Hearing safe hunting

gvjm

gvjm

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I’m thinking about getting a suppressor for my 300 Hamr for hog hunting. All my exhaustive research has come to halt! I went into one of the largest suppressor dealers in my area, who sold me a suppressor for my 45, and they broke my heart. I was told that with the exception of 22 LR all supersonic ammo due to the “crack “ is likely not hearing safe! While a once in a while shot in the field should present no special problem with a caliber like mine, a high volume episode such as going after a sounder of hog could. Over time the accumulation would definitely not be hearing safe. I quote “ save what you have, always shoot supersonic with ear protection”. They pointed me to some OSHA charts and some audiologist reports on the subject. I know plenty of guys who don’t buy this but this is a reputable company who just talked themselves out of a sale. I know from prairie dog hunting with 223s that while the guys I shoot with are suppressed they still wear ear protection. It’s too high volume to take the risk. They pointed out that bolt guns are more tolerable but semi autos with their blowback through the breech are the worst in this area. With what I was told if I have to wear ear protection, why bother?
 
FEENIX

FEENIX

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I’m thinking about getting a suppressor for my 300 Hamr for hog hunting. All my exhaustive research has come to halt! I went into one of the largest suppressor dealers in my area, who sold me a suppressor for my 45, and they broke my heart. I was told that with the exception of 22 LR all supersonic ammo due to the “crack “ is likely not hearing safe! While a once in a while shot in the field should present no special problem with a caliber like mine, a high volume episode such as going after a sounder of hog could. Over time the accumulation would definitely not be hearing safe. I quote “ save what you have, always shoot supersonic with ear protection”. They pointed me to some OSHA charts and some audiologist reports on the subject. I know plenty of guys who don’t buy this but this is a reputable company who just talked themselves out of a sale. I know from prairie dog hunting with 223s that while the guys I shoot with are suppressed they still wear ear protection. It’s too high volume to take the risk. They pointed out that bolt guns are more tolerable but semi autos with their blowback through the breech are the worst in this area. With what I was told if I have to wear ear protection, why bother?
I do the same.
 
codyadams

codyadams

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Southwest Wyoming
It's a fair argument, mainly in a semi auto, you can't really have it 100% hearing safe unless subsonic, it will always be a few dB over. In a bolt gun, you absolutely can get them hearing safe at the shooters ear, the threshold is 140 dB, for the time frame a gun shot lasts. The better/larger cans will get even large magnums in the mid 130's total dB level. Even then though, I generally wear ear protection at the range when shooting more than a time or two, just to be safe.

However, in my opinion the benefit is not just for me, the shooter. If your shooting a sounder of hogs, or at a pair of coyotes, or anything like that, it will be much, much quieter for the animals than an unsuppressed rifle. This can give more shooting opportunities at that specific group, and will also be far less likely to disturb other animals in the area. If you want to go shoot pigs on some private land, but it's deer season, a landowner would likely be happier if you weren't cracking off 6 or 8 rifle rounds, possibly scaring deer off their property, and will be more likely to give you permission. Same benefit applies with your own land.

A good example of this was my deer season this year, here in Wyoming. We had watched a group of deer go into this patch of pines that had a few shooter bucks. We spotted a few of them bedded in the trees about 350 yards away, but couldn't get a good look at him. Another one came out of the trees that was a shooter deer, so my cousin, shooting a supressed rifle, shot her deer first. The others saw the deer react, but didn't bust out of the country. A couple didn't even get up, but the one I was watching did. This gave me a good opportunity to spend a couple minutes evaluating him, and ultimately decided to take him. He slowly walked out of the thicket, still calm but confused, and gave me an opportunity for a clear shot. We both harvested 150"+ deer from the same group. After I shot my deer with a muzzle braked rifle, they busted out, and left the country, never stopping until after they cleared a far Ridgeline. Shooting a bolt gun is easier, for hunting when generally only 1 round is fired, we don't use ear protection, and it makes shooter-spotter communication much more effective.

That is my reasoning for a supressor.
 
gvjm

gvjm

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Messages
131
It's a fair argument, mainly in a semi auto, you can't really have it 100% hearing safe unless subsonic, it will always be a few dB over. In a bolt gun, you absolutely can get them hearing safe at the shooters ear, the threshold is 140 dB, for the time frame a gun shot lasts. The better/larger cans will get even large magnums in the mid 130's total dB level. Even then though, I generally wear ear protection at the range when shooting more than a time or two, just to be safe.

