Proper eye protection is ‘must-have’ gear for the shooting sports and in many cases mandatory. Other eye-pro features are important (in addition to safety factors) particularly if you need corrective lenses or are looking through a rifle scope from the prone position. In this article we take a look back at an array of shooting glasses we have tried and share some of the key considerations that drove our purchasing decisions. We will provide our perspective on what performance features are important to look for and hopefully get you on target.
First we’ll start with Steve’s journey:
Steve started with some Wiley X Saber glasses with non-prescription (plano) lenses which ran about $30. These worked well until Steve’s ageing eyes required corrective lenses. Functionally they are equivalent to the ANSI rated protective glasses you can pick up at any home improvement center, and more than adequate for the beginning shooter on a budget.
Steve’s first pair of prescription glasses were the Oakley Flak Jacket 2.0 XLJ with persimmon tint. The tint is intended to increase contrast and is particularly suitable for the pacific northwest. One drawback of the frame design is it got in the way when shooting prone – the frame would obscure one’s view through the scope. The thicker frame was also uncomfortable to wear underneath hearing protection. Steve would occasionally experience fogging as well.
Being the more fashion conscious of the duo, Steve wants to present the right image when driving to shooting matches. For that purpose, he went with the Oakley Taper in Matte Black with the G30 Iridium tint. Steve will occasionally use them for shooting, but they are not ideal. The frames however are more comfortable to wear under hearing protection.
Next up for Steve were the Oakley Pit Bull Bronze with VR 28 Black Iridium tint. Steve admits he went for these glasses more for the style and he appreciates that they are available with an “Asian cut” to accommodate his facial features. The thick frames present problems when shooting prone and are uncomfortable to wear with hearing protection.
Steve’s next eye wear of the month selection was the Oakley Bottle Rocket Black with Black Iridium polarize tint. They make a good pair of driving glasses but the polarization limits light transmission which could present an issue when shooting. Shooters spend a lot of money on high end scopes to maximize light transmission so it doesn’t make sense to mitigate that benefit with one’s shooting glasses. These glasses also dig into Steve’s cheeks and fog up easily.
Coming back again to Wiley X, Steve went with a pair of the XL-1 Advanced with Transitions tint. We’ve seen a number of competitive shooters sporting these glasses and they are issued by the military. However, Steve still experienced fogging even with the anti-fog treatment. They are better for prone shooting as the top of the frames ride higher and they are more comfortable to wear underneath hearing protection.
After a lot of nagging from Ed, Steve went with a pair of Decot Hy-Wyd Hy-Lo Bridge with yellow tinted lenses. Unlike his previous glasses, he also elected to get them with bifocals. In Steve’s mind he sacrificed some fashion for functionality but is otherwise happy. They do not fog and the Hy-Lo Bridge ensures that the frame never gets in the way when shooting prone. The are also very comfortable to wear underneath hearing protection.
At this point we’ll transition to Ed’s journey:
Ed’s journey consisted of one stop – Decot Hy-Wyd Hy-Lo Bridge with Bronze tint. Clearly not as adventurous as Steve’s journey, but Ed is a creature of habit and once he finds something he likes he sticks with it.
Prior to undergoing Lasik surgery in 2010, Ed had six diopters of astigmatism which was a lot. This presented quite a challenge as any pair of shooting glasses had to allow Ed to look through the center of the prescription whether he was in prone, kneeling, standing etc. At the time, Decot presented the best option given their more traditional design and their level of customer service gave Ed a degree of confidence that he would get a usable pair of glasses.
A number of manufacturers can accommodate heavier prescriptions by inserting a pair of secondary lenses behind the primary lens. Here’s an example from Pilla Sport. If you have a prescription it’s much less expensive to change lens tints since you’re only swapping out the non-prescription primary lens. Such an arrangement would work well in most erect positions, but to work well in prone the prescription would have to be centered within the field of view. At the time, Ed could not get a guarantee that this would be achievable and he didn’t want to invest a lot of money in a pair of glasses that wouldn’t work. After consultation with other shooters and his ophthalmologist, the Decot glasses were seen as the best option given their adjustable nose bridge.
Example of prescription lenses sitting behind primary lens
As the Decot glasses are purpose made for shooting, they are very comfortable to wear with hearing protection. The positioning of the lenses further out from the shooter’s face ensures that they will never fog. Now some might be concerned that this design does not protect from debris coming in from the side. That’s a reasonable concern so Decot provides a set of side shields.
Lens tint considerations:
There are a number of lens tints available from various manufacturers and you’ll want to select a tint that is optimal for your environment. Be sure you understand the level of light transmission associated with each tint. Many vendors offer interchangeable lenses so you can adapt to the situation at hand. Here are two resources that can help you when selecting a lens color:
Decot Lens Color Selector
Key takeaways when choosing shooting glasses:
- Avoid polarized lenses or lenses that reduce light transmission significantly
- Avoid frame designs that interfere with prone shooting
- Avoid designs that easily fog
- Avoid frame designs with thicker temples that are uncomfortable to wear underneath hearing protection
- Select lenses with an appropriate degree of ballistic protection. You can learn more about the various standards here
- When you get your prescription, be sure your ophthalmologist includes the Interpupillary distance. This is a critical measurement particularly for heavier prescriptions
- If you have a complicated prescription select a vendor who will actually spend time with you to address any concerns
Editor: Ed Mobley (firstname.lastname@example.org)