Rifles in the UK
Introduction
FIREARMS AND SAFETY
Hearing protection
How a rifle cartridge works
Recoil
Which rifle calibre?
Bullet types
Rimfire cartridges
Magazine loading
Barrels and barrel making
Reloading ammunition
Case trimming
Target marking
Deer stalking
Hearing Protection
After gun safety, hearing protection is THE most important safety aspect of shooting sports. If we look at the decibel scale of sound pressure, we see the following values:
0 dB:Silence or the 'threshold of hearing'.
20 dB:The sound in quiet countryside.
40 dB:The sound in an average living room.
60 dB:The sound of conversation between people.
80 dB:The sound of busy traffic.
100 dB:The sound of a pneumatic drill.
120 dB:This level is known as the threshold of discomfort.
140 dB:This level is known as the threshold of pain.
145 dB:The sound of a jet fighter taking off.
Decibels are ridiculously complicated to understand. I'll stick to decibels related to how humans perceive sound ie 'volume'. An increase of 3 dB is perceived as a doubling of volume whilst an increase of 10 dB is perceives as a 10x increase in volume. The dB scale is logarithmic so 20 dB is 10x louder than 10 dB whilst 30 dB is 100x louder and 40 dB is 1000x louder etc.
Amazingly, the noise of an un-moderated rifle shot is 150-170 dB! To put that in context, a 160 dB rifle shot is 100x louder than the threshold of pain. Of course this level of sound only lasts for around a millisecond but shooting without ear protection is GUARANTEED to lead to a reduction in your hearing ability; if you shoot alot, you can be left with very little hearing, very quickly, and hearing doesn't come back.
Hearing Protection Equipment:
Ear defendersThere are two types of what people generally call ear muffs*, passive and active. They both work by clamping a plastic cup full of floss or foam over each ear to reduce the sound going into the ear. The ones shown on the left are the basic passive type I use. They are the Peltor Optime 2 and cost me about 14 from the industrial safety supplier 'Arco'. You can buy shooting branded passives but they are often overpriced. The other type are called active and are similar but have a microphone on the outside of each ear cup that feeds a small speaker on the inside. The idea is that normal sound like wind and speech are fed through to the ears but electronic circuitry clamps the sound of gunfire to around 80 dB so it doesn't damage the ears. In a gun shop these can cost upto 150 but again are cheaper from industrial suppliers.

* Shooters tend to refer them simply as 'ears' as in, 'Bugger, I've forgotten my ears again!' For this reason, mine live in the glove box in my car...
The other type of hearing protection is often disposable and alot cheaper than ear muffs. Called ear plugs, they are made of expanded polyurethane foam. This is a very soft material and the plugs are simply rolled thinner and inserted into the ear canal. There, they expand and block the sound. They are available in packets of two but buying a multibox usually works out cheaper. Some varieties have two connected by a length of cord so if one falls out, it doesn't land on the ground necessitating replacement. There is a reusable variety of earplug made from silicone rubber that can be washed but these aren't so common.Ear plugs
Muzzle brakes:
If you shoot with a muzzle brake or next to someone using one, it is highly advisable to wear earplugs AND ear muffs. Muzzle brakes allow so much acoustic energy to reach the shooter that some people actually claim that no amount of hearing protection can protect you from eventual hearing loss.
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