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All About Guns Fieldcraft Gun Info for Rookies

Tips for the Traveling Hunter by PHILIP MASSARO

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As much as I enjoy hunting my native New York—with its Catskill and Adirondack Mountains and all the other beautiful places—I simply love traveling abroad to hunt new countries and continents. Canada, Alaska, the Rockies, Africa, Europe and Australia—there is an entire world out there to be explored and hunted. Doing so is not as easy as hunting in your home state; it requires an extra measure of research and planning.

The legality of traveling with a firearm for hunting can be a daunting task—when leaving the country—due to the multi-national laws involved. I’ve also been on a couple of hunts that involved more than one country, and it took a bit of homework to have things in order before I left. Then, you face another set of hurdles once you return to the US of A, so there is an entire flock of ducks to have in a row.

Let’s deal with the trips that stay in the continental US first. You’ll need a good gun caseone that meets all the TSA requirements—and a set of TSA approved locks. These locks feature a unique key for you, but they can be opened by a TSA master key for inspection. I’d highly recommend that you break down your firearm (if possible) within the case, by removing the bolt or dismantling a double-barrel shotgun, to assure the agents that the firearm is not loaded. Keep any and all ammunition in an approved container (original cardboard box or one of the plastic ammo containers) and put it in your checked-on luggage, separate from the firearm. I declare my firearms to the ticket agent when checking into the flight, and ask them (kindly) to summon a TSA agent. While the ticket agent may look at you in horror at the mention of traveling with firearms, the TSA agents are much more familiar and comfortable with the processes involved. Other than that, if you’re staying in the States, you should be good to go.

International travel with a firearm can be a bit of a different story. The same flight rules apply as described above, but there are permits and temporary licenses that must be obtained and carefully guarded throughout your travels. The first stop—long before your trip begins—is to make an appointment with U.S. Customs to have Form 4457 (Certificate of Personal Effects Taken Abroad) filled out and signed by a Customs Agent. This will assure that you can bring your firearm back into the United States upon your return; it is the proof that you owned the firearm before your trip commenced, and that you didn’t purchase it abroad. I’d also recommend that you put your scope and binoculars (with serial numbers) on the certificate to avoid any issues. I like to make a clear copy of my completed Form 4457 and put it in the bottom of my rifle case, as an insurance measure. I’d like to throw a shout out to the ladies and gentlemen at the Albany, New York Customs office; they are pleasant and more than accommodating for the multiple 4457’s I’ve needed over the years.

You’ll definitely need to keep any ammo separate from the firearm case, and I like to keep it in a plastic case—I’ve used MTM Cases for years with great results—and I use a bit of duct tape to keep things secure. Some countries in Africa want you to declare the amount of ammunition brought into the country, and some have limits on the amount you’re able to bring in. Some even collect a surcharge, per round of ammunition, upon entering the country.

There is usually a fee associated with the temporary import of a firearm into another country. I remember Canada gets $25, and the African countries all differ. It will pay to be very familiar with the location of the serial number of your firearms, as they will be required for your temporary permit. That permit, which allows you to carry a firearm in another country, needs to be well taken care of. I remember hunting in Zambia, where we had to make sure that paperwork was with us at all points in time—even in the most remote places—as we were hunting with a government Game Scout at all times, as is common in many African countries.

Once you’re done hunting, you’ll want to keep things equally tidy for the return trip. I save all of the empty cartridges I can (I’m a stingy reloader) to show that I didn’t leave any ammunition in the wrong hands. You’ll need the necessary exit paperwork—usually an exit stamp on your import permit—and upon returning to the Land of the Free, U.S. Customs will need to see that Form 4457, and you should be all set.

There are several travel agencies that specialize in assisting the traveling hunter, my own personal favorite being my pal Steve Turner over at Travel With Guns. They have all the necessary forms and the know how to help you get in and out of your destination without a hitch. Steve and his team can give you the requirements on medications (a very important point when traveling to an area known to harbor malaria), as well as handy maps of and tips on the area you’re visiting. While they charge a nominal fee for their services, it is money well spent; there’s been more than one occasion where Steve & Co. have helped me out of a jam. I remember sitting in the Bulawayo, Zimbabwe airport, waiting in a long line for guys to fill out the import paperwork (and needing to share the vintage carbon paper); we had the forms already filled out thanks to Travel With Guns and avoided a long wait. There was also a time Steve got us out of JFK Airport a day early because of an impending hurricane. When I travel to hunt in a different country, Steve gets my business.

You’ll want to make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months after your trip is over, to avoid any hassles. Many times, you can fill out paperwork for international transportation ahead of time—which helps get through the process quicker—and you’ll need to provide your passport number. I always keep the number of the US Embassy in whatever country I’m hunting tucked away in my wallet, along with a Xerox copy of my passport, just in case. And, let me leave you with one last piece of advice: pack light. The overweight baggage costs are astronomical; I learned that the hard way!

The last part of the hunt can often be addressed before you leave, and I’d recommend you do. Getting your trophies home—especially if the species you’re hunting falls under a CITES classification—can be not only a hassle, but a real drag. Contact a good import company—I use Bob and Rosella Quartarone of Safari Specialty Importers—to provide my trophies with the best possible care during the trip back to my taxidermist. They will provide identification tags, so your hard-earned trophies don’t get lost in the shuffle. Though there are other companies to choose from, I feel Bob and Rosella are among the most knowledgeable and diligent in the industry.

