sported a small length of barrel at the nose. The definitive WW1 version of the rifle was the slightly-modified Mk III introduced in 1907. British Tommies affectionately referred to the SMLE as the “Smelly.”

The Suit

It is amazing how the guys in these staged wartime photos always look so happy. They seem to be saying, “Hot dog! Another fetid miserable day of crawling around in filth trying not to get our heads blown off.” These are WW2-era snipers armed with Lee-Enfield No4 Mk I (T) rifles.

The basic ghillie suit changed very little for nearly a century. If properly executed such a contrivance was almost unnaturally effective. However, those traditional burlap ghillies had their downsides.

A traditional ghillie suit burns easily. Apparently, this one also attracts snakes.

Frayed burlap is notoriously flammable. On a battlefield contaminated with such vile stuff as white phosphorus, incendiary rounds, smoke grenades, and similar pyrotechnics the ghillie suit can be a simply epic fire hazard. Two snipers assigned to the 11th ACR burned to death during combat operations in Iraq when their ghillie suits were set ablaze. Additionally, burlap soaks up moisture like a sponge. Once a burlap ghillie suit gets wet it becomes unnaturally heavy. Wet burlap close to the skin for long periods in cool climes can precipitate hypothermia as well.

Thermal imagers cut through battlefield concealment day or night.

Modern sensors rely upon thermal detectors and IR imagers that can significantly degrade the effectiveness of traditional visual camouflage. While a generation ago such gear had to be mounted in the nose of an attack helicopter and cost as much as my hometown, nowadays thermal sights of surprising effectiveness are within financial reach of your typical middle-class pig hunter. As regards thermal technology, with each passing year the prices go down and the capabilities go up. Traditional ghillie suits don’t do much to conceal a person’s thermal signature.

A ghillie suit collects sticks and battlefield debris like lawyers attract money.

While this might not seem like a big deal, a ghillie suit also attracts burrs and twigs like some kind of magnet. Once you’ve rolled around in the brush in one of these things for a while it becomes a gigantic mass of prickly crap. Most normal people wouldn’t care, but it’s impossible to keep a field-worn ghillie suit tidy.

The Next Generation

The latest US Army ghillie suit is safer and more effective than previous versions.

We Americans have a well-earned reputation for smothering our problems in science and technology. In 2007 the US Army Soldier Systems Center undertook a program to develop an enhanced ghillie suit material. Where burlap or jute had all those detriments described earlier, this new stuff was purportedly water-repellent and fire-resistant. After extensive field testing at the Sniper School at Fort Benning, this new material was incorporated into the FRGS (Flame Resistant Ghillie System). Testing began in 2018 on the IGS (Improved Ghillie System), a modular design intended to be even safer, more comfortable, and more effective.

The ghillie suit is a critical component of modern sniper operations.

Though they have really changed very little over the past century, the ghillie suit remains an integral part of the modern sniper’s kit. Wherever men institutionally kill each other there will be precision marksmen decked out in fluffy earth tones creeping about in the brush visiting death upon their enemies. Born in South Africa in the late 19th century, the ghillie suit remains a timeless sniper tool even today.

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Gear & Stuff

SPREAD THE PUNCH GRIP SIZE, SHAPE AND DIAMETER ARE IMPORTANT TO GOOD SHOOTING WRITTEN BY DAVE WORKMAN

Workman’s 4-inch Model 57 with factory grips.

 

As I get older, I’ve discovered the increasing importance of size, shape and diameter when it comes to shooting big bore sixguns.

It’s widely known I prefer the .41 Magnum over the .44 Magnum for the slightly flatter trajectory and slightly lower felt recoil, but when it comes to the latter, part of the equation is the grip.

Years ago, when I first acquired a Model 57 Smith & Wesson with a 6-inch barrel, I took a pretty quick dislike to the factory grips. They just didn’t have the right feel, and when I touched it off with full-house loads, there was no mistaking a revolver had gone ‘BANG!’ in my hand.

At the time, I was on a tight young family budget so I bought a superb Pachmayr rubber Presentation one-piece grip and it made a world of difference. The rubber covering the backstrap reduced felt recoil, and I also slapped a Pachmayr on my Ruger Blackhawk with the same result. This ignited what has become something of a lifetime study of grips.

