Competitive Shooting

Eye Protection: Safety Versus Prescription

Woman wearing safety glasses shooting a scoped rifle from the bench

Looking at firearms in use, it is pretty evident that plenty of gas, unburned powder, and oil droplets are in the air. Add ejected cartridge cases from your firearm (and those of people around you), possible ricochets… and it’s a bit of a wonder that many shooters make it to old age with their vision intact. The relative infrequency of eye injuries comes from the widespread use of protective glasses.

Woman wearing safety glasses shooting a scoped rifle from the bench
Even under controlled range conditions, brass or debris from another shooters can be a risk to your eyesight.

Unfortunately, those of us who require corrective lenses have long faced an awkward dilemma—we could either wear prescription glasses or ballistic eye protection, but not both. Contact lenses plus shatterproof glasses provide a solution for some, but not everyone likes those. Fortunately, several companies have begun offering projectile-proof ballistic eyewear with lenses tailored to your specific prescription.

One such company is TacticalRx, which makes multiple styles. However, other popular brands such as Wiley X, ESS, Radians, and Oakley also now cater to the “visually challenged” shooter. Optical clarity from these new brands of ballistic prescriptions is superb. Photogray lenses will lighten or darken in response to the ambient light levels. Likewise, you can choose multiple levels of tint or colored lenses that match your conditions and shooting preferences. The more fashionable curved variants often work best in low strength prescriptions. At minus 5 diopters or so, the fishbowl effect at the edges becomes disconcerting for action, though it remains perfectly usable for precision shooting. The less curved variant works equally well for low- or high-strength prescriptions and adds side shields for better protection from casings bouncing off range lane dividers.

Contrast these offerings with the potential results of a debris strike to your glasses without the ballistic protection or glasses that do not cover the same amount of real estate. Some have made the argument that glasses don’t protect the rest of the face. While true, I do not see full face shields becoming a trend anytime soon.  A scratch to a cheek or nose, or even a broken or chipped tooth is not in the same league as your eyes. Your eyes are by far the most vulnerable part of the face, and can be badly hurt by gas from suppressor blowback, fragments of bullet jackets or lead splash, or other relatively minor projectiles. With or without prescription lenses, these glasses are a worthwhile investment in personal safety, not to mention a good gift.

Which eye protection brand or model do you trust to protect your vision and why? Do you wear prescription lenses in your safety glasses? How has it affected your shooting? Share your answers in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog. "The Shooter's Log", is to provide information - not opinions - to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (19)

  1. Thanks to the author for this article. While safety/ballistic glasses have been around for some time it is always good to be reminded about the importance of eye protection. Mostly shooters are good about eye protection, but do not take your vision for granted!

  2. Having worked in a Machine shop at a gear manufacturing the 1960’s I have been wearing PRESCRIPTION SAFETY GLASSES for more then 30 years. IT’S NOT NEW TECH. Go to a eyeglass doc/company (Walmart), get your eyes checked, then using that prescription, have them MAKE A PAIR OF PRESCRIPTION SAFETY GLASSES. They cost a little more, but well worth the cost of protecting your eyes. So you’ll still be able to enjoy the sport in the future.

  3. To see the “bead” on V-notch, open sighted rifles I had to go to tri-focals. Works out fairly well. Interestingly, with peep sights, regular single vision prescription glasses provide a good sight picture. I’m told this is the “pin-hole effect” in optical speak.

  4. I am fortunate enough to live a few miles from Tactical Rx so have 2 pairs of prescription glasses that they made the lenses for.

    My first pair was for shooting with an amber tint in a Smith tactical fame.

    The second pair was purchased for riding my Motorcycle and, although safety glass, is not marked with the ANSI standard for either the glass or lenses. In this case, I brought in a pair of frames for them to make the lenses for.

    Both pairs give me better sight than any of my other pairs of non-safety glasses.

  5. I don’t wear glasses but my old shop teacher told me that all Prescription glasses where safety glasses? I am also well aware that safety glasses and ballistic glasses are not the same but i am not aware of anyone that uses ballistic glasses that doesn’t shoot as a daily part of their lives. Love a little more information or clarity thanks

    1. Not all prescription lenses are safety rated. It depends on the material—trivex and polycarbonate are safety rated versus plastic and glass which are not.

      Also have to take into consideration that the spectacle frames have to be safety rated—ANSI Z87.1 must be written on the frame.

      Safety lenses in everyday nonsafety frames can create a false sense of security. Do not take your vision for granted!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.