Whether you are a newcomer to the world of shooting or a seasoned professional, you probably already know how essential shooting glasses are for eye protection. Your eyes are incredibly precious, and the most effective way to protect them when you are out shooting is to wear a decent pair of shooting glasses. It’s fair to say that shooting glasses have become far more than a practical form of PPE. They are now considered one of the most effective shooting performance-enhancing accessories.
These days, the plethora of models on the market caters to a broad spectrum of shooters. Today’s market has an option for everyone from budget models to pricey, high-tech, high-end models with a dazzling array of lens colours. So much so that it can often be confusing, so here are the questions I think you need to ask yourself and what to consider when buying a set of shooting glasses.
Why should you be wearing shooting glasses?
Shooting glasses are designed with three primary purposes in mind:
- To protect your eyes (from impact, UV & glare)
- Light management
- Enhancing the contrast of the target against the background
Shooting glasses have become compulsory at most shooting grounds across the country and must be worn at any CPSA-registered competition. The primary hazard when shooting clays is stray shards of broken clays. It isn’t common to be hit by one of these sharp projectiles, but it happens, and when it does, you could end up with cuts or grazes to any exposed body parts. Eyes included!
Some other hazards are less commonly thought about, including the shot fall-out from the sky (lead pellets from the cartridge). Shot ricochet from an accidental miss fire to solid ground (hopefully you will never encounter it) and, more commonly, uncaught cartridges ejected towards spectators. Hand’s up if you’ve ever been accidentally hit by one.
So, whether you are shooting clays for fun, competing, attending a sim day, on a game shoot, loading, or simply spectating, there’s no excuse for not wearing proper shooting glasses.
Will shooting glasses improve your performance? Will you hit more?
Your eyes are your most important asset in shooting well. Seeing targets well in different light conditions and against different backgrounds is directly linked to enhancing your performance.
Choosing a dark lens colour on a bright sunny day can be a God send, especially when shooting targets that pass anywhere near the sun. But have you ever considered that you can still squint when looking at the sky, even on some cloudy days? Your eyes are subjected to up to 80% of the UV in cloud cover you would experience on a sunny day.
If you spend your shooting time squinting whilst pointing your gun into the sky because you aren’t wearing any glasses or wearing the wrong lens colour, your eyes won’t be as relaxed as they could be. They are going to tire much quicker, which will affect your visual performance.
Visual Acuity – A big part of shooting well comes down to maximising your visual acuity, which means how quickly your brain can pick up the target and how quickly you react to it. Suppose your eyes aren’t relaxed and fully open when you shoot. In that case, you will be restricting the amount of visual information to the brain required to pick up a target quicker.
What should you be looking for in a pair of shooting glasses?
If you are ready to buy shooting glasses, here’s what you need to consider when looking.
impact Resistance Rating
To be safe for clay shooting, your glasses must comply with a safety standard as EN166-F. To meet this standard, the lens needs to be at least 2mm thick, much thicker than the lenses used in standard sunglasses. This rating is often printed on the frame, so make sure this is the case when purchasing your glasses.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Fortunately, most shooting glasses lenses today have a built-in UV filter in the lens regardless of the lens colour.
Lens material & quality
The lens material most used for shooting glasses today is polycarbonate, which is extremely impact resistant and has excellent optical qualities. However, it is worth noting that not all lenses on the market of the same material will have the same optical quality. This is one of the reasons why there is a vast difference in price points.
Polyamide (a nylon derivative) is less commonly used, which still has strong but slightly weaker impact resistance but benefits from better optical definition. This is due to having a higher ‘Abbe Value’. Abbe is a measure of the optical clarity of a lens’ material. The higher the Abbe Value, the better the optical clarity of your lens. However, being up to 3x more expensive than polycarbonate, glasses made with nylon lenses come at a much higher cost to consumers.
How much money should you spend on shooting glasses?
Whether you are just starting out shooting as a hobby or you’re starting to take it seriously, shooting glasses. Various models are available for sub £100 with a few basic lens colour options. If you want more choices of lens colour, features and better quality, you can still find glasses sub £200, but you can spend triple that (and then some…).
Recognise the saying, “If you want to be the best, you have to wear the best…?”
High-end, high-cost shooting glasses can be seen worn by every top shooter, so they must be the best right? There is a lot of marketing and brand snobbery to cut through in today’s market. Many people will shoot very well, and quite happily, for years in a pair of cheap safety specs from a DIY shop. Based on this, is the saying above trustworthy? Well, that’s up to you to decide.
From our perspective, lesser-known lens manufacturers globally produce excellent quality lenses for some of the biggest brands in the sunglass world. They also provide for some of the smallest. These can rival the quality of some of today’s well-known brand names, and you would have difficulty spotting a difference in clarity. However, what you will find, is a price difference.
Can you tell the difference between top-end & mid-range lenses?