 

As these things go, I wanted to fancy my revolver up a bit and found a set of synthetic grips at a gun show. The salesman said they were “bonded ivory” — a mix of synthetic and ivory dust that would age with time (they did) — and not only did that attract my attention, but more so did the shape. This set of grips had a palm swell so I plunked down a modest bit of cash (far less expensive than real ivory, which was still legal at the time) and I discovered having a wider profile along the backstrap and the palm swell really did make a difference.

Which is the best for you, wide or slightly thinner? I like a palm swell, you might not.

 

The width of the grip spreads recoil over a slightly wider area of the hand, rather than pound a narrow space between my thumb and the pocket of my hand. These grips—I have no idea who the maker was—truly did the trick.

 

I’m Guilty!

 

I am guilty of searching for perfection, which years of experience has taught me really doesn’t exist. Translation: I have more than one set of grips for the N-Frame S&Ws now in my gun safe.

Eagle Grips produced this set of eye-catching elk antler grips.

 

Raj Singh at Eagle Grips built a set of beautiful elk antler “magna” style grips that I consider my “barbecue” set for getting really fancy. When he introduced me to some stuff called Kirinite, I suggested that if he made target-style grips for double-action revolvers out of the stuff to the same dimensions as Eagle’s popular Heritage grips, he’d probably sell a bunch of them. I got one of the first sets, and I’ve had very good luck with them.

 

Eagle produced this set of tough Kirinite grips to imitate ivory.

 

A few years ago, I bought a set of imitation ivory grips from Altamont. They were on my 4-inch M57 when I had to dispatch a wounded mule deer buck a few years ago in an Eastern Washington canyon. These grips look superb with the S&W medallions, and in my opinion, they’re far preferable to the factory grips that were on this revolver when I bought it. Depending upon the size of one’s hand, they just might be what you’re looking for.

Once, while attending a long-range handgun shoot, I met a guy who had mounted a set of American holly grips on his revolver. The stuff looked like real ivory from a distance because it had yellowed slightly, so we had quite a chat. Some months later, I talked to longtime pal Rod Herrett at Herrett’s, and had a set of holly grips made in the Roper design. Once again, a great fit and feel, but the one thing I noticed immediately was how lightweight holly is. Compared to the antler and synthetic materials, this wood is almost weightless.

This set of Roper grips made from American Holly by Herrett’s is as functional as they are attractive.

 

The Roper style also has a slight palm swell, which spreads the recoil comfortably. The butt end on my set is a bit narrower than I prefer, but they hide well under a vest or jacket.

https://www.eaglegrips.com

http://www.herrettstocks.com

https://www.lymanproducts.com/brands/pachmayr

https://www.altamontco.com

 

The Importance of ‘OUCH!’

 

Some folks think gun writers are immune from recoil discomfort because of all the shooting we do. Let’s put that one to rest immediately; recoil hurts regardless of who you are.

 

I shot a buck with this revolver while it was wearing this handsome set of Altamont grips.

 

I once had the displeasure of shooting a big bore revolver manufactured with awful narrow synthetic grips. For serious handgunners, especially those involved in silhouette shooting or hunting where precision is paramount, firing a painful handgun can contribute to developing a flinch.

Don’t ignore the “ouch” factor. It’s as hard on the hand as running a chainsaw all day, typing with carpal tunnel or hammering nails or busting firewood for hours using a maul. Later in life, that’s going to come back and haunt you. At my age, that’s not conjecture, it’s experience.

A sidearm needs to fit the hand comfortably. This can only be determined by trying out a few with different grips, before making a purchase. I swap out my grips occasionally, same as using different holsters, but none of them produce discomfort upon discharge. I learned my lesson years ago.

Has Turnaround Started?

 

Earlier this month, the Washington State Department of Licensing provided me with data showing a year-long decline in the number of active concealed pistol licenses has turned around, and the number is on the way back up.

May saw almost 5,000 additional CPLs in circulation, and I am anxiously awaiting the June data to see if the positive pattern continues.

Washington, like all other states, saw a spike in gun sales over the past 12 months due to a variety of factors. Numbers declined due to COVID-19 shutdowns of basic services such as accepting new license applications by law enforcement agencies.

 

Gotta Love the Judge

 

Someday, they’ll be talking affectionately about U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez for his no-nonsense rulings on gun control and the Second Amendment.

Twice this jurist has smacked California gun control laws, most recently a couple of weeks ago when he declared the Golden State’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” to be unconstitutional. Anger from the gun control crowd, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, was predictable.

