Much has been written about the importance of wearing proper eye protection when firing a gun, and any respectable firing range will require its patrons don safety glasses or they don’t get to shoot. The ranges don’t have a choice, it’s an insurance requirement in order to stay in business; but more than that, it’s as smart as other safety rules they employ.
I’m certainly no advocate of the government mandating individuals wear protective gear, whether its bicycle or motorcycle helmets, seat belts, wrist guard for roller blades, safety glasses for shooting or whatever, because I believe free adults can make their own informed decisions about their own safety. But there’s the operative word: informed.
There are few if any statistics available on eye injuries occurring at firing ranges, but I suspect it’s due to the safety precautions already in place at legitimate ranges. There are, however, myriad studies of eye injuries in the workplace. In every workplace eye injury, the injuries occurred due to a lack of proper eye protection; or, improperly worn eye protection.
Over the years I’ve heard myriad excuses for not wearing protective gear from so many people, and I include myself, in every situation you can imagine, despite “knowing” the consequences should something terrible happen.
When it comes to protective eyewear especially when shooting a firearm, it should be a no-brainer; but unfortunately, it isn’t. People may be put off at the cost of high quality safety glasses versus dime store sunglasses; or how they look wearing them, or even that they’re not cowboy natural.
Considering that red-hot metal is produced when a firearm is discharged and that it travels at a high velocity; and, that there’s no absolute guarantee that metal is going to go or end up where it’s supposed to every single time, it seems like an accident just waiting to happen. And accidents do happen ~ it’s why pretty much every town has an Emergency Room. It’s one thing when a piece of hot lead lands on your arm, it’s a whole other thing when it blasts through your eye. One hurts like hell and leaves scar, the other can blind you for life.
Here are a couple of scenarios for you to consider.
Scenario I: A sudden gust of wind blows a grain or two of dirt in your eye, but somehow it feels more like a boulder or two than dirt, right? And it hurts like the devil. Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to quickly rub or wash the foreign objects out of your eye. Worst case scenario is that in the process of trying to rub it out, you scratch your cornea and need a trip to the doctor and get to wear a pirate’s patch for a week while it heals. Aargh, Matey!
Scenario II: You’re out shooting your gun in the woods or out in the desert without proper eye protection. Whether that means with no eyewear whatsoever or wearing everyday sunglasses, in the process of firing your gun, something goes terribly wrong and you end up with pieces of hot metal blasted into your face, but particularly your eye(s). Without proper eye protection, the likely scenario is that you may lose sight in one or both of your eyes. The worst case scenario is that you lose an eye and have to wear a patch for life. The worst worse case scenario is that you lose both eyes and get a white cane and a canine companion for life.
Both of the above scenarios are not science fiction and they do happen; and, unfortunately, quite frequently. In each case, safety glasses could have prevented both scenarios.
Shooting safety glasses are the absolute best tools for preventing eye injuries. In order to give you a pretty good idea what to look for in safety shooting glasses, let’s look at the best materials for maximum protection; the worst materials for the least protection; and, how they can not only protect your eyes, but actually improve your shooting in certain conditions.
The very best protection for your eyes when shooting are safety glasses made with a shatterproof polycarbonate. Polycarbonate glasses are far better than plastics or glass. When hit with a tennis ball going 40 mph, high-index plastic glasses shatter. Allyl resin shatters when hit with a tennis ball at 55 mph; whereas, glass can withstand velocity of up to 89 mph before shattering. Compare those results with polycarbonate standing up to 130 mph without shattering at all! Furthermore, wraparound polycarbonate safety glasses offer the best protection of all. In addition to the protection from high velocity projectiles, all safety glasses with polycarbonate lenses will provide 99.9% protection from harmful UVA-UVB rays, even those with a clear lens tint.
Aside from the safety benefits of wearing safety eyewear while shooting, there are other huge benefits to wearing safety glasses, especially when you add different tints to the lenses.
Clear lenses are for general eye protection, indoor ranges or poor lighting. They’re also a safety lens often used for hand loading and they have no color contrast. When you add tints, you really can enhance your shooting performance depending on the environment in which you’re shooting. No time of the day has the same lighting conditions, nor is shooting outdoors remotely the same as shooting indoors. Your targets may change from one shooting session or environment to the next; weather will change, and each and every environmental change can and will affect your shooting. By employing various tints suitable to each occasion, your shooting accuracy can improve immensely.
For instance, Orange lenses block blue light as well as haze. They’re also great for orange clay targets because the tint enhances the color. Yellow lenses are excellent for low light conditions as they contrast and brighten colors. Your shooting experience at dusk or dawn, or even at night under lights will be greatly enhanced. A perfect tint for contrasting orange targets against a blue sky is the Purple lens, especially in very bright conditions. Purple also greatly reduces glare; in particular, snow glare. These are but a few popular tints, but there are literally tints for every shooting occasion and situation you can imagine. Using tinted safety shooting glasses will help you bump up your shooting game by improving your vision while you protect it. Of course, any of the best safety shooting glasses can either be made with your vision prescription or you can choose a style which will fit over your existing eyeglasses.
Accidents happen despite all and every safety precaution taken; however, whether an accident ends up a tragedy or tragedy averted depends on whether safety precautions were taken or not. Whether you’re at a sanctioned firing range or shooting out in the country, consider wearing your safety glasses when shooting, and live to see another day.