Saturday, October 17, 2009

For my New Readers - Can you See Clearly Now?

When you're at the range you need to see clearly. You also have to watch for things that can damage your eyes. Wind, sun and dust are always eye irritants. A piece of hot brass in the eye would be more than irritating. I used to hunt and hike without glasses until I got a piece of a tree branch poked in my eye while wrestling with a tree stand. A little cosmetic damage and a very painful injury to the cornea that came close to wrecking my eyesight.

Occasionally you'll see folks at the range who just wear their regular sunglasses or prescription glasses. Those are certainly better than nothing, and some of the wrap around ones and larger styles I've seen have nearly the same coverage area as glasses designed for shooters. But if you shoot with sunglasses or other glasses that barely cover the eye itself, or due to improper fit, they hang down on your nose, you risk a hot round going where you don't want it. I've done the "hot brass in the bra" dance before. Getting that near the eye would be no fun.

Experienced shooters have learned what works for them. This post is geared for those who are new to shooting, just picking out a pair. Why? Because there are 35+ different brands on the market today, and each brand has many models. That's why I wear pretty much the same thing to work every day. I really don't want to spend an hour picking out what to wear. And shopping for me is the same thing. I research it online, talk to people who know what is good, then make a beeline to the store, grab what I need and get out. In and out in 10 minutes is my goal, with as much loot as I need for the month in that time. I learned my shopping techniques from past generations of Vikings on my grandma's side.

There are some questions you should ask. Clear? Tinted? Prescription or something to go over your glasses? Interchangeable lenses? Lawnmower Pale Ale or IPA (sorry. . wrong question).

And what the heck is an "impact resistance rating?"

Actually, it's one of the most important considerations you should have. Color, fit and style, and protection are all important, but it doesn't matter if the glasses themselves won't protect the eyes. Impact resistance ratings are generally standardized through agencies or organizations such as Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OHSA), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the U.S. Military. These standardized rating provide the minimum recommended impact resistance for safety based lens. Here is the rating information from each group if any of you are into such bits of information:
  • OHSA Safety Standard 1910.133(a)(2) requires impact resistant lens AND "eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects."
  • ANSI standards for impact resistance are outlined in article Z87.1 and Z87.3. These standards were provided to ANSI by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and specifically focus on eye safety.
  • U.S. Military - The U.S. Military uses a testing standard called MIL-V-43511C, which is a .22 caliber ballistics impact test. U.S. Military eyewear must pass this standard before being issued to any U.S. military personnel.
I can't say that I've always shot with glasses that met those specs. One or two of the "rental" glasses at indoor ranges were dubious at best. But if I had to buy a pair I'd make sure they met one of these standards.

Color. Look, it's not a fashion show. You don't need to coordinate your eyewear to your outfit, though I've seen that. But I don't have a pink gun either. The colors of the lens are more than fashion, they actually impact how you view your range. If you click on this picture you can see it larger. Here's the difference between clear and yellow on a winter day. The glasses used are those pictured down below.

  • Gray, Gray-Green, and "smoke" tints. These tend to be the most abundant colors, effective at blocking glare without changing your color perception, which makes them a good "all weather" choice. If you're going to have just one pair, this might be your favorite color. Grey is a neutral that allows the wearer to see colors just as they are. They don't enhance the target but they are good in bright sunlight. I shoot almost always outdoors and this color works well there.
  • Amber-Brown lens tints. These are especially good at blocking the blue light commonly found in diffused light such as one might find on a cloudy day. Amber improve both contrast and depth perception.
  • Yellow or Orange tints. These colors give you a sensation of heightened visual acuity. They are common as driving lenses. Lenses in these hues block haze and blue light and will enhance the orange color of the target. If you're shooting at night, the bright yellow tint may also be useful.
  • Purple-"Vermillion" tints. Sorry manufacturers, you can call it vermililon until the cows come home and it's still "pink". However, this color range WILL enhance the orange of the target against a background of tall trees. "Vermillion" itself is useful to highlight conditions where there is a poor background, such as trees, and to enhance the target against that background. One of those love or hate tints, you might like them or find they take some time getting comfortable with.
Then there is just clear. I have those. I shoot at a range that's outdoors but mostly covered and they work just fine.