In his 94-page ruling, Judge Benitez dropped this gem at the top of Page 60: “How well has the California ban on assault weapons worked? Before AWCA (Assault Weapons Control Act), twice in a decade, an assault weapon was used in a mass shooting. On average, since AWCA, twice a decade, an assault weapon was used in a mass shooting. The assault weapon ban has had no effect. California’s experiment is a failure.” (Emphasis in original.)

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All About Guns Gear & Stuff

Some advice on Holsters

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All About Guns Gear & Stuff

Soviet WW2 Bramit Silencer for the M91/30

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Gear & Stuff

A Bikers EDC Gear Setup! Featuring Irish Zombie Nation

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Fieldcraft Gear & Stuff

12 Best Shooting Ear Protection [Electronic & Passive Hands-On] Eyes and ears! Find out our favorite shooting ear protection we use when we shoot. From passive to electronic and across all budgets, we’ve got you covered. BY ERIC HUNG

Don’t want to go deaf?

Tested Shooting Ear Protection Muffs
Tested Shooting Ear Protection Muffs

The percussive vibrations of each gunshot actually kill vital little hairs deep in your inner ear. And that can open the door to a high pitch ringing or humming noise that can last forever.

Three Electronic Earmuffs
Best Shooting Ear Protection

We’ve got the 411 on the best shooting ear protection…from affordable passive ones to the top-of-the-line electronic earmuffs.

We’ve tried them all over hundreds of hours at the range as shooters and range officers.

Eric Shooting
Me Shooting

We’ll go over some preliminary info but if you want the results right away…check out our table of contents.

Summary of Our Top Picks

  1. BEST FOAM EARPLUGS

    Ear Buddy Foam Earplugs

    Affordable, 32dB NRR

  2. EDITOR’S PICK PASSIVE PROTECTION

    3M Shotgunner II

    Slimmer, 24dB rating

  3. EDITOR’S PICK AFFORDABLE ELECTRONIC

    AXIL TRACKR Electronic Earmuffs

    25 dB NRR, great job blocking shot sounds, & amplifying speech.

  4. RUNNER UP AFFORDABLE ELECTRONIC

    Howard Leight Impact Sport

    Affordable electronic earmuffs, 22dB NRR

  5. MOST PROTECTIVE ELECTRONIC EARMUFFS

    Howard Leight Impact Pro

    Large, bulky, but 30 dB of protection

Table of Contents

  1. Summary of Our Top Picks
  2. Shockwave, Meet Inner Ear
  3. “Proper” Hearing Protection
  4. Best Shooting Ear Protection
  5. Conclusion

Shockwave, Meet Inner Ear

Everyone always talks about the middle ear. That’s mainly the eardrum and those three little bones with cool names: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup.

But what really causes hearing damage though is what happens in the inner ear.

Anatomy of the Ear
Anatomy of the Ear

Inside, picture a spiral staircase. Only this passage is just 2 millimeters wide and maybe 30 millimeters long all coiled up.

Sound races along the outside of the staircase, but in the middle are the organ of Corti (yup, sounds ominous) and the basilar membrane. Both are long and thin, with the organ resting on the membrane. All along this little assembly are tiny little hairs. They register sound and transmit it through the auditory nerve to your brain.

Daniel Defense DDM4ISR Range Shooting
Daniel Defense DDM4ISR Range Shooting

But — and here’s the kicker — exposure to an intense sound — that’s 140 dB or more — can make segments of the organ of Corti separate from the basilar membrane. Portions of it actually tear away and float around.

Sound Decibel Chart
Sounds you hear all the time can have a huge effect your hearing.

So you end up with an inflamed lesion that causes an accompanying chemical reaction. Hairs die. Scar tissue forms, and even with rest, the tiny hairs typically continue to degenerate. A cascade effect takes over, and the entire auditory central nervous system goes deaf.

Researchers suspect that tinnitus—that high pitch noise inside your head that won’t go away—“begins as a result of the brain trying to regain the ability to hear the sound frequencies it has lost by turning up the signals of neighboring frequencies.”

One more thing: noise exposure is cumulative. Each loud sound is killing ear hairs, so you need to be thinking about total exposure over the course of days, weeks and years.

FN502 Shooting
FN502 Shooting

Ready for some hearing protection yet?

Pregnant Women, Take Note

If you’re looking to go to the range while you’re pregnant, you might want to rethink that. There are some special considerations that you should know if before going.

Check out our complete article Shooting While Pregnant for more details!