Pick up the phone, fire up the laptop, and plan your adventure; life is indeed short and international hunting will provide some of the best memories of your hunting career.

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Fieldcraft

How to Walk Silently

  1. Take slow, measured breaths from the nose. Most martial arts (the training ground for stealth) emphasize this.
  2. Watch the next place you will take a step. Be mindful of objects you are stepping on.
  3. Outside, try to walk on bare dirt or live grass. Dead foliage creates a perceptible “crunch” even when lightly stepped on. If you encounter an area where forced to walk through foliage, then pick the clearest path and proceed slowly, possibly bending over and removing obstructions from the location of the next step.
  4. If following someone, match the cadence of their steps (i.e. when they step with their left foot, you use your left foot). This will help mask any noise your feet may make. Remember that sound travels at 340 meters per second (1116 ft/sec), so you might need to adjust your walk accordingly: Note the delay between the visual step and the sound of the step from the one you are following, and try to use the same delay for your steps, only the other way around – you must step slightly before the person you are following.
  5. Place the heel or toes of your foot down first and roll your foot slowly and gently onto the ground. If moving swiftly, run/leap from location to location. Avoid landing flatfooted. For moving backwards, this is reversed, so that the ball of the foot is placed down first, and then the heel lowered to the ground.
  6. For getting really close to a target, walk on the outer edge of your feet, rolling your foot from heel to pinky toe. Though very silent, this technique is also uncomfortable and should only be used for short distances. The hips can be rotated slightly to make this technique easier.
  7. When speed is required, try this: Stand 90 degrees to the direction you want to go with your feet spread slightly, then take the foot on the other side of where you want to go, and while balancing on your other foot, move it across, making an X with your legs. Take your other foot and swing it out from behind to the start position. This method allows you to walk with some speed silently, even when wearing jeans which usually make lots of noise.
  8. How to walk silently on gravel: Bend low at the knees. The first part of your foot to hit the ground should be the heel. “Roll” forward on that foot until you’re on the ball of your foot (the padded part just behind the toes). Just before you’ve rolled all the way onto the ball of your foot, put your other foot down, heel first, directly in front of the first foot, almost touching it. You should be able to smoothly roll from the first foot to the second. Continue by rolling on the second foot, until you’re almost at the ball, and repeat by putting the first foot in front of the second. This should all be done fluidly.

tips

  • Running on the balls of one’s feet (‘digitigrade’) helps with speed and quietness, but be careful; this requires more strength in the feet and lower legs, and greater flexibility in the ankle and foot joints. It also requires better balance than normal movement, and creates a greater impression on softer surfaces (due to the weight being spread over a decreased surface area).
  • When climbing items such as trees and cliffs, be mindful of where your foot lands. Try to place the toes and front padding of the foot in between branches and on crevices of the cliff. If you are forced to step in the middle of a branch or push up the side of the cliff, do it slowly and proceed with caution. A little force may dislodge a shower of debris or break a twig alerting watchers.
  • Avoid shifting your weight until your forward foot is quietly and firmly on the ground. This will require a considerable degree of balance and practice.
  • If you have problems with dragging your feet, then try walking around slowly with your shoelaces untied and dangling to create noise if you don’t raise and lower your feet. WARNING: Do not attempt to do this quickly or carelessly, as you could trip and fall. Keep it slow, steady and measured.
  • Remember; sound is a form of energy created in walking as a byproduct of wasted energy (i.e. using more force than required in placing the foot on the ground). Control of foot placement minimizes this.
  • You don’t just walk with your foot; your whole body is involved, from arms and head for balance, to hips and torso for driving the leg movements, to the legs themselves for creating the distance. ‘Play around’ with your movements so that you build a picture of what works for you and what doesn’t.
  • Try Zig-Zagging as you walk: step with one foot then step forward and to the side. Step the other direction. Repeat. This way you keep more of your balance.
  • When breathing, breathe through the open mouth, rather than the nose, to reduce the noise of breathing. Try to avoid situations where you must sneak around with indigestion, as growling stomachs, burps, and various other internal difficulties can be as much of a giveaway as a footstep. If you feel the urge to sneeze, this can often be suppressed firmly pressing on your upper lip – in this rare case the cartoons got it right. Unfortunately, there is no good way to suppress coughing, so your best bet is to try and prevent it by covering your mouth and nose when breathing dusty air or other irritants. Cloth isn’t necessary – even breathing through cupped hands can help.

The following method is taught by American tracker Tom Brown and taught to him by an Apache elder.

The Fox Walk

 

The basic movement of the ‘fox walk’ is that the foot is placed on the ground before weight is placed on it and the stride is shorter than a ‘normal’ one. If you have studied Tai Chi, you will have been taught a similar way of moving. The centre of gravity for this walk should be in the hips.

  1. Touch the foot lightly to the ground, with the outside edge hitting the ground first. The heel, ball and edge of the foot strike together.
  2. Next, roll the foot inward, until the whole surface area of the foot is on the ground.
  3. At this stage, the walker will be able to feel exactly what the foot is stepping on and be able to judge whether the foot needs to be withdrawn or if it is safe to put weight on the foot.

The benefits of fox walking include less strain on the body and less damage to the countryside.

Stalking/The Weasel Walk

Stalking is not only moving silently, but extremely slowly and done properly can enable the stalker to approach wild animals, sometimes even close enough to touch them. Each step will take typically up to a minute to complete. The movements flow and there should be no shakiness. Learning to stalk takes practice, so that you can freeze your movement if an animal looks towards you.