However, in my opinion the benefit is not just for me, the shooter. If your shooting a sounder of hogs, or at a pair of coyotes, or anything like that, it will be much, much quieter for the animals than an unsuppressed rifle. This can give more shooting opportunities at that specific group, and will also be far less likely to disturb other animals in the area. If you want to go shoot pigs on some private land, but it's deer season, a landowner would likely be happier if you weren't cracking off 6 or 8 rifle rounds, possibly scaring deer off their property, and will be more likely to give you permission. Same benefit applies with your own land.

A good example of this was my deer season this year, here in Wyoming. We had watched a group of deer go into this patch of pines that had a few shooter bucks. We spotted a few of them bedded in the trees about 350 yards away, but couldn't get a good look at him. Another one came out of the trees that was a shooter deer, so my cousin, shooting a supressed rifle, shot her deer first. The others saw the deer react, but didn't bust out of the country. A couple didn't even get up, but the one I was watching did. This gave me a good opportunity to spend a couple minutes evaluating him, and ultimately decided to take him. He slowly walked out of the thicket, still calm but confused, and gave me an opportunity for a clear shot. We both harvested 150"+ deer from the same group. After I shot my deer with a muzzle braked rifle, they busted out, and left the country, never stopping until after they cleared a far Ridgeline. Shooting a bolt gun is easier, for hunting when generally only 1 round is fired, we don't use ear protection, and it makes shooter-spotter communication much more effective.

That is my reasoning for a supressor.
I’ve heard that opinion several times before. I have to respectfully disagree. A few years ago on a hog hunt I got a shot off on a big boar. U fortunately I had to shoot through a fence line and the bullet deflected. I hit the boar in the head but just a glancing blow. After about 30 seconds of disorientation the boar bolted perpendicular to my at about 120 yards. I put a lead on him and fired. To my surprise he turned straight for me! And I was using a front forwarding linear brake forcing all the sound and report forward. As I continued to fire at him he made it to the brush. We found him dead about 50 yards into the brush. The deflected head shot and a the hit behind the ribs were what we found. There’s also a video on YouTube that shows that the impact sound that is heard by game at distance is right at 138 db well before the rifle report is within hearing. I don’t know what’s going on the mind of game when a “thud” that loud occurs in their immediate vicinity. I think it’s hard to be definitive about how those kinds of sounds effect them.
 
codyadams

codyadams

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Southwest Wyoming
After shooting around 25ish pronghorn, deer and elk using suppressed rifles and braked rifles, side by side many times from 200 yards to over 1000, it certainly does make a difference, at least on them, they have a much more mild response without a doubt. I will say, past about 600ish yards, the difference between supressed and braked rifles is far less noticeable, if any different at all. I can't comment on how hogs react as there aren't any in Wyoming lol, I was guessing it would be similar, but likely may be wrong....
 
QuietTexan

QuietTexan

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Fort Worth, Texas
In a bolt gun, you absolutely can get them hearing safe at the shooters ear, the threshold is 140 dB,
100% true. AR-style direct inpginment actions suffer from the gas tube ending a few inches from your face and can be impossible to suppress to a hearing safe level because of the gas discharge. Bolt actions can be made hearing safe - it's a function of distance. Sound works based on the inverse square law, meaning that each doubling of distance will reduce amplitude by more than half. MIL-STD-1474E is based on readings taken 60" perpendicular to end of bore, and 64.5" behind end of bore. If you take 150dB as a standard non-braked end of bore reading based on a 60" perpendicular reading , then the notional corresponding 60" behind end of bore reading would be the same. A suppressor only has to make a 10dB reduction to be hearing safe from 60" behind the end of the bore. Meaning any suppressor that reduces sound to 140dB or less in the side position will effectively be hearing safe from the shooter's position. That doesn't account for the many reasons why shooter's ear readings are consistently lower than perpendicular readings - there can be a 6-9dB decrease at shooter's ear over the side mic position based on the ejecta pattern and how sound propagates to the rear, which is why many "MIL-SPEC" (note - not actual MIL-STD) advertising numbers on cans will claim sub-140dB ratings without specifying the exact test parameters. They take the side versus ear variance and apply it to their side-taken rating without mentioning things like gas ejection from an AR.

Temporary threshold shifts in hearing can occur below the 140dB "immediate damage" threshold to the point that many people (myself included) will wear hearing protection in situations there the shooter's ear reading does not exceed 140dB. There are anatomical and phycological reasons behind it, but the ear and brain can literally ignore/shut down hearing in certain frequency ranges during continual exposure. As gun shots tend to have high frequency ranges then it's logical that difficulty with hearing in vocal ranges of sound can follow repeated exposure to suppressed gun shot noise. Basically even though your hearing isn't permanently damaged, it's easier to hear someone talk to you right after you pull off ear protectors versus right after being continually hit with high frequency range noise of suppressed shots.