“Proper” Hearing Protection

First of all, forget cotton balls, tissue, packing peanuts, or my personal old-shooter favorite, cigarette filters.

While they are better than nothing, they are also next to nothing. At best, you’ll get a reduction of maybe 7dB.

Cotton Balls as Ear Plugs
Cotton Balls are Barely Better than Nothing

Effective choices for hearing protection come down to

  • earplugs
  • earmuffs
  • combinations of the two and
  • some techy alternatives with sound-circuit technology.

There are so many options, there’s no reason not to protect your ear hairs. From neon foam-on-strings to high-tech headphones, there’s something for everyone.

What you should be looking for is a minimum noise reduction of 15dB, but 30dB is preferable. Pair a good set of plugs with muffs and you might shut out another 10 to 15dB or so.

Gun Decibel Chart, Silencer Central

You know the load you like to shoot, but a conservative 140dB is a common figure for an average muzzle blast. A .22 will be less, a magnum more. With quality protection, you can start approaching a range that’s still loud—as in chainsaw- or sandblast-loud—but may be up to 1,000 times quieter.

Best Shooting Ear Protection

Circle of Shooting Ear Protection
Circle of Shooting Ear Protection

Earplugs

Traditional earplugs fit inside the ear, forming a seal that blocks sound.

They come in a range of sizes, configurations, and materials — from foam to hypoallergenic rubber and moldable polymers. Earplugs tend to be more efficient at handling low-frequency noise.

Pros:

  • Least expensive option.
  • Highly effective.
  • Disposables available in bulk at pennies per pair.
  • Some rated 30dB or better.
  • Available strung or unstrung.
  • Reusable models washable.
  • Some models moldable for custom fit.
  • Compact for transport.
  • Good for tight spaces; no snagging.

Cons:

  • Fit constraints for narrow or wide ear canals.
  • Comfort varies widely.
  • Muffles all sound indiscriminately; works too well.
  • Foam models require proper roll-down insertion, removal and reuse.
  • Some models difficult to pair with muffs.
  • Moldables more expensive; may be difficult to alter.
  • Fumble-and-loss factor in dirty environments.

1. Disposable Foam Earplugs

The most affordable of the bunch and really protective at 32dB NRR (noise reduction rating).

Foam Earplugs
Foam Earplugs

Remember to fully compress them before sticking them into your ears.

Glock G43X Eric Shooting
Shooting with Foamies
BEST FOAM EARPLUGS

There are tons of other foam options but I would stay away from cylindrical ones…those are not very comfy.

2. SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders

Want something reusable and gives you two levels of hearing protection?

Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders
Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders

Enter Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders which have “filter caps” you can choose to have in or out.

Surefire EP3, One Open One Closed
Surefire EP3, One Open One Closed

Having it open gives you still decent protection against gun shots but allows you to hear range commands and regular talking.

They fit very well but keep in mind there are sizes…here I am comfy with Mediums.

Wearing Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders
Wearing Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders

Great for outdoor ranges and “normal” calibers…but if you’re shooting indoors or shooting magnums…I’d double-up with these inside and then earmuffs over.

13

at Optics Planet

Prices accurate at time of writing

There are also EP4 Sonic Defenders which have a longer flange into your ears.

I prefer the EP3s though.

Passive Protection

Traditional earmuffs come on a headband and have foam pads that cover and form a seal around the entire ear.

For those who don’t like the over-the-head fit, a few versions have back-of-the-head wrap designs. Muffs typically are better at screening out higher frequency sounds.

weak hand only shooting
Weak Hand Shooting Drills with Ear Muffs

Pros:

  • Convenient to put on and take off repeatedly.
  • Comfort level.
  • Easily paired with earplugs.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Foldable models compact.
  • One size usually fits all.
  • Durable.

Cons:

  • Can be bulky, heavy.
  • May snag or bump in confined spaces.
  • Comfort issues, especially in humidity, hot or wet weather.
  • Can interfere with proper cheek weld.
  • Issues with safety or prescription glasses and proper ear seal.
  • May not provide as much noise reduction as earplugs; can require pairing with plugs.
  • Hats or long hair, anyone?

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My favorites and what I wore for a long time are the 3M Optime model and Shotgunner model.

Shotgunner & Optime Ear Muffs
Shotgunner & Optime Ear Muffs

3. 3M Peltor Optime 105

The Optime 105 is super protective with 30dB NRR but is also quite bulky.

