An experienced shooter can tell you about the importance of wearing quality shooting glasses or shooting goggles any time you're handling a firearm. Whether you're at the shooting range, hunting, or on the battlefield you're going to want to be sure you have proper eye protection. In recent years it has also become common for eye injuries to occur when playing paintball. Make sure to consider what you're doing when selecting your shooting glasses. Do you need side protection? Might bullets, shrapnel or paintballs be flying toward you from multiple angles? How bright will the conditions be? Are you wearing a helmet or night vision device that your shooting goggles will need to accommodate?
And remember to consider worst case scenarios. A pierced primer may shoot debris back at your eye from your slide or receiver. Without the proper safety eyewear for shooting you may soon be sporting an eye patch. If you don't want wear protective eyewear, remember that an eye patch only looks cool on pirates.
In addition to spent brass, shrapnel and other airborne hazards you may also have to contend with dust, dirt and other small particles that can cloud your vision. If you are temporarily blinded by dust you become not only a danger to yourself, but also those around you. Keeping your eyes clear and protected is an essential part of gun safety and should never be neglected.
How to Choose Shooting Glasses and Shooting Goggles
- Shooting Goggles Vs. Shooting Glasses
- Shooting Eyewear Lenses
- Shooting Eyewear Frames
Shooting Goggles Vs. Shooting Glasses
There is always a tradeoff between various types of protection. Shooters prefer shooting glasses for their look and lighter weight. While many protective glasses are adequate for the shooting range or hunting, they don't provide the same level of defense against projectiles that a quality pair of shooting goggles will. When choosing shooting eyewear, remember that while goggles are heavier, bulkier and more prone to fogging, your eyes have greater all-around protection. With a quality seal, your eyes won't be vulnerable from the bottom or sides in the same way as with shooting glasses.
Bottom and side protection is especially important if you're going to enjoy some paintballing, as shots can and will come from all directions. Even at the range it's a good idea to have extra side protection, as it may not be your gun that malfunctions. While you know your firearm's condition, you don't know if the guy next to you takes the same care cleaning and maintaining his rifle.
Shooting glasses are lightweight, comfortable and stylish, but shooting goggles give much more protection and are a better choice in situations where projectiles might come at you from the side.
Back To Top
Shooting Eyewear Lenses
- Material - Lenses for shooting eyewear are most commonly made of polycarbonate, which is a thermoplastic polymer that is both strong and light. Polycarbonate is not particularly expensive and can be made very tough. This is extremely important for shooting glasses. There are three different ratings you might see regarding safety glasses and goggles: ANSI, OSHA and Military.
- A. The most common rating is ANSI, which stands for the American National Standards Institute. ANSI Z87.1 and Z87.3 outline the minimum requirements for impact resistance that safety glasses should have. You should never choose shooting glasses that do not AT LEAST meet the requirements for ANSI Z87.1.
- B. OHSA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and their standards include impact resistance as well as side protection, so you'll have a fuller level of protection with shooting goggles that meet OHSA standards.
- C. The most rigorous standard has been set forth by the US Military. For ballistic glasses it is the MIL-PRF-31013 Impact Test, and for goggles it is the MIL-DTL-43511D. These tests involve firing either .15 caliber or .22 caliber bullets into the lens to test lens strength and retention. If your shooting glasses or goggles adhere to military specifications you should have the proper amount of protection for almost any activity.
- Color - Many Shooting glasses and goggles come with interchangeable lenses, so you can switch to the best color for the conditions. You'll generally want to avoid extreme colors, as the darker the lens, the less light will be transmitted, and you won't see as much detail through your scope. Make sure to have a clear set, as they'll give maximum light transmission. You didn't spend all that money on a top quality riflescope with advanced lens coatings and a huge objective lens just to lose that light to your glasses! The most common lens colors for shooting glasses are:
- A. Smoke/Gray - Effective at blocking glare without altering color perception. Good neutral choice.
- B. Amber/Brown - Good for cloudy days, Amber enhances contrast and depth perception. Another good all-around choice.
- C. Yellow/Orange - Improved Contrast. Driving glasses are usually yellowish brown. Brighter yellow is good for higher contrast in low light situations.
- D. Purple/Vermillion - You'll see an orange target better with purple lenses, especially if you have a bad background. Reduced glare. You should definitely practice with purple lenses before a competition, as they offer a different experience than traditional lenses.
- Lens Size - Take a look at the various shooting goggles and glasses. Shooting glasses will generally maintain your peripheral vision better than goggles, though more and more goggles are incorporating larger lenses to prevent obstructing your view. With a larger lens the thick frame on goggles will be pushed further from your eyes. A wider field-of-view (FOV) will increase your situational awareness without sacrificing protection. For a big lens and unobstructed view check out the Revision Desert Locust Military Goggles. They have fantastic lenses that are large enough to keep the frame away from your eyes.
