Only recently I met a shooter who had surgery last year to remove a shot pellet from the top of his cheekbone, millimetres away from his eye socket, after an over-enthusiastic shooter overstretched his mark on a layout to catch a crosser. It was the day before Christmas and he spent four hours in agonising surgery while doctors dug a pellet out of his skull, without general anaesthetic or being knocked out, because if he did, he wouldn’t have been home for Christmas and would remain in hospital for the next several days. This gentleman wasn’t wearing shooting glasses. Rare these cases might be, but his visible scar changed this gentleman’s view of protective eyewear, and he wears them religiously now.
In light of this, I wanted to investigate whether what he now wore, along with other responsible shooters, really lived up to its safety record. I invited several shooting eyewear brands to be involved in a test, to prove that their products could withstand a direct shotgun blast. If they could do this, then the glasses would surely be able to protect eyes from misfired shot or falling clay chips. Honesberie Shooting School played host to the test, which has a quality shop in its new clubhouse that deals in Pilla glasses, and offers standard safety goggles free to use for those who turn up without their own protection, to ensure safety standards are adhered.
We set up a Styrofoam head on a post at Honerberie’s rifle range facility to give us 40 yards of room available to shoot from. Each company sent either a fully framed set of glasses or the lens from one of its products, which we mounted on the head.
After firing one 7.5 cartridge directly at the head, we then counted the amount of pellets that struck the glasses, and how many penetrated the lenses. The results of this are printed in a table on the following page, and we go into detail about how each product fared along with information about how much they cost and where they can be bought.
We compared the shooting eyewear against two shop-bought sunglasses to show the difference between the cool shades you want to be seen in day to day, and the polycarbonate lenses and durable frames required for shooting conditions. Read on to find out how they got on.
Napier System 7000
Napier of London has a wide supply of accessories and quality shooting glasses is just one area it excels in with three models across different price ranges available. It donated lenses from the System 7000 model, which sits in the middle of the three in terms of price. They boast four coloured lenses for different situations and a neoprene active sports band and removable nosepiece.
We initially had some concerns about the way lenses by themselves would stand up against full frames without the structural support they provide, but the System 7000 lens managed just fine all by itself. It was struck by 10 pellets, and while there are a few cracks where two pellets close together have put additional strain on the lens, it remained intact and no shot penetrated the protective seal in front of the Styrofoam head’s eyes.
Napier of London 01235 812993 www.napieruk.com
This company recently got in touch with Clay Shooting about entering the shooting eyewear market, but it admitted to not adhering to CPSA safety standards. We notified them that the product probably wouldn’t be a major player in the shooting market unless this was address but invited them to send in a set of eyewear to see how they got on. While the after image looks dramatic, these glasses actually did better than we initially thought. They feature Chromalite Polyamide polarised lenses that took two clear blows to the left eye. While there are several spider-web like cracks, no pellets got through the lens. The frame, however, did not hold up. Two pellets struck the top and the nosepiece, and consequently pieces of each broke off. So while the lens did its job, the frame requires a re-think before shooters will be ready to purchase a pair.
Anglo Italian Optical Limited 01440 712777 www.anglo-italian.com
Sunglasses for Sport has perfected the option of glasses for those who don’t want to spend a fortune on protection. The Chameleon range boasts eight different shades of lens, and it is available in a four-lens set at a good price of £44.95. We opted to shoot the yellow lens, which has an adjustable nose pad and is extremely lightweight for all-day wear.
The one-piece lens was struck seven times across both eyes with only one showing the kind of force to deeply punish the lens, but none got through and they head’s eyes were safe.
Browning Claybuster Glasses
This one-piece polycarbonate lens is at a price that won’t break the bank and durable and lightweight for wearing all day or throwing in your bag and knowing their safe. I personally used these most of last year and was particularly interested to see whether my eyes stayed safe during that time. They also come with in an orange option but the lenses aren’t interchangeable.
Two pellets struck the lens in the dead centre of each eye but neither came close to making it all the way through, making me feel good about the time I was wearing these.
