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Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by Bigeclipse, Sep 6, 2017.
Yep, that's a one-and-done lesson right there.
Ok, I promise I mention this just for safety and not to nit pic or argue with anyone. I'm also reading this thread because I'm truly interested in the topic and have the same issues/concerns as others, since I now have several braked rifles. My concern is that if I understand JE Customs comments correctly about muzzle brakes technically not being any louder (only perceived so) that a person could infer they would risk no more damage to their hearing with a brake than without one. (btw...I don't know JE, I have no issue with him, and don't recall ever even reading any of his posts before, although I'm sure I have. As with everyone here, until proven different, I'll assume he's a 100% top-notch, super guy who's likely way smarter than me on many things. I just have a slight concern with what he said this one time in this one thread). First of all, JE prudently suggested everyone always wear hearing protection (he wasn't suggesting unprotected shooting ever), but if you are like me and haven't become disciplined enough to always use it while hunting, it seems you could potentially read his statement and think a braked rifle was really no harder on your ears. We can all maybe do some more research, but I just want to say "caution" before everyone reading this thread accepts that statement as gospel. He may be 100% right, however, the data I've looked at doesn't agree, and indeed shows brakes are significantly louder (sometimes more than 2x louder), both physically measured and in their actual ability to permanently damage your hearing. Another odd disconnect between JE's data and most elsewhere is he mentions readings in the range of 105-110 db, while most other sources show readings more at the 150-160db range near the shooter position (a massive difference that may have an explanation, but it doesn't seem obvious to me yet). I'm open minded, and here to learn, and he may be right, and I may have misunderstood, but for now, I'm skeptical...
These are by no means conclusive, but here are a few seemingly reputable sources that state brakes are significantly, measurably louder and more harmful to a shooter (not just perceived louder)
First, from precision rifle blog:
(follow link to full article and all the details)
Not saying Cal's (the author) equipment or method was any better than JE Custom, since I don't know the details of the latter, but they obviously aren't in agreement. I also know that for a very short-impulse, loud noise like a gunshot, you typically need more specialized equipment than just a basic $300-$500 decibel meter that most of us might grab/borrow. Cal mentions $10,000+ equipment being required...I don't know what JE used (again, not casting stones, just saying not all data points appear to agree on this, nor on db range observed).
#2: Older but very scientific source:
See chapter 9 where they discuss the physical human effects.
One quote from Ch 9, using the fairly mild M-16 as an example:
"The standard Ml6 rifle's peak pressure level is 154 dB at the right-handed gunner's left ear. A conventional muzzle-brake, although effective in the reduction of recoil impulse, increased the peak sound-pressure level (SPL) to over 160 dB."
Remember dB are logarithmic, so to most people that would sound approximately 50% louder, and it is a real, scientifically measured difference, that is more stressful on the ear.
#3 Last one for now (2012 Army Research Lab Research Paper):
from page 7: "Maximizing a weapon’s lethality requires increased interior guntube pressures, higher muzzle velocities, and more rearward-deflecting muzzle brakes—all of which cause increased sound pressure levels at the operators’ positions."
Again, not saying JE Custom isn't right, I'm just saying before I run out and shoot a braked gun unprotected while hunting like I have some of my unbraked ones for decades, it seems I might truly be risking hearing damage more than I think. Three quick articles isn't proof, however, I've just shown some of the examples that (at least for me) make me skeptical enough of muzzle brakes to believe they really may be worse for my ears and should be treated more cautiously than an unbraked gun. Obviously, as JE suggests, always having hearing protection in/on is the safest route with any gun, any time. However, until I get better habits and better equipment that I'm comfortable using while hunting, I'll probably continue to take the occasional unprotected hunting shot without a brake, but for now I'll at least try my best to not do that with a braked rifle. I'll, at a minimum, try to continue to take off the brake for hunting situations (re-zeroed), and hopefully I'll just force myself to purchase and use some of those high-tech electronic hearing protection products for all my hunting, which would obviously be even better. Just like tonight, I had an unexpected chance on a coyote driving home on my property, and the closest gun was a braked gun, without super-quick hearing protection handy (I wasn't hunting). Tempting shot to take, but it just reminded me, I at least need to get that brake off when not target shooting, and better yet, work harder at having something quick and simple handy for protection, especially since I have one of those "worse case"/noisiest brakes precision rifle blog mentions that is "supposedly" over twice as loud as not having the brake on. Your mileage may vary...