Passive Shooting Ear Protection
Passive Shooting Ear Protection

It’s not heavy but it will seriously cramp on your cheekweld situation for rifles and shotguns.

Use if you’re shooting handguns…and especially if you’re at an indoor range where the sound reverberates.

MOST PROTECTIVE PASSIVE
24

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. 3M Shotgunner II

For going slim…I really like the 3M Shotgunner.

Passive Shooting Muffs, Side
Passive Shooting Muffs, Side (L to R: Shotgunner, Optime 105, Optime 101)

I painted mine over and it served me well for years. It’s less protection at 24dB but you can always double up if it gets really loud with compensated rifles. Comfort is average but I found it to be fine for a few hours if I can take it off my ears during downtime.

BEST PASSIVE EAR PROTECTION
22

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Now, let’s dive into electronic ear protection that cuts out harmful shooting sounds but amplifies regular sounds like people talking.

5. 3M Optime 101 (Behind the Ear)

One of my newer passive earmuffs is the Optime 101 Behind the Ear which allows you to wear a hat, helmet, or face mask unobstructed.

3M Optime 101
3M Optime 101

I’d try these out if the other earmuffs aren’t to your liking.

Now how about we move onto…

Electronic Protection

Electronic Shooting Protection, Open
Electronic Shooting Protection, Open

High-tech electronics are stepping up the game for earplugs, ear cuffs, ear muffs, and every smart device in between.

These focus on screening out the loud booms while letting you still hear conversations and the sounds of the great outdoors.

Pros:

  • Noise filtering; loud noises muffled but conversation and subtle noises amplified.
  • Comfort.
  • Small, compact.
  • Lots of options, including Bluetooth to enable smartphones.
  • Available in stereo.
  • Variety of formats—muffs, earplugs, semis and cuffs.

Cons:

  • Price point—usually $50 and up, up, up.
  • Batteries required.
  • Not always water-resistant.
  • Expensive to lose; fallen electronic cuffs and earplugs hard to find in the field.
  • Comfort.
  • Some models are bulky, heavy.

6. AXIL TRACKR

My current go-to Editor’s Pick for affordable electronic hearing protection is the AXIL TRACKR.

Axil TRACKR Product
Range Ready with the AXIL TRACKR

AXIL started with manufacturing hearing aids and only recently moved into the hearing protection space…but they definitely know what they are doing.

Our entire team tested out the TRACKR and found the padding and strap to be a bit tight out of the box but very comfortable once you stretched them out a little bit.

Axil TRACKR Range
Range tested

But the electronics were what really performed.

At the range they did a great job of blocking out shots and amplifying speech. When I tested them out in my home office, I was somewhat surprised.

Axil TRACKR
AXIL TRACKR

I was able to hear a conversation in another room, a bird tweeting outside, and my own breathing. AXIL’s background in hearing aids shines through in the amplification.

NRR comes in at 25 dB which is great for thin profile electronic earmuffs and enough for a day at the range unless you go into really big boy caliber ranges.

Axil TRACKR Side
AXIL TRACKR Side

Price is $64 which is slightly higher than other budget options but AXIL has a great deal of buying 2 for $99.

There’s also a Bluetooth version rated at 27 dB where you can also enjoy tunes with a paired device. Separate volume switches allow you to dial the ambient noise or music to your listening pleasure.

Axil TRACKR (L) and TRACKR Blu (R)
AXIL TRACKR (L) and TRACKR Blu (R)
99

at Axil

Prices accurate at time of writing

7. Howard Leight Impact Sport

My previous go-to recommendation before the AXIL was the Howard Leight Impact Sports (free shipping and only tax in FL).

Howard Leight Impact Sport
Howard Leight Impact Sport

They are super popular for a reason. They are affordable and they work…15K reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star average.

It’s the first pair of electronic earmuffs people get when they are tired of yelling “WHAT?!?” when someone speaks to them at the range.

Howard Leight Impact Sports and Pro
Howard Leight Impact Sports and Pro

Affordable, decent protection at 22dB NRR, slim for rifle/shotgun shooting, and reasonably comfortable.

Plus they come with AUX-in for devices.

RUNNER UP AFFORDABLE ELECTRONIC
48

at Bereli

Prices accurate at time of writing

The only thing I could knock them for was their comfort. But now there are third-party gel caps that make them super comfortable.

BEST EARMUFF UPGRADE
19

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

These feel like the pads used in my favorite $200+ earmuffs further down the list.

