Review: Howard Leight Impact Sport BOLT Electronic Earmuffs

   02.25.21

Review: Howard Leight Impact Sport BOLT Electronic Earmuffs

Howard Leight (HL) makes great products for hearing and eye protection, and I’ve yet to find one that didn’t perform as advertised. Today we will be talking about the Howard Leight Impact Sport BOLT electronic earmuffs, or hearing protection headset. The BOLT is an improved version of HL’s popular Impact Sport line of hearing protection headsets with a digital processor which allows it to respond more quickly to changes in volume – its response time is half a millisecond! That is 250 times faster than any of their previous models. My BOLT headset is orange, but gray and black are also available.

Howard Leight Impact Sport BOLT Electronic Earmuffs – Specifications

  • Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 22dB
  • Digital Microprocessor: Delivers a lightning-fast .5 millisecond attack time for optimal gunshot noise-blocking and minimal ambient hearing
  • Interruption: 250X faster than standard Impact Sport models
  • Built-In Directional Microphones: amplify range commands and other ambient sounds up to 5X in stereo
  • Recessed microphones to reduce wind noise
  • Amplification: automatically shuts off when ambient sound (continuous or impulse) reaches 82 dB
  • Air Flow Control Technology (AFC): Lets you hear normal conversation at low frequencies but protects ears at high frequencies
  • Compact Design: Folds for convenient storage; low profile earcups for firearm stock clearance; adjustable padded leatherette headband
  • Water-resistant and 3.5mm (1/8″) AUX audio input plug
  • Recessed Control Dial: minimizes accidental switching
  • Size (folded): 3.75″ x 4″ x 5″
  • Weight: Mine weighs 11.25 ounces with batteries and belt clip
  • Includes: belt clip, 2 AAA batteries, 1 extra pair of earcup cushions, 3.5mm (1/8″) connection cord with right-angle stereo plugs (my cord is 39″ long)
  • Battery Life: 150 Hours with 4-Hour auto shutoff saves batteries when you forget to switch them off
  • MSRP: $90

Using Howard Leight Impact Sport BOLT Electronic Earmuffs

I got my Impact Sport BOLT headset in early 2020, and this hearing protection headset has been good to me. I installed the included pair of AAA batteries and straight into my range bag they went. I’ve used them at just about every range session over the past year, and I don’t have much to complain about. I really like their compact size – same as other Impact Sport models – because it doesn’t clutter up my range bag and they’re handy to tote. They’re also slim enough that they don’t get crowded off of my head when I shoulder a rifle or shotgun.

Left side of Impact Sport BOLT has recessed on/off/volume volume dial, recessed microphone, and AUX audio input plug (Photo © Russ Chastain)
Left side of Impact Sport BOLT has recessed on/off/volume volume dial, recessed microphone, and AUX audio input plug.

The dial switch is recessed into the rear of the left side muff; roll it towards the rear to switch on and increase volume. To turn off the BOLT, roll it towards the front until it clicks. If you forget to turn it off, don’t worry. There’s a 4-hour auto-off feature that will prevent you from having dead batteries next time you dig them out. If that happens, simply turn the switch off and back on and you’ll be back in business. The recessed dial makes it unlikely this headset will be turned on by accident.

Headband adjusts by wires telescoping inside the plastic brackets (L) (Photo © Russ Chastain)
Headband adjusts by wires telescoping inside the plastic brackets.

The BOLT fits me fine. I have read some online complaints about fit, but with a little adjustment the muff cushions fit around my ears securely to block sound as they’re designed to do. You adjust the overall length of the headband by sliding the telescoping wires in or out of the black plastic brackets to which the muffs are connected. Don’t worry, the wires won’t pull out.

The included pair of AAA batteries go in the right muff (Photo © Russ Chastain)
The included pair of AAA batteries go in the right muff.

I like the fact that the required pair of AAA batteries are included, and they’re not some weird Chinese knockoff brand. Mine came with these Duracells. The battery cover is located on the right muff, and just pops off and on. I wondered about battery life at first because the BOLT is rated at 150 hours of runtime while other Impact Sport models are rated at 350 hours, but the original batteries are still going strong more than a year after I received the Impact Sport BOLT.

Impact Sport BOLT comes with AUX stereo input cord, spare pads, and a folding belt clip (Photo © Russ Chastain)
Impact Sport BOLT comes with AUX stereo input cord, spare pads, and a folding belt clip.

It’s nice to get some extras, and the auxiliary audio input cord looks to be of good quality with a male 3.5mm (1/8″) stereo plug at each end of its 39-inch length. Two extra ear muff cushions are included for when you wear out the originals (which probably won’t happen anytime soon) as well as a deceptively simple belt clip designed to clip the headset to your belt or pocket when you’re not wearing it.

The belt clip is simple, but cleverly designed (Photo © Russ Chastain)
The belt clip is simple, but cleverly designed.

The large part of the clip goes over the headband of your electronic earmuffs, and the smaller part is for your belt or pocket. You can easily wear your BOLT headset on your head with the clip on it; I didn’t even feel the clip while doing so.

Clip the large side of the clip to the headband; small side clips to pocket or belt (Photo © Russ Chastain)
Clip the large side of the clip to the headband; small side clips to pocket or belt.

As you can see, when the BOLT is folded and the clip installed, it makes a handy little package to carry on your hip., and you don’t have to worry about losing the clip at the range because you can leave it on while you wear the headset. When it’s time to stow the BOLT in your range bag, just fold the clip 90 degrees and slip it on in there.

The clip folds out of the way for storing the headset (Photo © Russ Chastain)
The clip folds out of the way for storing the headset.

Conclusion

I feel I’ve been well served by these Howard Leight Impact Sport BOLT electronic earmuffs and I’ve had no problems with feedback or other interference, but be aware that some folks have had some trouble with feedback and other strangeness especially when used indoors. For that reason, some shooters prefer the original Impact Sport model which is still widely available. For my own use, the Impact Sport BOLT electronic earmuffs have done the job and I really like the look of them in high-viz orange. If you’d like to get some of your own, click/tap here to buy a pair (at the time of this writing they’re priced considerably lower than MSRP). Thanks for reading, and happy hunting!

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