The walk is similar to the fox walk and is sometimes referred to as the weasel walk. The arms are kept very close in to the body and the hands can be put on the knees for support.

  1. The back foot should be picked up and moved slowly to the front of the body. The foot should then be carefully and slowly lowered until it is a few inches away from the ground.
  2. The toes are then turned upward and contact with the ground is made with the outside ball of the foot, which is then rolled slowly inwards.
  3. The heel of the foot comes down and finally the toes. At this stage, weight can be put on the foot. If an object such as a stick is felt before the weight is placed on it, the foot can be removed and replaced somewhere else.
  • Cat walk. Begin your step by lifting your foot straight up, toes pointing down to avoid snagging. Place the outside of your foot down first. Press the ball of your foot into the ground consciously, rolling from the outside in. Bring down your heel, then slowly shift weight to that foot. Be prepared to lift and shift whenever you feel any obstacle that might snap or crackle under your weight.
  • Map your steps. To avoid watching your feet, make a mental map of upcoming ground cover for the next eight to 10 paces, noting where you’ll need to sidestep branches or high-step fallen logs.
  • Go slow. When looking for game, take three to four slow steps and stop. How slow? Three steps should take you at least 20 seconds.
  • Hide your noise. Mask the noise of footfalls by moving whenever other sounds can muffle your own. Wind in the trees, moving water, and even airplane noise can all hide the sound of a human on the hunt.
Categories
Cops Fieldcraft

Tech tool offers police ‘mass surveillance on a budget’ By GARANCE BURKE and JASON DEAREN

Local law enforcement agencies from suburban Southern California to rural North Carolina have been using an obscure cellphone tracking tool, at times without search warrants, that gives them the power to follow people’s movements months back in time, according to public records and internal emails obtained by The Associated Press.

Police have used “Fog Reveal” to search hundreds of billions of records from 250 million mobile devices, and harnessed the data to create location analyses known among law enforcement as “patterns of life,” according to thousands of pages of records about the company.

Sold by Virginia-based Fog Data Science LLC, Fog Reveal has been used since at least 2018 in criminal investigations ranging from the murder of a nurse in Arkansas to tracing the movements of a potential participant in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The tool is rarely, if ever, mentioned in court records, something that defense attorneys say makes it harder for them to properly defend their clients in cases in which the technology was used.

A cruiser sits in a parking lot outside police headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)
Former police data analyst Davin Hall uses the Waze navigation app while driving through Greensboro, N.C., on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed).

The company was developed by two former high-ranking Department of Homeland Security officials under former President George W. Bush. It relies on advertising identification numbers, which Fog officials say are culled from popular cellphone apps such as Waze, Starbucks and hundreds of others that target ads based on a person’s movements and interests, according to police emails. That information is then sold to companies like Fog.

“It’s sort of a mass surveillance program on a budget,” said Bennett Cyphers, a special adviser at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital privacy rights advocacy group.

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This story, supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, is part of an ongoing Associated Press series, “Tracked,” that investigates the power and consequences of decisions driven by algorithms on people’s everyday lives.

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The documents and emails were obtained by EFF through Freedom of Information Act requests. The group shared the files with The AP, which independently found that Fog sold its software in about 40 contracts to nearly two dozen agencies, according to GovSpend, a company that keeps tabs on government spending. The records and AP’s reporting provide the first public account of the extensive use of Fog Reveal by local police, according to analysts and legal experts who scrutinize such technologies.

Federal oversight of companies like Fog is an evolving legal landscape. On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission sued a data broker called Kochava that, like Fog, provides its clients with advertising IDs that authorities say can easily be used to find where a mobile device user lives, which violates rules the commission enforces. And there are bills before Congress now that, if passed, would regulate the industry.

“Local law enforcement is at the front lines of trafficking and missing persons cases, yet these departments are often behind in technology adoption,” Matthew Broderick, a Fog managing partner, said in an email. “We fill a gap for underfunded and understaffed departments.”

Because of the secrecy surrounding Fog, however, there are scant details about its use and most law enforcement agencies won’t discuss it, raising concerns among privacy advocates that it violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

What distinguishes Fog Reveal from other cellphone location technologies used by police is that it follows the devices through their advertising IDs, unique numbers assigned to each device. These numbers do not contain the name of the phone’s user, but can be traced to homes and workplaces to help police establish pattern-of-life analyses.

“The capability that it had for bringing up just anybody in an area whether they were in public or at home seemed to me to be a very clear violation of the Fourth Amendment,” said Davin Hall, a former crime data analysis supervisor for the Greensboro, North Carolina, Police Department. “I just feel angry and betrayed and lied to.”

Hall resigned in late 2020 after months of voicing concerns about the department’s use of Fog to police attorneys and the city council.

Former police data analyst Davin Hall quit the Greensboro, N.C., police force in part over its use of Fog Reveal, a powerful cellphone-tracking tool. “The capability that it had for bringing up just anybody in an area whether they were in public or at home seemed to me to be a very clear violation of the Fourth Amendment,” Hall said. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

Former police data analyst Davin Hall quit the Greensboro, N.C., police force in part over its use of Fog Reveal, a powerful cellphone-tracking tool. “The capability that it had for bringing up just anybody in an area whether they were in public or at home seemed to me to be a very clear violation of the Fourth Amendment,” Hall said. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

While Greensboro officials acknowledged Fog’s use and initially defended it, the police department said it allowed its subscription to expire earlier this year because it didn’t “independently benefit investigations.”

