The Well-Dressed Shooter
This Is Not Just A Matter Of 'Style'
March 1, 2016
There are a few absolute essentials that every shooter, no matter what his sport, must wear. No range will let you shoot without "eyes and ears" - eye protection and hearing protection. That being said, there are tons of different ways to protect your eyes and ears, and some are better than others, some are good for one kind of shooting and not another, and some are just barely acceptable.
Ear protection is one place where you'll find a lot of different products to prevent hearing loss in shooters. Bottom of the line are those little foam ear plugs that you compress and stick in your ear. I'm sorry if you like those, but I think they stink.
They never seem to fit right, and they don't seem to do a whole of good. At the SHOT Show this year in Las Vegas (Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trades), they gave us some disposable hearing protection that was actually very good. They are called 3M Push-Ins and they work very well. They are also comfortable, easy to insert and they have a cord so that if you remove them for a bit, they don't get lost.
For pistol shooting at the indoor range, I prefer earmuffs. They offer a ton of protection and really muffle the noise a lot, which is extremely important at an indoor range.
Muffs come in a ton of colors and they adjust to fit anyone. There are even muffs that have earplugs as well, for double the protection. There is one drawback to the muffs - they can definitely be in the way when you are using a firearm that you have to shoulder, like a rifle or a shotgun.
At the sporting clays range or at the rifle range, I prefer in-the-ear protection. Margie and I use 3M Peltor Combat Arms Earplugs. They come in a small case so you don't lose them, and they have a yellow end and a green end. The yellow end goes in your ear if you're outdoors, and at an indoor range you put the green end in your ear.
We love them - they are totally out of the way of your gun, and you can talk to each other just fine, but they muffle gun noise very well. You can get them on Amazon for less than $30.
The other absolute must at any range is eye protection. Your regular eyeglasses will do - you just need something to keep random brass casings from smacking you in the eye. If you don't wear glasses, there are tons of shooting safety glasses in a wide variety of colors and styles. We bought our granddaughter a set of pink earmuffs and red glasses and she loves them.
A word about corrective lenses: Glasses can make it difficult to shoot at times. If you wear bifocals, it's hard to cock your head just right so that you see the sights and the target clearly. With a shotgun, you are often sighting through the corner of your glasses when you first pick up the bird, and that can give you a warped view. I have found that progressive lenses make it a lot easier to shoot.
For shotgun shooters especially, there are shooting glasses with a variety of lens colors designed to make the clays really pop out at you. Some companies even make prescription glasses with interchangeable colored lenses that install in front of your corrective lenses, so you can choose the perfect color for any conditions.
When Margie and I shoot clays, we wear our progressive Transition lenses and we do just fine, but we don't shoot competitively. If you are a serious shooter, you should definitely check out a variety of lenses and see which ones work best for you.
Other Things To Consider
Eye and ear protectors are absolute requirements, but there are other things to consider, such as hats and vests. These aren't something you need at an indoor pistol range, but if you're a sporting-clays shooter, you probably will want to have them.
Hats Are Important
Sporting clays ranges are outside, which means the sun is beating down on you the entire time you're shooting, so a hat is almost a necessity. The brim can be in the way at times, so you may have to try a few different types of hats before you find one that suits you.
Margie always wears visors, and I prefer the type of felt hat that upland bird hunters wear. Besides looking good, it shades ears and neck and doesn't get in the way of seeing the clays or the shotgun sights.
Vests Make It Easier
Vests are great for clays. A well-fitting vest will make it easier to shoot. Why? Because your shirts can have a tendency to catch on the butt stock and crumple up between your shoulder and the gun.
A good vest has a patch on the shoulder that makes it easy to bring the gun up to the perfect position. In addition to that, shooting vests have nice big pockets for shells, your clays card, chokes, your phone, etc.
There are so many styles and colors of vests that you could fill a book with them. Just find one you like and make sure it fits well and you'll be good to go.
The Bottom Line
If you're just getting into shooting, make sure you have decent hearing
protection and some good safety glasses. Earmuffs aren't very expensive, and your hearing is worth it.
Most indoor ranges have earmuffs you can borrow, but get your own. For heaven's sake don't rely on those awful foam earplugs. If you prefer plugs to muffs, buy yourself a decent set that will last you forever.
Your hearing and vision are precious, and once they're gone, they're gone for good. Take care of them.