Eyes and ears…the two most important things to have at the shooting range. You don’t want to end up like this guy…
We bought 6 of the most popular ones across different price points and tried them out with several buddies over a bunch of range trips.
By the end, you’ll know which one is best for your budget and intended use.
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When you get shooting glasses…you want to make sure they meet some standard of impact resistance. Otherwise, what’s the point?
There are three major standards:
It’s recommended the minimum to meet is the civilian ANSI Z87.1 and if you’re really at risk of frag or projectiles…to meet the US military specs.
Now that’s out of the way…let’s get on with the 6 best shooting glasses!
My overall favorite for style, coverage, and protection is the Wiley X Saber.
It covers more angles and exceeds the military MIL-RF-31013 standards for impact resistance, UV protection, and optical clarity.
Nosepiece is pretty comfortable and adjustable while the frame is normal thickness. It didn’t smush into my head when wearing electronic earmuffs.
Also light…but not the cheap kind of light.
Smoke grey is also perfect for sunny days or gloomy days like the above.
Radians Revelations are what I consider the bare minimum to get. $8 bucks and available in a couple colors. They are decent in style but I do feel their affordable price point in the construction.
Meets ANSI Z87.1+ standards for high-velocity impacts so they’ll protect your eyes.
One great thing is that the frames are pretty thin and can bend up at angles to match almost all faces.
I got the light smoke lens and it’s a good mix for daytime and when it starts getting dark (or indoors).
All my people out there with prescription glasses…Allen Over Shooting Glasses don’t look sexy but it will go over most regular glasses.
If you have prescription sunglasses…make sure they are not glass since glass plus impact is not good. I’d opt for something like this that meets ANSI Z87.1 standards.
I always wear contacts and regular shooting glasses at the range…but this one I wore my regular glasses at home for 3 hours. It definitely adds weight but after a while, you don’t notice it.
The sides are a little thicker so it can interfere with earmuff style hearing protection. I’d opt for earplugs when wearing these.
Smoke color isn’t too dark so it should be usable for indoors shooting.
If you’re really into clay shooting…Radians Clay Shooting Glasses might be for you.
The color is meant to make the orange clays pop out. It works somewhat and I like how there’s no frame on the top to obstruct views…especially when looking upwards.
Nose is not that comfortable since it’s not adjustable. But the frame is a thin wire so earmuffs are not a problem. Very light overall but also a little flimsy.
Meets ANSI Z87.1+ standards for higher velocity.
If only I could pull off red lenses…
You can never go wrong with Oakley.
I’ve been rocking the Oakley Radar for years since it has great coverage, meets the standards, and has different sized nose pieces.
It feels great even with earmuffs and never falls off when I’m sweaty.
I also like how it makes the colors pop out and it does help a little when I’m shooting with fiber optic sights.
Another Oakley pair that was designed specifically for shooting is the Oakley Tombstone that doesn’t have the top frame. There’s the Spoil version for smaller heads and the Reap for normal/larger heads.
I really like the Smith Aegis Echo II. It has everything I want in a frame…
Meets ALL three standards, has great coverage, and fit everyone that tried it because of the adjustable nose piece. Think Oakley’s “Asian Fit” for us with smaller noses.
Also has a super thin frame that doesn’t get caught up in even tight earmuffs.
It feels quality and that means a little more weight than the others.
My only complaint is that the frame that’s “missing” in the top middle makes it a little bit too aggressive. One person asked if I was on SWAT and another if I was from the Matrix.
Otherwise…it comes with a case and two lenses so you can shoot in both day and low-light.
This is my pick for something more premium that really protects your eyes and has you set for whatever environment. As long as you can pull off the look.
There you have it…my pick for the affordable range is the Wiley X Saber.
While for those that enjoy the finer things in life (and want extra protection and lenses)…the Smith Aegis Echo II.
Now that your eyes are protected…get yourself the best ear protection out there too. We cover everything in-hand from earplugs to all the most popular electronic earmuffs in Best Shooting Ear Protection.
Many people associate SHTF gear with doomsday preppers, underground bunkers, and enough ammo to support a small army.
The truth is that everyone should have an emergency supply for when shit really hits the fan – not just people who like to plan hypothetical zombie apocalypse-nuclear winter scenarios.
Speaking of zombies, if you haven’t read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) Zombie Apocalypse Plan you really should – no joke, it’s a great start to SHTF planning.
Setting aside some ammunition, extra weapons, and other survival gear is a great way to ensure the safety of you and your family in the event of an emergency.
Today we’re going to look at some SHTF gear essentials that every survivalist needs to have.
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Above everything else, you want to have a self-defense handgun that’s powerful enough to neutralize any incoming threat.
This will be your primary pistol, so you want to make sure that it’s something you’re comfortable shooting; don’t go purchase that .50 Desert Eagle just yet.
Personally, I believe that the best SHTF gun is a 9mm – and this has nothing to do with the debate over which cartridge is better.
The truth is that the 9mm is one of the most commonly used cartridges in the world, so coming across ammo for it is going to be much easier than a 10mm or .41 mag.
Remember, even the best gun in the most powerful caliber in the world is completely useless if you run out of ammo.
I find the absolute best SHTF gun to be the Glock 17.
Some might argue that there are better guns on the market, but the G17 is built for durability and usability.
And in a survival scenario where you might not have the time to pamper your gun like you normally would, you want a dependable gun that will still shoot accurately and cycle through ammo even with some wear-and-tear.
If you’re like most modern firearms enthusiasts, you’ve probably already got an AR-15 on hand.
If not, it’s a great home-defense weapon that you should consider adding to your arsenal. You can learn more about buying your first AR-15 by checking out our AR-15 Beginner’s Guide.