Your whole post should be irrelevant. All shooters need to be mature enough not to be "open minded" but to use electronic hearing protection when hunting just like they get in the car and put on a seat belt. Years before seat belts and motorcycle helmets became legally required I used both.
Back to the muzzle brakes discussion: One of my rifles is .375-.416 Rem Mag. It uses 98 grains of RL22 behind a 300 grain bullet. There is a brake on it with rearward facing ports. One time I decided to run a test. My brother and dad who are not hunters and my uncle who is a hunter happened to be at my house. We were under a canopy of oak trees. None of them had any idea what a brake is for. I asked them to tell me which shot is louder of two shots. Dad was about fifty feet behind me sitting in front of the garage with the door closed. Uncle was about half way to me and Brother was about ten feet to the side. I suggested he move, but he refused. I fired number one shot with the brake off and one with it on. The muzzle was pointing away from their direction. All three said the shot without the brake was louder. Subjective? Yep. Does it prove guns are okay to fire without hearing protection? Absolutely not!
My post is irrelevant, only if the original questions from Bigeclipse are irrelevant. If you think his whole post and line of questioning is flawed (which you seem to imply), then why even read the thread, let alone respond? I understand your point, if an unbraked rifle is loud enough with just one shot and no hearing protection, to permanently damage your hearing, and a braked rifle is at least as loud or worse, then who cares how much louder or worse it is, just always use hearing protection (simple answer). Nevertheless, that is your opinion and not was Bigeclipse was asking - he started the thread. He wanted to know, relative to an unbraked rifle, how much worse is a rifle with a brake and is it more likely to damage your hearing? Facts addressing those questions are what is relevant (at least to this thread; maybe not to you). That is what I was trying to answer, with facts the best I knew them, without preaching or judging. Of course, like I've already said, and nearly every person on this thread has said, always using protection is the safest, wisest approach - we all agree! However, that wasn't the primary point of the thread. For example, if you want to add something relevant, instead of opinion, why don't you share any facts and proof that just one or two unprotected hunting shots a year produce long-term, permanent hearing loss. You imply that you believe that and since you are a cautious guy, you always use protection, yet you offer no proof to substantiate that view. Worse, if someone doesn't agree with your unproven opinion, you imply they are immature and foolish. I assume Bigeclipse and his wife are adults and capable of forming their own opinions and they don't need our unsubstantiated preaching to help them. Let's share the facts we know, and let them make their own decision. If you think it is "irrelevant" to parse the differences between braked and unbraked rifles and hearing loss, move to the next thread. If you have facts that help prove when permanent hearing loss begins occurring and how bad it is for braked vs. unbraked, then please offer them - that is what is most relevant to this thread. Unsubstantiated opinions and judgements aren't so relevant or helpful.
By the way, I'd argue that 90+% of all big game shots in the West each year still occur without the shooter wearing electronic hearing protection (based on what I see and hear talking to hunters). I'm not saying that is wise, but it does show that most hunters aren't as cautious as you and either think there really isn't permanent hearing loss from that occasional shot, or they aren't worried by it since it seems to be small. In any case, those 90% (thousand of them) of "immature" hunters out there may be interested to learn if their braked rifle is twice as loud and twice as likely to damage their hearing (if that is true). It is an interesting topic to investigate, and compare facts on, and maybe we can all grow wiser by sharing facts and data (not necessarily opinions). If parsing the difference between braked and unbraked is immature and irrelevant to you, then please move on. Otherwise, give us some facts and proof, so we can all make an informed decision on the topic (vs. being preached at with no facts).
There's no need to argue, guys
All rifles should be shot with hearing protection. I've shot a lot of rifles without protection and regret it, but will still do it(I'm being realistic)
I have never shot a braked rifle without protection nor will I ever. I have large tactical style brakes with horizontal ports, the concussion of air feels like a slap in the face. I don't want to know what does to unprotected ears. I'll put it this way: shooting with ear protection is a common sense 'rule' shooting braked rifles with ear protection is a 'law' that should never be broken
I was not in any way, in my ignorance, trying to start a pissing contest here. It sure appears I owe you an apology. I don't remember the original poster asking for scientific proof of facts. It seemed as though he was asking for opinion. It seems you are accusing me and then doing the same thing.
Let me give you an example:
"For example, if you want to add something relevant, instead of opinion, why don't you share any facts"
I did share the "fact" that all three un-prejudice men had the same impression of a braked and unbraked rifle.
"and proof that just one or two unprotected hunting shots a year produce long-term, permanent hearing loss. You imply that you believe that"
You appear to be reading something into what I posted.
