I’ve never owned any fancy hearing protection.  As a kid growing up, we had one set of earmuffs that probably came from the bargain table at a garage sale, or we rooted through the lint bucket next to the dryer for earplugs that came home and went through the wash in my dad’s work shirts or pants(Gross…I know).  If multiple people were shooting, the muffs stayed with the shooter, and everyone else just stuck their fingers in their ears.  That’s the way it was.

As an adult, I’ve always had some earplugs or industrial style earmuffs in my work van.  Earplugs are time consuming to insert and seal and easy to lose or misplace.  Borrowing my work earmuffs from my van invites the possibility of forgetting to put them back, putting me in a bind the next time I need them.  It was time to get a dedicated set of shooting muffs.

I perused the selection at Webyshops.com and settled on three different sets of earmuffs to test with a simple set of criteria in mind:  I wanted Electronic amplification so the muffs could be left on the entire shooting session, I wanted to test one set of each of the major manufacturers, and I wanted an entry level set that the average Joe might purchase while stepping up to Electronic Earmuffs for the first time.

The units I settled on were:

Walker PowerMuffs , priced at $169
Peltor Tactical Sport, priced at $129
Pro-Ears Pro 300, priced at $189

I will admit to a little presumption here, based on the advertised info, just like you, the consumer would do.  I compared the advertised DB reduction of the three units, and saw that the Peltors’ were rated at 20db, the Pro-ears were rated at 26db, and the Walkers’ were rated at 24db.  The Walkers’ had 4 microphones and a greater advertised db reduction than the Peltors’, were $20 less than the Pro-ears, so I splurged and ordered them in Camo, as I figured these would be the ones I would keep.

As always, the package arrived pronto from Webyshops, and I popped open the box to take a look inside.  Here are how the units are packaged and shipped.

I opened all the packages and laid them out side by side.

A side by side comparison reveals that The Pro-Ears and the Walker’s share a common control scheme with individual knobs controlling the volume for each earpiece.  The Peltor set uses a single set of buttons to control power and volume to both earpieces.  The Peltor also has a different mounting system for the earpieces, where the height adjustment is adjusted on each earpieces wire support, where the other two adjust on the headband. 

The Peltor unit has much shallower earcups, and has an exposed wire that travels from left to right earcup, through the headband.

All three units have the bottom part of the earmuffs relieved to clear a rifle stock while shooting, which is an important feature that you won’t find in a pair of industrial earmuffs that you find at your chainsaw shop or tool store.

First, I loaded up the units with batteries.  Kudos to all three manufacturers, all came with batteries.  The Walker’s unit is powered by a single AAA battery located inside each earcup, two total.  The Peltor unit is powered by two AAA batteries located under the outside cover of the right earpiece.  The Pro-Ears are powered by Four 2014 batteries, two under a foam flap inside each earcup.

The Walker’s and the Peltors’ are the BIG winners in the battery department.  I’ve never owned anything that takes a 2014 battery, nor do I want to stock up spares for ANOTHER goofy battery size.  A big Battle Mountain BOOO!!   to Pro-Ears for not utilizing a standardized battery.

Next, I put the things on tried out the controls.  I liked the individual knob controls of the Walker’s and the Pro-Ears more than I did the buttons on the Peltors.  The knobs were easy to find and intuitive to use.   I had to fumble and feel around for the buttons, and found the ‘press and hold and wait’ feature to turn on or off the Peltors annoying.  The Walker’s also had another knob under the volume knob that changes the frequency range of the internal filters.  This feature would be best used by folks with high frequency hearing loss, as it amplifies the higher frequencies better, and you can select the range of frequencies you want to boost or filter.   

The Walker’s and the Pro-Ears win the controls portion with their easy to use, intuitive, individually adjustable knobs.

A walkabout while wearing the muffs revealed that all units amplified ambient noise well, and conversations were easy to maintain while wearing all of them powered up.  Each unit had different audio characteristics that might appeal to different folks. 

The Walker’s have the most powerful and most sensitive amplification and would be the best units for someone with hearing loss or someone looking to use them as an amplified hearing aid for hunting.  I found the supersensitive pickup to be distracting and disorienting, so they were not my favorite.

The ProEars have a very natural amplification tone and level that worked well and felt natural.

The Peltors have a natural amplification and tone, but the muting threshold is noticeably lower than the others.  This is most notable when the wearer is speaking, as the headphones subtly mute the sound of the wearers own voice.

Since the three have unique characteristics that would appeal to different folks differently, I’d call the results a Tie, but I prefer the Peltors.

None of the three had any value over $15 industrial earmuffs when operating equipment or power tools, as the amplified then choked noise level was really annoying and I just ended up turning the power off on all of them.

The Peltors are the only ones that shipped with any bonus material, having different side covers in Blaze Orange or Black, and a microfiber storage bag.

Shooting a handgun and a rifle with the power off on all of them revealed interesting results that challenged the advertised noise reduction.  The Walkers were noticeably the loudest, and there was no noticeable difference between the Peltors and the ProEars, but they were much quieter than the Walker’s.

A surprising clear winner in the noise reduction category emerged when the headphones were powered up.  The Walker’s were again the loudest, with the Peltors and the Pro-Ears indiscernible in total volume difference.  However, the Peltors’ muting map was much, much smoother and pleasant than the Pro-Ears.   The Pro-Ears were choppy as they clipped off the high volume of the rifle and handgun reports, where the Peltors were smooth and the transitions from noise reduction to sound amplification were transparent and indiscernible.

My presumptions and shopping based on advertised specifications and the assumption that ‘more expensive equals better’ were thrown out the window, along with the cool camo color scheme that I ordered on the Walker’s.
In spite of the more difficult to use controls, in my opinion, the Peltors’ are the clear winner in this shootout, and they are the Electronic Earmuffs that I am going to keep.

Mark Spreadborough writes from his family homestead in Kalama, Washington, where he lives with his wife, son, daughter, dog and cat. When not writing, shooting, hunting, fishing or working on his property, he goes to his day job as a HVAC repair mechanic.