Depending on what kind of shit hits the fan, you might want to have something a little more versatile (or at least harder hitting) on hand than an AR-15 – especially if you live outside of a major metropolitan area.
Some would say that a Scout Rifle fits that role, and it did…70 years ago. While a scout rifle isn’t a bad idea, there are better options.
The AR-10 is a perfect example, get one chambered in .308 Win with a variable scope and you’ve got a great rifle for taking down game, protecting yourself from two-legged threats, and keeping the whole thing light enough to hike with and giving yourself 20 rounds on tap in case things go really sideways.
The Pew Pew Tactical Complete Buyer’s Guide to AR-10s will help you get started off right.
Remember, part of what makes a good SHTF gun is being able to easily replenish ammo, even in a post-apocalyptic world.
You might also want to get you a .22LR rifle if you don’t already have one.
It won’t protect you against the bad guys, but it’s useful for hunting small game to eat… if need be.
The Henry Survival Rifle is a 3.5-pound .22LR rifle that’s portable, accurate, and perfect for hunting squirrels, rabbits, and other small game.
As the saying goes, “a .380 in your hand is better than a .45 in the glovebox.”
While I recommend keeping your .45 ACP a little closer than the glovebox (or .357 Mag, 9mm, 10mm, .44 Mag, or whatever handgun you prefer), having a backup pocket pistol on hand can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.
The idea is to have a compact gun available that you can easily grab in a pinch. I like the .380 ACP because it’s small and lightweight, but still powerful enough to neutralize a threat at close range.
Like most Glock models, the G42 is a functional handgun that’s designed specifically for performance.
In other words, it’s not flashy and it doesn’t come with extra features. But it is durable and extremely dependable, which happen to be the two most important things to look for in a backup handgun.
As the smallest of the Glock models, it should go without saying that the G42 is an incredibly easy gun to carry in your coat pocket or strapped to your ankle.
One more thing…Ammo is everything when it comes to the .380 ACP. Unlike some of the harder-hitting cartridges that’ll stop any threat dead in its tracks, the .380 ACP is only as effective as its ammo.
Using it effectively in a high-stress situation means shooting premium, self-defense ammo – not cheap rounds.
One of the more popular choices is Hornady’s Custom 90-grain XTP Jacketed Hollow-Point .380 rounds. They come highly recommend for self-defense by our friends at Lucky Gunner and they’re reasonably priced.
If the .380 ACP isn’t your style and you’re looking for something a bit more tried and tested in the field, you can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned .38 Special.
The Bodyguard 38 is a modern take on a law enforcement classic – the .38 snub nose.
While the Bodyguard 38 (and other .38 specials) may not be popular services pistols in today’s generation, they’ve more than proven themselves to be powerful, dependable, and more than capable of acting as a backup pistol.
Overall, the pocket pistol makes a great addition to your SHTF Kit because it’s small enough to carry on your person at all times. I recommend a .380 APC or a .38 Spl because both of them are small and lightweight, yet powerful enough to take down a threat at close range.
Ideally, the pocket pistol is something you’d only want to use as a last resort – like if your primary gun jammed or it ran out of ammo.
The last thing you want to do is stockpile ammo for an end-of-the-world scenario, only to discover that it’s corroded and functionally obsolete when it comes time to use it.
A lot of people tend to forget that ammunition has a shelf life. However, that shelf life is completely up to you. Store it right and it will last long enough for your grandchildren to use, store it wrong and you’ll kill your stock before the next deer season.
One of the easiest ways to extend the shelf life of your ammo is by storing it in safe, secure containers where it’s protected from dirt and moisture.
You can learn more by reading our guide on long-term ammo storage.
In the meantime, a simple Ammo Can will go a long way towards preserving the life of your ammunition.
Honestly, every SHTF prepper should have at least one Ammo Can lying around. They’re cheap, easy to come across, and are worth their weight in gold if you ever are in a situation where you actually need to use your ammo stockpile.
Keeping a Silica gel packet in your ammo can will help ensure that your ammo lasts almost forever, they are cheap and easy to get – keeping one in every can is SOP for me.
What’s your take on having a good ammo can and moisture stopper?
Ideally, every home and automobile should have a first-aid kit – especially people who’re outdoor enthusiasts. For most situations, the standard first-aid kit found in most workplaces will get the job done.
But if you’re in a situation where you really did have to use your SHTF kit, there’s a greater likelihood that you won’t have easy access to paramedics and hospitals in the event of the emergency. For this type of scenario, you’re really going to want to have a little more than a burn kit, some gauze, and antiseptic ointment.
The Grizzly Series First Aid Kit by Adventure Medical Kits is a heavy-duty kit designed specifically for the survivalist and apocalypse prepper.
It comes with everything you need to treat injuries, including QuickClot, syringes, and a tourniquet so that you can stabilize trauma victims until first responders arrive.
If you’re looking for something a little more extensive and are willing to pay more for its durable design, the Echo-Sigma Trauma Kit is also an excellent choice.
Designed to meet the needs of law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day, the Echo-Sigma kit comes with all of the tools necessary to treat sprains, fractures, and cuts, as well as stabilize people who’ve experienced serious trauma from knife and gunshot wounds.
And as a bonus, it comes in a pouch that’s easy to carry around if you have to walk for extended periods of time.
We cover how to build the ultimate Range Med Kit too if you like customizing.
You’ll be surprised how much use you can get out of a good quality knife.
Not only does your survival knife act as your last line of defense, it can also be used as an important tool – especially if you’re stuck outdoors for an extended period of times.
Food prep, shelter building, making tools, and even first aid (cauterizing wounds and cutting bandages) can all be done with the help of your survival knife.
The KA-BAR is a tried-and-tested survival knife that’s been a long-time favorite among survivalists – partly because it’s also the combat knife issued to members of the US Armed Forces.
