Do I need to use hearing protection as well as a moderator when shooting? Is the noise causing me to flinch? Our expert answers...

Q: I shoot with a moderated .270 Winchester rifle and, when stalking, I have pulled a few shots while not wearing hearing protection. Is the moderator making the rifle safe to shoot without plugs or muffs? The recoil isn’t bad, so I’m wondering if it is the noise making me flinch?

ANDREW VENABLES replies: It’s a big subject and I write listening to tinnitus. Very loud noises also make me flinch, especially when target shooting. The best moderators can reduce the report of a rifle by 25-30db (decibels). Sounds over 120db can cause instant damage. Sounds over 170db burst eardrums instantly.

The .270 Winchester and similar rifles produce 160-170db. A good moderator may reduce this down to 130-140db. 150db is 32 times as loud as 120db. 123db is twice as loud as 120db. Plugs block 22-32db. The best muffs block 35db, average muffs block maybe 25-30db. So really, we should wear plugs or muffs, as we do at WMS when firing all rifles whether fitted with moderators or not. For regular shooting, I wear electronic muffs on the range. For hunting, I either wear these or digital fitted ear plugs. I now hear better with assistance, so these help me hunt.

If we are shooting centrefire rifles fitted with a muzzle brake, I personally use ear plugs and Peltor 3M passive artillery muffs rated to 35db, otherwise my tinnitus is instantly made worse by the first shot! Old shooters are mostly hard of hearing – I don’t intend to make mine any worse.

In this modern age of moderators, which I consider excellent but optional, and high-quality electronic digital ear plugs and muffs, it is inexcusable to fail to wear proper hearing protection, especially when wearing it makes us all hear and shoot better.