First Gear | Warne MSR Rings/Howard Leight Ear Pro

posted on July 24, 2016
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Warne 34 mm MSR Quick Detach Rings

If you were thinking you’ve seen the Warne name in “First Gear” before, you’d be correct: We’ve been fans for a long time. We use and recommend them in a way that can only be described as profligate—chiefly because they work

The ever-helpful folks at Brownells, however, have put a new variant in our hands. With several departures from what’s de rigueur in upscale rings, we were glad to oblige with a careful look.

One of the best features of earlier QD (quick detach) rings that we’ve found useful is a vertical split. While it makes the early stages of the install a little more demanding, the crucial step of “squaring up” the reticle and the rifle becomes easier, because the scope rolls less due to surface friction as you tighten up the screws.

The MSR Flat Top Rings go back to more traditional closure; that is, a horizontal split. Whether there’s an underlying motive (weight, as you’ll see), or just to be “complete” in terms of options, we can’t say, but after using them on a couple of rifles with a heavy scope (the magnificent 48.5 ounce Vortex Razor HD Gen II—and yes, a review of that is coming soon, too), we can say this with confidence: Like their forebears, they work juuuuuuust fine.All the QDs share the gotta-have steel cross-bolt “key” that secures Picatinny rail engagement.

Though the “MSR” (Modern Sporting Rifle) designation speaks to Stoner-pattern rifle implementations, our test went back and forth from an AR-10 style to our bolt “Reference rifle,” and success with both was a laugher. While we never seem to get to absolute return-to-zero during on/off iterations, our losses were minuscule. In both directions, they hovered at a quarter-minute. That’s the limit at which we start to wonder if it may be us, frankly. 

Here are a couple of details for you down-in-the-weeds fiends: Like the vertical QDs, the MSRs are hand-tightenable, a feature all but essential for our purposes. The wingnut version (as opposed to the clockable lever in the vertical-split version) we had seemed perfectly adequate, but if you don’t move optics much, you may prefer the unquestioned solidity of the “Tactical Nut” version (1/2”); not tool-less, it’s true, but Warne’s got that covered here

All the QDs share the gotta-have steel cross-bolt “key” that secures Picatinny rail engagement, but the MSRs boast two final, possible trumps depending on your application: The skeletonized machining cuts final weight nearly two ounces, and the Torx fasteners lock down in steel threaded inserts.

It’s another Warne triumph in our view, and with a lifetime warranty, of course.

Visit Warne at


Impact Sport from Howard Leight by Honeywell

Photo courtesy of Howard Leight Ear Pro/Warne MSR Rings.

Ok, ok: That’s a mouthful. But to be fair, it’s also an unambiguous mouthful, and sometimes, such is worth the trouble. Like, er, now?

Mainly, this is because we have to start with what the lawyers call—we think—a “statement against interest”—namely, that we hate muff-style ear protection. They’re hot. Battery life is measured in pico-seconds (a trillionth of a second, if your Greek is suddenly failing you). They’re hot. They foul you up or just plain come off when used with anything stocked. And did we mention they’re hot? 

Not to belabor the point, but with these Howard Leights you can pretty much scrap our whole whine. We’ve worn them through four half-steel matches and several practices now, all with the same set of batteries (ultra convenient AAAs, too). We tested a 12-gauge review shotty through one of those without a single offset in 60 shots. We’ve gone prone with a bolt gun and an MSR, and stayed comfortable and report-protected.We’ve gone prone with a bolt gun and an MSR, and stayed comfortable and report-protected.

We think the 82 dB clamp is about perfect, as range commands and conversation remained clear whatever the complexity of the background racket (“net” attenuation is 22 dB). Indoors—often tougher on electronics than you might expect—we didn’t have a single episode where echoes or rapid strings fooled the electronics and blasted us. Another benefit is the extreme completeness of the kit: A lockable, dual-latched hard case contains the muffs themselves, a spare set of ear pads, batteries, a stereo input cord (iPod/MP3 player, anyone?), and pouch for the muffs themselves. (Just saying: A little new foam, and the case will do dandy double duty for airline use, too.)

And here’s an interesting—we thought—tidbit: The amplification is discriminating enough to actually improve some aspects of hearing. Our local Steel Challenge match uses metal poles to mount the targets, and a strike on the pole close to the plate is sometimes ambiguous, we think because of splatter to the back of the plate. Our IS/HLs differentiated this circumstance with ease, often to the annoyance of the competitor! 

Lastly, the hot business: Even unaided by these, they’re a heap more comfortable than our “uninvited guest/emergency” pair that haunts our spares kit, and we tested them at a toasty 101 degrees. 

Ergo, Impact Sport from Howard Leight by Honeywell electronic earmuffs, one; “First Gear,” nil.

Visit Howard Leight at


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