Folks of a certain demographic may recall a TV ad where some old guy proclaims “when you’ve got your health you have everything”.
As kids we rolled our eyes on that one. What advice could some old fart give us anyway?
What a difference a few decades make.
As a Boomer I’m well aware of my aging body. One of the first things I note (no jokes please) to go is my hearing. Obviously visiting the range on a regular basis does not enhance things in that department.
Science is tells us that hearing matters—a lot.
A long term study conducted by Johns Hopkins explored the relationship between hearing loss and dementia. The upshot: participants who reported hearing loss at the beginning of the study were much more likely to develop dementia. They determined the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the likelihood of developing dementia.
The precise reasoning behind hearing declination and the onset of dementia is unclear but for my purposes, it’s a moot point.
Protecting your hearing is not just a matter of not wanting to devolve into Mr. Magoo. Lousy hearing can lead to cognitive loss and this is not where we want to go.
Enter the ComTac V
That brings us to the subject of the article, the Peltor Comtac V Hearing Defender, a product of 3M. This is top of the line, military grade hearing protection.
It’s all about design.
The cups are slender. That’s what you want, especially if you’re shooting rifles. A big bulbous earmuff is going to get in the way when you bring the stock up to your cheek. It will in effect pop the cup off your ear and you’ll end up hearing a lot more than you want. (Think dementia protection!)
The battery life which is rated at about 150 hours on a set of two AAA lithium batteries. Of course, that’s under ideal conditions. In the real world it will be less depending on the weather conditions, usage, etc. The battery compartments on either cup are water and dust proof but easily accessible. You just snap off a flange and pop out the AAA battery.
At the bottom of the right cup are the controls.They are easy to operate, just push the forward button to turn the headset on and off. Backward turns the volume up and forward lowers volume until it reaches a silent mode (before you click it off).
To get into the menu you’ll need to press both forward and rear buttons down. The rear button will take you through the various menu options. Each step through menu land is accompanied by a ghost message (a female ghost) to let you know where you are. One of the modes is equalizer which has four settings that adjust for frequency ranges for the microphones, changing slightly what ambient sounds the headset will pick up. (I left mine on normal).
There’s also a balance setting that will adjust volume for each ear which is pretty cool if one ear is a bit more audio challenged.
“Ear Plug Mode,” will boost volume for situations where enhanced hearing protection is required. Essentially it increases the volumes of ambient sound and the external input by about 6dB. It should only be used only with a properly fitted ear-plug under the headset. Thus your ears are well protected, but you can still hear as normal.
The “active volume troubleshooting” mode ensures that the volume control is in order and your batteries haven’t lost power.
The biggest plus with this nearly $500 headset is are the mics, which of course pick up the ambient sounds. They are really top notch and that’s what you’re paying the big bucks for.
I put the headset on a friend who does professional voiceover work at radio stations and she practically squealed with joy over the mic audio quality which she said was equivalent to the gear in her studio.
You can practically pump up the audio pickup to the point where you can hear what your next door neighbors are talking about at the breakfast table.
What’s nice is that you don’t have to turn the volume too high to hear what’s going on around you. You don’t necessarily want to hear the guys on the firing line complaining about someone’s flatulence or what they forgot to bring. However, you definitely do want to hear what the rangemaster is saying and you’ll get that even at the lowest level.
There’s even a silent mode if you want to shut out the world. Keep in mind, on silent the headset is turned on so if you want to keep it silent without running down the batteries, just turn the headset off.
The bottom line is that this headset is optimal for the range (or hunting) so that you can fine tune your audio environment both in volume and frequency.
The noise cancellation technology worked wonderfully. Fredrik Johansson, Global Product Marketing Manager, Hunting & Shooting, 3M Personal Safety Division explained that when the headset detects sound above 82 db, it will decompress the sound to below 82db.
How much below 82 db is dependent on how high the volume is set on the headset. Johansson explained that the system does not switch off, which used to be the case. He reasoned that in models where it does switch off, you are more likely to miss instructions if you are on the range.
Johansson says the 3M technology said the ComTac system handles sound decompression and amplification of to provide a comfortable experience.
Finally, the thing I really appreciate about this model is that it comes standard with Gel-filled Ear Seals (also manufactured by 3M).
The Gel-filled seals have become popular over the last couple of years and are standard for higher-end earmuffs. In my opinion, they are a vast improvement over the traditional foam seals. They differ from the foam pads because they are wrapped in a super-thin polyurethane outer skin. This gives them a soft, quasi-squishy feel that conforms to the shape of your head.
They are super comfortable but just as importantly, provide a much better level of passive hearing protection because they envelope the ears in a way that foam just can’t do. Essentially, they are more effective at closing up the gap around eye-pro temple stems.
If you get sweaty, they are less prone to produce “hot spots” where they contact the head or ears.
If you have an older pair of Peltor or another brand you can upgrade them with the ear seals quite easily. Once you do so, you’ll never go back to foam.
I fired a range of weapons with this headset, including an AR with a 7.62 x39 upper, a S&W 357 magnum and a Winchester Model 92 chambered in 357. This was at the Kokohead Range, an open space. I did not test this indoors.
The hearing protection response time and the headset’s ergonomics were excellent. At no time did I ever have a problem hearing the rangemaster, or anyone else for that matter.
The ComTac V is the gold standard. It’s a proven, durable product that has seen service by police and military personnel throughout the world. My only suggestion is add recharging capabilities, particularly since the preferred battery is Lithium.
My test unit was in coyote brown but they also come in black and foliage green.
This product shines with the quality of it’s sound. You can tweak the mic to your precise needs and of course it will protect your ears when the guy in the slot next to you insists up shooting his S&W 500.
Who knows, it may even prevent premature Alzheimer’s.
Robert F. Kay is a columnist for the Honolulu Star Advertiser, a health nut, the author of two Lonely Planet guidebooks and Fijiguide.com. He appreciates a good pair of earmuffs on the range.