The people who told you about cumulative hearing damage are correct, but I think that ignores the consideration that if you're shooting below 140dB shooting more doesn't really matter. If you're over, then yes it does. If your muzzle is two feet past the end of a slit window in a blind, not all of the sound is making it's way back to you, so you could marginally suppress a series of shots and ultimately be fine. You could also shoot something at exactly 140dB under a metal cover and leave your ears ringing. There are too many factors to conclusively say whether or not ALL situations are safe, you have to look at the factors of what you're going to be doing.

Sound is also a factor in perceived recoil. Wear double ear pro and shoot a suppressor sometime, because of the reduced concussion you will almost certainly perceive a reduction in recoil. It's crazy, but it's true.

TL;DR - you can get a bolt action rifle to sub-140dB at shooter's ear. If you're shooting near or under a cover or reflecting surface that can change based on your position relative to those surfaces. Wearing ear pro while shooting a suppressor is advisable for a number of reasons, the least of which is unless you have a sound pressure meter you can't be certain so why be dumb? But if the alternative is no ear pro (aka old school hunting) then a suppressor will never be worse than nothing.

(This is partially where I came from - a couple hunting shots a year won't make me any deafer than I already am fast enough to notice, but a suppressor really cuts down on the time my ears spending ringing after).

There’s also a video on YouTube that shows that the impact sound that is heard by game at distance is right at 138 db well before the rifle report is within hearing.
Impact sound is a very different concept than muzzle signature suppression. Animals will 100% hear and respond to bullet impacts - both solid meat hits, and the much worse ZZZZZZzzzzzzz of a bullet whizzing off after impacting/skipping from a hard target after a miss. Animals can be confused by the non-directionality of the suppressed muzzle sound of a clean miss or when shooting at various dispersed groups in a single field, but there's no reality behind shooting one animal and the one standing next to it is oblivious. The impact sound itself will propagate from where the bullet hit the animal, and will be loud enough to potentially startle any animal with a few dozen feet. Like when you smooch at a deer from inside a blind to make them lift their head - it's not so loud they immediately bolt but it's abnormal enough they pay attention to it. (That said, I shot two Whitetail thirty-ish minutes apart last year because one dude stood there while we were laughing and joking and gutting his friend - stupid is as stupid does 🤣 He definitely heard us though.)

An odd situation is you can get to a point where the at-the-speed-of-sound muzzle signature catches up to then passes a bullet that goes trans- and then ultimately sub-sonic. A 5.56/.223 Rem will somewhere just short of one mile get to the point where at the impact site you'll hear the muzzle pop immediately before impact. A suppressor diffuses that muzzle signature, which is what I mean when I say it causes directional confusion- animals hear reflected sound waves, but from too many sources to locate the origin point. And the reflected frequencies will be higher because those frequencies propagate better, so the bullet passing might not sound like something they've been exposed to and would recognize to bolt away from. The crack is essentially continual as it passes objects, so the higher frequency "crack" will reverberate and echo around and obfuscate the point of origin.
(The best part of this video is when you hear the guy yell "HIT" because he's so pumped the guy made a 1500 yard impact with a .223 👍 )


This doesn't even broach the subject of brakes, and why no one should ever be within 10 feet of a brake without doubled up ear-pro and eye pro. A suppressor won't instantly shred someone's ear drum like a brake can - if your bench is too close to someone and they're on line with your baffle angle then the sound pressure they're exposed to can be amplified several more loudness levels - including to the point that even double ear pro won't keep them below the threshold for hearing damage. Distance is the only way to be sure about sound pressure levels.

(There's a whole side bar here about ear pro ratings and why anything electronic probably isn't even safe to wear when shooting, much less when being around people shooting, and how ear plugs for double ear-pro don't protect nearly as well as you'd think from paper ratings.)

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with brakes, but I do view the "wear ear pro with supersonics" statement that you heard from the shop as being on the same level as "wear eye pro with brakes". You have just as many eyes as ears. And you're about as likely to be damaged from supersonics from a can as you are from shrapnel from a brake. Basically if you're dumb, it'll happen. If you aren't, take appropriate steps and you'll be safe.
 
