Charles G. was an electrical engineer for the National Security Agency during the Cold War.
In the late 1970s, American spies in the Soviet Union were being arrested at an alarming rate, which was a huge concern for U.S. intelligence.
But the U.S. couldn’t figure out how the spies were being identified.
One day, U.S. officials discovered a fake chimney space at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
Inside the chimney was an antenna that could be moved with pulleys.
The antenna could also be tuned to different wavelengths. But what exactly the antenna was listening to remained a mystery.
Charles worked to solve this question for years. Embassy security conducted regular scans for bugs, but nothing showed up.
Eventually, President Reagan authorized Charles to do whatever was necessary to find the leak.
So, Charles had every electronic device removed from the embassy (about 10 tons of electronic equipment), and shipped it all back to the U.S.
Everything was disassembled and X-rayed.
During the process, a technician discovered a small wire inside an IBM typewriter.
Charles believed the wire was a transformer to supply power to something else in the typewriter.
Next, he discovered several modifications that had been made to the typewriter.
The changes had been done so well that they weren’t detected by the regular scans at the embassy.
Inside the typewriter was a circuit board and six magnetometers. These sensed movements of tiny magnets.
Other aspects of the typewriter had been designed to deliver power to the circuits and to act as antennas.
Information that was typed was encrypted and sent across multiple frequencies. The Soviets were able to extract every keystroke on the typewriter.
Charles had finally solved the mystery.
The fascinating thing is, the Soviets were able to learn a great deal of information because they were able to listen.
The technology allowed them to listen to every key that was typed.
Naturally, the ability to listen is a big deal, and being able to hear is one of the primary ways you can avoid danger.
But the scary truth is that one in eight Americans (about 13% of the population) have hearing loss in both ears.
A lot of folks have hearing loss from work and hobbies, such as shooting guns.
That’s why, when shooting, you should always use hearing protection. It can take only a few shots with no hearing protection to cause permanent hearing loss.
So, when you go to the shooting range ear protection is essential. This brings up the question of whether earmuffs or earplugs are better for shooting.
Earplugs are the most common hearing protection at the gun range. They are small and fit inside your ear. Ideally, they should form to your ear size.
Earplugs come individually or linked with a cord. They are usually made from soft foam or molded polymer.
Pros of earplugs:
In theory, earplugs provide the best protection because they block more noise.
Also, earplugs are small and take up less room. This means they won’t get in the way like earmuffs could.
Earplugs allow the shooter to get tight on the weapon and have a good cheek weld. There is minimal interference with earplugs.
This is important when shooting with optics or other accessories.
Plus, earplugs work well with glasses, hats, and helmets. Also, they aren’t too hot to wear in summer weather.
Disadvantages of earplugs:
The biggest downside to earplugs is that they can take time to get a proper fit.
My point is you’re not going to put them on in seconds and be ready to shoot. If you are going to use earplugs, you need a good fit to achieve protection.
Another concern with earplugs is retention.
If the fit isn’t right, earplugs can become loose and slip out. They might not fall off, but the seal can be broken, which would mean you don’t have protection.
Finally, earplugs get dirty easily, then you are putting them in your ears. So, you want to keep them as clean as possible.
Earmuffs are the big things you put over your ears. They are usually made from metal or polymer with soft muffs that go over the ears.
There are a lot of added options if you decide to go with earmuffs.
For example, you can find ones that offer hearing protection as well as hearing enhancement.
The earmuffs block the sound of gunfire but allow you to easily hear normal speaking levels.
Earmuffs are easy to throw on and go shooting because there is no time wasted getting the proper fit.
Pros of earmuffs:
The biggest advantage of earmuffs is the ease of using them. You grab them and go.
And depending on the person, earmuffs might be more comfortable.
For instance, having something stuck in the ear, such as a plug, is very annoying to people with sensitive ears.
But earmuffs wrap around the ear so they can be less bothersome.
Also, once earmuffs are on, they likely won’t fall off. Unless the person was hit in the head, the earmuffs should stay in place.
Earmuffs are easier to clean since they are bigger. Also, when shooting in cold weather they can keep your ears warm.
The downside to earmuffs:
The biggest downside to earmuffs is that they are big and bulky. This can interfere with other gear such as hats or helmets.
Another issue is the cheek weld is not usually the best. The big earmuffs can get in the way of rifles and shotguns.
Also, earmuffs are less portable than earplugs. You can’t put earmuffs in your pocket and pull them out when needed.
When I spend the day at the range, I prefer earmuffs. They are easy to use and I don’t have to worry about getting the proper fit.
If you want to try earplugs, consider brands such as Decibullz and SureFire.
If you prefer earmuffs, consider Peltors and Safariland.
Like every other shooting accessory, there are tons of options when it comes to hearing protection.
If you are new to shooting, try both earplugs and earmuffs to see what feels better to you.