I’d lost the battle. It was a valiant effort (if squinty eyes and cocked head are valiant), but Mother Nature won; I needed reading glasses. I probably owe legions of students an apology too, because for years, when someone would bemoan a “fuzzy front sight” or show up to shoot with upside-down cheaters perched on nose (yes, really), I’d scoff. “You’re not going to have your shooting glasses on when you have that defensive encounter,” I’d bark…
Now I get it. And in addition to the blurry-front sight issue, I also had trouble seeing screw-heads, reading scope turrets and perhaps most offensive, my practice sessions were getting shorter because of eye fatigue. I needed help.
Enter SSP Eyewear. I almost literally stumbled upon these safety glasses at a recent shooting event. As I was squinting to get a better look, the sympathetic SSP representative pushed a pair toward me. “Try these,” he said … and my world was changed.
SSP Eyewear offers quality safety glasses for all kinds of activities, and the “sportsman/firearms” models check my boxes for must-have features for shooting. They carry the all-important American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87+ rating – meaning that the lenses have met high-velocity impact criteria. They are wide enough to provide excellent side coverage, and SSP lenses – even the clear ones – provide 100% UVB and UVA protection. Lenses also have anti-fog and scratch-resistant coatings.
What really got my attention were the interchangeable lenses. Not only do they come in a variety of shades to work with different light conditions and target coloration, but also, they are available with magnification (OK, yes, aka bifocal). This magnification actually is ground into the lens, not simply “applied” via decal or appliqué. The lenses themselves are a lightweight polycarbonate, and the entire eyeglass unit weighs less than an ounce.
Even better, the bifocal can be in the lower, OR upper, portion of a lens. This means that I can combine lenses so that when I’m reading, looking down as we do, I can have the bifocal low in the lens, where I need it for reading with my non-dominant eye. At the same time, for my dominant, shooting eye, I can use a lens with the magnification in the upper portion of the lens, to aid in front sight focus. In the middle of each lens, where the eyes are positioned when the head is in a neutral position, there is no magnification at all, which makes these glasses perfect for scanning surroundings and taking in the world around you.
The SSP glasses that I now use (Ultra Kit, MSRP $79.99) include interchangeable lenses in clear, amber and smoke, with magnification in the top, or bottom, part of the lens. I received 6 sets of lenses in all, and thus the ability to personalize my glasses for the best of all visual worlds.
In the ultimate test, I wore them to teach a class – about 6-to-8 hours of wear a day, for a week. They take just a little getting used to, and they must sit on your nose such that your “normal” view is through the non-magnified portion. Since I have a low nose bridge, the frame was sitting a bit low on my face, and I was seeing through the (upper) bifocal more than I wanted to when wearing them all-day. A quick trip to the drugstore for inexpensive nose pads that adhere to the existing bridge piece, and the lenses were positioned perfectly.
The TR90 Nylon frame is especially flexible, and points of contact at the nosepiece and ear tips are a cushiony rubber – all of which allow the SSP’s to fit snuggly yet comfortably, EVEN under hats and earmuffs.
One final test – lens interchangeability. I’ve had several brands of quality (and costly) eye protection with interchangeable lenses. The problem is, in actual practice, changing lenses required either more time or dexterity than I’ve had, and I’ve eventually given up. On top of that, I almost always ended up with chipped lenses or compromised frames.
So my last big test for SSP was what I dubbed the TLC – “ Timed Lens Change.” I ran it 15 times, starting with lenses securely in the frame, and the next ones IN the case – just like they would be IRL. As SSP promised, the lenses and frame seem almost indestructible. Even more convincing, I never needed more than 20 seconds for a complete lens change. I’m sold.
For equipment as important as eye protection, we shouldn’t just settle, and SSP Eyewear is no compromise. For as little as $39.99 for Top Focal glasses with 3 sets of lenses, or $79.99 for the Ultra Kit, SSP provides quality protection that addresses a healthy range of shooter eye issues.
Il Ling New grew up hunting and fishing, and started guiding for her father’s outfitting service as a teenager. She received her first guide’s license at age 17. Later, she became the first female captain of her university’s shooting team. Il Ling is a professional guide in the US, as well a National Sporting Clays Association Instructor. Outside the US, Il Ling has hunted in the UK, Asia, Australia, and Africa. At Gunsite, she teaches Defensive Handgun, Rifle and Shotgun courses, as well as Hunting Rifle and wingshooting.