There are also glasses with interchangeable lens. I haven't tried them so can't offer any advise as to how well they hold up, but they are increasing in popularity in sales.

Just one important note: Tint doesn't necessarily mean UV protection
. A darker lens doesn't guarantee more protection for the eye from the sun. There are three types of UV rays (I'm a very very fair skin redhead, I know my UV rays).

UVC - The atmosphere filters UV-C, not a real concern.
UVA - The cause of sun related drug reactions.
UVB - This type of UV is responsible for sunburn, prolonged eye damage, and many forms of skin cancers. It can penetrate thin cloud layers and up to three feet of water. This is the one that will do the greatest damage to eyes. Just like to the skin, the damage may not be obvious, but may be cumulative.

You will want a pair of shooting glasses that absorb at least 99% of UV radiation. You'll see that noted on the packaging with something like this:

"Meets ANSI UV requirements!"
"Blocks 99% or 100% of UV rays"
""UV absorption up to 400nm"
"Improved - Now with BACON!" (OK, wishful thinking)

Don't rely on the tint of the lens, Any good Polycarbonate lens will block or absorb UV rays well, even in the clear form.

That goes to the next question: What TYPE of lens material? The previously mentioned Polycarbonate is one of those types that is usually recommended by professionals.It has a higher impact rating than Crown Glass and is MUCH lighter. It also has a higher impact resistance rating than CR39 plastic with no appreciable trade off in weight. Crown Glass and CR 39 Plastic offer little or no UV protection.

I wear glasses at work. I have clear disposable contacts for days off, but I understand the expense and trouble of getting prescription glasses that are custom in nature. Not all manufacturers of shooting glasses can be made with prescription lenses. There go some of your choices there. The brands that do have designs that will accept a prescription lens tend to be on the high side of the pricing levels so you will end up paying more for the frame. It may well be a VERY good frame, but it's still more expensive. Most prescription shooting classes have to be custom made by an optometrist or other eye care professional. So you may pay not just more for the frame, but the custom making. Another consideration - most of the prescription lenses are not made from the Polycarbonate, but from the cheaper CP39 plastic. So you are paying top dollar for what might not have been your first lens material choice and you may take a hit on UV protection, depending on how they are made.

These glasses may end up costing as much as that first spouse. Is it worth it?

For myself, I'd consider it
if I could not wear contacts and had to fit my shooting glasses over my prescription glasses. I was just never comfortable shooting with a large pair of shooting glasses over my prescription glasses. But there are other, less expensive, options. It's a relatively new concept called "prescription inserts." Basically they are prescription lenses that are designed to mount inside of the glasses between the eyes and the glasses lens. They look something like this:

It's a pretty new concept and if any of you have tried them ,please let us know. ESS Shooting Glasses (pictured) came recommended though I haven't tried them myself. as I weaer my contacts when I shoot. They are about a third of the cost of a Oakley prescription set up (one brand that I have used and was quite pleased with, though the price was a bit much). For more detailed information on shooting glasses and this type go to: .

Lastly - look for "fit". It's vital the lens adequately cover enough of the eye area to provide proper protection. This is especially important for the side areas of the eye. Look for shooting glasses with lenses that wrap around past the sides of the eye for complete coverage. The frame material should be something lightweight, which will make a noticeable difference in their comfort. There's plastic, aluminum, titanium. Whatever they're made of, look for adjustable frames or flexible temples, so you can fine tune your glasses to your face. Flexible temples can allow you to wrap around your ear in a "cable" style to help keep the frame in place and the tips of the temples may feature little rounded ends for even greater comfort. Nose pads are nice so the glasses rest comfortably.

So you're saying "that's all well and good Brigid but I don't want to spend $50 or more on shooting glasses." There are other options.