Another popular knife for your hunting trip or bugout bag is Survival Knife by Ontario Knife Company.
Functionally, it’s similar to the KA-BAR except that it comes with a gut hook for cleaning game, as well as a sawback – the serration on the top of the blade just past the hook. It’s made out of 1095 steel and has a 5” blade length, with an overall length of 9.26”.
And don’t forget a Whetstone for keeping your blades sharp without damaging them, like some of the other knife sharpening devices on the market.
Some other tools you might want to consider for your survivalist kit include:
If you ever find yourself away from your toolbox, each of these compact tools makes it significantly easier to set up shelter, make fires, and work on anything that needs tinkering.
As you already know, good gun maintenance is essential to ensuring that your gun is accurate and dependable. If you happen to find yourself in a shit-hits-the-fan moment, you want to make sure that you have all the supplies you need on hand.
After all, it’s not guaranteed that you will be able to trek to the nearest outdoors store and buy more equipment.
For this reason, I recommend keeping a few extra cleaning kits around. Preferably one for your SHTF Bag and another for the trunk of your car.
Our favorite M-Pro 7 kit from Best Gun Cleaning Kits is perfect for handling most of you gun maintenance needs on the go, and it’s compact enough to be stowed away without taking up significant space.
I also recommend picking up a few packs of Break Free Weapon Wipes. They will go a long way in keeping your guns, knives, and tools clean, lubricated, and protected against corrosion – especially if you’re ever in a situation where you have to use your weapons and tools daily.
And if you don’t already have one, you should think about getting a CCW holster so that you can carry your handgun on at all times.
You can see some recommendations by reading our concealed carry holster review.
For a survival scenario, I recommend something lightweight and effective, without any of the frills. Concealment Express has a number of lightweight holsters for $35 that are durable and comfortable to carry around.
This really should be self-explanatory. You need food and water. You also need a way to get food and water after your stores have run out.
Getting food is where your firearms will come in handy, but water is a little more complex since you can’t just drink any water you find laying around – that is a quick way to get all kinds of nasty sicknesses.
For water purification, you need two options at least, one for you to get drinking water right now and one method for you to purify a lot of water.
Don’t forget – water isn’t just for drinking. You’ll also need it for cooking, cleaning, and treating injuries.
To get drinking water right away, I love my LifeStraw.
But when it comes to purifying larger amounts of drinking water you’ll need something like the Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System.
Before the apocalypse strikes, you should have stocked up on food and water also.
I know a basement full of MREs is the more classic prepper thing to do but…anyone that has had to eat MREs for an extended period of time can tell you that…almost any other option is preferred.
Each of these pails is a 30-day food supply for one person. That is a lot of food! Throw in the fact that each of these only weighs 23 pounds and what you have is a fairly lightweight option for long-term food supply.
Long-term water storage is a little more complex than food, you’ll need water – obviously, but you’ll also need a water preserver.
Combine these two so that your water supply will last long enough for you to get through whatever has hit the fan!
Prepping for air isn’t something that you may have thought off before – but it should be on your list. If you really want to be prepared then you’ll want to find yourself a full biological suit…
…but for more run-of-the-mill applications, a good respirator will do the trick.
Being stuck in an emergency situation means that you could be forced to pack up and move at a moment’s notice.
For this reason, you need to have a dependable backpack large enough to carry your essentials like water, knives, tools, and first aid kit.
I recommend a 60-liter backpack because it’s large enough to hold your necessary equipment but not too large that it starts getting bulky and in the way.
The Tactical Backpack by Trekking King is a popular 60-liter backpack that’s durable and comfortable enough to withstand long hikes and hunting trips.
Aside from looking cool, the Tactical Backpack has a number of extra compartments for maximizing your storage capabilities. You can load it up with survival material and store it in your trunk, garage, or closet and grab it at a moment’s notice.
Here are a few things that you want to keep in your backpack to keep you prepared for the unexpected:
You should also think about buying a Shemagh from Condor Outdoors.
This traditional Middle Eastern headdress was made popular in the western world by the British SAS. It’s a versatile cloth that can be used for a number of things including:
When you’re building an SHTF bag, your goal should be to anticipate and prepare for any situation – not just the apocalyptical, but also the more common such as an earthquake, tornado, fire, and whatever else is possible to your local area.
Choosing good survival gear isn’t always about maximizing your firepower.
It’s also about making sure that you’ve got clean water, shelter, and enough supplies in the event that you have to gather your things and leave at a moment’s notice.
Are you a prepper? Do you have a store of SHTF gear? Let us know all about it in the comments!
Posted in Gear, Product Reviews Tagged with: adventure medical, Aero Precision, clp, Condor, Echo Sigma, estwing, Gear, Gear Reviews, gerber, GLOCK, Henry Repeating Arms, Hornady, ka-bar, leatherman, micropur, Ontario Knife Company, Prepping, Remington, Review, Smith & Wesson, streamlight, trekking king, zippo
Looking for bull barrel accuracy in a lightweight package?
Check out the new generation of barrels…carbon fiber, baby!
We cover the most popular ones in Best Carbon Fiber Barrels…but today we focus on BSF which brings us perforated carbon fiber instead of a wrap.
Plus…compared to the others out there…the BSF is the most affordable (I use that term loosely).
I only heard about BSF in the last year but they are making a splash in the carbon fiber (CF) arena with their perforated barrels instead of standard wraps.
My understanding is that there’s a 416R stainless steel match barrel underneath there that is covered with CF. However…95% of the CF doesn’t even touch the steel (only 4 contact points: chamber, before/after the gas block, and near the muzzle).
This creates air gaps that cool the barrel through the perforations.
I was lucky enough to try this out in a new build thanks to Rainier Arms who sent me a barrel for testing.
