Everyone who goes shooting, mows the lawn, or engages in any other loud activities needs great hearing protection. Walker’s has stepped up and modernized “ear pro” with lots of options to suit just about anyone. Here, we’ll look at three of the company’s many products to show a sampling of what they offer to sporting and outdoors enthusiasts. These products are ones the reviewer has spent hours wearing in different circumstances.
Walker’s Razor Digital X-TRM Muff
The Razor label indicates that the X-TRM muffs are among the company’s low-profile design. They look good compared to old, bulky muffs and don’t interfere with getting a cheek weld on your rifle or shotgun.
The X-TRM is among Walker’s newest designs and they obviously have worked to eliminate typical complaints from ear muff-wearers. The headband liner is an unusual mesh material with an apparent metallic component—but don’t worry, the sparkly part is invisible during wear. I didn’t think this light, padded lining would make much difference, after all I wear a hat at the range with muffs over top. But after spending all day in a carbine class in 90+F, humid conditions, I was surprised to find no damp, sweaty patches where my hat is pressed against my head by the headband.
Another step forward for comfort is the gel-filled ear pads. These are by far the most comfortable muffs I’ve worn in terms of not causing pain from sunglass earpiece pressure or excessive pressure anywhere. While the super-cushy ear covers are comforting, the slick vinyl cover does cause sweating. But the trade-off is worth it.
Two AAA batteries are included to run the volume-adjustable, multi-directional mic/amplifying system. It works well, and although gale-force winds still inspire me to turn the electronics off entirely, it does a decent job of abating wind noise while amplifying voices.
There’s an audio input jack too, if you want to listen to music or podcasts while doing your thing. Unlike earlier versions of the Razor muffs, the rubber cover of this jack stays in place.
The Razor Digital X-TRM’s noise reduction rating is 21 decibels. It’s sold in black or light gray and- retails for $99.99.
Walker’s XCEL 100 Digital Electronic Muffs
The XCEL line represents an engineering adaptation away from traditional muff design. It places the electronic controls and microphones on the headband rather than the ears. However, it is still slightly thicker than the Razor in profile.
Like the X-TRM, the XCELL runs on two AAA batteries which are included. It adds a low battery warning, a nice feature. Both have auto-shutoff functions, which is great for this user who leaves the range exhausted most of the time.
These muffs are some of the best on the market for hearing protection, with a 26 db noise reduction rating. They’re also the most specialized I’ve found in terms of what you do hear. They allow the user to choose from a universal safe-sound amplification setting, or others that amplify voices, steel targets ringing in the distance, or “power boost” setting for super-amplification.
It takes a little practice to memorize which control is which on the headband, and operate it while wearing. But the volume controls are large and intuitive.
Unfortunately, I’ve found these muffs to be very tight on my head and though they perform really well for both hearing protection and amplification of sounds I need to hear, the headache-making pressure is very painful, especially over glasses. I’ve put these muffs on the shelf for short-term long range testing when the high-frequency feature is really useful and I’m likely to not wear glasses in order to avoid lens distortion.
Retail price of these very nice, but for me, limited-use muffs is $99. 99.
Walker’s Passive Neckband with Retractable Plugs
It may be unexpected news to learn that foam earplugs offer superior noise reduction (31 decibels in this case) than muffs. With Walker’s Passive Neckband, you don’t have to choose between comfort and hearing protection.
This intelligently designed plastic neckband sets comfortably around the neck. Retractable plugs, on strings, protrude slightly from each end of the band. There are three sizes of plugs included.
It was love at first wear with these. First, I can also protect my face from sun while wearing them, as it’s possible to wear a brimmed hat at the same time. The band keeps the plugs always at the ready, a great improvement over digging for them in my pocket—a dirty prospect while doing lawn/farm work and a time-consuming one when teaching on the range.
The only time I’ve found this device hard to wear is when running a carbine; the sling and band interfere with each other. They’ve become my favorite for sunny days when I can wear a fully brimmed hat and protect my skin as well as my hearing. For $24.99, they represent a great way to outfit the whole family with quality ear protection that works for almost every activity.
With all these choices, Walker’s has “earpro” for anyone’s work or recreation—did I mention there are kids’ sizes too? Check them out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eve Flanigan is a defensive shooting and lifestyle student, practitioner, and instructor based in the American Southwest. Flanigan holds numerous NRA Instructor certifications and is licensed to instruct New Mexico’s intensive Concealed Carry course. She regularly designs, conducts, and co-teaches classes on concealed carry, introduction to pistol, defensive pistol, basic rifle, last-ditch medical, and use of force for civilian students. Flanigan enjoys competing in run-and-gun biathlons that include carbine and pistol.