I’ve noticed a trend on social media, especially from “influencers,” that has me quite concerned about the eyesight of a few generations of shooters. It seems the focus of photos posted from the range have changed from practicing self-protection, competing or educating to a “Look at me … I’m holding a firearm” approach. The cool factor seems to be taking precedence over safety. I won’t even get into grips or wearing button-down or V-neck shirts. What I’m concerned about is a shooter’s choice of eye protection.
There are 2 types of standards for safety eyewear: civilian and military. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 certification (civilian) includes protection against common hazards of blunt impact, radiation, splashes and dust. Eyewear marked with “Z87+” indicates high-velocity impact, and “Z87” alone means basic impact. Simply put, look for this rating when working in hazards such as flying fragments, objects, large chips, particles, sand, dirt, etc. Hmm, sounds like a range doesn’t it?
The second standard, the Military’s U.S. MIL Spec MIL-PRF-32432 Ballistic Fragment standard, is much more stringent than ANSI certification. Military testing includes more than 6 times the impact energy than the Z87+ standard.
Aside from making sure safety eyewear meets ballistic standards, there are other important guidelines to consider.
Do the lenses adequately cover your eye area?
Avoid injuries from ejected shell casings and splashback from targets by wearing lenses that wrap around past the sides of your eyes. Also, choose scratch resistant, distortion free lenses. We have heard horror stories of people who lost eyesight because a .22 shell flew in sideways, getting trapped between an eye and a poor substitute lens.
If you make sudden movements, will the shooting glasses stay in place?
For competitive shooters, this is super important. The last thing you want while running through a stage is for your glasses to fall off. Not only is it unsafe, but also, you may lose valuable time getting them back on to finish the stage.
Does the eyewear fit properly?
While thinking about moving and wearing these glasses, know that proper shooting glasses should fit across your nose without moving around on your face. Check the nosepiece and make sure the glasses don’t sit too high or too low on your face, and that your eyelashes don’t scrape on the lenses. Many eyewear sets come with multiple different size nose pieces to ensure a proper fit. Having eye pro that fits properly on your head will guarantee that your lenses are positioned in the best place to offer the most protection.
Also, take into consideration what type of ear protection you will be wearing. Often, when worn with earmuffs, shooting glasses push against the shooter’s temples. ESS has a design made to fit comfortably under earmuffs, the Crossbow Suppressor. Its ultra-thin temple arms help keep noise out by minimizing the effect on the padded seal of ear cups. Slim temples eliminate the hot spots and pressure points that commonly occur when normal eyewear is worn under ear cups.
Are options available for different lens colors?
Shotgun, pistol and rifle shooters all seem to have their favorite color lenses on the range. ESS has a chart on their website that explains the benefits of each color.
Always refer to the product use and instructions card that come with your eye pro. Store your glasses in their cases, keeping them out of the sunlight when not in use.
Cleaning your eyewear (from ESS)
Life without eyes is not easy, so take care of them. Protect your vision with shooting glasses every time you shoot. While you’re at it, keep an extra pair in your range bag to share with the person who shows up with unsafe eyewear, and do as our Babbs does – invest in a good pair of fitovers for that person who has to wear prescription lenses in order to see properly. Most importable don’t forget the children on the range. Make sure to buy them properly rated, child-size shooting glasses. Remember, being an influencer means educating others through your positive examples. If you’re on a range with a gun, show us what you’d really wear.
* Note: Michelle Cerino is a sponsored shooter for ESS (Eye Safety Systems, Inc). Since she believes in its products, she chooses them for most of the links associated with this article. There are many other eyewear brands available that meet the same criteria.