If you shoot or hunt, you must glass up. Not only for the obvious reasons of protection from bbs, bullets, steel or clay fragments, but also, especially if you hunt, you need protection from that early-morning hike into the timbers and the proverbial poke in the eye. Here is a checklist of what to look for in shooting and/or hunting eyewear, along with 10 suggestions.
Polycarbonate is the only eyewear material that is like a superhero, and can deflect bullets shot at it. The drawback of polycarbonate is that it is super sensitive to scratching. Also, you’ll want to make sure the lenses meet the ANSI Z87.1+ impact standard.
The minimum rating it Z87.1. For the military, the minimum requirements are MIL-PRF-31013. Note, there is a difference in rating systems for the military between goggles and spectacles. Pay attention to the UV-A/UV-B protection, which should be at least 99.9%. If you prefer polarized lenses, go for that option, too. Polarized lenses come in several colors and reduce glare. Photochromic lenses will darken automatically in sunlight situations. They often come in brown, gray or green.
Think about shooting your guns, especially if you’re shooting a long gun. You’ll probably be looking through the top part of the lens, and if there’s a wrap going on, or the lens is small, you may have problems. That’s why you see the enormous lenses that look like they’re a throwback from the 1980s on some pro shotgunners. You don’t want to see the frame at all when you’re looking down the barrel of a gun.
RX – Prescription Lenses
Because of the long gun situation, ask your optical shop to apply the prescription into your shooting glasses with a higher-than-usual optical center on the lens. Also, ask for proper tinting. There are several other options that involve having a separate smaller set or pair of prescription lenses that you combine with the shooting lenses. Rudy Project is one of the many reputable companies offering variations of RX options, including direct clips that fit behind the lenses, and flip-ups with removable optical inserts.
What is the proper tinting or lens color, you ask? Let’s get a bit technical here.
Under low light conditions, go for a clear lens (especially if you’re hunting) or a yellow lens, which absorbs blue light from overcast lighting.
Get a super anti-reflective coating (AR) because it allows 99% of the light through the lens, which means you won’t be reflecting back into nature a bunch of light and scaring off animals. This is especially important if you’re hunting from a blind or in the shadows of trees.
For clay sports, most pros opt for a light medium orange or Vermillion color, because it lessens the amount of light to the eye, and makes the orange on the clays pop. Some clay shooters think it enhances white clays, as well, making them easier to see.
If you want a sleek pair of Italian shooting glasses to match your shotgun, you might be interested in the AF899A glasses with 4 interchangeable anti-fog lenses that come in brown, yellow, red, and an interesting shade of violet. The violet is quite striking and different from most lens shades. Bertoni
Of course, you want a frame that fits your face, but it also must work with your earmuffs and not cause a headache after 20 minutes on the range.
Look for frames with spring hinges on the temple areas, to allow the frame flexion without breakage. Also, if you hunt, you won’t want any metallic or bright and shiny frames that will certainly draw attention to you in your camo.
Check the nose and ear pieces. In some frames, you can easily change the nosepiece, but it’s good to get comfort with the first fit, if possible. Be sure to try the frames on with lenses in them to make sure your fake or real eyelashes don’t brush the lenses every time you blink, because that gets really annoying really fast. Also, make sure that the frame and lens combo will protect you from side-flying impacts of cartridges or other debris.
I always carry a pair of fitover glasses made for shooting in my range bag, because I’m often on the range with new shooters and they often don’t have prescription shooting glasses. This type of eyewear allows a new shooter to see through their regular glasses, yet be safe.
It’s important to note here that regular eyewear does not protect a shooter from side-flying cartridge cases and they are not ANSI certified.
Fitovers must also be ANSI safety rated.
I know, it’s not particularly sexy nor Tom Cruise-ish looking at all. In fact, think of cataract glasses that your grandpa wears, but fitovers can save the day and make a new shooter’s experience so much better. Allen makes these over shooting and safety glasses that will work with shooting muffs because of the oversized temples. Comes in clear, mirror smoke or yellow lenses. Allen Company
Don’t Forget to Pack
Regardless of your eyewear choice, you should pack a cleaning cloth, small spray bottle of cleaning solution, and a small screwdriver kit with a few extra screws for eyewear in your range bag – just in case your glasses come apart. I keep it all in a separate pouch in my bag. Easy to get to if needed. Tape always works, too, for a quick fix on the range.
Here are a few more eye protection options to choose from
Another popular name in the shooting world of eyewear is ESS. It offers a ballistic eyeshield with no pressure points on the frames and fog-free lenses. The Crossbow line comes in two configurations, the 2X with smoke gray and clear lenses and the 3LS with clear, smoke gray and hi-def yellow lenses. ESS
Oakley Ballistic M Frame
Another option for tactical shooting glasses comes from Oakley. The Oakley SI Ballistic M Frame 2.0 features lenses made of Plutonite, which is a proprietary lens material offering ‘razor-sharp’ clarity from all angles in these wrap-style glasses. These are available in clear or gray lens options. Oakley
Revision Hellfly Ballistic Sunglasses
The ultimate in cool, Revision describes these sunglasses as ‘active duty protection with an off-duty twist.’ Built better than ballistic impact requirements for military and tactical operator protective eywear, the lenses are photochromic, meaning they adjust to variable light conditions – from clear to a darkened tint. Revision
Under Armour Windup Youth
What a way to set back a shooting lesson with a kid – put a big old pair of safety glasses that keep sliding down a nose and try to work with the shooting fundamentals in the meantime. Instead, treat a kid in your life to a pair of shooting glasses. These glasses from Under Armour are adjustable, and of course, comes with 100% UVA protection. Your kid will probably want to wear these off the range, too. Under Armour
Wiley X VAPOR
Wiley X offers a tactical line of shooting glasses made for law enforcement and military members, but available to the public. The line comes with options such as interchangeable lenses that exceed ANSI Z87.1-2010 and MIL-PRF-32432 (GL) standard. The Vapor model comes with smoke grey and clear lenses, and is compatible with its prescription lens carrier, sold separately. Wiley X