Monday, January 30, 2012

Eye and Ear Protection - the unsung heroes

Gear reviews often focus on the cool stuff; that is, we tend to see reviews about guns, ammo, and whatever new cool thing that the boys in SpecOps are using. But what about the gear that gets abused on every trip to the range, but rarely gets thought about at all? Other than your original purchase decision, how much do you really consider the functionality of your eye and ear protection?

I certainly never did - until I became a full-time instructor. Eye and ear protection has always been a part of my life, ever since I was a little kid. My dad always made me wear it growing up when we were out shooting, but I just used what he gave me. Same thing with the military and other vocations I've been in where eye and ear protection were required. Sometimes I was given comfortable equipment, sometimes not. Sometimes I could modify it to be more comfortable, and sometimes it was just destined to annoy me. But until I started wearing this gear all the time, I never realized just how comfortable it could be.

And this is where my review really starts, because there are a lot of brands of eye and ear protection out there, and they all are betting on one thing: that only a handful of people really consider the comfort and functionality of their eye and ear pro. I am one of those few, and you should be, too.

Howard Leight makes some amazing electronic ear protection - not only are they an industry leader, but they do it at a price that is affordable. Here at Independence Training we prefer their Impact Sport model, not just because it runs forever on 2 AAA batteries, or because it's highly water-resistant, or even because it has a great air flow design that keeps your ears comfortable while still maintaining full 82dB noise dampening. No, we love them because they do not interfere with a solid cheek weld while firing long guns. This is one of my major complaints with nearly every other type of ear muff on the market, whether electronic or not. And why should you choose electronic hearing protection, anyway? The primary reason would be that you won't have to yell (or be yelled at) on the range in order to communicate with your range buddies, instructors, or fellow students. Another great reason is that sounds will actually be amplified - that's right, your hearing capability will increase while wearing quality electronic ear protection. This helps to keep your situational awareness at its peak level while wearing full ear pro, and also makes conversation much easier. I've even heard of hunters wearing them to increase their ability to hear the movement of game. Add to all of this that the Impact Sport folds up nice and small in order to fit easily into your range bag, and then take a look at the average price of under $50, and you're out of reasons not to get electronic hearing protection from Howard Leight.

Now how about those eyes? I see many shooters neglect eye protection. You think eye pro sucks? No problem, just start saving up for that seeing eye dog. The reality is that your eyes are at just as much risk as your ears when you're on the range. Dirt, dust, small specks of lead or unburned powder, chunks of metal from mechanical failures, bits of wood or concrete from those cover and concealment drills . . . . the list goes on and on. While just about anything is better than nothing when it comes to eye pro, those prescription glasses or cool-guy sunglasses have their limitations and their hazards, especially if they are not offering full protection around your eye socket. Does eye pro have to be able to stop incoming rounds? No, not necessarily. But what if it could, wouldn't that be awesome? Why yes, yes it would. And that's where Revision comes in. Whether you are actually trying to stop incoming debris or not, Revision eye wear has been our solution in the search for comfortable and effective eye wear that didn't make us look like some kind of insect. Which is ironic, actually, because Revision names all of their glasses after insects - the Sawfly, Bullet Ant, Desert Locust, or our personal favorites, the Hellfly. The slim design means that I can wear the Hellfly glasses with my Impact Sports all day long without any rubbing, wearing, or discomfort. The full eye covering means that I can protect all of my eye from every angle, but with a design that doesn't make me appear to be an actual fly. And all of our instructors here prefer the photochromic lenses which adjust with the level of light. This means that we can wear these glasses whether we're teaching a carbine course in the middle of the day or a no-light shooting course in the pitch black, without having to sacrifice vision capability due to shaded lenses. And if you need a prescription lens, Revision can do that for you, as well. But one of the things that originally drew us to Revision wasn't actually their glasses, but what they do with them. Back in mid-2009, a good friend was putting together a 3-gun competition for the Troops over in Iraq, and Revision was one of the sponsors that helped us out - and help out they certainly did. Since then Revision's name has popped up in any event we have participated in that had anything to do with helping the Troops, and that kind of support doesn't go unnoticed by us. So if you haven't ever taken a look at Revision, you should - they have several different styles and lens options, and the cost of their equipment is worth every penny and then some.

Do you have to wear Howard Leight ear pro or Revision glasses to be a safe shooter? Absolutely not, but we sure do recommend them. But whatever you do, PLEASE WEAR EYE AND EAR PROTECTION AT ALL TIMES, and require that anyone with you, especially kids, do the same. Is that new rifle or handgun you bought totally awesome? You bet. But don't forget to spend some time thanking the unsung heroes of the shooting sports - your eye and ear pro!

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.

-Glen Stilson