Eye Protection 101: What You Need When Shooting

Wearing proper eye protection is an important part of safety when shooting firearms, whether at the range or in the field.

Shooting can be unpredictable, with unexpected hazards such as debris, spent casings, and even the occasional ricochet. It only takes a split second for something to damage your eyes. 

Protecting your eyes is a crucial and non-negotiable part of the shooting experience, whether you are shooting for the first time or are an experienced marksman.

Let’s examine what’s available for eye protection and how you can choose the best option to keep your eyes safe. 

Eye Protection Lens Options

Look for safety glasses with impact-resistant lenses, also known as polycarbonate lenses, that meet ANSI safety standards at a minimum. 

Shooting glasses come with clear or tinted lenses in various tints and colors. Remember that if you choose darker-tinted lenses for an outdoor range, you may need a clear or lighter-tinted pair when you are indoors. 

Some manufacturers offer interchangeable lenses that can be easily switched based on your environment. This can be a great option if you will be moving between environments.  

Prescription Glasses & Sunglasses

One of the most common questions is what to do if you already wear prescription glasses. Some erroneously believe that as long as you have something in front of your eyes, you’re good to go. 

Your everyday prescription glasses or sunglasses are not substitutes for safety glasses while shooting. They most likely do not meet safety standards and often lack the correct lens shape for full protection. 

If you wear prescription glasses, you have a few options:

  • Have a pair of safety glasses made with your prescription
  • Opt for safety glasses that are meant to fit over your everyday glasses
  • Wear contacts when you will be shooting so you can easily wear the safety glasses of your choice

Safety Glasses Comfort & Fit

If you are an avid shooter, you will spend a lot of time wearing these glasses. You will want to find the right fit for your safety glasses just as you would with your everyday glasses.

When examining comfort and fit, examine a few key areas: the width of the frames, the nose piece, the arm length, and the weight. 

The width can vary by manufacturer. You want to ensure you aren’t wearing a pair too narrow for the width of your face or so large they no longer provide adequate protection.

The nose piece is another element to pay attention to when trying them on. Some prefer adjustable nose pieces, and some prefer a fixed nose piece. This is a personal preference based on comfort and fit.  

The arm length refers to the piece that fits over your ears. Ensure the arms fit over your ears correctly, not creating pressure points. One trick is to lean forward with the glasses on and see if they shift. If you have to catch them from falling, the glasses aren’t the proper fit for you. 

Finally, the weight of the glasses can have a huge impact on comfort. While you don’t want a flimsy pair in terms of safety, finding a pair that feels comfortable wearing them is important. Otherwise, you are less likely to be compliant.

Overview of Considerations for Eye Protection

  • Safety Rating
    • Look for rated lenses that can protect against different impact types. 
    • Some may look into military-rated specs that can handle higher degrees of impact.
  • Style & Fit
    • Adding tinted lenses or certain styles of frames is a personal preference. You can choose any style you like as long as the safety features are intact. 
    • There is no one-size-fits-all when it’s something you are wearing on your face. Just as some eyeglasses or sunglasses options can vary in comfort, so can safety glasses. Ensure the glasses fit well or have adjustable features. 
    • Pay attention to the weight of the glasses. Too heavy glasses can be irritating when worn for an extended period, especially if you aren’t accustomed to wearing glasses.
  • Budget Friendly
    • Options can vary greatly, particularly when you opt for prescription lenses. 
    • Look for safety certifications and fit above all else. You don’t have to break the bank to protect your eyes. 

Finally, remember that not only do you, as the shooter, need eye protection, but everyone who is with you also needs it. Even if they are not shooting, they should protect their vision. 

Don’t underestimate the importance of protecting your eyes. It’s an essential part of your range day or hunting gear. Explore your options and invest in a high-quality, safety-rated pair of glasses so you can enjoy the sport for years to come. 

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