Improved accuracy is something that most shooters would consider an endless pursuit. From anyone dabbling in long range or precision shooting, all the way to hunters and competition marksmen; the need to be on target never ceases to be an area of focus. As a hearing healthcare professional and someone who has recently taken up long range shooting, I thought I would take some time to discuss some of the ways proper hearing protection can aid in the pursuit of a more accurate shot.
1) Reduced Recoil Anticipation
I remember learning to shoot with my Dad as a young boy. We would take the old .22 out that he had when he was young and he would teach me the fundamentals of breathing, trigger control, and obtaining a proper sight picture. The one thing I don’t remember is using hearing protection. A .22 may not be considered a loud caliber, nor is it known for it’s recoil however, with an unprotected ear it is enough to develop a flinch before firing (not to mention hearing loss). When we progress to using larger rounds with more volume and recoil, this flinch can develop into an anticipation of recoil. This leads to tension before the shot, not being able to follow the bullet to target due to flinching, and all sorts of other complications. One of the recommended remedies for this is using proper hearing protection. Using adequate hearing protection as a means to soften the blow of the high decibel level of a firearm will help us relax and can stop the flinch reflex associated with the percussive bang of the trigger pull.
2) Improved Cheek Weld (use the correct tool for the job)
This is where the term “proper hearing protection” comes into play. There are many types of hearing protection that work for many different circumstances. In the worlds of trap and skeet, rifle hunting, or precision rifle cheek weld is an important factor in accuracy. While earmuffs may be suitable for some shooting formats, they can be cumbersome and detrimental to your process in others. I recently went long distance shooting with a friend of mine, and left my electronic in-ears in a different range bag. This may not be a big deal for most, but as someone who makes hearing protection for a living, being reduced to wearing earmuffs was near humiliating. Not only was I upset with myself, I struggled all day to settle into cheek weld for a consistent sight picture. This is something that just doesn’t happen when I am wearing in ear protection. Wearing a good set of in ear protection allows me to settle on my rifle with solid cheek weld, allowing me to have a consistent sight picture, and little to no parallax in my optic. These are all important factors in long range accuracy.
3) Using Electronic Hearing Protection to Better Hear Instructions, Environment, and More...
One of the best ways to improve your shooting is to receive proper instruction. Earmuffs and earplugs may do a great job of protecting you on the range, but they aren’t going to allow you to hear your instructor clearly. The solution for this is electronic hearing protection. Good electronic hearing protection uses advanced hearing aid technology (100’s of millions of calculations/second) to allow you to hear speech and even environmental noises clearly, while limiting sudden impulse noise - like a gunshot - to safe hearing levels. Not only will you save yourself and your instructor all sorts of frustration, but you’ll get good use out of them being able to hear a bullet strike AR500 more clearly at a distance, or being able to wear hearing protection while hunting without sacrificing being able to hear brush and animal noise.
While wearing proper hearing protection may not in and of itself give you the ability to put 5 bullets in the same hole at 500 yds, it can have an impact on the way you react to, use, and train with firearms. Anyone who’s spent time behind a trigger knows how important these aspects are to accuracy. Putting money into the right pair of hearing protection can be just as important as selecting the ammo with the right grain count to tighten your groupings.