"If you have facts that help prove when permanent hearing loss begins occurring and how bad it is for braked vs. unbraked, then please offer them - that is what is most relevant to this thread."
This is what you got from the origian post. I didn't. And some of the other posted didn't seem to get that either.
"In any case, those 90% (thousand of them) of "immature" hunters out there may be interested to learn if their braked rifle is twice as loud and twice as likely to damage their hearing (if that is true)."
This is more of you adding to my words. Many of them may not know about electronic hearing protection. If so they are merely ignorant and not immature. Those who do and think they don't need it are demonstrating their immaturity. Young people are ten feet tall and bullet proof. Adults should demonstrate themselves to be good examples for young people. I'm sorry if I offended you with my previous post or this response. I hope this is the worst thing that happens to both of us rest of the year.
I concur 100%. Rule vs. law is good in my book too. I agree. I was just concerned when some posts implied brakes weren't any worse for your ears which was 100% opposite of data I'd seen. I like your summary, try not to without a brake, never do it with one - based on the science I've seen, and hunting in the real world. I have the same approach and opinion.
First Thanks for a very good post and keeping it a good debate not an argument. I don't claim to be an expert on muzzle brakes I just have a lot of experience with them and the test we performed proved many of my beliefs were false also.
The DB meter was not a $10,000 dollar instrument But it gave very consistent readings and even though the numbers may not be exact, they were consistent and repeatable so I believe the difference from one test to the next.
We also repeated firing weapons with the same configuration (braked or not braked)and ammo and the readings were the same each time.
As stated earlier, the braked rifles were more consistent, In fact they were exactly the same every time.
Moving the DB meter from beside the shooters head (We wanted to measure what DB the shooter was receiving) to directly behind him changed the readings. they were consistently slightly less. so location is very important.
We even experimented with different port angles to see if there was a way to make a brake quieter. again, the DB meter did not pick up any difference, but the perceived sound (What we heard) change dramatically.
So our conclusion was that The perceived sound was immeasurable and varied depending on the shooters or bystanders position. and sound levels (DB) remained fairly constant and measurable. So we applied all of the information we had and developed a 50 BMG brake that could be shot with only standard ear plugs And with the standard brake, ear plugs "And" ear muffs were a necessity if you wanted to shoot the big 50 very many times without injuring your ears and sinuses. It is not uncommon for the 50 to damage the sinuses to the point where they will bleed after 20 to 30 shots without hearing protection. Just a side note: Don't try to shoot the 50 bmg with ear plugs only if you don't have a good brake because they will leave your head a Mach 2 and a good trajectory the first time you fire because of the pressure wave hitting/entering your sinuses and blowing them out of your ears. (That cant be good and besides it hurts).
Scientific or not, that is what out test showed and I still recommend ear protection any time you fire a weapon regardless weather it is braked or not because both will damage your ears.
Just more comments.
J E CUSTOM
No worries Rich. This is why I seldom dive into these these...I read and move one normally (which is why I have 78 posts in 10+ years vs. you and JE Custom having 2000+ and 7000+ respectively probably - I'm happy with my life and don't care to argue "whose is bigger" most of the time. You guys are braver or bigger gluttons for punishment than I probably). If you'd just stated your post without attaching it to me, saying all the science and facts I tried presenting were irrelevant, I wouldn't have cared. I was honestly just trying to add some science (by wiser people than me) to the conversation. I honestly would like to know if muzzle brakes are worse and by how much, because like Calhunter, I'm sure I'll occasionally still shoot a bull at 60 yards without protection like I did 2 years ago. I know it isn't smart, but, at least for my current real-world that seems like the most reasonable answer, occasionally, but if I know undoubtedly that a brake will totally permanently ruin my hearing then I'll do my best to let it never happen (I'll just make sure to not hunt with it on).