Earlier this summer (2022), we at X Sight Sport consumer tested 2 identical lens colour samples with shooters to see if they could identify which one was which. One is made of polycarbonate by X Sight Sport, and one is made by another brand in nylon at over five times the cost. Over 85% of the people asked could not clearly distinguish between the lenses. Some people found the more affordable lens to have better clarity. So, whilst the claims of superior optical quality in materials from manufacturers are proven by scientific lab testing, the difference in optical quality can often be insignificant to the human eye.
Shape, style and fit
In terms of shape and style, there is no golden rule for what you should choose. Every face is unique, so different glasses will better fit different genders, face shapes, nose shapes etc. What suits one person may not fit the next.
Though, glasses explicitly made for shooting will have been designed to combat various visual challenges unique to the sport, e.g., when you mount your gun. In this scenario, you will usually look through the top half of your glasses, so the lenses and frames tend to sit higher on your face than a regular pair of sunglasses.
Wrap-Around lens shooting glasses
Choosing glasses with minimal visual distractions when shooting can help you focus on the bigger picture. Therefore, many of today’s shooting glasses utilise a single, highly curved wraparound lens to provide better peripheral cover.
Recommendation: a 2-lens style is excellent for shooting sporting disciplines.
Two lens Shooting glasses
Some shooters can find curved lenses disorientating due to the prismatic effect of a high-curvature lens. There are plenty of models to choose from that feature 2 lenses. Such glasses are often preferred by trap shooters, a discipline unlike sporting, where risks of impact are reduced as targets always go away. If that’s you, there are plenty of more traditional, flat, two-lens styles to choose from.
Recommendation: a 2-lens style is great for shooting trap
What about prescription shooting glasses?
For those of you who need a prescription option for your shooting glasses, there are a couple of options to choose from:
Arguably the most versatile option is to use an RX insert. This is a clip-in frame that sits behind the lens. You can have this filled with your prescription. In multi-lens models, you can swap the RX insert between lens colours allowing you to receive all the benefits of multiple lens colours. Another advantage of an insert is that if your prescription changes over time, it is relatively inexpensive to have new lenses fitted to an insert.
It’s worth noting that many RX inserts are only suitable for weak to medium strength prescriptions due to their curve matching the curve of the lens in front. Flat lenses can reach much higher corrective needs. So, if you don’t have a strong prescription, an RX insert is a good option, but they don’t suit everyone.
Some RX inserts can sit quite close to your eyes, often making you feel quite closed in. Also, not many are designed to allow you to look through the top of the lens, as you would when mounting a shotgun. At X Sight Sport, our RX insert features a large lens area that sits at the top of the lens in front. It features a built-in nose pad which improves the positioning, airflow and comfort level, making it feel like you are wearing a pair of glasses behind a shield.
Fully glazed prescription lens glasses
These will comprise 2 lenses made in your prescription and fitted to the frame. These styles tend to be flatter, so they can take much higher prescription strengths. The downsides are that you are often limited to one colour tint unless you get multiple lenses. If your prescription changes, this will come at a much higher cost and lack flexibility.
What do all the different lens colours do?
In the simplest definition, lens colours fall into two main categories:
Light management lenses Lenses that manage the weather & light conditions to help you see better.
Contrast enhancement Lenses that modify backgrounds and target colours to increase the visibility of a target.
You will find that many lens colours will help you achieve both simultaneously. Making a target stand out against a background using a contrast-enhancing lens may not help you hit it any better. Still, if you cannot manage the light to physically see the target because the sun is in its path, your chances of a hit could be zero.
Choosing the right lens colour for the lighting condition and the target presentation you are faced with can help make a difference in your ability to see a target clearly and faster.
But what lens colour should you choose, and how many should you have?
It is sufficient to have a lens for full sun, a lens for low light, and something that sits in the middle for overcast & cloudier days. But you can, of course, have as many lens colours as you like. The general rule of thumb I recommend when choosing a lens colour to maximise your visual acuity is to pick the lightest lens you can get away with for the light conditions to keep your eyes wide open.
Most affordable multi-lens sets will come with 3-5 lens colours that will cover you in all conditions. The more affordable models tend to have reasonably standard colour options, which subtly affect contrast enhancement. Whilst some of the more premium brands offer a much more extensive selection of colours, coatings, contrast enhancement and unrivalled performance.
Check out our blog on shooting glasses lens colours for more in-depth information on what each colour category is used for.
Check out our blog on shooting glasses lens colours for more in-depth information on what each colour category is used for. Here
Which shooting glasses are right for you is a personal choice, and there isn’t a single solution that will be right for everyone. Every shooter has the preferred brand or style they feel most comfortable with and would recommend it to other shooters. Some brands have been around for a lot longer than others, so there’s no surprise that certain brands will be seen more than others. You have to try them for yourself to see what is right for you.
Apart from your local shooting shop, a good place to get advice is at your local shooting ground. Shooters are usually happy to show you their shooting glasses, and some will be happy for you to try them. This is more beneficial than trying them on in a shop.
Another good place to go would be a shooting trade show. In the UK, we have various shows across the calendar, such as The British Shooting Show, Northern Shooting Show & The Game Fair. All of which offer multiple retailers in one place.