I'm sure there are many that will disagree, but most (not all) safety glasses also make decent shooting glasses. There are some good UV protected safety glasses with high impact resistance available for a quarter of the price of some big name shooting glasses. I have a couple pairs of them as "spares" for shooting with a house guest with no gear, or just to have as a back up. They're cheap, they do the job well and they do demonstrate that not all safety glasses are chintzy. A pry bar was taken to this old pair (the neighbors are watching. . . better wave, they've been looking at me funny since I dropped the bodily fluid clean up kit by the mailbox). WHACK! WHACK! The lens remains intact. Damaged, but not cracked. These guys were TOUGH.

Smith and Wesson makes a good pair of safety glasses/shooting glasses. Less than one ounce, polycarbonate, wraparound lenses and 99.9% UV protection. Hinge stops, temple tips and nose piece, platinum frames. The glasses exceed ANSI Z87.1 performance standards. Less than $18. There are others of the same quality for less and I'm sure the readers will appreciate your suggestions in the comments.

As I've always said. Do your homework, watch and ask. What works for one shooter may not be your favorite. Just protect your eyes. For night or day, sometimes things go flying around.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'll just say "What is your eye sight" worth? Get the best eye protection you can find period.
    Hard to shoot if you are blind.

    See Ya

  3. I use the ESS glasses with the prescription insert.

    I think they're the cat's pajamas. Relatively light. Capable of doing bifocals (which I have) with the line set wherever you'd like. The frames are comfortable. You're looking not just through the prescription lenses but also the protective lenses, but there's no more distortion than with my everyday glasses. Despite the funky shape of the insert lenses, they cover nearly my entire field of vision.

    They fit close to the brow line - good, since other glasses sometimes leave a gap that brass can squeak through. Wear a cap with a brim to prevent that, regardless of what glasses you use. Brass is sneaky and will head for that gap every time, and I don't want to contemplate hot brass caught between my glasses and my eyelid/cornea.

    The other nice thing is that the temple part of the frame is *thin*. Unlike some glasses, they're thin enough that they don't mess up the seal of your ear protection. The earpieces can be adjusted for length and bent to suit both your head shape and preference for hook around the ear. My glasses came with a strap that snaps into recesses in the earpieces and can run behind your head to keep the glasses on, if you like such things.

    The set I bought came with three different 'lenses' - clear, some neutral tint, and yellow/amber. I use the clear set, and have no idea of the UV protection offered by these glasses. Not saying they aren't good (I suspect they are) just that I don't know.

  4. IdahoBob - you and one other reader just left me comments on this post and I also had a Spam one and I accidentally deleted all three. SORRY. If you folks can recall what it was, would you mind re-commenting.

  5. I have a strong prescription. Do you know of any other companies (other than ESS) that have the insert option? Bub

  6. This post brought to mind reading on another site where a Border Patrol agent found an illegal alien who managed to spear his eye with a manzanita branch while crossing through the desert at night. I too have tried all manner of shooting glasses, but have pretty much settled on cheap AO safety glasses--rugged, fairly scratch resistant and most of all, cheap! Leaves more money for ammo at the shoot and brews and brats afterward, yanno!

    LOL at "the hot bra dance"--closed collar shirts only at the range. Don't ask me how I know this. ;-)

  7. No problem, Brigid.

    Wiley X for me.

    As for those green eyes.....OHMYGOSH!!!!

    Be still my heart.


  8. The boat manufacture that I work for has good vision insurance. I order prescription safety lens for my everyday glasses at very little cost so no switching glasses for different activities like shooting, motorcycling or the most dangerous thing, reading at the dinner table.

  9. I had an equivalent to your "hot brass" incident. Mine occurred during and IDPA match. I was shooting around the left side of a barricade when a .45 brass bounced off the barricade and landed between my eye and glasses lens. I received a burned eyelid and a lesson.

    I still shoot with prescription glasses, but the lens are larger and fitted to have only a small gap betwixt eyebrow and lens.

    I have a pair of prescription sunglasses with polarized lens. They have the usual UV coating as well, but folks need to remember that UV filters wear off. Few last more than a year. The more frequent you wash your glasses, the quicker the UV coating wears.

