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Contact 1,2,3

Outdoor magazines were responsible for my early fundamental education in shotguns and hunting. With a father who was not interested in hunting or guns, I started my subscriptions to these magazines when I was old enough to read. Over the years I found myself reading articles that are merely rewritten year after year by different writers. When we read the same ideas repeatedly, we find ourselves believing in them. It must be true, if we read it in the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties. We are easily brainwashed into accepting certain ideas as gospel and never questioning the information.

Statements like:

  • Short barrels and light guns are better for shooting upland game and skeet.
  • Long barrels hit harder and shoot farther.
  • Heavy loads pattern better and break targets better than light loads.
  • Non toxic shot is not as effective as lead.

are not necessarily true.

The macho idealism that ‘bigger is better’ does not apply. I too, deal with statements like this every day in my private eye care practice.

Statements like:

  • I was told that I have astigmatism and I cannot wear contact lenses.
  • I was told that I have dry eyes and I cannot wear contact lenses
  • I now require bifocals (presbyopia), therefore I cannot wear contact lenses anymore.

These statements are not true; yet patients come into my office daily with these ideas.

People with astigmatism can wear soft contact lenses and receive excellent vision and comfort with them. Similarly, patients with dry eyes also wear contact lenses. Presbyopia can be corrected with soft contact lenses today with excellent results. Much has changed in the field of vision correction with contact lenses and how this relates to shooting sports.

Here is an update.

Why wear contact lenses for shotgunning when physical and UV protection of a plastic or polycarbonate lens is required for safety? Good Question.

For people with nearsightedness, contact lenses give you a larger image size on the back of the eye as compared to the image size you get with spectacles. The reason for this is the plane of correction is moved closer to your eye. A person with nearsightedness can prove this to themselves by focusing on a distant object and moving their spectacles away from their eyes. The object becomes smaller. Conversely, by moving the plane of correction closer to your eye, the effect is a magnified image size on the back of your eye.

A larger image is good, especially if you are a clay pigeon shooter or a bird hunter. With a magnified retinal image gained from wearing contact lenses, you will see your targets earlier, clearer and larger than if you were wearing a spectacle prescription lens. Spotting distant flocks of geese, ducks and doves is much easier with contact lenses.

Another benefit to the nearsighted and farsighted person is contact lenses eliminate spectacle distortion. As light passes through a spectacle lens it is refracted or bent more through the peripheral part of the lens. This is distortion (def: unwanted bending of light). It produces a pincushion distortion on plus prescriptions (farsighted) and a barrel distortion on minus prescriptions (nearsighted)

You may have noticed this with a prescription change. Spectacle distortion is always present, usually temporary and we easily adapt to it. The application to shooting clay targets would be when a spectacle lens wearer is looking anywhere off the optical center of the spectacle lens. The shooter sees the clay target in a different position in space as compared to a shooter who is wearing contact lenses. This negatively affects the pick up time in all shooting disciplines. Contact lenses eliminate this problem.

For people with farsightedness there is a ring scotoma or blind spot around your spectacle eye wire. The size of the scotoma increases with the strength of the prescription. Contact lenses eliminate the blind spot increasing peripheral vision. This can be a real benefit to farsighted shooters.

The next most bothersome distortion in a spectacle lens is chromatic aberration. This results when white light passes through your spectacle lens. The lens acts like a prism and breaks the light into the colors of the rainbow. (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet). This is annoying, particularly in higher lens prescriptions. Chromatic aberration gives color fringes on the edges of objects but it is most noticeable with black targets on white backgrounds. Chromatic aberration generally interferes with target recognition and contact lenses eliminate it completely.

The other less significant aberrations in spectacle lenses are coma, marginal astigmatism and radial astigmatism. These aberrations reduce the image quality formed as light passes through a spectacle lens. (If anyone would like a more detailed explanation you can email me, the address is at the end of this article.) Contact lenses eliminate all these aberrations and enable you to see the target larger, clearer, quicker and without space distortion.

Another problem with spectacles is that they produce ghost images. Ghost images result from reflections off the front and back surface of the spectacle lenses. These surfaces act like a mirror and give the shooter multiple images of a lighted object in space. Ghost images are more noticeable in low light conditions when your pupils are larger. Look at a street light at night with your spectacles and then look beside the object. You will often see multiple images of that light. These images can be reduced with an anti-reflective coating on spectacle lenses but contact lenses eliminate them completely.

