All shooters require eye protection, whether at the range or in the field. The majority of shooting activities take place in close proximity to the face. The possibility of ricochets, flying objects (ejecting shells, etc.), wind, sun, and dust, make it vital to wear eye protection. Although everyday sunglasses are better than nothing, there are protective glasses specifically designed for shooting activities.
When searching for a quality pair of shooting glasses, evaluate the following components:
For shooting applications, polycarbonate is the best lens material available on the market today. Polycarbonate is a type of LEXAN® from G.E., the same material used for bullet-resistant glass in automobiles. A diamond-grinding wheel must first be used to cut the lens then the material is melted and force-injected into a mold to form the lens itself. Compared to other materials used to make lenses in today’s market, polycarbonate lenses are lighter, more durable, more impact-resistant, and more scratch-resistant. Many law enforcement and fire agencies are making polycarbonate lenses standard issue on all protective eyewear.
Lens Impact Resistance
In light of the application, lens impact resistance is the most important feature to consider. Impact resistance ratings are standardized through organizations like Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the U.S. military. These standardized ratings provide the minimum recommended impact resistance for safety-based lens.
Some rating information from each group:
The safest choice for shooting glasses is to select those with lenses that meet or exceed all three standards.
Lens UV protection
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the low frequency light waves produced by the sun. There are three forms of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. The atmosphere filters UV-C, so it is not a real concern, however, UVB is responsible for sunburn, prolonged eye damage, and some forms of skin cancer. It can penetrate thin cloud layers and up to three feet of water. UVA is the cause of sun-related drug reactions.
To provide adequate protection, choose shooting glasses that absorb at least 99% of UV radiation. Look for one of the following labels: "Blocks 99% or 100% of UV rays," "UV absorption up to 400nm," or "meets ANSI UV requirements." It should be noted that even clear polycarbonate lenses will block or absorb UV rays, so the tint of a lens will be insignificant in terms of protection.
The lenses of your shooting glasses should adequately cover enough of the eye area to provide proper protection (see OSHA standard above). This is especially important for the side areas of the eye. Look for lenses that wrap around, past the sides of the eye for complete coverage.
Lenses come in a wide range of colors, from dark gray or smoke to amber to purple.
Many shooting glasses manufacturers offer glasses with interchangeable polycarbonate lenses. Some offer glasses packages that come with a set of three different colored lenses, a valuable option when shooting in a variety of lighting and atmospheric conditions.
Frames that are constructed of a lightweight material like plastic, aluminum, or titanium receive high marks for comfort, especially after long periods of wear.
Adjustable frames or flexible temples allow additional fitting adjustments for added comfort. Flexible temples may also wrap around the ear in the "cable" style to help keep the frame in place, and the tips of the temples may feature little rounded ends, or "balls," to enhance comfort.
Nose pads are best when adjustable so that the frame rests in the optimum position. Nose pads should be made of soft silicone material for maximum comfort.
Quality shooting glasses can be made with prescription (sometimes called RX) lenses to suit most shooters’ needs. Lenses can also be configured for bi-focal views. It is important to realize that these lenses must be custom-made by an eye care professional.
Brands and pricing
Shooting glasses will range from $30 to $200 for non-prescription lenses, and $200 to $450 for prescription lens glasses.
Eye Safety Systems (ESS) is one manufacturer that produces high-quality, well-priced shooting glasses. ESS products have been adopted as the standard combat eyewear issued by all branches of the U.S. military. For consumer use, the ESS Interchangeable Component Eyeshield (ICE) product is a package containing frames, three lenses, and a carrying case. If you need prescription lenses, you can purchase an optional RX carrier. Simply take the RX carrier to your eye care professional, have them insert your lenses into the carrier, and then snap the carrier into the ESS ICE frame. For more information on ESS shooting glasses, please visit: ESS ICE Shooting Glasses