But federal, state and local police agencies around the U.S. continue to use Fog with very little public accountability. Local police agencies have been enticed by Fog’s affordable price: It can start as low as $7,500 a year. And some departments that license it have shared access with other nearby law enforcement agencies, the emails show.

Police departments also like how quickly they can access detailed location information from Fog. Geofence warrants, which tap into GPS and other sources to track a device, are accessed by obtaining such data from companies, like Google or Apple. This requires police to obtain a warrant and ask the tech companies for the specific data they want, which can take days or weeks.

Using Fog’s data, which the company claims is anonymized, police can geofence an area or search by a specific device’s ad ID numbers, according to a user agreement obtained by AP. But, Fog maintains that “we have no way of linking signals back to a specific device or owner,” according to a sales representative who emailed the California Highway Patrol in 2018, after a lieutenant asked whether the tool could be legally used.

Despite such privacy assurances, the records show that law enforcement can use Fog’s data as a clue to find identifying information. “There is no (personal information) linked to the (ad ID),” wrote a Missouri official about Fog in 2019. “But if we are good at what we do, we should be able to figure out the owner.”

Fog’s Broderick said in an email that the company does not have access to people’s personal information, and draws from “commercially available data without restrictions to use,” from data brokers “that legitimately purchase data from apps in accordance with their legal agreements.” The company refused to share information about how many police agencies it works with.

“We are confident Law Enforcement has the responsible leadership, constraints, and political guidance at the municipal, state, and federal level to ensure that any law enforcement tool and method is appropriately used in accordance with the laws in their respective jurisdictions,” Broderick said in the email.

“Search warrants are not required for the use of the public data,” he added Thursday, saying that the data his product offers law enforcement is “lead data” and should not be used to establish probable cause.

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Kevin Metcalf, a prosecutor in Washington County, Arkansas, said he has used Fog Reveal without a warrant, especially in “exigent circumstances.” In these cases, the law provides a warrant exemption when a crime-in-process endangers people or an officer.

Metcalf also leads the National Child Protection Task Force, a nonprofit that combats child exploitation and trafficking. Fog is listed on its website as a task force sponsor and a company executive chairs the nonprofit’s board. Metcalf said Fog has been invaluable to cracking missing children cases and homicides.

“We push the limits, but we do them in a way that we target the bad guys,” he said. “Time is of the essence in those situations. We can’t wait on the traditional search warrant route.”

Fog was used successfully in the murder case of 25-year-old nurse Sydney Sutherland, who had last been seen jogging near Newport, Arkansas, before she disappeared, Metcalf said.

Police had little evidence to go on when they found her phone in a ditch, so Metcalf said he shared his agency’s access to Fog with the U.S. Marshals Service to figure out which other devices had been nearby at the time she was killed. He said Fog helped lead authorities to arrest a farmer in Sutherland’s rape and murder in August 2020, but its use was not documented in court records reviewed by AP.

Cyphers, who led EFF’s public records work, said there hasn’t been any previous record of companies selling this kind of granular data directly to local law enforcement.

“We’re seeing counties with less than 100,000 people where the sheriff is using this extremely high tech, extremely invasive, secretive surveillance tool to chase down local crime,” Cyphers said.

A crime scene unit van sits outside the Rockingham County Sheriff's Department in Wentworth, N.C., on Saturday, July 23, 2022. The rural county of just 91,000 residents subscribes to the powerful Fog Reveal service, which gives police the power to track cellphones, sometimes without a warrant. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

A crime scene unit van sits outside the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Department in Wentworth, N.C., on Saturday, July 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

One such customer is the sheriff’s office in rural Rockingham County, North Carolina, population 91,000 and just north of Greensboro, where Hall still lives. The county bought a one-year license for $9,000 last year and recently renewed it.

“Rockingham County is tiny in terms of population. It never ceases to amaze me how small agencies will scoop up tools that they just absolutely don’t need, and nobody needs this one,” Hall said.

Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Kevin Suthard confirmed the department recently renewed its license but declined to offer specifics about the use of Fog Reveal or how the office protects individuals’ rights.

“Because it would then be less effective as criminals could be cognizant that we have the device and adjust their commission of the crimes accordingly. Make sense?” Suthard said.

Fog has aggressively marketed its tool to police, even beta testing it with law enforcement, records show. The Dallas Police Department bought a Fog license in February after getting a free trial and “seeing a demonstration and hearing of success stories from the company,” Senior Cpl. Melinda Gutierrez, a department spokeswoman, said in an email.

Fog’s tool is accessed through a web portal. Investigators can enter a crime scene’s coordinates into the database, which brings back search results showing a device’s Fog ID, which is based on its unique ad ID number.

Police can see which device IDs were found near the location of the crime. Detectives or other officers can also search the location for IDs going forward from the time of the crime and back at least 180 days, according to the company’s user license agreement.

The emails and Fog’s Broderick contend the tool can actually search back years, however. Emails from a Fog representative to Florida and California law enforcement agencies said the tool’s data stretched back as far as June 2017. On Thursday Broderick, who had previously refused to address the question, said it “only has a three year reach back.”

While the data does not directly identify who owns a device, the company often gives law enforcement information it needs to connect it to addresses and other clues that help detectives figure out people’s identities, according to company representatives’ emails.

It is unclear how Fog makes these connections, but a company it refers to as its “data partner” called Venntel, Inc. has access to an even greater trove of users’ mobile data.