The barrel was a sight to behold. Even the wife said it was cool…and by now all the barrels and uppers around the house look the same to her.
I tried out the 16.5″ .223 Wylde in 1:8 twist which clocks in at 26.9 oz. Compare that to a standard M4 profile 16″ barrel at 28 oz. If you want to go bull barrel stainless…it can reach 3 lbs (48 oz). I couldn’t find exact numbers since I could only find 18″ bull barrels that are over 3.5 lbs.
My full build which contains all my favorites:
It is a little more difficult to install since there’s no barrel shoulder to gauge where to put the gas block. But if you have an electronic caliper…you should be good.
My go-to Superlative Arms block (this time in .936 for the bull barrel) went on easily after I made a small etch marking on the stainless section of the barrel.
Otherwise with my combo of the Brigand Arms CF handguard…I found that it rubbed the top of the gas block. Which technically makes it no longer free-floating…but I wanted to see how it would shoot still.
What you’ve been waiting for…does it actually work?
I conducted two rounds of tests…one with the touching CF handguard and one with the free-floating.
200 round break-in, targets at 100 yards, and shooting at a fast pace (as soon as sights were back on target) with no cooling down period.
And an assortment of my Best AR-15 Ammo.
If these were my regular groups with some cool-down and a slow steady shooting pace…I’d be a little disappointed. But I wanted to test how the heat dissipation worked and how it would perform in a little more competitive arena.
In that regard…I’m pretty impressed. It was pretty happy with Wolf Gold (the cheapest ammo) and very happy with Gold Match ($$$).
I also shot 30 rounds as fast as I could at the range and held the barrel. Only warm!
In my second round of tests on another range day, I used the Midwest Handguard and Aero upper. And a new Triggertech trigger which I actually like the most now.
And the results were on par…
All in all…pretty happy about the groups when I was shooting as fast as I could get on target with no cool down.
I’m sure if I started hand-loading I could really close up the groups. But it’s a pain to prep .223/5.56 brass so I stopped doing that. But even with this I was ringing steel at 300-400 pretty easily on a 1-6x scope.
No failures of any kind in the ~400 rounds I shot through.
Great groups when you consider shooting with no cool down and as fast as I could get back on target. A 5 would be consisten sub-moa even at high speed.
I’d make it a 10 if I could. But it really stands out…especially with the sweet carbon fiber drilled holes.
Bang for the Buck: 3.5/5
It’s $500…would I count it as double a really high quality 16″ Wylde barrel? Probably not. But if you’re at the top of your game or want an unfair advantage in relation to your groups opening up due to heat…this could be it. However…the most affordable out of other CF options.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
I believe the hype of carbon fiber barrels now.
Take a lightweight bull barrel profile with great groups at speed…and you have a winner. If you have the coin for a sweet new build…check out BSF. It’s definitely my new competition rifle.
Ringing steel at 100 was easy standing up and with a 1x. The rifle was well balanced and once I got the Superlative Arms gas block tuned in…it felt like a pea shooter.
I’ll be reporting back as I get more rounds and comps through it.
Otherwise…check out our other Best AR-15 Barrels for something more bang-for-the-buck for the everyday shooter.
The 1-6x scope can do almost anything.
Close-up shots at 1x is almost the same speed as a red dot. And 6x allows you to hit targets out at several hundred yards easy.
I’ve bought and used a bunch of 1-6x scopes for competition and plinking over the past few years.
Here’s my favorites across a couple of price ranges. All with real views and videos through the scopes.
I was so happy when the Strike Eagle came out.
I was ready to move up from my 1-4x Burris Tac30 ($240) I used for a year and that was losing me time after my local rifle competition introduced ~400 yard targets.
This is a view of 1-4x for comparison aiming at 100 yard steel plates:
There were some 1-6x scopes out but they were expensive. The Vortex Strike Eagle made it accessible for normal folks at around $300 (just a little step up from 1-4x scopes).
It had everything you needed with decent glass. Very minimal side distortion on the sides at 1x.
And acceptable clarity at 6x.
The illuminated reticle is also not daylight bright. Fine for dusk/dawn but don’t expect it to be a red dot at other times.
I’d knock the reticle a little bit…I prefer a dot or cross for 1x shots. But the bullet drop compensation (BDC) marks did help for the couple hundred yard shots.
It held zero for the 2 years I used it as my primary rifle competition optic. And the magnification ring was easily turned for speed since it has a protruding fin.
Here it is in action (some range sounds):
At the end…my runner-up recommendation for a budget 1-6x scope. With Vortex you also get a transferable lifetime warranty.
My new recommendation for the best budget 1-6x scope is the PA 1-6x with ACSS Reticle.
I’ve always heard of Primary Arms having affordable optics that perform great. Now I’m finally a believer after using their 1-6x and 4-14x scope that they sent me for testing.
It’s the same price range as the Strike Eagle at under $300. But if you purchase directly from Primary Arms you get free rings or a discounted single-piece mount.
So far both have held zero admirably…although a little heavy. I’d opt for the single-piece over the rings since it’s much easier to take on and off without losing zero.
Now…how does it look through the glass compared to the Strike Eagle.
Less distortion at 1x. And much clearer at 6x.
Here is the Strike Eagle at 6x again:
I also like the ACSS reticle a lot more. It has a single dot for precise work but also the bigger bold circle for hosing targets. The BDC also worked well for several hundred yard shots.
I haven’t shot the PA as much as the Strike Eagle but so far so good. Zero has held for several range trips but I’ll report back if anything changes.
Magnification ring is also easy to manipulate but illumination shown at the beginning of the video is only useful for dusk/dawn.
For under $300 to get decent glass and a free mount (although heavy)…you can’t ask for anything better than that. Plus PA offers a lifetime warranty. I had a damaged red dot and they look care of it quickly & easily (Best Budget Red Dots).
