As a gun and gear reviewer, I get the privilege of testing quite a few new products. Some aren’t anything to write home about. But lately I’ve been testing two products that have leveled up my experience at the range, and since any other shooter needs some version of these too, I thought I’d share my positive experiences in case you’re in the market for new eye/ear pro or shopping for a great gift for your favorite shooter – maybe including yourself.
Wraptor by Gatorz American Eyewear
The Gatorz brand is first and foremost made in America, with American materials, and designed by Americans. This veteran-owned company started out as an eyewear maker for extreme sports like skydiving. Their recent expansion to include shooters is a logical progression.
The Wraptor is one of several designs in the Gatorz lineup. As the name suggests, these are wrap-around specs that give great eye protection. Several lens choices are offered; for maximum protection I chose the ANSI-rated ones that give a bit more impact protection than other lenses in case of deflection from a steel target or mechanical catastrophe with a gun (let’s hope that never happens, but as the saying goes, hope is not a strategy).
Super-light, adjustable aluminum frames are part of what makes the Gatorz brand different. Using simple directions provided on the Gatorz website, the tightness of the wrap, height on the nose, and distance from nose can all be customized for the wearer.
Gatorz offers many different lens options. My own copy of the Wraptor has photochromic lenses that change from dark to nearly clear depending on ambient light, making them shooting practice that goes from daytime to evening or night.
Gatorz glasses start at around $180, with discounts available for subscribing to their email list. These glasses would make a great investment in your own precious eyesight or that of a shooting or outdoor sports-minded friend.
Axil GS Extreme 2.0 Bluetooth Ear Protection
Most people are surprised to learn that those little foam roll-up ear plugs block out around 5-10% more noise than protective earmuffs, which due to their size would seem more protective. Hearing is a priceless gift that, once damaged from repeated exposure to loud noise like gunfire, never returns. In fact, exposure to loud noise can give rise to permanent and annoying tinnitus in place of what was once crystal-clear sound. While some make like it’s no big deal, protecting your hearing really is important for quality of life. That’s where a new earplug-style gadget from Axil comes in.
Being generally skeptical of techy stuff on the range, I agreed to test this new product from Axil with some hesitation. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised, in no small part because I’ve found myself happily wearing these even off the range and even when I don’t need ear pro! These earplug/buds took a little getting used to, but it’s not a stretch to say they improve my enjoyment of life on and off the range.
The GS Extreme 2.0 "ears” come with a selection of ear inserts, but only one, the fattest, is rated for shooting. Inserting them is not exactly like traditional foam plugs; they don’t stay in the squished condition for as long. After a company rep advised that I squish the plugs and then insert them with about a quarter turn twisting motion, having already formed the reinforced wires that connect to them and hook over the ears, I found them easy to don and keep on. Before that, they’d fall out. These “ears” block out extreme noise in the same way any noise-canceling earphones do, so long as they’re powered on. When paired with my phone’s Bluetooth, I can take calls or listen to a podcast or music between range chores. The sound quality is very rich, with strong midtones, and I enjoy music with these more than any other speaker or headset I own.
A bonus feature to the GS Extreme 2.0 is lack of bulk. Any eyeglasses or hat work fine with them. For those who are bothered by earmuff interference when shouldering a long gun, these eliminate that problem. And the hearing protection is very good. Among other aspects of testing, I wore them for a half-day session of drills with five 9mm pistol shooters on the firing line, in close proximity. Though I kept my usual muffs at hand expecting to be disappointed in this device’s protection, I never used them, and gladly missed out on the usual earmuff tension headache at day’s end to boot.
These fancy “ears” are priced at $199.99, however there is a generous 35% off sale underway as of this writing. These would make a great gift for the shooter who has everything, as well as looking good in the mirror.
I’m pretty hard to please when it comes to eye and ear protection, and had considered myself set in my ways in that regard with my old gear. But these two products really opened up a new understanding of possibilities for comfort and protection on and off the range. They’re worth a try if you’re looking to upgrade or try something that’s both stylish and protective. Both companies deliver an elegant, enjoyable unboxing experience, too, making these devices excellent for gifting.