Any person who is involved in shooting sports, be it pistol, rifle, or shotgunning should wear optically correct ophthalmic quality protective eyewear. Lenses available in the marketplace today can provide both physical protection and protection from ultraviolet radiation. Additionally frame design and fit can contribute greatly to a shooter’s performance. Lets take a look at how shooters can get the best protection and performance from their eye wear.
There are three materials that lenses of shooting glasses are made of: crown glass, which can be heat treated, and CR 39 plastic and polycarbonate, the latter two of which can be anti-scratch coated. In terms of the best safety lens, polycarbonate ranks at the top, followed by CR 39, and then heat-treated crown glass.
Today, 90% of all prescriptions are filled with CR 39 anti-scratch coated lenses. Both the CR 39 and polycarbonate lenses are less than half the weight of glass lenses, and it makes sense to use either of these lens materials in a pair of shooting glasses. Polycarbonate material has outstanding impact resistance, but it must be handled carefully in the uncoated form to prevent scratching. Polycarbonate lenses are more expensive than CR 39. They require special handling techniques and machines to generate curves, edge and tint. This leaves the CR 39 with anti-scratch coating, the material of choice for your shooting glasses.
In games such as skeet and sporting clays, where you are shooting incoming targets, the potential for being struck by clay target fragments is very real. Errant shot is also a potential, though infrequent, danger to eyes. Shooters who do not wear protective eyewear put themselves at a greater risk of an eye injury.
Fragments from targets can cause corneal abrasions or become embedded in the cornea or conjunctiva. This can cause serious problems with infection if not treated promptly. A stray pellet traveling at even low velocities far downrange can result in still more disastrous damage. The best way to avoid these problems is to wear protective safety lenses. Walking through the bush, shooting black powder firearms, even bench rest rifle shooting all offer the potential for serious eye injuries. Why not protect your eyes with the proper lenses?
As far as protection from ultra violet radiation is concerned, here are a few facts about UV radiation:
1) Ultra violet does no good! -Besides the production of vitamin D in reaction with the melanin in our skin. Our North American diet precludes us from this worry.
2) UV radiation causes keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea, commonly known as ”Snow Blindness”
3) UV radiation contributes to the development of cataracts.
4)UV radiation has been shown to cause degeneration of the retinal pigment epithelium. And recent studies have linked exposure to UV radiation with an acceleration of age related macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness in North America today.
5) UV radiation can cause tumors of the eyelid. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are common and serious, requiring surgical removal. A malignant melanoma will be fatal in almost all cases.
Do I have your attention? Protection from UV radiation is important. Many quality sunglasses do block UV radiation. Clear lenses are made with UV protection.
We have all heard and read advertisements about ‘ blue blocking lenses’. Are they useful? The theory behind them is good. The lens is supposed to block the shorter wavelengths of light. These shorter wavelengths are scattered more by fog and mist. If we eliminate the shorter blue wavelengths, it should enhance our vision on foggy overcast days. Does it work and is it useful? These lenses offer few advantages. The selective absorption of these lenses makes it difficult for some people to differentiate red from green lights while driving. Red lights may appear nearer or further away than they actually are. These lenses negatively affect your depth perception. The physiological optical term for this is chromostereopsis.
What if you are wearing a ”blue blocking lens” while driving home at dusk and a man wearing a blue jacket is walking down the road. Remember the blue wavelengths are blocked with these lenses. You probably would not see this man as soon as you would if you were wearing a clear lens.
What is the best type of lens to use for protection from UV radiation? For low light levels the best lens is a clear lens with a super anti-reflective (super AR) coating and UV filter. The amount of light transmitted through a clear lens is 92%. Eight percent of the light is lost to reflection. The super AR coating increases the amount of light transmitted to 99%, and the 7% increase is noticeable.
These super anti-reflective coatings are the same types of coatings you find in camera, binocular and rifle scope lenses. They are more expensive but they are worth every penny. The other advantage of super AR coatings is that they do eliminate ghost images, such as multiple reflections under low light conditions that can be annoying for some shooters, particularly when trap shooting or driving at night. The UV filter is also essential for selectively blocking wavelengths of light under 400 nanometres and preventing the ocular hazards associated with it.
As far as tints are concerned some people see better with a light gold tint at dawn or dusk. In my opinion, the reason for this is that we associate gold with sunlight. The apparent increase in brightness achieved with a gold lens is psychological in nature. My personal preference for a low light lens is still a clear lens super AR coated with a UV filter.
For sporting clays, skeet and trap under bright light, the most popular tint is a light medium target orange (LMTO). This tint decreases the amount of light to your eye while enhancing target recognition. In conversations with the Decot Hy-Wyd Sport Glasses in Arizona, the LMTO tint is the most popular tint for shotgun target shooters.
I must add that the preference for tinted lenses is largely personal in nature. A comfortable tint for one person may be unacceptable for another. But as a starting point, I would recommend a super AR clear lens for low light conditions and a LMTO with UV protection for bright light conditions. These two lenses will give you UV protection and the best visual comfort for most situations.
The shooting sports, especially shotgunning require spectacle frames designed specifically for shooting. When your shotgun is mounted, your eye on the side of the buttstock becomes the rear sight of the shotgun. Dress frames are not designed to provide an unrestricted view of a target when a shotgun is mounted properly. With a dress frame you are looking through the top part of the lens or even the frame. The unwanted prismatic effect and the position of the frame decrease your ability to pick up the targets quickly. The people who make and market shooting glasses know about these problems and design frames suitable for shooting.
I shoot skeet, sporting clays and social trap with some regularity, and I note a common irony with people who participate in these games. They drive up to the range in an expensive automobile, go to their trunk and pull out a custom made leather case, then walk into the gun club to reveal a top quality double complete with an extra set of barrels. The fit and finish are excellent, and the wood is a marvel to behold. These shotgunners are dressed for the cover of GQ magazine with matching gloves, vest and shoes. They spoil the whole picture when they pull out a $19.00 pair of drug store quality, aviation style frames with cheap yellow lenses.
What type of frame should you be using, and how should the frames be designed? One of the oldest and most popular frames used today is designed by Decot. HY-Wyd frames are large and they sit high on your bridge so that when your head is down on the stock, your eyes are looking through the optical centers of the lenses. These frames are available in three sizes and two colors (yellow gold and matte black). These frames are light, durable and feature lenses that can be changed easily without tools. Other important features include rubber covered cable temples, silicone nose pads, and sweat bars for greater stability. Impact resistant cases with storage for extra lenses, cleaning cloths and belt clips are included.
Another well established, high quality frame is the Randolph – Ranger. These well designed frames are similar to Decot Hy-Wyd, with the added advantage of flex temples.
If you need prescription lenses they should be ground into your shooting glasses. Even small amounts of farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism should be corrected for in your shooting glasses. The resultant in-focus retinal image will enhance your ability to pick up the target quickly, see it clearly and break it. The improved visual acuity also enhances depth perception, which is critical in tracking a moving target in three dimensions.
Properly designed and fitted ophthalmic quality eyewear is necessary for precision, dead center shooting. The lenses should be optically correct with your distance prescription incorporated in the lenses no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Protective, prescription eyewear fitted properly will improve your scores and may prevent a serious eye injury. They sharpen your vision, provide safety and enhance performance. Smart shooters are aware of this fact and that is another reason they post better scores.
Good Shooting Barry Nolt O.D.
Source: Sporting Clays Magazine