I rarely write gun accessory reviews and this is only the second review I have written in five years. A few months ago a friend of mine asked me if I had heard about Etymotic Research GunSport Pro Earplugs. She was working for one of their distributors and said they had been selling well. The earplugs provide hearing protection from very loud noises but also amplify soft sounds such as speech, like conventional electronic ear muffs but in a package barley larger than conventional in-ear earplugs. I was intrigued.
Coincidently (yes, it was a coincidence) the following day I received an email from Etymotic Research asking if I would like to try the GSP1 GunSport Pro Earplugs. I replied to say that a single range trip would not be sufficient to evaluate them but I would be willing to try them at Media Day where I would be shooting a wide variety of firearms.
In short, they worked exactly as advertised. I wore them all day at Media Day and the Big Bang Shoot. I wore them when I fired the .45-70 Colt 1887 Bulldog Gun, Sako .375 H&H, 7.62mm HK417, Glock 18C machine pistol and many others. I also spent a lot of time that day photographing other shooters firing large .50 BMG rifles, .338 Laupa rifles, 5.56mm assault rifles and 7.62mm machine guns. When taking photos I was usually standing within a few yards of the shooter. The earplugs worked just as well as you would expect a high-end earplug to work.
At a cost of $450+, what you really want to know is if they amplify soft sounds like human speech. They do. The earplugs amplified softer sounds, much like how I expect a hearing aid would work, and made conversation easier. The performance was similar to my larger electronic ear muffs.
My only major complaint is that the earplugs lack a on/off switch. To turn them off you are required to open the battery door. In theory the battery does not need to be remove, but I found the batteries tended to fall out inside the case. They need to add an on/off switch in the next iteration of the product. Other than that, the only other problem I had was that the thin nylon cable (fishing line) which ties the two earplugs together, to prevent them from getting lost, gets tangled up easily. A thicker braided fabric cable would not look as nice but would be more practical.
The GSP1 works very well and it is unfortunate that they are so expensive. The GSP1 is retailing for around $450 and the GSP15, which has one or two additional features, is retailing for around $500. This puts them out of the hands of the majority of shooters. Hopefully the price will come to a more affordable level in the future. I am giving some serious thought to purchasing the GSP1. Since using them my Remington and Peltor ear muffs seem bulkier, heavier and lot less high tech than they did before.
UPDATE: [In response to questions asked in the comments] It uses hearing aid batteries, it includes a number of different size and shape ear pieces (“ACCU-Fit eartips”) and the noise reduction is 25 dB. The technical specs are listed here.
UPDATE: I tested the earplugs at an indoor shooting range. We shot everything from .22 LR pistols to a .50 AE Desert Eagle. The GSP1 earplugs performed really well.