We’ve been working with some GunSport Pro-15 earplugs for a while. Here’s what we think so far.
Photos by Muzzle Flash Media
Ear protection is an absolute must-have if you’re shooting firearms. That should be obvious, but take it from me, it isn’t always. I have permanent tinnitus in my left ear from being stupid many years ago, shooting my shotgun without earpro for a round of trap. The first shell fired made my ears ring and then after the round was over, I had a very difficult time hearing for over a week. My hearing came back but a constant ringing in my left ear remains, probably for the rest of my life.
Nescience is no excuse when it comes to ear-pro; if you’re shooting, you need to wear it.
A hard lesson learned resulted in permanent tinnitus. Always have your ear pro on when shooting, at least if it’s possible.
I know if I get caught in a shootout at work, chances are I won’t have the time to get some on, but that’s something dictated by exigent circumstances. I will never again make the mistake of not having protection for my hearing at the range.
Okay, so it’s important to have ear pro. There are many options available. The bare minimum and most basic is foam earplugs. Next, you have ear muffs or headsets, which are very effective in protecting you from harmful noise but make it difficult to hear anything else.
Fortunately, electronic hearing protection has vastly improved in the last decade, with numerous offerings from more and more companies. The electronic headsets are great and are my usual choice for the range. They do have a drawback, however: they’re a bit bulky, even with low profile designs. This makes it sometimes difficult to work in conjunction with helmets, and especially when shooting from awkward, unconventional shooting positions with a long gun. There are workarounds for those issues, but what if you could have electronic earplugs?
Digital earpro isn’t a new thing, but it is evolving quickly.
That is exactly what the Etymotic GunSport PRO-15s are — an evolved type of digital earpro. I was given a set from Jeff of Muzzle Flash Media to test, and was initially skeptical because his description sounded too good to be true. They came at the perfect time, however, as it was just before we met up with Freddy Osuna and former B-B-C contributors Tom Marshall and Dave Merrill at RECOIL Magazine’s Summit in the Sand event.
Once Jeff and I arrived at the site, Cowtown Range, I broke out the PRO-15 earpro; the box contained a carry case, adapters for different ear sizes, a lanyard, cleaning tool, batteries and a user manual.
Nice way to begin.
Here’s a quick description from Etymotic:
“GSP•15 Electronic Earplugs are for gun sport enthusiasts who need protection from firearm blasts, but also need protection from loud continuous noise from vehicles, machinery or repeated gunfire from nearby shooters. Improves distance detection up to 5X.”
There is a Dual Mode Switch that you can toggle up or down. Below are the descriptions of the modes, taken from the website.
Automatic Hearing Protection + Blast Protection Mode:
- Allows natural hearing
- Provides 15 dB of automatic hearing protection when noise exceeds safe levels
- Protects from blasts
Hearing Enhancement + Blast Protection Mode:
- Amplifies up to 5X
- Protects from blasts
Jeff and I put in our GSP-15 ear plugs and headed to the event, both keep the hard carry case in our pockets for when we didn’t need them. As it turned out, the carry case wasn’t particularly needed. Sound quality was excellent, so I left them on hearing enhancement mode pretty much the entire weekend.
The first course of the day was the only shooting course of the four. We went with Dan Brokos of Lead Faucet Tactical to learn about scoped carbines. There (if you’re interested, and even if you’re not) we shot the Sig Sauer MCX Virtus carbine with the Sig Electro-Optics Tango6 1-6x on top. The GSP 15s were well suited for this course due to the weird shooting positions we were forced to take. Many students had issues with getting proper eye relief or cheek weld with their headsets. I had a much better experience than they did with the GSP earplugs. We shot the carbines at 90° while laying prone and kneeling behind barrels, sometimes in what felt like yoga-esque contortions.
Later, Dan taught us how to shoot in unconventional positions from kneeling to sitting, and again, low profile electronic earplugs stayed out of my way. I was able to hear Dan’s instructions clearly, without the distraction from gunfire.
Throughout the rest of the day, I either wore them or kept them ready in the case since there were other classes going on.
Day Two was Competition Day. On this day the GSP 15s both helped and hindered me. Not through any fault of the earplugs, it was likely operator error on my part. The first stage of the day was Greenside Training’s Weaponize Your Senses, and having enhanced hearing gave me an advantage when I had to listen to a noise that directed me to a target simulating a threat. I heard a clicking sound to my left while on the trail and engaged the target.
On the second stage, I had to read a footprint with skills I learned from Freddy Osuna of Greenside Training, go to the correct shooting position, and engage two targets with a carbine while utilizing the 90° shooting positions. I read the footprint correctly and when it was time to engage, my left GSP 15 fell out. I paused to re-insert it, only for it to fall out again. I was able to get my hits in but unfortunately, the time never stopped and I went over the time limit, failing the shooting portion. What I did wrong was not rotating the GSP 15 a full 90° rearward into my ear, as this would’ve prevented them from falling out in the first place.
Again, user error and something to keep in mind — particularly if you’re potentially going to use something in a real life scenario. That’s a rule what applies to any piece of kit.
I had them in for the rest of the day and they never fell out again, even after the final stage, which required a full fifty-yard sprint to the secondary firing position.
Since then, I store them in my EDC pack, have taken them on several more range trips and used them in during a fire alarm at work, all with the same set of batteries. They lasted a lot longer than I expected, but are now dead and need to be replaced. That’s one aspect to consider: in order to have a small low-profile set, the battery life is nowhere near as long as electronic headsets. As long as you have spare batteries on hand, you’re good to go.
Etymotic GunSport Pro-15 Electronic Earplugs retail for $299, which may sound pricey, but what you’re getting is a lightweight, compact, high-quality electronic hearing protection. If you go to the range often and/or take training courses, they’re right up your alley.
The GunSport PROs provide excellent electronic hearing protection and are well suited for the shooting and law enforcement community.
(Note: if you’re interested in less expensive, more traditional ear protection, take a look at Walker’s Razor Ear Pro.)
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