A lamp shines outside police headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The city recently let lapse its contract for Fog Reveal, a powerful cellphone-tracking tool that some advocates fear violates people's privacy rights. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

A lamp shines outside police headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The city recently let lapse its contract for Fog Reveal, a powerful cellphone-tracking tool that some advocates fear violates people’s privacy rights. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

Venntel is a large broker that has supplied location data to agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI. The Department of Homeland Security’s watchdog is auditing how the offices under its control have used commercial data. That comes after some Democratic lawmakers asked it to investigate U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s use of Venntel data to track people without a search warrant in 2020. The company also has faced congressional inquiries about privacy concerns tied to federal law enforcement agencies’ use of its data.

Venntel and Fog work closely together to aid police detectives during investigations, emails show. Their marketing brochures are nearly identical, too, and Venntel staff has recommended Fog to law enforcement, according to the emails. Venntel said “the confidential nature of our business relationships” prevented it from responding to AP’s specific questions, and Fog would not comment on the relationship.

While Fog says in its marketing materials that it collects data from thousands of apps, like Starbucks and Waze, companies are not always aware of who is using their data. Venntel and Fog can collect billions of data points filled with detailed information because many apps embed invisible tracking software that follows users’ behavior. This software also lets the apps sell customized ads that are targeted to a person’s current location. In turn, data brokers’ software can hoover up personal data that can be used for other purposes.

Prior to publication, Fog’s Broderick refused to say how the company got data from Starbucks and Waze. But on Thursday, he said he did not know how data aggregators collected the information Fog Reveal draws from, or the specific apps from which the data was drawn.

For their part, Starbucks and Waze denied any relationship to Fog. Starbucks said it had not given permission to its business partners to share customer information with Fog.

“Starbucks has not approved Ad ID data generated by our app to be used in this way by Fog Data Science LLC. In our review to date, we have no relationship with this company,” said Megan Adams, a Starbucks spokesperson.

“We have never had a relationship with Fog Data Science, have not worked with them in any capacity, and have not shared information with them,” a Waze spokesperson said.

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Fog Data Science LLC is headquartered in a nondescript brick building in Leesburg, Virginia. It also has related entities in New Jersey, Ohio and Texas.

It was founded in 2016 by Robert Liscouski, who led the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division in the George W. Bush adminstration. His colleague, Broderick, is a former U.S. Marine brigadier general who ran DHS’ tech hub, the Homeland Security Operations Center, during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A House bipartisan committee report cited Broderick among others for failing to coordinate a swift federal response to the deadly hurricane. Broderick resigned from DHS shortly thereafter.

In marketing materials, Fog also has touted its ability to offer police “predictive analytics,” a buzzword often used to describe high-tech policing tools that purport to predict crime hotspots. Liscouski and another Fog official have worked at companies focused on predictive analytics, machine learning and software platforms supporting artificial intelligence.

“It is capable of delivering both forensic and predictive analytics and near real-time insights on the daily movements of the people identified with those mobile devices,” reads an email announcing a Fog training last year for members of the National Fusion Center Association, which represents a network of intelligence-sharing partnerships created after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Fog’s Broderick said the company had not invested in predictive applications, and provided no details about any uses the tool had for predicting crime.

Despite privacy advocates’ concerns about warrantless surveillance, Fog Reveal has caught on with local and state police forces. It’s been used in a number of high-profile criminal cases, including one that was the subject of the television program “48 Hours.”

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In 2017, a world-renowned exotic snake breeder was found dead, lying in a pool of blood in his reptile breeding facility in rural Missouri. Police initially thought the breeder, Ben Renick, might have died from a poisonous snake bite. But the evidence soon pointed to murder.

During its investigation, emails show the Missouri State Highway Patrol used Fog’s portal to search for cellphones at Renick’s home and breeding facility and zeroed in on a mobile device. Working with Fog, investigators used the data to identify the phone owner’s identity: it was the Renicks’ babysitter.

Police were able to log the babysitter’s whereabouts over time to create a pattern of life analysis.

It turned out to be a dead-end lead. Renick’s wife, Lynlee, later was charged and convicted of the murder.

Prosecutors did not cite Fog in a list of other tools they used in the investigation, according to trial exhibits examined by the AP.

But Missouri officials seemed pleased with Fog’s capabilities, even though it didn’t directly lead to an arrest. “It was interesting to see that the system did pick up a device that was absolutely in the area that day. Too bad it did not belong to a suspect!” a Missouri State Highway Patrol analyst wrote in an email to Fog.

In another high-profile criminal probe, records show the FBI asked state intelligence officials in Iowa for help with Fog as it investigated potential participants in the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

“Not definitive but still waiting to talk things over with a FOG rep,” wrote Justin Parker, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, in an email to an FBI official in September 2021. It was unclear from the emails if Fog’s data factored into an arrest. Iowa officials did not respond and the FBI declined to comment.

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Metcalf, the Arkansas prosecutor, has argued against congressional efforts to require search warrants when using technologies like Fog Reveal.

He believes Americans have given up any reasonable expectation of privacy when they use free apps and likens EFF’s objections to tech like Fog to a “cult of privacy.”

“I think people are going to have to make a decision on whether we want all this free technology, we want all this free stuff, we want all the selfies,” he said. “But we can’t have that and at the same time say, ‘I’m a private person, so you can’t look at any of that.’ That just seems crazy.”

