Gear Test: Etymotic GunSport PRO
By Scott Smith
When I started shooting three gun competition I realized that you need more than just quality electronic muffs. The reason for this is the muzzle blast of a shotgun or rifle is far greater than your handgun. Even with quality muffs, sound travels through the gap created by your glasses. This small gap channels sound directly to your ear.
I started wearing inner plugs, but when the outer electronic muffs get knocked around you are somewhat deaf in that ear. How do muffs knocked loose? You can hit a prop, quickly mount your long gun and the butt hits one of the cups or during recoil your butt can hit the cups.
This is the “lockable” case that comes with your GunSport Pros.
To combat this I started looking for a pair of electronic ear plugs. Most of the ones I found were uncomfortable, at least to me or they cost far more than I wanted to pay. One day I say a post by my good friend Wes Doss that his LSL Tour was being sponsored by Etymotic Research; manufactures of electronic hearing protection. Etymotic manufactures affordable electronic plugs.
A quick email to Etymotic’s PR company and a sample of the GunSport PRO Electronic Plugs were on the way. What caught my eye was the number of ear plugs that attached to the GunSport’s body. Etymotic uses “foamy” and flange style inserts in a variety of sizes. Unlike other companies the flange inserts were offered in a long and short version. This might seem petty but the longer version allows the plug to flex and fit your ear canal better. I can say the initial look at the GunSport Pro’s was two thumbs up.
The actual plugs that arrive in the box with your GSPs.
I did something totally out of the norm and read the directions to find out what the brush and little red things in the packaging were. Lo and behold the brush is for cleaning the canal inserts and the small red things are ear wax filters. Ear wax gets down the plugs and can eventually clog up the auditory canal of the unit. These filters prevent this and are easily removed with the cleaning brush or filter tool.
Other than the carrying case the last item in the packaging is a lanyard. This lanyard is a thin nylon cord that fits over the stud where that the ear plugs attach. I like this addition because there are times I want or need to remove my hearing protection like when I need to take a phone call. The cord is long enough that as big a guy as I am I can tuck the GunSports under the collar of my t-shirt to keep them out of the way.
Here are the cleaning brush and stem filters with tool to keep your GSPs clean and functioning properly.
Another benefit of reading the directions was learning how to insert the batteries and where they go. Simply open the gate and insert the battery with the tab that comes on them out of the packaging. Once in place the tab pulls off. I found the batteries are good for two or three days of use. This is pretty standard for hearing aid batteries.
Unlike some of the other electronic hearing protection, GunPro Sports have a low/high switch. I found the low setting a big plus when wearing them under outer electronic muffs to prevent that annoying feedback ring/buzz. I prefer to use the high setting when shooting, particularly when using reloads. The high setting will allow you to hear that puff of squib which could prevent a catastrophic incident. The high setting enhances your hearing up to five times depending on the noise and surroundings.
Close-up of the ear wax filter, installed in the stem of the GSP.
Etymotic improves sound quality with their proprietary ACCU Technology. In conjunction with the latest in high-sensitivity balanced –armature drivers and microphones you get the best sound quality and range of sounds on the market today. For hunters this means you can hear game sneaking through that dry grass you would miss with the naked ear. More importantly the high speed compression processors will shut down to 15dB when you touch off a shot to preserve your hearing. It does not take much for tinnitus or hearing loss set-in. As I have gotten older, I have become acutely aware of this.
To get the most out of the GunSport Pros I tested all the plugs to see which fit best. While I liked the feel of the medium foamies, I was worried they might pull off of the stud and get stuck in the ear canal. I found the long stem medium triple flange plugs were the best overall fit and feel. The long stem sets the body of the unit off the ear while allowing you to slip the plug completely into the canal. This gives you the best seal against sound intrusion and allows the unit to perform properly and optimally.
While searching for the right plug for my ears, I did find a few things that will tell you, your choice is wrong. If you choose one that is too small, you will notice ambient annoying outside noise. It’s one of those hard sounds to describe, but you will know it. If they are too large in addition to being uncomfortable, that annoying sound will be there too. Like a plug that is too small on that is too large allows the plug to gap or it simply will not fit, if you crush it into your canal it hurts. This is where the triple flange plug can outperform a foamy, when you insert the plug properly all three flanges seal.
Reading the directions will give you pointers on proper removal/installation of the plug onto the stem and proper insertion into your ear. Slightly wetting the flange type ear plugs lubricates and believe it or not softens the flanges for easier insertion. Slightly wet is just that, wet enough to feel the moisture. If you use the dripping wet method like some folks lubricate firearms you could set yourself up for a heckuva an ear infection, especially in the summer. I clean my plugs with off the shelf hydrogen peroxide, it seems to keep them clean and it will not “eat” the soft polymer. This prolongs their life and helps prevent ear infections. Speaking as a person who had a fungal ear infection from my ear plugs, it’s no fun.
With a MSRP of $299.00, the GunSport Pros are a good value. I have custom fit plugs that set me back nearly $100 and they do not have an electronic compression circuit to enhance sound and reduce decibel levels in loud situations. The GSP’s revival my custom fit plugs for comfort, which I have not been able to say about other electronic plug style hearing protection. I have been wearing the GSP’s for about three months for pistol and three gun matches and my weekly trips to the range. They have become my go to hearing protection because they are comfortable, perform well and they store easily in their supplied storage case. In my travels for matches I have heard fellow competitors complaining over the course of the season they have sent one or more pairs of electronic plugs back to the manufacturer for repairs. Questioning the quality of the various electronic hearing protection they are using.
You can see the difference between the standard and long stem triple flange plugs. The long stem tends to be more comfortable because the entire plug is flexible.
I ordered a few sets of extra medium long stem plugs to allow others to sanitarily try the GSPs. All of the folks who tested them for me were impressed with the ease of removal and installation of new plugs and their comfort as well as performance. None of the guys from the club had worn electronic plugs, but they do wear electronic muffs. They all liked the idea the GSPs would not interfere with a snap shot on the trap range and they could easily wear them to hunt in for the same reason.
If you are looking for a pair of electronic earplugs that will not break the bank, Etymotic’s GunSport Pro is a perfect choice. They are comfortable, designed to fit a variety of ear canal sizes, easy to maintain, and durable. You will be hard pressed to find a better value for electronic ear plugs than the GunSport Pro. GSPs will make a fine gift for yourself after Christmas or a goo last minute gift for a shooter on your list.
Scott Smith is a Disabled Veteran serving in the Army and USAF Reserve. He has been a federal police officer, is a charter member of IDPA and is actively involved with USPSA and various three gun competitions.