    BTW, Mrs Crucis and I won't be able to come to the October blogmeet. She had a commitment come up that we can't reschedule. We'll try again sometime after next Spring.

  10. "Improved - Now with BACON!"


    This product is responsible for coffee-spewing mishaps across North America ... okay, at least one in Alaska.

    WV: blatron = low-quality food additive and automotive horn lubricant

  11. Any other companies (other than ESS) offer prescription inserts? I have a strong prescription and the wrap around lenses just won't work for me. Bub

  12. An excellent primer for the new shooter, and linked to today at The Liberty Sphere.

  13. I can't remember the brand name, but I have had a pair of well fitting wraparound amber shooting glasses for years. Not only do I use them for shooting, I use them when doing yard work, working with power tools outdoors, and just as all around sunglasses. I've been happy about just using them as sunglasses when a high wind started blowing.

    Also, if your prescription permits it, I recommend getting your glasses cut to safety thickness. This has protected my eyes also.

  14. I have several different types, including some industrial safety glasses and couple pair of clear, aviators that I bought years ago from Dillon's Blue Press. I recall they were advertised as milspec.

    On another topic, can you tell us a little about your marvelous photography? Your artistry does a double whammy, with a camera as well as words.

  15. We old-fashioned wheelgun types usually don't have to worry about flying brass ... at least our own. Still ... it only makes sense to wear eye protection ... just as we wear ear protection.

    I used to have an ex-South African optometrist ... who was very accommodating in selecting and fitting spectacles for me. Even my everyday ones were perfectly acceptable for the indoor range I tended to use ... especially in the weight department.

    Damn good educational article, Brigid. Thanks from all of us.


  16. Good post and sound advice for us all, not just the newbies.

  17. I use Pyramex Safety Glasses, I think I found them at (is it a faux pas for me to throw a website in here?) for like a buck last year. They've stopped everything from brass to an air hammer. They meet ANSI standards and still aren't as nerdy as my chemistry glasses from college.

  18. Those eyes are worth protecting..
    I AGREE COMPLETELY. Ny opthomologist have my glasses cut to meet ANSI standards for shooting;efiniely worth the small additional cost. KE5LDO

  19. Before my daughter fired her first shot, actually when she was still knee-high and tagging along to the range and hunting site, I bought her shooting glasses and hearing protection. Make her wear them around power tools too!

  20. Good info, I'll need to get the new shooters I've been taking to the range to read this before they buy. I've only got one good pair of non-Rx glasses to loan.

  21. It's nice to get all the information about the ESS system. I'm really nearsighted. My regular glasses have pretty thick lenses, even with the new technology to slim them. People at work probably wouldn't recognize me without my glasses on.

    Jefiner - yes I see some gals shooting with tank tops and they never seem to get hit. I unbutton one button and WHAM!

    idahobob - thanks,

    Welshman - thanks as well, you always have a great collection of articles highlighted each week. I'm honored to be on there.

    Crucis - sorry I'll miss you too. Next time. I'll keep the light on for you.

    George - I'm very fond of the wheel gun myself. :-)

    Bruce - thanks. A bunch of the usual range bunch is out sick. I had it earlier in the week, but it only took me out for about 2 days. Others have been down a week with the Swiney variety.

    Clark - photography is a pretty new hobby for me. I watched friends take pictures (some of which they let me use on the blog) and I practiced. For each good one, trust me there's 10 with bad shadows or eyes closed. But I'm really enjoying it. It's just a simple digital camera with a few setting for distance and light. Mostly it's just about capturing the right light to get the colors and depth you want.

  22. What a timely posting. I just spent the morning at the range with hot brass bouncing off my baseball cap. I've been getting by with just my prescription lenses on, but this reminded me that I need serious eye protection. Ordered the ESS today.

  23. ESS is a very good value. If your 'scrip is 7 or better, you have to go with the big black plastic lens frames, which are ugly.