Note that PA’s stock goes in and out since the 1-6x sells like hotcakes.
If you want to spend a little more to get much better glass and a day-time bright red-dot. I would heavily recommend the Vortex Viper PST II. I saw it at SHOT Show 2017 and had to buy it as soon as it was available.
It’s my current competition rifle optic.
Forgiving eyebox (how specific your eye placement needs to be) and little distortion at 1x and 6x. When you’re actually on the rifle it’s like having a thin black circle and a floating reticle.
Hard to replicate that through a cell phone camera!
And here it is at 6x.
I also really like the reticle because of the red dot. I’ll try to get a better picture of it later since it was a super sunny day. It even washed out the reticles in my Best Holographic Sights article when they were fine to my eyes.
Zero has held well in the Aero mount and magnification ring manipulation is fine too. I’ve been putting off on getting a scope lever since my competitions usually require only one change.
My current recommendation for the best bang-for-the-buck higher end 1-6x scope.
There’s a lot of scopes out there…and these honorable mentions are for the higher end ones. These are the ones I’ve shot at ranges or borrowed a fellow competitor’s rifle for use on a stage.
When a slight edge in performance is worth a few hundred (or thousand) more dollars over the PST II…
The highest end Vortex has a much more forgiving eyebox and better glass while still having the daylight bright illumination. My favorite for a future upgrade.
Lightweight and awesome describes the Kahles.
Daylight bright and awesome glass you can expect from the name Swarovski. If money were no object.
Scopes have come a long way in the last few years. Quality glass for plinking and competition doesn’t have to break the bank now (but always can).
My go-to recommendation for a budget 1-6x scope is the Primary Arms.
Runner up is the Strike Eagle 1-6x that has served me well and will still live on in a backup competition upper.
And my best bang-for-the-buck optic is Vortex’s Viper PST II.
Want to protect your auditory organs?
The percussive vibrations of each gunshot actually kill vital little hairs deep in your inner ear. And that can open the door to a high pitch ringing or humming noise that can last forever.
We’ve got the 411 on the best shooting ear protection…from affordable passive ones to the top of the line electronic earmuffs. We’ve tried them all over hundreds of hours at the range as shooters and range officers.
We’ll quickly cover our top picks in each category and budget. Then round it out with our research and more in-depth info on each pick at the end.
Ready? Let’s start with some passive ear protection.
The most affordable of the bunch and really protective at 32dB NRR (noise reduction rating). Remember to compress them before sticking them into your ears.
Big, affordable, and protective at 30 dB NRR. My first set of hearing protection earmuffs/headphones. Great if you don’t like things inside your ear.
Slimmer profile for a good long-gun cheekweld and adequate protection at 24 dB NRR. What I used for many ears (sorry).
Now, let’s dive into electronic ear protection that cuts out harmful shooting sounds but amplifies regular sounds like people talking.
14K reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star average. It’s the first pair of electronic earmuffs people get when they are tired of yelling “WHAT?!?” when someone speaks to them at the range.
Affordable, decent protection at 22dB NRR, slim for rifle/shotgun shooting, and reasonably comfortable.
Noisefighters Gel Caps…this upgrade makes the HL’s super comfortable.
These feel like the pads used in my favorite $200+ earmuffs further down the list. AND they have cutouts for eye protection since after a few hours your glasses really dig into the side of your head.
If you’re ready to jump up a notch you get 30 dB of protection and ability to hear people around you and range commands. Note that I would use these with pistol shooting only…they are pretty thick and will mess up your cheekweld.
Plus…since they also fit the Noisefighters Gel Caps!
For most you’ll be well-served with any of the Howard Leights with the possibility of upgrading to gel caps. But if you want better sound quality and shutoff (plus the ability to change it for each ear), I like Pro Ears’ Pro Tac Slim Gold with 28dB NRR.
Most of my fellow competitors wear these bad boys for their comfort and sound quality.
I finally caved after I became range officer for a couple competitions. That meant constant blasts for hours while still needing to hear everything.
They allready has built in gel caps and there’s a couple colors. I of course went with the camo…
It’s ok protection at 22dB NRR which is fine for pistol competitions…but if you have compensated rifles going off around you…they have enough room in them for some lightly put-in earplugs.
Well that’s the quick list of my favorites…check out our research and more in-depth reviews of each.
Everyone always talks about the middle ear. That’s mainly the eardrum and those three little bones with cool names: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup.
But what really causes hearing damage though is what happens in the inner ear.
Inside, picture a spiral staircase. Only this passage is just 2 millimeters wide and maybe 30 millimeters long all coiled up.
Sound races along the outside of the staircase, but in the middle are the organ of Corti (yup, sounds ominous) and the basilar membrane. Both are long and thin, with the organ resting on the membrane. All along this little assembly are tiny little hairs. They register sound and transmit it through the auditory nerve to your brain.
But—and here’s the kicker—exposure to an intense sound—that’s 140 dB or more—can make segments of the organ of Corti separate from the basilar membrane. Portions of it actually tear away and float around.
So you end up with an inflamed lesion that causes an accompanying chemical reaction. Hairs die. Scar tissue forms, and even with rest, the tiny hairs typically continue to degenerate. A cascade effect takes over, and the entire auditory central nervous system goes deaf.
Researchers suspect that tinnitus—that high pitch noise inside your head that won’t go away—“begins as a result of the brain trying to regain the ability to hear the sound frequencies it has lost by turning up the signals of neighboring frequencies.”
One more thing: noise exposure is cumulative. Each loud sound is killing ear hairs, so you need to be thinking about total exposure over the course of days, weeks and years.
Ready for some hearing protection yet?
