Eve Flanigan 04.05.22
Technological advancements have certainly benefited our lives in many ways, but sometimes the things touted as advanced aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Lately, I’ve been testing some PPE (personal protective equipment) for shooting to see if some such products warrant the additional capital outlay in comparison to less sophisticated products. It’s been an interesting experience, seeing as how I’m a Gen X’er who’s open to, but inherently suspicious, of pretty much any product that’s come about since auto-tune singing appeared in popular music. Here’s my take on the Axil GS Extreme 2.0 ear protection. GS is short for “Ghost Stryke,” a name that’s only prominent on the box.
A rich unboxing experience is important to some people, and Axil delivers big-time. The bright cardboard outer case envelops a hard case that opens with an elegant, but not girly ribbon. Information is delivered in digestible doses as part of the experience, including easy quick-start instructions. It’s a gift-worthy first impression.
These Bluetooth-enabled “ears” are built around earbud-type inserts. Each Axil GS 2.0 Extreme comes with several foam covers for the stem that fits in each ear. For shooting, only the largest cover which is just a little smaller than the tried-and-true foam plugs most shooters have used at some time. They deliver 26db noise reduction, and by comparison a popular brand of noise-cancelling earmuffs claims 21db.
There is a learning curve with using the device. The foam inserts don’t roll up and swell to the extent traditional ones do. A certain amount of timing is required to insert them in the ear canal to take advantage of their fairly swift and slight expansion. Angle of insertion is important, too. The inserts are strategically angled in relation to the stem/speaker, and must fit in the ear just so. A helpful company rep suggested inserting them and making a quarter turn of the foam to the rear. That is the best method I’ve found for a secure, snug fit that can last for hours, but that’s not all the process entails. There are also the coated wires that must be bent to support the headset atop the ears. I have found putting these in approximate ear-shape, then inserting the foams, then holding the foam in place while I make sure the wire is where it needs to be best. Containing long hair is a near-necessity when using these. A small alligator clip at the wire’s center keeps it attached to a shirt collar. I’ve worn these with a ponytail and it didn’t disrupt the wire so long as I kept the hair on the sides of my head contained.
The electronic features of the Axil GS 2.0 Extreme are twofold. Most important for shooting is their noise-cancelling quality. Akin to other noise-reactive “ears,” the electronic protection kicks in only when sounds are loud enough to damage hearing. Axil claims a speedier response on this compared to the industry standard. My brain cells can’t tell the difference; However, there is no distracting “click on” sound as often experienced with sound-sensitive muffs. Another difference is a little less appealing, in that there is less subtle amplification of the voices with these since the ears are plugged by virtue of wearing them. Axil warns that people in extremely loud environments, ie indoor ranges or near a shooter with a muzzle brake, should turn down the volume feature of their set as low as possible.
A joy of using this headset is the Bluetooth feature. Shooters who feel the need to enhance their range time with music can make it happen, and not disturb others in the process. I am able to take calls while doing range chores and remain hands-free. I’ve used the headset for listening to music and podcasts while doing outdoor chores or allowing others in the house to sleep undisturbed. People have different tastes in sound quality. To my ears, the Axil GS Extreme 2.0s are perfect with crystal-clear sound and rich mid-tones. Those who have a need for booming bass might be disappointed – but their hearing will probably be more intact later as a result of using these instead. Even if I find the device to require more fussing than my schedule permits on busy teaching days, I appreciate them a lot for increasing my enjoyment of auditory media.
Battery life is fantastic. This little set just keeps on going. In rough conditions such as the dusty, windy environment where I live and work, I am concerned that the delicate rubber cover of the micro USB charging port will eventually break off and become clogged with dirt. Since it’s a problem we see on the regular with finely machined firearms, I anticipate regular maintenance being required on that front.
Wind interference with pretty much everything on the range is a chronic problem where I live, and this is where the Axil GS Extreme 2.0 is a problem-solver. On most springtime sessions, I have to turn off the so-called noise canceling function of traditional earmuffs because they amplify wind noise, an experience akin to having loud tinnitus while trying to concentrate and converse. These do that to a far lesser degree, and also deliver the advantage of being able to hear phone calls clearly, even if I do have to cup the phone to talk.
The controls for Bluetooth and volume are located in-line on the wires, and end up behind the head during use. A little experimentation, practice, and eventually memorization of how to manipulate the controls sight-unseen is a valuable exercise before hitting the range or duck blind.
One of Axil’s selling points for this headset is lack of bulk and the ability to attain a perfect cheek weld. While that is true, I’d still want a pair of over-ear muffs on top of them for certain settings that are extremely loud. Hearing is too precious to squander for the inconvenience of learning to shoot a long gun with muffs on. I have used them four hours on end coaching a 4- or 5-shooter firing line with 9mm handguns and never felt that my hearing was less protected than with muffs. Unlike muffs, there’s no headache or pain from squishing my skull and glasses under “ears.”
For the person who’s willing to invest a little time learning this system and placing it correctly in advance of shooting, the Axil GS Extreme 2.0 offers protection and technological advantages that place it in a class of its own. Regular price is $199.99, however, as of this writing there’s a generous 35% discount.