    I have those. I am blind. :)

    Otherwise, wire rims are available for the less blind among us, which I 'spose aren't quite as noticeable.

    Vermillion colored lenses are great for trap/skeet/sporting clays when the clays are orange domed. Yellow makes good all-around lenses, particularly on less than bright days.

    Lavender/purple is good for orange bluerock targets too.

    Good article as usual kiddo.

  24. In addition to the ESS brand I've also worn the prescription Sawfly glasses. I'm still searching for the perfect prescription shooting eyewear. Wearing a brimmed hat can cause condensation on the inside of the glasses. I have never been happy with swapping the colored inserts. In desert environments, dust can get trapped between the inserts and the polycarbonate. Also with inserts the glasses center of gravity is shifted forward.

    I am impressed with the damage that these glasses can take.

  25. Actually both Crown Glass and Boro-silicate glass offer very GOOD UV protection.

    I know, I've run both through our spectrometer before.

    I usually recommend glass lenses for someone with a prescription of -4 or less. The optical quality of plastic simply can't be matched by glass. Your eye doc should be able to correct you to at least 20/15. If he stops at 20/20 he's not doing his job right.

    Over -4 correction and polycarb is definitely the way to go, simply due to weight. Same for zero prescription shooting glasses. If you don't wear them all day long, get polycarb.

    Another thing about prescription glasses is that if you are old enough to wear bifocals, you need to understand that bifocals are designed to give a close focus of 16".

    I always tell our pilots (Majors and Lt.Col) to measure the distance to their main instruments (HSI and ADI) and have the eyedoc set their bifocal perscription to that distance. The same goes for shooting, you can have the eyedoc set the prescription to your front sight. This should be about half a dippter more minus than your standard bifocal.

  26. Only you could make something as boring as safety glasses entertaining.

  27. OSHA rated Uvex. The lens are replaceable. I have both clear and dark tinted for the sun. It's BRIGHT here in Lake Havasu. I use them for work, in the shop, and shooting. The frames are adjustable and they aren't too bulky. I had a composite blade on a metal cutoff saw explode and a chunk about 2 inches across hit me dead center in the right eye and the glasses were just scratched. Scared but unscathed. steve

  28. spelling note - on yellow tints, not "tjhey"

    Having done the bra-catcher dance (unfortunately from welding spatter), I am very careful to button and zip up tightly - but not always as careful of my eyes as I should be. Thank you for the review and reminder!

    When I couldn't get my glasses to fit under the safety glasses, hating contacts, I switched to safety glasses and a scope on the rifle. Now that I'm working on handgun skills and the target is at the fuzzy edge of "did I hit it?" range, time to look at the prescription options.

  29. "Improved - Now with BACON!"

    Not just America that caused coffee snorting accidents! At least one to report to the East of the Atlantic!
    Good post and something I don't think can be stressed enough, you've only got one set of eyes and while they can take alot (just think of all the everyday dust and dirt that gets in them) a lump of high speed, hot brass is going to to some serious harm!
    As for CR39 plastic, very good for detecting alpha particle radiation but rather brittle! As you say not good as shooting safety specs.

  30. Oh and interchangable lenses seem to work fine, there is a set of these in my range bag (just happens the website linked above came up first when I google for the specs, may be cheaper elsewhere) and they are my favorites, don't exactly cost alot at $27, in fact work out cheaper than those safety specs you mention if you wanted more than one colour (though it cost me the same in £ as that site charges in $).
    They are good and comfy to wear all day, easy to adjust for fit, have already survived dozens if not hundreds of lens changes and meet the ANSI safety standard. Maybe not the most most high tec and trendy but certainly do the job.
    Different colours certainly do give different effects and some work better than others on any particular day given the light conditions, amber or clear tends to be my favorite but I guess everyone will differ on that

  31. Great article! I buy safety glasses from the local safety/industrial supply store. They have good coverage, UV protection, meet safety standards and are cheap enough to keep several pairs in my gear. I use them for sunglasses as well, since the probability of me losing them increases exponentially with the cost.


