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American Handgunner March/April 2010 - Page 38

COPTALK Massad Ayoob The Pro Ears Gold unit is a top-of-the-line active hearing protection unit. Don’t skimp when it comes to your hearing. OPINION AND FACTS FROM THE MEAN STREETS an Francisco cop Bill Langlois was most famous for his work as a decoy “victim” for muggers, leading to over 250 felony arrests. However, his one fatal shooting in the line of duty occurred when he was working uniformed patrol. Pictures in his outstanding autobiography with John O’Connor, Surviving the Age of Fear (WRS Publishing, Waco, TX, 1993), indicate his uniform duty weapon was a 6" S&W revolver, worn in a Hoyt breakfront holster. The shooting went down in an apartment building’s stairwell as Langlois confronted a gunman who had opened fire on other officers and was now coming up on him with a handgun. Wrote Langlois, “We ended up firing simultaneously. I saw the orange light of muzzle flash and my training kicked in, telling me that if I had lived to see that, the man’s bullet was already past me. He was not as lucky. My bullet pierced his face just under his right eye and he went down solidly into the staircase … he lay crumpled on the bottom stairs. As I watched, his body appeared to turn and when his gun started to come up again, I fired twice more at him until he was still.” Continued Langlois, “My ears were ringing. The report of two guns going off in the enclosed space of a concrete stairwell had been like a bomb detonating just inches away. I have problems with the hearing in my left ear to this day as a result.” (Langlois, pages 239-240.) The officer had been firing .357 Magnum ammunition. This hero cop was not the first one to suffer permanent hearing damage from a line of duty shooting, nor the last. Some years ago at a SureFire conference where the firm introduced its then-new line of sound suppressors for tactical firearms, they said they had been convinced there was a need to fill there, because they were aware of many cases where police officers had gone out on disability due to hearing loss from gunfire in the line of duty. Active Hearing Protection For Police Active Hearing Protection ctive hearing protection has been available for decades. The best of these units amplify lowlevel sound, but reduce high-decibel noises. The cheapest of them let you hear better than you could through old-fashioned passive muffs or plugs, but cut out their amplification when hit by a sound wave. Go with the former type. The cutouts simply take a certain number of dBs off the top of the given sound, while the high tech reducers bring the loudest possible noise down to a manageable level, such as 70 decibels or so — about what you’d hear with .38 wadcutter loads through regular muffs, in my experience. I prefer mine binaural, rather than stereo. Stereo means you hear the same sound equally in each ear and it sounds as if it’s in the middle of your head, like a good headphone system for music. You can’t tell where the sound actually came from. Binaural means directional: you can tell where the sound came from, and tactically, that can literally mean life and death. I think they’re a must for firearms instructors. Over the years, there have been range accidents where amplified muffs would have allowed an instructor to hear the sound of someone fooling with a recalcitrant gun just before it negligently discharged, or the sound of a struggling shooter muttering “damn thing” or something like that. Some of the old heads here can remember when the mark of a longtime police firearms instructor was raised voices and hands cupped behind ears, because deafness was the occupational hazard. Hearing aids were practically standard issue for retired rangemasters. You see less of that today because of the better ear protection developed over the years. You’d pull the muff cup away from your ear to hear a student/officer’s question, and a SWAT cop would let go with his .308 a few feet away on the firing line. Your ears would ring for a few more days, and some of the lost hearing wouldn’t come back. Active muffs have prevented that, preserving both hearing and firing line careers. A S Police chief Rich Eddington wears Dillon active muffs as he shoots the Illinois State IDPA championship with Glock 34. ac teams used to use active muffs on operations more than ever now. In the 1980s, when headgear was often a ball cap or stocking cap, active muffs kept the SWAT guys from suffering the same hearing stun as the suspects did from flash-bangs. Today, ballistic helmets are in vogue, and that precludes conventional active muffs, though similar technology can be integrated with the helmets themselves. On patrol, I’ve long kept active muffs in my car. Deer hit by car has to be euthanized with department issue .223? No problem. Building search or manhunt in the woods? My old Gentex 1030A Wolf Ears let me hear tiny sounds that perfect, unassisted human hearing would miss. Yet Bill Langlois’ volley of .357 Magnum fire in a narrow concrete stairwell would cause no more problem than target loads on an indoor range with regular muffs on through the Wolf Ears. This model, sadly, is no longer manufactured, but there are lots of good active muffs on the market today. Mine will continue to be part of my on-duty kit as well as part of my range gear. Give it some thought. DuTy use T * For more info: WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MARCH/APRIL2010 38

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