First of all, forget cotton balls, tissue, packing peanuts, or my personal old-shooter favorite, cigarette filters. While they are better than nothing, they are also next to nothing. At best, you’ll get a reduction of maybe 7dB.
Effective choices for hearing protection come down to
There are so many options, there’s no reason not to protect your ear hairs. From neon foam-on-strings to high-tech headphones, there’s something for everyone.
What you should be looking for is a minimum noise reduction of 15dB, but 30dB is preferable. Pair a good set of plugs with muffs and you might shut out another 10 to 15dB or so.
You know the load you like to shoot, but a conservative 140dB is a common figure for an average muzzle blast. A .22 will be less, a magnum more. With quality protection, you can start approaching a range that’s still loud—as in chainsaw- or sandblast-loud—but may be up to 1,000 times quieter.
Traditional earplugs fit inside the ear, forming a seal that blocks sound. They come in a range of sizes, configurations and materials—from foam to hypoallergenic rubber and moldable polymers. Earplugs tend to be more efficient at handling low-frequency noise.
I like these because they are comfortable for a few hours and are 32dB NRR rated.
There’s tons of other foam options but I would stay away from cylindrical ones…those are not very comfy.
Traditional earmuffs come on a headband and have foam pads that cover and form a seal around the entire ear. For those who don’t like the over-the-head fit, a few versions have back-of-the-head wrap designs. Muffs typically are better at screening out higher frequency sounds.
My favorites and what I wore for a long time are the 3M Optime model and Shotgunner model.
The Optime is super protective with 30dB NRR but is also quite bulky. It’s not heavy but it will seriously cramp on your cheekweld situation for rifles and shotguns. Use if you’re shooting handguns…and especially if you’re at an indoor range where the sound reverberates.
For going slim…I really like the Shotgunner. I painted mine over and it served me well for years. It’s less protection at 24dB but you can always double up if it gets really loud with compensated rifles. Comfort is average but I found it to be fine for a few hours if I can take it off my ears during downtime.
High-tech electronics are stepping up the game for earplugs, ear cuffs, ear muffs, and every smart device in between. These focus on screening out the loud booms while letting you still hear conversations and the sounds of the great outdoors.
My go-to recommendation is the Howard Leight Impact Sports. They are super popular for a reason. They are affordable and they work. The only thing I could knock them for was their comfort. But with the newly released gel caps…I have nothing bad to say anymore.
These usually go head to head against Walker’s Razor Slim. But I give the win to Howard Leight because it’s usually cheaper and are super comfortable with the gel cap upgrades.
I’d say get the Howard Leight’s if you want to experience electronic ear protection. See how you feel after a few hours at the range. And you’ll always have the option of having sweet gel on your ears down the line.
If you want to step up a little in the world of electronic earmuffs…there’s the Impact Sports Pro which offers 30db NRR protection and good sound cutoff.
They are large, bulky, but surprisingly light and comfy to wear even for longer range sessions and provide amazing noise reduction. I’d recommend these if you are shooting large caliber handguns or shoot at an indoor range.
And they fit the Noisefighters Gel Caps.
Next up is a bigger jump in price. But with that you get much better cutoff and amplification. Pro Ears has a stellar reputation and I like their Pro Tac Slim Gold edition. They don’t make my Editor’s Pick because they fit a little tight for people and the ears aren’t as comfy as the MSA Sordins.
Ah…the MSA Sordins Supreme Pro X. A mouthful to say…but like a heavenly cloud on your ears.
I simply asked my competition buddies “what are the best electronic ear muffs” and the MSA’s got the majority of votes.
They are comfy for hours with their gel caps, have easily accessible button controls, great sound cutoff and compression, and allow for earplugs if the decent 22db NRR doesn’t cut it.
Plus they can attach to ballistic helmets and comms if that’s your thing.
What I wear when I shoot for hours and my main recommendation for when people want the best.
How did we do? Did you get the Howard Leights or MSA Sordins? Let us know down below. And for our other favorite hands-on-tested guns & gear…check out Editor’s Picks.
The post Best Shooting Ear Protection [Electronic & Passive] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.
What sight combines a red dot and old school irons?
The answer is…SeeAll Open Sights ($99).
I heard about these a few years ago but their initial reviews weren’t that great due to ugly lettering in the sight picture and a weird set screw mount.
They’ve fixed all that AND added tritium for some glow-in-the-dark goodness. Let’s see if that’s enough for redemption.
The SeeAll is electronic free but still offers nearly parallax free targeting like in red dots. That means when you move your head around…the reticle stays on the target.
It does this with a magnifying lens in the front…and a smaller green/tritium section more forward that holds the reticle. In my case…a nice triangle that makes it very easy to figure out the point of impact.
Original versions had some lettering visible in this view so you can see how that would be distracting. There’s still a “R” to the bottom right but it’s barely visible when you’re on target.
SeeAll sent me two versions of their MK2 tritium models for testing.
One for pistols which attaches via a dovetail insert. Make sure you have a pistol sight pusher since it took a little while to go on my Glock slide.
I shot with the pistol version at the range a few times and also once for low-light competition. I figured that way the tritium could help out.
Here’s how the tritium insert looks in a dark closet.
And it with me in action.
Since I was running a TLR-8 flashlight I depended on that more instead of the tritium (see the Best Pistol Flashlights article for more). But it’s as bright as my normal tritium night sights.
I didn’t practice TOO much with the SeeAll on my pistol and I found it took more time to find the triangle.
My best explanation is that when you have a “U” or two-dot rear sight plus the front sight post, you can see how to adjust your handgun to line everything up.
With only the triangle to look for, especially in low-light, I found it more difficult than regular night sights to acquire the sight picture.
Therefore, I suggest pistol use only if you really train with the SeeAll, or if speed isn’t that much of a concern (the triangle system does seem plenty accurate). I can also see it great for beginners that are having some trouble with focusing on the front sight in a traditional rear/front system.