  32. I'm going to have to check out the ESS glasses. I shoot IDPA and wear bifocals, and have the problem of straining my neck back far enough so I can see the front sight through the bifocal segment. So, I've been using OPTX 20/20 stick-on lenses on just the dominant eye, which seem to work just fine, and they're inexpensive to try. I'll be using them at the Indiana State IDPA match later this month.

  33. great post, protecting your eyes is right up there with hearing protection, that is one of the reasons why i have my normal perscription glasses (meet ANSI/MilSPEC) and my shooting glasses (wraparound with light gray tint (also meet ANSI/MilSpec)). I will never understand people that cheap out on either hearing protection or eye protection. Your ears and your Eyes are the only ones you will ever have(for now)!

  34. Brigid,
    Thanks for the reminder. I have been shooting a lot lately, and often forget about eye protection.
    I use shop safety glasses.

  35. And to bang my drum, not just the shooty sports kids:

    I know a duck carver who got a tiny piece of tungsten carbide burr lodged in his safety glasses from a burr turning about about 20,000 rpm. Hot, fast, did a nice job on the glasses, the _other_ shard hit him in the hand and required surgery to extract from inside his thumb joint.

    Same guy has a lathe operator buddy - does wooden bowls - got the tool caught inthe works and it flipped out, gouged the glasses, and gave a nice deep 1" cut to the bone on his forehead.

    Neither one will touch a tool without glasses on these days.and anyone in the room gets a pair too.

    Even hand tools.

  36. Thank you for this post. My husband is in law enforcement and we shoot a lot, I never gave much thought into the eye wear I am using... other than I do need it, but not on a more educated level. I will be looking for something new asap! :) Have a great day!

  37. Funny thing-the military has a standard for eyewear, but they don't use it. We use Z87 as the standard.

    Personally, I use Oakleys-one of their models with three sets of interchangeable lenses. Also, you can send your proscription to them, and they will make you a set however you need.

  38. Congrats on another intelligent post. I keep forgetting your an egghead till you do the techie posts. Those green eyes though, ohhh my goodness. I used to use prescrition glasses till i lasicks out. now im pretty much spot on with you on what you said. Since the mark of brilliance is whether or not someone agrees with you, your a genius.

  39. I was present at the Lee Kay range in Salt Lake for a bolster failure in a .54 caliber muzzle loader.

    They still keep a picture of the gentleman's UVEX wraparounds with the quarter-sized star centered in the right lens, clearly visible through the soot that covered the glasses (and the entire face of the victim) like flat black auto primer.

    The bolster wasn't found that day, but the tang was briefly embedded in his forehead until he knocked it out in the process of collapsing backwards from the bench.

    He would have been dead, not just blind, with that bolster cruising into his forebrain through the orbit of the his right eye. Without wraparounds with minimal clearance, he could have been blind.

    That's the last day I wore my polycarbonate lens streets for shooting. I now have a set of milspec shades that work paid part of, and ALWAYS carry two pairs of welder's OSHA -rated "over the glasses" goggles in case I have guests or it is too dark to use my milspecs.

  40. Great informative post. When I was a kid, someone told me the "yeller" glasses were to lessen the affect of the muzzle flash. I always wondered if that were true or not.

  41. You never fail to cover the overlooked basics, but true necessities for old and new alike.

    Thanks for you care to such matters... I can't even casually garden safely without specs protecting, let alone fire off a few shots!

    And hope you're feeling better now and that Barkley is back in full Fall swing!

  42. For fashion it's my Ray Ban Original Wayfarers! The original cool! (I need all the help I can get) LOL

    For serious rescue work and shooting it's my Wiley-X XL-1 prescription light adjusting!

    The XL-1's are mil spec and are a true goggle but look like regular sunglasses. Great for bikers as they have a gasket around lenses and a military favorite in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  43. we buy from this company, 64 pages of safety glasses, most are 5 dollars or so, cheap enough to buy several and keep around....

    I buy these by the dozen, and for 4 bucks a pair, I am not reticent to toss scratched or worn ones.


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..