An essential piece of shooting gear every shooter has in their bag is some form of hearing protection. There are many kinds at many price levels. The Howard Leight Impact Sport hearing protection muffs would fall into what I would consider the middle ground of hearing protection. Entry level stuff is your disposable plugs and $10 dollar muffs from large retail outlets. When you get up into the $50.00+ range you start to get more features for your money. In the case of the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs you get both a nice set of passive protection muffs as well as an active sound amplification and filtering system. These muffs will amplify ambient sounds so you can still have a conversation with your shooting buddy without having to yell. At the same time they shut the sound boosting feature off when the ambient noise level reaches a certain level preserving your hearing during active shooting.
The construction of the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs is quite good. In fact, they feel better put together than other offerings around the same price point, and even slightly higher price points. The muff enclosures are plastic but it feels pretty stout anyway. The muffs themselves are about as comfortable on the ears as other offerings. The strap between the muffs is thick and padded and quite comfortable. I believe one of the best features here is the strap doesn’t generate excessive tension between the muffs. That squeezing sensation can generate headaches very easily with extended use. Anybody that has ever had a gas mask on with the straps tighter than they need to be knows how that works. There’s a sweet spot when it comes to anything holding itself to your head and I’ve not found any issues with the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs. The volume dial, of which there is only one, has a rubberized texture which is nice and adds an element of quality to the unit.
Having just mentioned the volume dial I’m going to go back to it. I like having just the one dial to adjust volume for both ears. Other manufacturers have electronic muffs on the market where each ear is individually adjustable. I find this more annoying than useful because it takes a lot of fidgeting to get both ears at the same level. The dial itself has a good feel to it. There is some resistance to turning in either direction so it doesn’t freely spin like a plastic knob. It also has a nice audible and tactile click when turned to off or from off to on. I also like that it only uses two AAA batteries. It is set to shut off on noise above 82dB and the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs are rated to reduce noise down 22dB from the ambient level. There is a single battery compartment to contend with and it has an externally accessible cover that can be removed without say, removing the ear cups and foam like another brand. Another great little bonus feature is an external audio input port. Maybe you want to listen to music or maybe you have a radio and you want to tie the audio into your hearing protection. The Howard Leight Impact Sport hearing protection muffs come with an audio cable that plugs into this jack so all you need is a device to plug in and you are rolling.
The durability of the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs has never really been a concern for me. These have held up just fine thus far and since they are typically on my head, they don’t tend to get banged around a lot. For that reason I’m not sure durability is a huge concern with hearing protection since if that gets hit hard enough to break it during use chances are you have bigger issues to worry about in the moment. However, nobody wants to buy something and have it break on them or stop working. I’ve not had any issues at all with the electronics in this unit and the general construction feels more than adequate for holding up to casual and even competitive shooting use. Like anything else if you are planning to use them in a duty capacity, be it Military or Law Enforcement, you may want to spend some extra cash and max out features and durability. Another thing I need to mention with the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs is the automatic shut off feature that kicks in after 4 hours. Guys, that is a huge bonus. I have other electronic muffs and if you forget to shut them off or get distracted while putting them away, and its easy to do, you get a rather unpleasant surprise the next time you go shooting and want to use the audio capabilities of muffs.
At a mere $56.00 dollars USD I would have to call these muffs a bargain. We plan on reviewing some higher end stuff here in the future but you will be hard pressed to beat the features and the quality of the Howard Leight Impact Sport hearing protection muffs for the same money. In fact, there are a few popular options out there that don’t measure up to the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs that command a higher price from your major retailers. Go figure that one out.
As far as overall performance I’m pretty impressed with the features packed into this little device at this price point. It does a good job of boosting ambient noise and immediately cuts out when louder noise levels present themselves. I typically double plug at the range anyway so the ambient noise boosting capability is welcomed if I happen to be talking to other shooters. The Howard Leight Impact Sport hearing protection muffs do a good job of allowing me to hear conversation past the Howard Leight’s own passive noise dampening and makes it loud enough to hear and understand without removing the plugs from my hears beneath the muffs.