Although he is not an official Fog employee, Metcalf said he would step in to lead training sessions including the tool for federal prosecutors, federal agencies and police, including the Chicago Police Department, the emails show.

That kind of hands-on service and word-of-mouth marketing in tight-knit law enforcement circles seems to have helped increase Fog’s popularity.

The Maryland State Police is among the many agencies that have had contracts for Fog Reveal, and records show investigators believed it had a lot of potential.

“Companies have receptors all over. Malls, shopping centers, etc. They’re all around you,” wrote Sgt. John Bedell of the Criminal Enforcement Division, in an email to a colleague. The agency purchased a year of access to Fog in 2018.

“Picture getting a suspect’s phone then in the extraction being able to see everyplace they’d been in the last 18 months plotted on a map you filter by date ranges,” wrote Bedell. “The success lies in the secrecy.”

Elena Russo, a spokesperson for the agency, confirmed it had a Fog license previously but that it had lapsed. “Unfortunately, it was not helpful in solving any crimes,” she wrote in an email.

Still, as more local policing agencies sign up for Fog, some elected officials said they have been left in the dark. Several officials said there wasn’t enough information to grasp what services Fog actually provides.

“Who is this company? What are the track records? What are the privacy protections?” asked Anaheim council member Jose Moreno, remembering his confusion about Fog during a 2020 council meeting. “That night our chief had very little information for us.”

In Anaheim, the Fog license was paid for by a federal “Urban Area Security Initiative,” DHS grants that help localities fund efforts to prevent terrorism. A police spokesman said the department has not used it.

Defense attorneys worry there are few legal restrictions on law enforcement’s use of location data.

It’s a gap police agencies exploit, and often don’t disclose in court, said Michael Price, litigation director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Fourth Amendment Center.

“(Fog) is exceedingly rare to see in the wild because the cops often don’t get warrants,” said Price.

“Even if you do ask for (information) sometimes they say ‘We don’t know what you are talking about.’”

Privacy advocates worry Fog’s location tracking could be put to other novel uses, like keeping tabs on people who seek abortions in states where it is now illegal. These concerns were heightened when a Nebraska woman was charged in August with helping her teenage daughter end a pregnancy after investigators got hold of their Facebook messages.

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

Government’s use of location data is still being weighed by the courts, too. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that police generally need a warrant to look at records that reveal where cellphone users have been.

Nearly two years after walking off the crime data supervisor job with the Greensboro police force, Hall still worries about police surveillance in neighboring communities.

“Anyone with that login information can do as many searches as they want,” Hall said. “I don’t believe the police have earned the trust to use that, and I don’t believe it should be legal.”

___

AP National Writer Allen G. Breed contributed from Greensboro, North Carolina. Dearen reported from New York and Burke reported from San Francisco.

___

This reporting was produced in collaboration with researchers Janine Graham, Nicole Waddick and Jane Yang as well as the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center Investigations Lab and School of Law.

Categories
All About Guns Fieldcraft

The Best Straight-Wall Deer Rifles Here’s a look at the best straight-wall rifles, from lever actions, to bolt guns, to ARs Written By Brad Fitzpatrick

For decades, if you were a Midwest or East Coast deer hunter living in a densely populated state, it was likely you never shot a whitetail with a rifle during deer season. Due to safety concerns, hunters in these regions of the country legally had to shoot slug shotguns from smoothbores or sabots from a rifled shotgun barrel (centerfire rifle cartridges can travel much farther than a slug or sabot). But that shotgun-only requirement has started to shift in the last five years with the advent of straight-walled rifles as historic slug-gun states like Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan have begun to allow the platform to be used during deer season.

A Texas deer taken with a straight-wall lever gun.
The author took this Texas buck with a straight-wall rifle. Brad Fitzpatrick

Winchester took advantage of these regulations  in 2019 with the launch of the .350 Legend, an effective deer killer that produces mild recoil and muzzle jump. Of course, straight-wall cartridges have been around for well over a century, so you can also turn to such classic rounds as the .45/70. There are so many great options, in fact, that it can be tough to choose the ideal straight-wall rifle to fit your needs and budget. Here’s a rundown of some of the best straight-wall rifles available.

Marlin 1895 SBL/Trapper

Marlin 1895

Marlin

CHECK PRICE

Marlin is back in the saddle and under the leadership of new owner Ruger. The company has released two lever-action 1895 rifles chambered in .45/70. The Marlin 1895 SBL which sports a 19.1-inch cold hammer-forged stainless-steel barrel with a threaded muzzle and a six-round tubular magazine (read our full review of the Marlin 1895 SBL here). The adjustable ghost ring rear sight and fiber optic front sight may be all you need, but there’s a full length Picatinny rail for mounting low-power scopes or a reflex sight. The short and handy SBL is compact enough for hunting dense forest or from a blind or tree stand.

If you want maximum maneuverability check out the Marlin Trapper variant with a 16.1-inch barrel. A polished stainless finish on the metalwork and attractive laminate stock makes these guns suitable for hunting in wet, nasty weather, and they’re also an excellent option for hogs, black bears, and even moose and elk. The 1895 is manufactured in Mayodan, North Carolina, and these are not only among the best straight-wall rifles made today, they may well be the best Marlin rifles ever made.