However…it’s different with a rifle.
The rifle version of the SeeAll comes with a good large knob Picatinny mount. No more set screw nonsense.
Note that you’ll need a riser for the AR for a comfortable shooting position.
On a rifle, I can get pretty consistent with my cheekweld and buttstock position. That made it a lot easier to acquire the triangle target.
Hitting 100-yard steel plates became a breeze.
This is where the SeeAll really shined. Now you get something that doesn’t need batteries…but still offers nearly parallax free shooting.
Here’s a video from SeeAll themselves on what it looks like when you’re actually shooting.
However, for both versions of the SeeAll…I wished it didn’t obscure the bottom part of the target as much. For something called the SeeAll…it needs to do better in that department.
Pistol requires some more extensive training to acquire the target at my normal speed…but was easy on a rifle. The sight also cuts off too much of the target…especially when you’re comparing it with red dots.
I didn’t torture test it but it seems pretty robust in a machined metal casing and the lens is really beefy and recessed. Plus tritium has its great half-life of 12 years.
The triangle target is more precise than standard pistol irons. And it was more than enough to hit plates at 25 yards.
Most people have never seen one…so be prepared to get asked what it is. Fit and finish were great. But I do wish that it was a little shorter in profile…especially when on a pistol.
Bang for the Buck: 4/5
The tritium version sells for $99 on SeeAll’s site but it looks like near $200 on Amazon. Not bad for something tritium based. And there’s a lifetime warranty…AND a 30 days no-questions return policy.
Overall Rating: 4/5
If you’re looking at a non-powered optic that gives you nearly parallax-free viewing…AND has tritium for low-light shooting. You should give the SeeAll a try.
Seeing if a holographic weapons sight is for you?
We bought the two most popular holographic sights right now…plus a third underdog contender.
And we break them down into what we think is the best. If you can’t wait, here’s our picks:
Without going too much into everything…why would you even want a holographic sight compared to a red dot?
Red dots (or reflex sights) operate by having an LED project a dot towards a lens, which is specially coated so that it bounces back towards your eye. Check out our Best Red Dots Under $200 article.
Holographic sights use a laser transmitted hologram of a reticle through a series of lenses back to your eye.
Since it’s laser based instead of LED, the battery life is significantly less. But it allows for more specialized reticles (the big difference in my mind) and also does not need a specially coated lens.
You also tend to get a bigger view window with holographic sights.
Now onto our favorites…
EOTech is the giant in the holographic sight game.
Sure, they had a little snafu a few years back about thermal drift (where the reticle doesn’t return to zero if subjected to extreme temperatures). But they are back and better than ever.
If you’re still worried about the thermal drift (all sights, red dot or holo, have them)…check out EOTech’s response for their new sights. When put through temperatures of -4 to 122 degrees F, there is a max drift of 3.5 MOA.
It has a big rectangular window that is very clear. And the famous 68 MOA circle with a 1 MOA dot in the center.
Here it is at the range. I had trouble getting clear shots of the reticle in high brightness. But it works great even in the sunniest of days in the desert.
And a better image of it inside.
The shorter EOTech’s have a couple variants…but I like the EXPS2-0 compared to the regular XPS line since it is 1/3 co-witness which doesn’t get in the way as much if you have irons or backup irons (Best AR-15 Backup Irons).
It also has a robust quick detach (QD) rail system and the buttons on the side (essential if you’re going to run magnifiers).
The 2-0 designates that it is the 68 MOA circle with 1 MOA center. A must if you ask me. If you’re running night vision, opt for the EXPS3-0 which has some settings for NVGs.
Here’s a video of it in action with a little simulated head movement to show how it’s devoid of almost all parallax.
The reticle makes it super easy for close up shots when I used the optic for pistol caliber carbine (PCC) competitions. While the 1 MOA dot was useful for farther plate racks.
I even took it on and off a couple of times while testing and it always stayed in zero (plate racks at 25 yards).
My choice for best overall holographic weapons sight.
The AMG UH-1 is a newish sight from Vortex and is the only real holographic contender to EOTech. It’s affectionately known as the “Huey” because of the UH-1 designation.
Built like a tank…it looks like it’s much bigger than the EXPS but it’s about the same length. It’s the extra hood that protects everything that makes it seem that way.
Since it’s new, it doesn’t have the military track record of the EOTech but so far no major complaints besides a first initial batch that had some reticle flaring that is now fixed. Plus it’s Vortex so it has a lifetime transferable warranty.
Speaking of reticles…the Huey’s reticle is my favorite out of the bunch. Still has the large circle for CQB but also has a nice chevron at the bottom for shorter engagements.
I set my zero at 25 yards for the shorter PCC competitions…but if you zero at the standard 100 yards…the triangle will really help. Also has a great integrated QD mount that maintained zero between testing.
One thing I gotta knock it down for is…the greenish tint. It’s a lot more apparent than the EOTech which if it has one…is nearly imperceptible.
It didn’t matter too much during actual shooting…but looking at it by itself it bugs me a little.
Another is that the buttons are on the back so it might also interfere with magnifiers.
However, one cool thing is that it has a rechargeable battery inside that you can charge through USB.
I tried it out to see if it works…and it does. But realistically I’m not sure if I’m really going to be plugging in my upper to my computer when swapping batteries seems so much easier.
Speaking of batteries…the AMG UH-1 has a sweet 1500 hour battery life compared to the EOTech’s 600 hours.
Overall, my runner-up if you want to get into the holographic sight game at a slightly lower entry fee.
Ok…it’s not technically a holographic sight. But instead the Holosun 510C brings together the best of both worlds of red dot and holographic.
Long battery life and a sweet reticle that isn’t “fuzzy” like normal holographic sights.