8. Howard Leight Impact Pro

If you’re ready to jump up a notch you get 30 dB of protection and ability to hear people around you and range commands.

HL Impact Pro with Noisefighters
Howard Leight Impact Pro with Noisefighters

They are large, bulky, but surprisingly light and comfy to wear even for longer range sessions and provide amazing noise reduction. I’d recommend these if you are shooting large caliber handguns or shoot at an indoor range.

Howard Leight, Side Profile
Howard Leight, Side Profile

They are pretty thick and will mess up your rifle cheek weld.

Plus…since they also fit the Noisefighters Gel Caps!

MOST PROTECTIVE ELECTRONIC EARMUFFS
71

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

9. Walker’s Razor Slim Muff

Ok, no list would be complete without the Impact Sport’s arch-nemesis…Walker’s Razor Slims. They look cooler and performance is pretty on par.

Walker's Razor Ear Protection
Walker’s Razor Ear Protection

They are head-to-head against the Impact sports so I say get whichever is cheaper…which usually are the Impact Sports.

And keep in mind the Walker’s don’t have AUX-in if that’s important to you.

ALSO GOOD AFFORDABLE ELECTRONIC
55

at Optics Planet

Prices accurate at time of writing

And oh yes…they also have access to Upgraded Gel Pads.

Walker's Razor, Side
Walker’s Razor, Side with Gel Pads

10. Pro Ears Pro Tac Slim Gold

For most, you’ll be well-served with any of the Howard Leights with the possibility of upgrading to gel caps.

Next up is a bigger jump in price.

But with that, you get much better cutoff and amplification. Pro Ears has a stellar reputation and I like their Pro Tac Slim Gold edition. They don’t make my Editor’s Pick because they fit a little tight for people and the ears aren’t as comfy as the MSA Sordins.

But if you want better sound quality and shutoff (plus the ability to change it for each ear), I like Pro Ears’ Pro Tac Slim Gold with 28dB NRR.

11. MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X

Most of my fellow competitors wear MSA Sordins for their comfort and sound quality.

MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X
MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X

I finally caved after I became a range officer for a couple of competitions. That meant constant blasts for hours while still needing to hear everything.

Eric Shooting
Me Shooting

I simply asked my competition buddies “what are the best electronic ear muffs” and the MSA’s got the majority of votes.

They already has built-in gel caps and there’s a couple colors. I of course went with the camo…

Supreme Pro-X Controls
Supreme Pro-X Controls

They are comfy for hours with their gel caps, have easily accessible button controls, great sound cutoff and compression, and allow for earplugs if the decent 22db NRR doesn’t cut it.

MSA Supreme Pro-X, Side
MSA Supreme Pro-X, Side

Plus they can attach to ballistic helmets and comms if that’s your thing.

BEST OVERALL ELECTRONIC HEARING PROTECTION
269

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

What I wear when I shoot for hours and my main recommendation for when people want the best.

What do you think about the MSA Sordins?

Readers’ Ratings

4.95/5 (957)

Your Rating?

Last category…Electronic In-Ear Protection

This is newer for us and we’re going through and testing more in-ear options so stay tuned.

12. Axil GS Extreme 2.0

We tried the first generation of GS Extremes and were not impressed. However the newest generation is great.

AXIL GS Extreme 2 wearing
AXIL GS Extreme 2.0

However we must note that you have to really fit the ear with the foam plugs.

AXIL GS Extreme 2 foamies
AXIL GS Extreme 2 Foamies

They come in a variety of sizes and so far the three of us that tested them could find a size that worked.

Another note is that the smaller silicone plugs are just for music…not for blasting guns.

AXIL GS Extreme 2 everything
AXIL GS Extreme 2 everything

Other than that…there’s some great pros to the GS Extreme 2.0s.

  • Super lightweight
  • Out of the way
  • Bluetooth capable
  • 29dB of noise blocking when correctly worn

Now you’ll have no excuse to have a good cheekweld…but make sure to put some sunblock on your ears (we learned the hard way).

As for price they are decent at $129 for one pair but Axil currently has a great deal of 2 pairs for $199.

BEST IN-EAR ELECTRONIC
129

at AXIL

Prices accurate at time of writing

Conclusion

MSA Supreme Pro-X
MSA Supreme Pro-X

To sum it all up…

To get great protection and not have to deal with earmuffs…get some disposable foam earplugs.