Winchester XPR Stealth SR

Winchester Stealth SR

Winchester Guns

CHECK PRICE

When the budget bolt-action war was raging Winchester’s XPR emerged as one of the standouts. Built from quality components and offered with features such as an MOA trigger—a system that gives shooters a lighter, smoother feel with less creep, overtavel, and takeup— various metal finishes, and stock designs, the XPR is a fine addition to the vaunted Model 70. I’ve shot several of these rifles in .350 Legend and loved them all, but my hands-down favorite is the new Stealth Suppressor Ready version. The .350 Legend doesn’t require a long barrel to reach maximum velocity, so the XPR Stealth SR’s stubby 16½-inch barrel doesn’t compromise performance, but the shorter barrel also makes this 3-foot, ½-inch rifle easy to handle in tight cover.

I hunted with a suppressed Stealth SR in Maine last year (albeit for bears, not whitetail) and even with a suppressor, the weight and length weren’t burdensome. Accuracy was on point, and the recoil and muzzle blast were so mild that most anyone could be accurate with the platform. The Inflex recoil pad, Pic rail, nickel Teflon bolt, and Permacote metal finish are all nice touches that make this rifle an even more compelling value at just over $700. After testing and evaluating the XPR Stealth SR in the field I came away impressed with the rifle’s reliability, accuracy, and overall fit and finish.

Ruger AR-556 MPR .350 Legend

Ruger

CHECK PRICE

Ruger’s 350 Legend AR is an ideal rifle for any eastern whitetail hunter. With a collapsed length of 33.38-inches, the Ruger is easy to maneuver in the woods and instant length of pull adjustments allow shortening the stock when you’re wearing heavy winter clothing. A hard coat anodized finish on the 7075-T6 forged receiver stands up well against abuse. The bolt carrier and staked gas key are chrome-plated to resist propellant gases, and the pistol-length gas system offers superb reliability from the .350 carbine. As with other ARs, follow-up shots are fast, but with Ruger’s two-stage Elite 452 AR trigger and cold hammer-forged 4140 chrome-moly steel 16.38-inch precision barrel with Ruger radial brake there’s a good chance you won’t need a second shot. The 15-inch M-LOK handguard offers plenty of space for accessories, and at 6.6-pounds this rifle is lighter than many bolt guns on the list.

Franchi Momentum Elite .350 Legend

Franchi

CHECK PRICE

The Franchi Momentum Elite isn’t the most affordable bolt-action rifle on this list, but it does offer some upgrades that warrant the extra cost. The stock is a step up from those found on most sub-$1,000 rifles and comes with raised panels and texturing, a design Franchi calls Evolved Ergonom-X. The rifle’s TSA recoil pad is borrowed from the brand’s shotgun line and the dense rubber does a suitable job reducing felt recoil. This gun’s Gore Optifade Elevated II stock is paired with a Cobalt Cerakote finish which gives the gun a classy look while offering protection against the elements. Franchi’s adjustable Relia trigger breaks between 2 and 4 pounds, one of the best triggers of any rifle on this list. The 22-inch barrel is threaded, a Picatinny rail comes standard, and the detachable polymer magazine holds three rounds. Take a closer look at the Franchi and you’ll see why it costs a bit more than some rivals: the stock-to-metal fit is superb and the chrome, spiral-fluted bolt runs smoothly through the action. Even the two-position rocker-type safety is easy to operate silently. This gun is heavier than most at 7.9 pounds.

Winchester 1892 Carbine

Winchester Guns

CHECK PRICE

Though the John Browning-designed Winchester 1892 is well over a century old it’s still one of the best moderate-range deer hunting rifles of all time. The 1892 was designed to handle pistol caliber cartridges, and so today’s guns are chambered in .357 Magnum, .44/40, .44 Remington Magnum, and .45 Colt. Of these, I believe the .44 Magnum is the most versatile and useful, a rifle capable of effectively killing deer out to 100 yards or more in competent hands. It’s light (6 pounds) and maneuverable enough to ride in your pickup, on an ATV, or in a short saddle scabbard. The buckhorn sights are rudimentary but functional for most stand and blind hunting, and capacity is an impressive 10 rounds. At 37 ½ inches long, the 1892 is light enough to carry in a pack when you’re headed deep into a public land tract. The 1892 is designed for fast, quick shooting and handles more like a grouse gun than deer rifle. Plus, it’s just fun to shoot, and as a bonus it digests the same rounds as your favorite revolver. Winchester offers ornate versions of the 1892 like the new color case-hardened Deluxe Takedown model, which is stylish and practical, but the basic Carbine provides everything you need for eastern whitetail hunting in a functional and relatively affordable package.

Ruger American Ranch Rifle

Ruger American Ranch

Ruger

CHECK PRICE

The American Rifle has been a best-seller since its release, appealing to hunters with its robust design, quality components, excellent accuracy, and reasonable price tag. There are numerous variants chambered in both .350 Legend and .450 Bushmaster, but the Ranch model with its 16.38-inch threaded barrel, Picatinny rail, and durable polymer stock offers the most appeal to whitetail hunters. It also has an adjustable (3 to 5 pounds) Marksman trigger. To access the trigger, remove the stock by unscrewing the two screws near the floor plate or magazine. There is a small screw in front of the trigger group you can tighten to increase trigger pull or loosen to decrease it.  The short, threaded barrel makes it easy to install a suppressor, and with a can in place the .350 Legend produces very mild recoil and minimal muzzle blast. The tang-mounted safety is easy to operate, and Ranch rifles accept AR-style magazines. Though it’s certainly austere, the Ranch does everything a deer hunter needs for under $700

