Over the years I have tried countless styles of hearing protection by as many different manufactures. Disposable foam inserts, flanged inserts, standard muffs and noise reduction muffs – each has held a place in my range bag and some are still there. Some, such as my noise reduction muffs, have worked well only to leave me stranded when the batteries died. Others, such as inserts, have suffered from poor fit and left me feeling as if I would be better off sticking my fingers in my ears. None have met all my needs in every situation.
When I saw that U.S. Patriot Tactical not only carried the EP3 Sonic Defenders by Surefire, but was offering a sale, it was almost a matter of fate. I was scheduled to conduct training on a new AR platform in the coming weeks and was trying to determine what would replace my recently damaged noise reduction muffs. So, I ordered a pair and figured I would put them to the test.
When my EP3s arrived I could not wait to take them out and try them on for size, literally try them on for size since although the website suggest the medium would fit most people I was not willing to wait until the rounds were going down range to find out if this was true. At least in my case, the recommendation was correct and the medium did fit. After a couple of practice inserts, I was able to obtain a good seal and was soon able to remove and reinsert without any difficulty.
The double flanged stem design is soft and comfortable with an immediately noticeable reduction in higher level noises while still allowing lower level, safe sounds to pass through. This permitted me to carry on a conversation while blocking out sudden, sharp noises which I initially tested with loud hand claps as per the instructions. Once on the range, I found that similar levels of reduction were provided for both handgun and AR discharge. Likewise, I was able to leave the ear pieces in place between courses of fire while delivering instructions and hearing questions from the line. If you desire a greater level of protection, you can insert the included filter caps which will filter out normal conversation as well as higher level sounds.
Of course while blocking out noise may be the main function of hearing protection, it is not the only test needed to determine whether my latest pair will find a permanent space in my range bag. The real test is twofold and requires that they not only fit well but are comfortable enough to actually wear for extended periods of time. With the EP3s, I found the soft hypoallergenic polymer actually did provide “all day comfort.” The patented Earlock® retention rings not only provide a secure fit, but did so without uncomfortable pressure points or fear of falling out during use even when shooting long guns. When I did find it necessary to remove the ear pieces, the included lanyard allowed me to simply drape them around my neck without fear of dropping them or needing to place them in a pocket.
While not a feature that concerned me, the EP3 is available in clear, black or orange. Each pair comes with an easily attached lanyard and a convenient flip top carry case. The ear pieces as well as these accessories are easily cleaned with simple alcohol wipes prior to storage.
After a week of long days on the range, utilizing both handguns and ARs, I found the EP3s to one of the better inserts I have tried and equal to most of the noise reduction muffs available without the reliance on batteries that tend to die when needed most. All in all I would say that when it comes to the Sonic Defender, you get more than you paid for.
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