Irradiated by Stingray
After several friends, most recent of whom being the delightfully a-tactical Phlegmmy sang the praises of custom-molded earplugs for shooting purposes, I decided to look into them.
Then I discovered the price tag, and that it required making an appointment with someone to futz around with my ears and laser micromodel each hair in my ears and so on and so forth and long story short (too late!) giant dick-dance to get it done if you don’t luck into a guy with a booth at a convention or some such. Already having perfectly cromulent electronic muffs, I gave it a miss and broadly said screw it.
Then while nosing around further because I am curious by nature, I found out Radians DIY version for less than I’ve paid for dinner out, and was intrigued. I decided at that price point it was worth trying, even if they turned out to suck.
They do not suck.
The process on paper is basically the same as mixing a two-part epoxy, only more of a gel than a goo. You wash your ears, split two components into two portions each, mix, and mash into your ear in such a way as to make a good sound-tight fit, then sit still for fifteen minutes or so.
In practice it’s still basically that, but they don’t warn you it’ll sound like you poured an entire box of rice crispies into your ear canal with all the crackling and popping noises this stuff gives off as it cures. Or that the chemical reaction gives off more heat than you’d expect, which also warms the air inside your ear, which expands and makes the plug feel like it’s crawling out as it hardens. They also don’t mention the part where “Hey, you molded a nice smooth exterior. Good luck getting a grab on it to pull it back out!” and I spent the better part of a couple minutes with arms wrapped at various angles around my head trying to tug my ear into some mutilated tangle so I could lever the damned things out. But if you hold still and just give the odd gentle press during the curing process, they come out fine. No, seriously. Hold still. Grab a book or something and chill, you hyperactive spaz.
Anyway, once cast, I was a bit dubious about the performance. I’m accustomed to the you-know-it-when-you-hit-it seal of the various flavors of cheap disposable plugs, and these do not provide that. I gave them a test drive at the movies, and while LabRat left with her ears slightly ringing (The Avengers), I came out happy as a clam, and the sound the whole way through was quieted, but without that “I’m listening through a pillow” quality normal plugs provide. Encouraged, but still dubious, I finally got around to trying them at the range.
Honestly, I was shocked at how well they did. I expected the lack of that seal feeling from cheap plugs to translate to “Fine for cutting ambient ongoing noise, but crap for a sharp overpressure like a rifle report.” Instead even cracking off .30-06 was perfectly comfortable, on par with or even slightly better than some Peltor 6-S muffs I picked up on sale, and without the bulk of big ‘ol cans on my head.
The obvious drawback is they’re not electronic so everything is muffled, including conversation and range commands, but for twelve bucks, holy shit they deliver, and you don’t have to make an appointment for Tony Stark’s non-union Mexican equivalent to shoot lasers into your ear. Nerd ranch approved.