Updated: Jun 22
Whenever we are using firearms for recreation or training safety is a paramount consideration. A key aspect of safety is making sure we have adequate protection for our eyes, which can be irreparably damaged by careless exposure to common hazards on the range. Spalling and fragmentation can rebound off of targets, faulty ammunition can detonate channeling gases and debris back toward the shooter, even catastrophic failure of firearms occurs more often than you think. To guard against these eventualities we need glasses or goggles that are purpose built to protect against debris traveling at high speeds. That typically means they are made from composite materials rather than glass. The best way to ensure your glasses are made out of the correct materials is to look for a product that meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 standard. Glasses should also be of a “wrap around” design that provides adequate coverage from both the bottom and sides. Some trendy sunglasses are ANSI Z87.1 compliant but don’t necessarily provide the requisite coverage.
There are a few particulars that I look for when selecting eye pro. I prefer a frame design that runs only along the top of the lenses and not along the sides or bottom. This offers me the widest possible field of view and doesn’t interfere with my peripheral vision when doing things like clearing buildings. I have also found that open bottom designs tend to fog up less. Another feature I look for is temple and ear piece designs that are very thin. This enhances comfort when wearing the glasses under ear protection for long periods of time. Some brands that I have specifically had great luck with are ESS, Revision, and Oakley.
While eye pro comes in a wide variety of lenses colors (such as yellow or red) that have been used in various shooting disciplines for decades, I prefer to stick to dark tinted (for bright outdoor conditions) or clear lenses (for everything else). I think they most closely replicate the conditions we are likely to use our firearms in defensively and prevent over reliance on specially colored lenses for picking up our sights or targets. There are some photo sensitive transitional offerings that are promising for range use, but that I haven’t had a chance to test any. That being said, I don’t think transitional lenses are a good idea for duty or operational use. I haven’t seen any to date that change quickly enough to not leave you blind when going from outdoors to indoors during an entry or pursuit.
Keep in mind that eye-pro is an expendable item. It’s going to get scratched up over time and need replacement. There is no need to struggle on with glasses you can barely see through. It will have a negative impact on your shooting. Every year or so I buy fresh eye pro (usually of the same design and manufacture) and rotate the old set to use in the garage or yard.
Ultimately, you have to find eye pro that works well and is comfortable for you to wear all day. If it is uncomfortable or constantly fogged over, it will inevitably end up pushed up on your forehead instead of protecting your eyes. Finding the right set might require a bit of trial and error. Try not to fall into the trap of buying stuff just because it looks cool, it has to function first!