- Lens Quality - Just like your scope, the quality of the lenses in your eyewear will greatly affect their performance. You'll want a flawless lens so there's no distortion. An astigmatic effect will cause blurriness on the top and sides of the glass. This distortion can make it difficult to quickly acquire targets. A prism effect can also occur with bad lenses, and this will cause you to see a target off-center, which will cause serious accuracy issues at longer ranges. Make sure to invest in high quality goggles or glasses so you have better lenses and a perfect image.
- Additional Features/Considerations - Shooting glasses and goggles can come with many of the same features as regular eyewear, with polarized, photochromic and mirrored lenses, as well as lens coatings such as anti-reflective coatings and UV blockers. Polarized lenses minimize light transmission, which is great for sunglasses if you're out in a boat, but can limit your ability to shoot, especially if you're a precision shooter at long range.
- A. UV Blocking - Most Shooting Glasses and Goggles have a high degree of UV protection, but it's always a good idea to double check. Shooting glasses are all about eye safety, and you want to protect your eyes from all hazards, including the invisible ones.
- B. Thermal Lenses - Thermal lenses are a great feature on many shooting goggles today. A thermal lens actually has two lenses, one next to the other, to add a layer of insulation between the lens next to your warm face and the lens to the cold outside air. This helps minimize fog in you goggles. As an alternative you can use an anti-fog system, such as the Bausch & Lomb FogShield, which helps reduce fogging in skiing and snowboarding goggles as well as shooting goggles. These anti-fog systems need to be reapplied though, so a thermal lens is a more consistent choice.
- C. Lens Cleaners - Whether you're at the range, out hunting or on the battlefield, your glasses or goggles will get dirty. As this is unavoidable, it's smart to bring along a good lens cleaner. Zeiss makes great lens cleaning tissues. Zeiss Lens Cleaner Pre-Moistened Tissues come in packages with 21 tissues individually wrapped, so you can bring a few along to quickly and easily remove smudges, fingerprints and dirt.
Back To Top
Shooting Eyewear Frames
- A. Material - Lightweight and strong are the name of the game when it comes to frames. Tough polycarbonates or plastics are used in a number of different goggles and glasses, although you will see metal frames in many aviator-style shooting glasses. Be aware that in direct sunlight a metal frame will heat up, and may not be as comfortable against the skin as frames made from a plastic. Another side benefit for some plastic and polycarbonate frames is their flexibility. Not only will the give in a flexible frame enhance their ability to absorb shock, but they also provide a snugger and more comfortable fit.
- B. Coverage - A larger pair of goggles or sunglasses will cover more of your face, and extend the protected area beyond your eyes. Your eyes aren't the only vulnerable part of your face, so combining a good pair of goggles with a helmet will give you a great deal of protection. Coverage goes back to the difference between goggles and glasses, with the tradeoff of comfort and style with a pair of glasses for greater protection with goggles. When comparing different goggles, check how much of your face is covered and how large the lenses are. If you have big enough lenses and a wide frame you will have optimal protection and FOV.
- C. Fit - Always make sure the shooting glasses or goggles you pick fit correctly. On goggles, adjust the strap for comfort and check that you have a proper seal. If you constantly have to readjust your glasses you won't perform at your best. It is really frustrating to miss a shot because you're pushing your glasses up, and no matter how good your eyewear protection, if it falls off your face it won't be providing any protection. Be sure to also consider if your ballistic goggles will need to accommodate a helmet, hearing protection or any other headgear that might get in the way of a proper fit, so choose a model designed with helmets or ear muffs in mind so you don't have to make adjustments later.
- D. Ventilation - As shooting glasses are open on the sides and bottom, you don't need to worry about ventilation, but if you're using goggles you might want to look into a fan ventilation system to minimize fogging. While thermal lenses and anti-fog lens solutions such as the fantastic Nikon Fog Eliminator will help reduce the effect of fog, a proper ventilation system keeps your lenses clear regardless of the situation. Many ventilation systems today have a small fan that draws humid air out the top of the goggle and cool, dry air up through the bottom. Filters on the ventilation system prevent dust and dirt from entering the goggle, so your eyes will be clear of any contaminants and you'll have a great view. Check out the ESS Profile TurboFan Tactical Goggles for a quality shooting goggle with a fan. It runs on a single AA battery, and lasts for 50 hours on a single battery at the lowest settings. The cool air drawn into the goggle will keep you comfortable and fog free for hours and hours.
Back To Top