Last edited:
gvjm

gvjm

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Joined
Aug 3, 2012
Messages
131
100% true. AR-style direct inpginment actions suffer from the gas tube ending a few inches from your face and can be impossible to suppress to a hearing safe level because of the gas discharge. Bolt actions can be made hearing safe - it's a function of distance. Sound works based on the inverse square law, meaning that each doubling of distance will reduce amplitude by more than half. MIL-STD-1474E is based on readings taken 60" perpendicular to end of bore, and 64.5" behind end of bore. If you take 150dB as a standard non-braked end of bore reading based on a 60" perpendicular reading , then the notional corresponding 60" behind end of bore reading would be the same. A suppressor only has to make a 10dB reduction to be hearing safe from 60" behind the end of the bore. Meaning any suppressor that reduces sound to 140dB or less in the side position will effectively be hearing safe from the shooter's position. That doesn't account for the many reasons why shooter's ear readings are consistently lower than perpendicular readings - there can be a 6-9dB decrease at shooter's ear over the side mic position based on the ejecta pattern and how sound propagates to the rear, which is why many "MIL-SPEC" (note - not actual MIL-STD) advertising numbers on cans will claim sub-140dB ratings without specifying the exact test parameters. They take the side versus ear variance and apply it to their side-taken rating without mentioning things like gas ejection from an AR.

Temporary threshold shifts in hearing can occur below the 140dB "immediate damage" threshold to the point that many people (myself included) will wear hearing protection in situations there the shooter's ear reading does not exceed 140dB. There are anatomical and phycological reasons behind it, but the ear and brain can literally ignore/shut down hearing in certain frequency ranges during continual exposure. As gun shots tend to have high frequency ranges then it's logical that difficulty with hearing in vocal ranges of sound can follow repeated exposure to suppressed gun shot noise. Basically even though your hearing isn't permanently damaged, it's easier to hear someone talk to you right after you pull off ear protectors versus right after being continually hit with high frequency range noise of suppressed shots.

The people who told you about cumulative hearing damage are correct, but I think that ignores the consideration that if you're shooting below 140dB shooting more doesn't really matter. If you're over, then yes it does. If your muzzle is two feet past the end of a slit window in a blind, not all of the sound is making it's way back to you, so you could marginally suppress a series of shots and ultimately be fine. You could also shoot something at exactly 140dB under a metal cover and leave your ears ringing. There are too many factors to conclusively say whether or not ALL situations are safe, you have to look at the factors of what you're going to be doing.

Sound is also a factor in perceived recoil. Wear double ear pro and shoot a suppressor sometime, because of the reduced concussion you will almost certainly perceive a reduction in recoil. It's crazy, but it's true.

TL;DR - you can get a bolt action rifle to sub-140dB at shooter's ear. If you're shooting near or under a cover or reflecting surface that can change based on your position relative to those surfaces. Wearing ear pro while shooting a suppressor is advisable for a number of reasons, the least of which is unless you have a sound pressure meter you can't be certain so why be dumb? But if the alternative is no ear pro (aka old school hunting) then a suppressor will never be worse than nothing.

(This is partially where I came from - a couple hunting shots a year won't make me any deafer than I already am fast enough to notice, but a suppressor really cuts down on the time my ears spending ringing after).


Impact sound is a very different concept than muzzle signature suppression. Animals will 100% hear and respond to bullet impacts - both solid meat hits, and the much worse ZZZZZZzzzzzzz of a bullet whizzing off after impacting/skipping from a hard target after a miss. Animals can be confused by the non-directionality of the suppressed muzzle sound of a clean miss or when shooting at various dispersed groups in a single field, but there's no reality behind shooting one animal and the one standing next to it is oblivious. The impact sound itself will propagate from where the bullet hit the animal, and will be loud enough to potentially startle any animal with a few dozen feet. Like when you smooch at a deer from inside a blind to make them lift their head - it's not so loud they immediately bolt but it's abnormal enough they pay attention to it. (That said, I shot two Whitetail thirty-ish minutes apart last year because one dude stood there while we were laughing and joking and gutting his friend - stupid is as stupid does 🤣 He definitely heard us though.)

An odd situation is you can get to a point where the at-the-speed-of-sound muzzle signature catches up to then passes a bullet that goes trans- and then ultimately sub-sonic. A 5.56/.223 Rem will somewhere just short of one mile get to the point where at the impact site you'll hear the muzzle pop immediately before impact. A suppressor diffuses that muzzle signature, which is what I mean when I say it causes directional confusion- animals hear reflected sound waves, but from too many sources to locate the origin point. And the reflected frequencies will be higher because those frequencies propagate better, so the bullet passing might not sound like something they've been exposed to and would recognize to bolt away from. The crack is essentially continual as it passes objects, so the higher frequency "crack" will reverberate and echo around and obfuscate the point of origin.
(The best part of this video is when you hear the guy yell "HIT" because he's so pumped the guy made a 1500 yard impact with a .223 👍 )


This doesn't even broach the subject of brakes, and why no one should ever be within 10 feet of a brake without doubled up ear-pro and eye pro. A suppressor won't instantly shred someone's ear drum like a brake can - if your bench is too close to someone and they're on line with your baffle angle then the sound pressure they're exposed to can be amplified several more loudness levels - including to the point that even double ear pro won't keep them below the threshold for hearing damage. Distance is the only way to be sure about sound pressure levels.

