EYES & EARS!

Most shooters think of firearms safety as rules and procedures…

Most shooters think of firearms safety as rules and procedures to keep folks from getting shot. Obviously, there’s more to it than that, but when I was growing up, my firearms safety instruction amounted to an adult saying, “You better watch where you point that gun.” Times change, and with regard to firearms safety, they have changed for the better. Nowadays, it’s common practice to utilize ear and eye protection. But when I was 12, hunter safety was a graded portion of my seventh-grade physical education class. We shot clays on the ball field and loaded ammo in the gym. You won’t see that in schools any more.

Hard Lessons Learned
From the time I was about 12, my parents let me shoot and hunt on my own. Their warnings were always the same and were centered on me not shooting myself, anyone else or anything that was not in season. Not once did they ever suggest I use ear protection. I remember Grandpa saying, “If you’re not shooting, put your fingers in your ears. If you are shooting, the noise doesn’t affect you as bad.” Obviously, that was an old wives’ tale he believed. Grandpa was right about most things, but wrong about this one.

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We never wore shooting glasses, either. This was mostly because there had never been an incident anyone was aware of where shooting glasses would have prevented some sort of injury. That changed when I was 14. My cousin and I were shooting an old rolling-block Remington .22. When I fired a shot, the hammer and the rolling block were blown back and my face was covered with powder burns; the rim had blown off the cartridge case. Luckily, my eyes came out O.K., but I’ve kept a pair of shooting glasses close ever since.

And, it’s been a good thing. On more than one occasion since then, I’ve experienced ammunition failures in handguns and rifles where debris and gas have been blown back into my face. I’ve also witnessed several firearms become permanently disassembled due to bad ammo or hot handloads. You can say that I was lucky in my youth to learn that eye protection is a very good idea when shooting.

I wasn’t so lucky with my ears. Due to repetitive exposure to small arms fire, I have a severe case of tinnitus. There’s always a ringing in my ears. All day, every day, it’s there. When I lie down in the quiet of night to sleep, it is much worse. So bad that I need some sort of white noise to mask the ringing. And, sometimes, for no apparent reason, it seems like my left ear has an earplug in it and I can hardly hear at all. The bad news is that there’s no cure. I’m stuck with this for the rest of my life.

Kids or new shooters do not have to experience tinnitus, however. All they need to do is wear ear protection when they shoot. Their eyes should also never be the victim of bad ammo or a firearm failure. With quality protective shooting glasses they can avoid a painful, disabling injury.

There are some things to consider when it comes to selecting ear and eye protection for youngsters, like the level of protection, fit and comfort, compatibility and looks. Let’s examine each of these separately.

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