The 2 most important pieces of gear for any shooter are their eye and hearing protection.
So much so the most common thing you hear on the range may be “Going hot! Everyone have their eye’s and ears on?”
This is doubly important for someone like myself that already wears corrective lens and whose family has a history or hearing loss.
I have discussed hearing protection in the past, when I covered my ear pro history and reviewed my current choice the EAR Inc Insta-mold ear plugs with the acoustic filters, but to this point I have never discussed eye protection.
Bring Enough Protection
Unfortunately many shooters looking for shooting glasses swing by the local hardware store and by a pair of Dewalt safety glasses that meet the ANSI Z87.1+ standard and call it good.
As Andrew said in his article “Eye Protection and Shooting Glasses Review: You will never think about eye protection the same again” about the ANSI Z87.1+ standard…
…the Z87 impact standard involves a .25″ steel ball traveling at 150fps – this is fine for protecting eyes from debris that might fall or be thrown at them, but is not extremely relevant to shooters, who are dealing with objects traveling at much higher velocities.
The more relevant standard is the MIL-PRF-31013 standard that requires the lenses/frames to stop a .15 steel ball travelling 650ft.
For reference this is the equivalent of No. 2 Steel Shot at about 60 yds, or roughly what you would want to go bird hunting with Dick Chaney.
The Challenge of Prescription Safety Glasses
For shooters that wear corrective lenses the issue is even more complex because…
- Because corrective lens come in a number of required thickness it can be a challenge to ensure the level of protection with a prescription
- The front sight is usually just further than an arms reach away, which can be the perfect distance for focus for aging eyes (ever wish your arms were 2″ longer when you were reading?), but the target is almost never that close so you need to focus at 2 different distances. This can be accomplished with each eye being corrected for a different focal length or bifocals designed for the shooter.
- Prescription lenses typically are optimized to look through a specific part of the lens and using an optic or shooting may require some compromises.
ESS Crossbow Suppressor 2X+ Clear, Copper & Gray Delux Kit
The Crossbow Suppressor 2X+ Clear, Copper & Gray Delux Kit that ESS sent me to review, includes two frames and three MIL-PRF-31013 rated lenses: a Hi-Def Copper lens with an ultra-thin Crossbow Suppressor frame (for use with ear cups), a Clear lens with a standard Crossbow Tri-Tech Fit frames (for normal use without ear cups), and a spare Smoke Gray lens. Since I also have a mild astigmatism, they also sent me a RX insert so that I could actually use them… I thought that was mighty nice.
This kit is very well put together and comes in a protective case that very easily accepts both frames, the 3 lenses for almost any lighting conditions…
To this point I have used the Crossbow frame (the frame designed for everyday use) extensively and had no issues using it under the cups of my over-the-ear ear pro and I haven’t had any need to transition to the thinner Suppressor frames, but Lee says that he finds that an issue and will address them in a upcoming post.
Similarly, I have not spent much time with the Hi-Def Copper lenses yet, but I will… I promise.
I have however spent a considerable time with the Crossbow and both the clear and smoke gray lenses and I am fairly impressed with them, but they do have a couple of drawbacks.
ESS Crossbow RX Review
While the non-prescription frames and lens are light weight, comfortable, fit well, stay in place look good and do absolutely everything you would want shooting glasses to do, with the RX inserts them become a little “less good.”
Immediately after adding the RX inserts you will notice 2 things…
- You look a whole lot less cool (Sorry ESS)
- You can actually see (Thank you ESS!)
The RX insert method of vision correction isn’t the most fashionable, but it does allow for the best eye protection, and that is why you are wearing the glasses right?
The insert also has a few of inherent drawbacks…
- The prescription inserts increase the weight from 1.2 to 1.6 ounces (33% increase), and since it is cantilevered out it feels like even more weight.
- The frame is pushed forward .31″ to allow for the extra set of lens. This makes a brimmed hat MUCH MORE important, since it would be very easy for a 9mm casing to land behind the lens.
- The extra surfaces can reflect bright lights causing a ghosting effect.
The other problem I experienced with these glasses was due to the small corrective lens size (required to fit behind the frames) I had to adjust my position when shooting prone to look through them. With my normal head position I was looking through the top edge of the lens/frame and couldn’t get a good sight picture.
The ESS RX’d glasses seem to work great though for pistol shooting and both rested and off-hand rifle shooting. I also have no doubt that Lee will like using the non-corrected glasses (he wears contacts like normal people who need correction).
Is there another option?
Most manufacturers make full framed glasses that will accept RX lenses and many options are even exchangeable by the user.
My typical WileyX glasses allow me to change back and forth between smoke and clear lens with minimal effort, while maintaining the MIL-PRF-31013 standard.
How much thought have you really given to your eye-pro? And what glasses do you use? Let me know in the comments below.
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