(There's a whole side bar here about ear pro ratings and why anything electronic probably isn't even safe to wear when shooting, much less when being around people shooting, and how ear plugs for double ear-pro don't protect nearly as well as you'd think from paper ratings.)

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with brakes, but I do view the "wear ear pro with supersonics" statement that you heard from the shop as being on the same level as "wear eye pro with brakes". You have just as many eyes as ears. And you're about as likely to be damaged from supersonics from a can as you are from shrapnel from a brake. Basically if you're dumb, it'll happen. If you aren't, take appropriate steps and you'll be safe.

Great response! On the subject of brakes I have some experience there. The linear forwarding brake on my 300 Hamr is almost tolerable without ear protection (I made that mistake once) at least being behind it! I have had 2 brakes on 2 different 7 mag rifles. A JP tank brake and a Harrells Precision tunable brake. Both totally mitigated recoil and both are to loud to consider shooting without ear protection. But they handle percussion differently. In the end I will continue to use my Walker Razor electronic ear buds in the field as they have been completely satisfactory so far.
 
C

CMP70306

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Joined
Sep 12, 2011
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584
I’ve heard that opinion several times before. I have to respectfully disagree. A few years ago on a hog hunt I got a shot off on a big boar. U fortunately I had to shoot through a fence line and the bullet deflected. I hit the boar in the head but just a glancing blow. After about 30 seconds of disorientation the boar bolted perpendicular to my at about 120 yards. I put a lead on him and fired. To my surprise he turned straight for me! And I was using a front forwarding linear brake forcing all the sound and report forward. As I continued to fire at him he made it to the brush. We found him dead about 50 yards into the brush. The deflected head shot and a the hit behind the ribs were what we found. There’s also a video on YouTube that shows that the impact sound that is heard by game at distance is right at 138 db well before the rifle report is within hearing. I don’t know what’s going on the mind of game when a “thud” that loud occurs in their immediate vicinity. I think it’s hard to be definitive about how those kinds of sounds effect them.

I started using suppressors a few years ago with my Brother and Dad starting to use them last year and this year respectively. The general consensus is that the deer react significantly differently to a suppressed gun shot than they do to a regular rifle shot. I know I frequently have the other deer stand by after the shot and I could easily get a second or third animal if I should choose. My dad and brother also have observed the same when they hunted this year. It is nice not to have to wear hearing protection in the woods.

Outside of that I will typically wear hearing protection when shooting high volume or on my AR due to the action noise. On a bolt gun the sound of some cans will get down below 120db at the ear, below is a test data from Thunderbeast showing the numbers shooting a 6.5 Creedmoor. I personally shoot a Dead Air Nomad L on my rifles and just this weekend I shot my 6.5 PRC next to my brothers unsupressed .22 and was hard pressed to pick which was louder.
FDC6F48D F9B1 40EE A8FD AD8F9B8A88FC
 
QuietTexan

QuietTexan

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Messages
1,509
Location
Fort Worth, Texas
Great response! On the subject of brakes I have some experience there. The linear forwarding brake on my 300 Hamr is almost tolerable without ear protection (I made that mistake once) at least being behind it! I have had 2 brakes on 2 different 7 mag rifles. A JP tank brake and a Harrells Precision tunable brake. Both totally mitigated recoil and both are to loud to consider shooting without ear protection. But they handle percussion differently. In the end I will continue to use my Walker Razor electronic ear buds in the field as they have been completely satisfactory so far.
Some brake designs do really protect the shooter from the increase in noise, the problems come when someone is shooting next to a rifle with a brake - that's where people can unknowingly hurt themselves because they're in a focused zone where the sound is increased compared to a bare muzzle. In the field normal ear pro should be fine from the shooter's position.

Precision Armament has a good memo on splash back dangers with brakes - this is the comparison I made between suppressors and ear pro/ brakes and eye pro. IMO the risk is minimal, but if someone is going to tell you a suppressor requires ear pro, the flip side in my mind is a brake requires eye pro.
 

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