The center is a 2 MOA while the outside ring is 65 MOA. You can also cycle between using the dot only, ring only, or the combo.
Has a greenish hue on par with the Vortex. Again, it was hard to get good pictures at the range.
If you’re solely looking for the circle and dot reticle…you can’t go wrong with this optic.
It’s crisp and nearly parallax free like its brethren.
AND with a 50,000 hour battery life since it runs off LED and not lasers. PLUS it has solar capability that switches in the sun so you aren’t running off batteries. Finally, it’s lighter and has a smaller profile.
Buttons are on the side for easy access and also has a QD attachment system that also maintains zero. Has NVG capabilities but is less waterproof than the others.
My pick for the best worth-it “holographic-esque” sight.
If you’re looking for something more than a simple red dot…holographic sights are the way to go.
The big player and my favorite model is the EOTech EXPS2-0 which has the clearest glass, great button placement, and decent battery life.
My runner-up is the Vortex AMG UH-1 which is built tough, has my favorite reticle, has a longer battery life, but has a greenish hue.
Lastly…if you’re interested in the holographic reticle, go with the Holosun 510C which sports an impressive 50K battery life.
Did we miss any holographic sights out there? Find out more of our favorite optics and scopes in our Gear Reviews section.
The post Best Holographic Sights [Real Views]: EOTech, Vortex, Holosun appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.
Looking for a perfect all-in-one gun cleaning kit?
Bad news…there isn’t one.
But we’ll help you get the best one for your end-use…and suggest some standalone products to truly make your kit perfect.
I’ve used a bunch of cleaning kits throughout the years and this is only a snapshot of the ones I haven’t thrown away.
Follow me as I cover what’s needed for pistol and shotgun up to precision rifle shooting. I’ll also cover my favorite cleaners/oils, cleaning rods, AR-15 specific tools, and more.
If you can’t wait for the results, here are our favorite gun cleaning kits:
The Winchester Kit is a good deal for a little over $20 since it is pretty universal…covering everything from .22 to 12 gauge shotgun.
The box looks good but keep in mind the whole thing is around $20 so there’s a distinct China feel to it.
There are two sets of brass rods that won’t scratch your barrel’s harder steel and all the copper brushes are actually pretty good quality and marked with the caliber.
There’s an ok amount of patches but you’ll need to add your own oil and gun cleaner (and there’s no room to fit it in the box). My specific suggestions at the end…but hint…it’s M-Pro 7.
Only have a handgun for now…or want a super compact kit?
The Real Avid kit is great and covers everything from .22 to .45 caliber handguns.
It’s tiny since the rods are long enough just for handgun length barrels. Everything feels sturdy and the box can take a beating in your range bag or trunk.
The only fault I can find is that it doesn’t come with oil or cleaner…and you’ll be hard-pressed to fit anything in the box beside eye drop sized droppers.
There’s a lot of this kind of kit being sold…probably one factory that makes it and a bunch of people brand it as a something else.
But it’s my go-to range kit if I don’t think I’ll actually need to clean.
It’s small, slim, and is supposed to have an empty bottle to put some cleaner or oil.
I’ve modified it through the years to have extra bronze brushes, a dental pick, Allen key, and Q-tips/patches. And yes I’ve lost the bottle but I tend to keep my cleaner and oil separately.
It’s not my cleaning kit for home since the rods seem to be steel and could damage the barrel if used a lot. But it’s great for getting things unstuck! Can’t go wrong as a backup cleaning kit for around $10.
From my favorite gun cleaner comes their cleaning kit that has everything you need…including the oil and cleaner.
The kit rocks since it has individually packaged brushes and tips (.22 to 12 gauge) so you can keep everything tidy and the case has more pouches to add additional cleaning items.
Even comes with a silicone cloth to wipe down the surface of your guns. Throw in some Q-Tips and this kit is ready for anything.
Everyone and their mom have a favorite gun cleaner and oil. Here’s a sample of what you’ll see if you try to find out more:
I’ll admit…I started with Hoppe’s No. 9 and it’s an awesome cleaner. Problem is that I like to clean indoors and though I really LOVE the smell…I’d get dizzy and also it started eating away at my nails (now I wear gloves no matter what).
I switched to M-Pro 7 cleaner and didn’t look back. It’s nearly as good at cleaning but without the caustic effects.
For oil…I also like M-Pro 7, but I also like Militec 1 for the smell.
The following are also popular ones (including some combo CLP which stands for clean, lubricate, preservative):
I also like to use gun grease for rails since it stays on longer…and I go by the old adage “oil if it turns, grease if it slides.”
Now, how about copper cleaners (for when you start seeing some accuracy degradation). I’ll admit…I almost never do this except for my precision rigs.
For my precision rifles, I like using a one-piece cleaning rod to make sure nothing scratches my lands & grooves. I stick with the ole standard…Tipton.
Now some of you might be asking where are the bore snakes? Frankly, I don’t really use them since I don’t like the idea of running something previously dirty back through my barrel.
But some swear by them…especially as the ultimate space-saving cleaning “kit” for a range bag.
And you’ll be sure to run out of patches sooner or later. In a pinch some cut up t-shirts or boxers will work. But I like going with Hoppe’s.
Lastly…for the hard to clean carbon-fouled parts of AR-15’s…there’s a scraper tool that’s been a godsend. And also our AR-15 Cleaning & Maintenance Guide.
To sum it up, this is my Editor’s Pick for best cleaning kit:
If you’re doing handgun only and want a super small kit:
A nice backup:
And a good starter kit that will get you through everything from .22 to 12 gauge:
That’s it on my end…let me know if I missed some kits. And if you must…your favorite oil and cleaner. Lastly, be sure to check out our Editor’s Picks for more guns & gear that we love.