I apologize, I've been a professional scientist for 30 years (in the AF and Gov/Corp. life), so "facts" of 3 guys impressions of something is an interesting amateur anecdote (at least to me). No offense, but we could get 100 different post with 100 different opinions/anecdotes. Sadly (to me) I've worked in research labs and around researchers enough to know that there are 20-30 folks out there in the US, for almost any topic, including this, that spend their entire scientific lives studying this. They spend millions of dollars, researching it for years on end. They eat-drink-and-sleep it. They all know each other, and see each at all conferences. They are mega-nerds, with mega-expensive equipment, and they don't guess, they know. I'd rather have 2-3 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, which don't get published if they are flawed, than 100 random opinions and anecdotes (but that's me). For example, remember those truck-bed nets that you could buy to replace your tailgate to lessen wind-resistance and improve gas mileage (I bought one). It made sense and seemed logical, but actual science in a wind-tunnel showed that the solid tailgate was actually more fuel efficient and caused less drag (contrary to uneducated logic). Tailgates basically formed a bubble of stationary air in the bed, that all other air going over bounced off of, but letting that bubble escape by using a net or putting the tailgate down, actually made gas mileage worse (more drag). My point: that may not make sense to a lay-person, but if it's true, it's true. Nevertheless, I'm sure I could still find 1000s of people today that would swear it saves them gas. So, I'd rather have 2 high-quality scientific studies than 100 opinions - but that's just me. Makes sense to start with the best facts and then add our opinions and values on that, vs everyone randomly hypothesizing.
I agree, if this is the worst of our week, life is good. I'll do my best to go crawl back under my rock. I enjoy good debate and conversation. I think it just needs to be based on reliable, repeatable scientific facts and not just be opinion, personal or judgmental if possible, which I don't always pull off. No worries. Sorry if I came across coarse - not my intent. My wife tells me I'm just too logical and scientific for my own good sometimes but I'm also a country bumpkin and live in elk country, and any breakfast in our no-stoplight town is filled with talk of hunting, by life-long hunters and guides. Life is good. Have a great one.
JE, no worries. I agree, debate is good - so I appreciate the kind, well-thought-out response. I 100% believe you reported exactly what you observed. The sources I cited actually agree with your observations for most situations. I read one more that I didn't post that also agrees that they are basically the same loudness to the side (which seems a bit surprising to what I would have thought). I guess, enough of the normal noise cone reaches your ear to the side, to be about equal with that of a brake. So you and the science I read agree there.
The place they differed was going 180 degrees opposite the muzzle blast, back where the shooter is. That is when other studies showed a separation between braked barrels vs. unbraked barrels. Unbraked barrels sent as much noise to the side, but at some point that tapered off as you moved the sensor toward the shooter, but muzzle brake noise didn't. At the shooter, muzzle brakes were 6-15 db louder, and that is with at least 3 good research sources that agree. I don't doubt your meter said there wasn't a difference, but (please don't take offense), just because an instrument is consistent, doesn't mean it's consistently good. (McDonald's burgers are consistent, but... ) Just conjecture, but the reason your data may not agree with what else is out there is your Db meter, although consistent, was not be of the quality needed to accurately measure super-short, high-intensity gunshot noise. (Most are made for measuring the longer duration, steady noise in a gymnasium, or mechanical room/factory floor for OSHA safety). It is also possible, the other research is wrong or flawed, and yours is better - we don't know. But being outnumbered by some good studies, as a scientist, I'd start by renting an expensive, high-end sound meter, get some good training on it's use, and see if you got the same results. Then, if you did, you could eliminate that variable.
I'm all for the research, which you've been trying to do. I look at that precision rifle blog and I purchased one of those OPS muzzle brakes 10+ years ago (much to my gunsmith's dismay), because I bought the marketing, and to my laymen's mind, it made sense it would really help with recoil. Testing data now shows it is one of the worst, less-effective muzzle brakes ever made. Glad I have that data now and realize my "brilliant" purchase wasn't nearly as brilliant as I thought. I'm learning every day.
I am not here to say which is louder then the other. I am 50 years old and between shooting and 30 years as a firefighter I have less then 30% hearing in my right ear and 50% hearing in my left. Of course I am a day late and a dollar short when it comes to wearing hearing protection. Now I wear it religiously. It is a hard habit to get into but when you are talking to your family or friends and you don't have a clue what they are saying it is a wake up call. So take it from me. it doesn't that long to put a pair on before pulling the trigger.
I've always wore hearing protection on the range, for the last twenty years I've wore hearing protection every time I load a weapon.
Opening day for doves this year I tried Walker's Digital Earbuds. I recommend them, they protect your hearing, you can hear hunter's private conversations from across the field, it'll Bluetooth to my cell phone, and they don't interfere with the gun mount or swing.
But I do need lots of time on the skeet field!
Someone brought up recoil. I made a free recoil slide. After testing brakes of different designs and port angles and even bullet weights I can conclusively state even if the angles on your brake are forward facing they reduce free recoil travel. The best are reward facing ports. Also just switching to lighter bullets makes a significant difference.