BEST FOAM EARPLUGS
17

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Want to upgrade to some earmuffs?

I like the slim Shotgunner ones if I’m shooting rifle.

BEST PASSIVE EAR PROTECTION
22

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Otherwise if I want the most protection I go with Optime 105s which are bulky but the best rated.

MOST PROTECTIVE PASSIVE
24

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Ready for electronic protection?  My go-to suggestion is AXIL.

And for the best electronic earmuffs I’ve been rocking for the last few years…MSA Sordins.

BEST OVERALL ELECTRONIC HEARING PROTECTION
269

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

VIEW DETAILS

  • Amazon (See Price)
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  • ———————————————————————————Trust me on this one issue. As THE Boss gets VERY FRUSTRATED with me and my loss of hearing! Grumpy
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Some really nasty stuff from the Past

“Greek Fire being deployed against the enemies of  Eastern Rome”

Tanks and rifles sure are scary and lethal, so is mustard or chlorine gas. When it comes to creating weapons to annihilate adversaries, we sure can count on how the ancient people effectively forged some of the most formidable and fearsome weapons they had used. Some of them even became the foundation of how our munitions and equipment were developed. With that, here are some of history’s feared and hottest weapons during their time.

 Greek Fire
Grenades filled with liquid fire and caltrops from the fortress of Chania 10th and 12th centuries
Grenades filled with liquid fire and caltrops from the fortress of Chania 10th and 12th centuries.

Don’t you just hate it when you accidentally burn yourself by touching hot surfaces? Then you’ll despise the incendiary weapon used by the Eastern Roman Empire in ca. 672. Called the Greek fire, this flame-throwing weapon was what the Byzantine navy typically used during naval battles to burn down enemy ships and effectively provided them with advantages that resulted in military victories. What was truly remarkable about this Greek fire was that it could be ignited even in contact with water, and the victims would continue to burn even while on water.

The Byzantines, later on, developed this weapon by using pressurized nozzles to project the liquid onto the enemy ships, much more like an ancient version of our flamethrower. The formula for this formidable weapon was unsurprisingly a closely guarded state secret, although there were speculations and debate on what it was. The proposal included a mixture of pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, calcium phosphide, sulfur, and or niter.

Greek fire was no doubt a concoction of destruction, but that did not make the Byzantine navy untouchable. Soon, the Muslim navies found ways to defend themselves from it, either by staying out and away from its effective range or by shielding themselves with felt or hides soaked in vinegar.

 

The Man Catcher

The man catcher. (Royal Armoury,

What’s left to do when your castle was in the middle of being besieged by horse-riding enemy forces? For the people of 18th century Europe, they could snare these attackers by catching them like fishes while they were on their horses. The weapon used was the man catcher, also known as catchpole, which consisted of a pole that was mounted with a two-pronged head. The prongs were both semi-circular in shape and had a spring-loaded “door” on the front that allowed the ring to pass around a man-sized cylinder and the victim’s head trapped. And so they would use this man catcher to fish a person from horseback and then drag him to the ground where he could be pinned to either be turned into a prisoner or helplessly killed. On some occasions, it was also used to pin down and contain violent prisoners.

Other countries like Japan also had their own version called sodegaramitsukubo, and sasumata that were used during law enforcement in Edo-era. The difference was that the sasumata, for instance, had its forked head used to trap down the victim’s neck, legs, arms, or joints.

                 Morning Star
Morning star at the torture museum in Freiburg im Breisgau.

A popular one, the morning star, was like the more evil brother of the mace. Its design was crude and simple: a stick made of either metal or wood topped with a metal ball laced with spikes and blades. This weapon became popularly used by soldiers in the 14th century, particularly in Germany, where it was popularly called Morgenstern. It was used typically by aiming at the heads and faces of foes, which didn’t sound much, but imagine being hit with a heavy ball of spikes on the nose and on your whole face. It could also be used to take enemies down by aiming it at the legs and knees instead. It is sometimes confused with mace, but the main differentiating factor between the two was that the spikes of the morning star, at most, had flanges or small knobs.

Traditionally, it was used by cavalry and infantry units, with the horsemen being given a version that had a shorter shaft. All in all, there were three types of this weapon that varied in terms of workmanship quality. The first one was well-crafted for military use and was given to professional soldiers. The second was simpler and was hand-cut by peasant militiamen, and the spikes were sometimes made from nails. The third was short shafted and made of metal and ornamented with gold and silver for decorative purposes.