Uberti 1885 High Wall

Uberti

CHECK PRICE

The 1885 was another John Moses Browning design and its falling block remains one of the most robust rifle actions of all time. Uberti builds 1885 rifles similar to Browning’s blueprint, and most of these guns are chambered in .45/70, so quality hunting ammunition is widely available. However, if you want a bit more punch there are Uberti 1885s available in .45/90 and .45/120 as well. With its classic lines, color case-hardened receiver, and octagon barrel the lever gun is a real beauty, but it isn’t light: expect this rifle to weigh in at around 10 pounds. That added mass does an acceptable job of reducing recoil, though, so the Uberti is quite mild for a .45/70. Optional Creedmoor-style flip-up sights are available, and they make a stylish and functional addition to this classic hunting rifle. I carried one while hunting whitetails in Texas and the gun performed admirably out to 150 yards, anchoring both bucks I shot in their tracks.

CMMG Resolute Mk4 .350 Legend

CMMG was the first company to introduce an AR rifle chambered in .350 Legend, and the company’s Resolute Mk4 carbine is a refined deer hunting AR that’s loaded with quality features. The Resolute kitted out with a long list of CMMG’s zeroed accessories, including the muzzle brake, trigger guard, ambidextrous charging handle, and more. Unlike most ARs that come in basic black you can also select from several Cerakote color options (grey, charcoal green, and bronze). CMMG has deleted a portion of the top rail of this rifle which adds more M-LOK attachment points at the 12 o’clock position (there are also slots at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock) and reduces weight. The Resolute Mk4 weighs just over six pounds, and with an overall length of 32.5-inches, it handles exceptionally well. Five-, 10-, and 20-round magazines are available, and this rifle’s 16.1-inch 1:16 twist hammer forged barrel is topped with a zeroed 9mm muzzle brake that can be removed and replaced with a suppressor.

Read Next: The Best Hunting Rifles of 2022

Mossberg Patriot

Mossberg

CHECK PRICE

There are currently three Patriot rifles chambered in .350 Legend with MSRPs ranging from $454 to $637. The least expensive, unadorned synthetic version with its plain black injection-molded stock and matte blue finish, will get the job done in the deer woods. It comes with Weaver scope bases so mounting an optic is easy. There’s a Youth Super Bantam scoped combo version, which includes a bore sighted 3-9×40 scope and 1-inch stock spacer for adjusting length of pull. The gun is ready for the field right out of the box and costs less than $500 making it an ideal choice for a new hunter. If you’re a traditionalist you’ll like the walnut stocked version, but regardless of the variant you’ll get a serviceable, durable hunting rifle that’s of good value. The Patriot also comes with a detachable box magazine, fluted bolt and barrel, and a bladed, adjustable LBA trigger.

Categories
Fieldcraft

RULE #4 | Be Sure of Your Target and What’s Beyond By Erick Gelhaus

Rule #4 reads, “Be Sure of your target and what’s beyond it.” That’s easy on a square range with a two-dimensional target in front of a tall earthen berm. Too easy. Maybe you are moving. Far more often, the target is not moving; it is just static. And there is generally a lack of No Shoots downrange behind the targets we are shooting. As a result, there is not much opportunity to practice Rule #4 and the downrange problem.

If your instructor adds in “… and what is between you and the target as well as around it” that makes the downrange problem even more difficult.

How big of an issue is this downrange problem? How concerned do we, as armed professionals and armed citizens, need to be about this?

As groups, armed professionals and citizens have unfortunately shot uninvolved or non-hostile individuals, wounding or killing them with rounds that missed those whose actions justified deadly force. Those killed have included victims, bystanders, and uniformed, on-duty police officers.

This is an issue, and we need to be concerned about it.

The Four Safety Rules (photo courtesy of the Gunsite.com website). Always be sure of your target.

This past weekend was Tom Givens’ yearly Rangemaster Tactical Conference, also known as TacCon, at the Dallas Pistol Club in Carrollton, Texas.

Numerous presenters gave classroom and live-fire presentations on a broad spectrum of topics for the self-defense community. I was fortunate to have been invited to be a presenter. One of my classroom presentations was based on several research studies, including Tom Aveni’s 2008 work for the Police Policy Studies Council, titled “Critical Analysis of Police Shootings Under Ambiguous Circumstances. Numerous officers from six different agencies participated in the study that focused on decision-making driven by suspect behaviors. Each officer had multiple scenarios for the study.

A problematic finding in the study had to do with a mugging scenario that involved victims who were farther downrange than the suspects. The victim was positioned in the officer’s line of fire when the suspect drew on and then shot at the officers. Most officers in the study – though not all – returned fire at the suspect when shot at. Many of those officers had one or more rounds hit the downrange victim or bystander.

Unfortunately, the study only uses the words” most” and “many” as it did not capture the numbers of victims and bystanders that were hit.

While there are other lessons from that study, the downrange problem is one that trainers and instructors need to be aware of and address.

One large west coast agency has experienced a couple of these events in the last few years. These were cases where the suspects’ violent actions created the situations that led to the tragic outcome. Even though COVID has adversely impacted a lot of training over the past couple of years, it will not give us a pass.

What are some different ways of doing this?

Including bystanders and victims near or behind the suspects during force-on-force scenarios is one idea. Program the problem into the firearms training simulators like those from FATS and VirTra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
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)
  • Brownells (See Price)
  • ———————————————————————————Trust me on this one issue. As THE Boss gets VERY FRUSTRATED with me and my loss of hearing! Grumpy
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