How would your life be different if you woke up one day and couldn’t hear? If you shoot guns without proper hearing protection that hypothetical situation could become a reality. Most of us wear hearing protection while at the range, trap shooting, or shooting repetitively but I rarely see anyone wearing hearing protection while hunting. Walker’s aims to change that. Walker’s line of powered ear muffs are designed to let you hear sound but block out the loud noises that can damage your hearing. The decibel level of a centerfire rifle can reach upwards of 170 db when using a muzzle brake, and even a 12 gauge shotgun can reach upwards of 160 db. For comparison normal speech is around 60-65 db, and 140 db is considered the level at which pain is felt. So just how much damage can one shot from a shotgun do? That 12 guage shotgun blast at 160 db lasts about 2 ms in length but causes about the same amount of damage as working in a noisy work environment for a full 40 hour work week. Ok, ok, I am sure you didn’t come here to listen to me preach about the importance of hearing protection so lets get on with the review.
One beautiful summer day, the wind was calm so I decided to go put some rounds through my gun out at the range at my dad’s house. Once I got everything set up I realized I had forgot my shooting muffs, so I went to my dad’s shooting gear and grabbed his pair of Walker’s Alpha Muffs. I put them on and turned the dial on the right ear and instantly I heard birds chirping crisp and clear. I was sceptical about relying on something electronic to be fast enough to protect my hearing so I decided to clap and see how well they would filter out the sound. I actually had to clap my hands several times before I realized what was going on. I could hear everything right up to the crack of the clap and everything immediately after. It filtered the high decibel noise so well I couldn’t tell that it did anything at all. I could actually hear my hands hitting together but not the loud crack and I could hear the echo of the sound bouncing off the wall which would normally be covered up by the loud crack. As I was shooting I really started to see the benefits of these muffs. I could hear things going on around me, I could hear the shell that I ejected out of my gun bounce off my shooting table onto the ground, I could hear all the normal things I would hear if I was not wearing hearing protection.
Before our prairie dog hunting trip this summer I convinced my uncle to grab a pair of these muffs also. It was nice that the three of us could talk to each other while we were shooting. It made it really easy to spot each others shots and communicate with whoever was shooting as to were their shot landed. It is also kind of peaceful to hear the birds, owls, prairie dogs, and rattlesnakes (ok, maybe the rattlesnakes are not peaceful) while sitting on the open prairie. The only real downside I found to these muffs is that they pick up a fair bit of wind noise. They are listed as wind resistant but in my experience they have an occasional hissing sound caused by the wind. On a day with a light breeze you will probably not experience any wind noise, but if the wind gets up over 10 mph you will hear it. I don’t think the wind noise is a deal breaker but it is just slightly annoying. I would really like to try one of their higher end muffs to see if they are better at blocking out the wind.
My dad and uncle both have the regular Walker’s Alpha Muffs which only have one microphone per side. When I bought mine it was only a few bucks more to get the Alpha 360 Muffs which have 2 microphones per side. I am not sure if the 4 microphones vs. 2 microphones makes that much of a difference but the difference in price was about $10 so I went with the 4. My guess is you might pick up a few more sounds by having microphones in both the front and rear instead of just the rear. I have no problem determining which direction the sound is coming from while wearing these.
Features and Specs
Here is a list of the features from Walker’s website:
- 4 wind resistant, high frequency, stereo microphones for precise sound directionality
- 9x Hearing Enhancement
- Power – 50dB
- Two independent volume controls
- Sound activated compression (SAC)
- Anti-Microbial Ear Pads
- Noise reducing rating, NRR 24dB
- Power source 2 Energizer® ‘AAA’ batteries (included)
A few of the features I like that are not mentioned above is the foam around the ear cup is really soft. I wore these muffs for at least 6 hours one day and did not have any soreness or chafing. The headband is also well padded and has a good number of positive stop increments of adjustment.
- Protects your ears from hearing loss
- Amplifies sounds so you can hear things you might not otherwise hear
- Comes in camoflauge color
- Soft foam ear cups are comfortable to wear
- Fold up small so they don’t take up a lot of room in your shooting bag
- Uses regular AAA batteries instead of a special size battery, and the batteries seem to last a long time as long as you remember to turn off the muffs when you are not wearing them
- They are not as wind resistant as I would like them to be
- They are a little bulkier and heavier than a normal muff, not by a huge amount but just enough to be noticable
- I am not sure if this really counts as a con but I tried to use these at a tractor pull and they constantly cut the sound in and out. I ended up just turning them off and using them like a regular non-powered muff
I have owned these muffs for about a year now and they have held up well. These are one of my favorite gadgets that I have bought for prairie dog hunting. I am hoping to try these out while hunting deer with my muzzle loader and possibly turkey hunting also, I think they will be a valuable addition to these types of hunting. I was able to pick up a pair of these muffs for around $60 which is a great deal considering a pair of regular non-powered muffs will run you around $20-$30.
Final Verdict: I would highly recommend these to anyone who shoots guns.