Looking at firearms in use, it is pretty evident that plenty of gas, unburned powder, and oil droplets are in the air. Add ejected cartridge cases from your firearm (and those of people around you), possible ricochets… and it’s a bit of a wonder that many shooters make it to old age with their vision intact. The relative infrequency of eye injuries comes from the widespread use of protective glasses.
Unfortunately, those of us who require corrective lenses have long faced an awkward dilemma—we could either wear prescription glasses or ballistic eye protection, but not both. Contact lenses plus shatterproof glasses provide a solution for some, but not everyone likes those. Fortunately, several companies have begun offering projectile-proof ballistic eyewear with lenses tailored to your specific prescription.
One such company is TacticalRx, which makes multiple styles. However, other popular brands such as Wiley X, ESS, Radians, and Oakley also now cater to the “visually challenged” shooter. Optical clarity from these new brands of ballistic prescriptions is superb. Photogray lenses will lighten or darken in response to the ambient light levels. Likewise, you can choose multiple levels of tint or colored lenses that match your conditions and shooting preferences. The more fashionable curved variants often work best in low strength prescriptions. At minus 5 diopters or so, the fishbowl effect at the edges becomes disconcerting for action, though it remains perfectly usable for precision shooting. The less curved variant works equally well for low- or high-strength prescriptions and adds side shields for better protection from casings bouncing off range lane dividers.
Contrast these offerings with the potential results of a debris strike to your glasses without the ballistic protection or glasses that do not cover the same amount of real estate. Some have made the argument that glasses don’t protect the rest of the face. While true, I do not see full face shields becoming a trend anytime soon. A scratch to a cheek or nose, or even a broken or chipped tooth is not in the same league as your eyes. Your eyes are by far the most vulnerable part of the face, and can be badly hurt by gas from suppressor blowback, fragments of bullet jackets or lead splash, or other relatively minor projectiles. With or without prescription lenses, these glasses are a worthwhile investment in personal safety, not to mention a good gift.
Which eye protection brand or model do you trust to protect your vision and why? Do you wear prescription lenses in your safety glasses? How has it affected your shooting? Share your answers in the comment section.