Contact lenses have a great advantage in cold weather. They do not fog up like spectacle lenses when you come inside nor is there condensation if you happen to be breathing heavily in cold weather. Rain and snow do not adhere to contact lenses. They are excellent in a duck or goose blind on inclement mornings and even better in extremely cold weather.

For the spectacle wearing bird hunter, (geese, ducks, dove or turkey hunting) contact lenses eliminate the reflections from the spectacle lens surface. The spectacle lens acts like a mirror and may spook a flock of geese, ducks or doves away from your decoys.

The last advantage of contact lenses over spectacles is that they eliminate the weight on your nose. This is particularly annoying if the spectacles are slipping.

The newest and most convenient soft contact lenses on the market today are silicone hydrogel one month frequent replacement lenses. One day lenses are available as well. Point of clarification: The difference between these lenses is the number of days you wear them. Frequent replacement lenses are replaced every month or after 30 wears. Daily wear lenses are disposed of after one day of wear.

The most popular silicone hydrogel lenses used in my office are the CIBA Air Optix and the COOPER Harmony lenses. These are frequent replacement lenses. The ‘one day lenses’ we use most often are CIBA Dailies.

The advantage of the CIBA one day lens (CIBA Vision Dailies) is convenience. You wear it one day and throw it away. There are no solutions for storage, cleaning cases or protein tablets to contend with. The advantage to the shotgunner is that one day lenses eliminate problems with infections, protein deposits and solutions. These lenses are very comfortable and provide excellent visual acuity. Ocular health wise, these lenses are the best on the market. Patients in my practice that shoot competitive trap and skeet wear silicone hydrogel lenses on a 30 day basis, but if they are shooting in a competition they will switch to the one day disposable contact lens. These people are very serious about their shotgun games and they want new, clean, clear contact lenses daily. They carry spares in their pockets when they are shooting. For hunting trips, vacations, sporting clays, trap and skeet competitions these lenses deserve a look. They are certainly cost-effective, especially if you consider what we pay for our guns, shells, clothes, reloading equipment and components.

Soft contact lenses for the correction of astigmatism have come a long way. Spectacle astigmatism, as it relates to contact lens fitting can be divided into three categories for simplicity:

1) People with small non significant amounts of astigmatism can be fitted with spherical, soft contact lenses. The magnified retinal image more than makes up for what is lost to the uncorrected astigmatism

2) People with moderate and significant amounts of astigmatism require TORIC lenses for the correction of astigmatism. These lenses are stocked and inventoried by the thousands although they are more expensive and must be fitted carefully.

3) People with larger amounts of astigmatism and/or oblique axis (direction of correction) require custom Toric lenses that are more expensive and more difficult to fit. Recent advancements in manufacturing and reproducibility have made these lenses available to more people than ever before.

Soft contact lenses for the correction of astigmatism are common place today. If you were ever told that you could not wear contact lenses because of astigmatism see your local optometrist and ask again. ‘Times, they are a changing . . . ‘ The toric lenses I use on a daily basis are AIR OPTIX by Ciba and the HARMONY by Cooper Vision. These lenses, made of silicone hydrogel material, are very comfortable and provide excellent visual acuity!

For patients with dry eyes silicone hydrogel are the answer. This lens is made of a unique material and has a high affinity to water with higher oxygen transmissibility. They have up to five times the oxygen transport through the lenses as compared to older lens materials. The result is the material exhibits less dehydration than other contact lens materials with similar water content, is much more comfortable and gives patients a longer wearing time. Again, the AIR OPTIX and HARMONY lenses are my choice.

Recently diagnosed with presbyopia? …Arms to short to read? …Blurred front sight when shooting your handgun? ….Iron sights blurred with your rifle? Contact lenses are available to correct this problem and are fitted in my practice. There is even a contact lens made by Pro Clear that corrects for astigmatism and presbyopia. Pro Clear Multi focal torics work very well!

With today’s technology silicone hydrogel soft contact lenses can provide the sporting clays and handgun shooter with an alternative to prescription spectacle lenses. Contact lenses can improve visual acuity, enhance peripheral vision, and eliminate distortion, reflection and aberrations of spectacle lenses. They do not fog up and are available in most prescriptions including astigmatism corrections.

If you are not shooting the scores you think you should be or not seeing the target soon or clear enough with regular spectacles then give contact lenses a try. You may be surprised how much they can improve your distance and peripheral vision. See your local optometrist for an eye exam and consultation.

Good shooting Barry C. Nolt O.D

Dr. Nolt’s email address is If you have any questions with regards to contact lenses, shooting glasses or any shooting related vision problems send me an email.