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Effective Eyewear

Sunglasses can’t compare to quality ballistic glasses for protecting your sight from flying shrapnel, liquids, and UV rays.

July 22, 2009  |  by Scott Smith - Also by this author

Revision’s Sawfly mil-spec ballistic glasses accommodate an optional prescription carrier.

Because I grew up watching all of the best "cop shows" on both the big screen and the small screen, I know a pair of cool sunglasses is part of the requisite uniform. We all know they make us look more professional and give us that official "cop look." However, glasses do much more than this on duty. You will notice I said glasses, not sunglasses, because in my humble opinion you should be wearing glasses on every shift, not just when it's sunny. I believe glasses are body armor for your eyes.

Now you may say, "Hang on, Smith. What do you mean wear glasses on every shift? It's not sunny at midnight, and what if it's a cloudy, rainy, gray day? The sun won't bother me when those are the conditions." To this I say, true, the sun might not bother you in these situations. But what will protect your eyes from flying debris, liquids thrown at you, someone spitting in your face, or even a flying fist?

In the year 2009 glasses are not just sunglasses or glasses to help those of us who are optically challenged; they are ballistic eye protection. Yes, you read that correctly: ballistic eye protection. Anything that is flying through the air technically has a ballistic coefficient and can damage soft tissue, especially your eyes. Even the military has realized the troops need to protect their eyes and has a list of authorized protective eyewear.

So what makes a good pair of duty glasses? At first glance that might sound like questioning what makes a good pair of duty boots. However, there are specific characteristics that you should look for in duty glasses.

Balance Quality and Looks

The first thing I consider when looking at glasses is whether they will effectively protect my eyes. Most cheap sunglasses at the local corner market will offer you some protection from the sun, at best. If you are purchasing your duty shades there to save a few bucks, ensure they will at least protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB rays, which will harm your vision when you're out in the sun all day long. If these bargain specs don't do that, you are just buying smoke-colored plastic to cover your eyes. Better yet, don't buy eyewear where you buy your morning coffee. It is not going to protect you.

Where do I suggest purchasing protective eyewear? Your favorite uniform shop, a well known online supplier, and your local firearms retailer are good places to start. These places specialize in gear to protect you on and off duty.

Now, you may grouse that protective eyewear isn't cool. But I beg to differ. Companies such as Oakley, Wiley-X, and 5.11 Tactical manufacture what I think are stylish mainstream sunglasses; they all just happen to be impact and shatter resistant. You'd be surprised at the ballistic ratings many of these trendy companies offer, as they are approved military eyewear.

When you are shopping for protective optics from manufacturers of fashion eyewear, I suggest steering clear of the cool guy aviator or small lenses. They may look good, but they don't give your eyes protection from debris entering the sides of the glasses. Most ballistic/duty eyewear is a wrap style for this reason--and yes, they do look good.

Single or Interchangeable Lenses

After you find a reputable store to purchase your protective eyewear, I would suggest looking for glasses that have interchangeable lenses or shields. When you can go from clear, to yellow, to smoke/brown tinted shields you can wear the glasses day or night. Interchangeable lenses also reduce the amount of stuff you need to carry in your duty bag because you only need one set of frames. And if you buy higher end glasses, this option also greatly reduces the overall cost.

I have found that Wiley-X, Revision, and SunBuster are excellent choices. 5.11 Tactical also offers a pair of glasses with interchangeable lenses, the Eagle, which is a fine pair of specs.

If you don't like the idea of glasses with interchangeable shields but would like choice in lens color, then look at glasses from places such as big box stores and your local firearms dealer. They will have single lens shooting glasses. Yes, I said shooting glasses. They can be found in clear, yellow, and most often smoke. These glasses will also be affordably priced. 5.11 Tactical also offers several pairs of optics, which feature a single dark lens for daylight wear. From what I have seen these are tough glasses. Other quality eyewear is made by Radians, MSA, Peltor, and Champion to name a few.

CONTINUED: Effective Eyewear «   Page 1 of 2   »

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Mary Padron @ 6/26/2012 7:11 AM

Mr. Smith knows what he is talking about. And I just wanted to say that we appreciate his including Radians as one of the manufacturers of quality eyewear.

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