Browning 01235 514550 www.browning.eu
RE Ranger Falcon Pro
This popular brand is distributed in the UK via York Guns, and boast many top shots who make use of the frame. They sent down a lens that was previously worn by sponsored shooter Mikey Burnand that had already been struck by a piece of falling clay – so they had already proved their worth. We were concerned that the structural integrity of the glasses might have been damaged already, but that was not the case as the results show. After being struck by six pellets, the strong lens showed no signs of faltering despite already showing signs of damage from the fallen clay. These would be a good buy, the three-lens kit has been shaped and inspired on the design of the cockpit of the F-16 American fighter jet and with its sweat-bar on the frame adding to air-flow between the eye and the lens to reduce fogging, you won’t be caught out in the middle of a stand. High end it might be, but they are attractive to the top shots because of its additional features and great field of vision that help set apart the good from the great.
York Guns 01904 487180 www.yorkguns.com
Primarily a fishing brand that is looking to break into a shooting market, Costa is distributed by Seapower and they put up a set of Ansil frames to see if they can stand up to the power of a shotgun cartridge. While framless along the bottom for a better field of view, the black arms and top bar are made of a heavy duty TR90 nylon. They boast a lifetime warranty, which will prove useful for the particular pair of glasses received as they now don’t look as good as when they first arrived. Despite being struck by seven pellets across its two individual lenses, nothing got through and I would be more than happy to take these out on a shooting ground regularly, safe in the knowledge that my eyesight is protected. They are polarised, as most fishing lenses are, so if you’re shooting near water or there is a sheen off a nearby trap house they will help with vision as well.
Seapower 01628 623100 www.seapower.uk.com
Pilla is one of the top brands in shooting, and while the company was keen to be involved, they were unable to send product over to us from the US before the test took place so Ben Wells from dealer and useful shooting infosite EnglishSportingClays.co.uk donated a VX model Zeiss VIVX DV lens to us for the test. This brand suffer from more strikes than most tested on the day – 11 in total – and unfortunately was hit by the wad of the cartridge. This split a crack that two pellets had formed on the edge of the lens where the arms would have provided extra support, so what looks like a shocking weakness of an expensive, sought-after brand, is actually unlucky in that it suffered a worse fate that all other lenses or frames. Where pellets struck without the further punishment of a high-powered cartridge wad, the lens fared well, and the additional technology used to make the owner’s vision more adaptable to conditions and enhance targets is worth the price alone.
English Sporting Clays www.englishsportingclays.co.uk
So confident is Thomas Jacks in the Wiley X brand that when it sent the Vapor model for testing, they said we should fire the cartridge from 15 yards out. We wanted to hopefully simulate conditions that are similar to the example in the opening paragraph, that one might be struck by a stray pellet from anywhere on the ground, but from that statement, we expected Wiley X to do well.
Four powerful strikes to the centre of the lens did little to stop glasses that are used by military forces around the world. When you consider that two smashed on the border between the lens and the frame but did little to dislodge either, this is a tough product that would be interesting to see from 15 yards out. Consider the fact that they are lightweight and comes with two interchangeable lenses for different shooting conditions, this is a great product at the price point.
Thomas Jacks 01789 264100 www.thomasjacks.co.uk
Another quality product made and sold by Sunglasses for Sport, the Fusion range is a set of two single lenses on a wrap-around frame, and it comes with three other lens colours in a set of four. It has a lightweight frame and the lenses are simple to change, but you also benefit from the non-slip nose pads and temple tips and a UV400 rated lenses.
Each lens was struck with three pellets each, and the frame shows signs of being skimmed by two additional pellets, but none caused any damage that would endanger they eyes. Another great product from this company.
Fairfax Monitoring Shooting Glasses
It’s important to get an idea of how all glasses might perform and not just those from companies who have margins to hit and profits to make. Fairfax Monitoring supplies standard, low-budget eyewear and accessories to the shops and shooting grounds.
Despite the price, the glasses look good. The sleek wrap-around lens affixes to adjustable arms for ease of wear, and the nose-piece isn’t uncomfortable. Eight significant pellets hit it and nothing has broken through to the other side of the lens.
£3.10ea for 24
Fairfax Monitoring Ltd 01622 662121 www.fairfaxuk.com
Beretta Race Glasses
This clear lens from Beretta strikes a resemblance to some Pilla shapes, but makes use of the thin, curled frames that tuck behind your ear comfortably to ensure no movement during recoil, reminiscent of the Zeiss Shooting Glasses design. The nosepiece is comfortable with a smart Beretta logo where the lens is secured to the frame in the bottom corner to give the shooter a wide, uninterrupted view. Struck by five powerful pellets, these showed no sign of breaking down and inspired confidence.
GMK 01489 579999 www.gmk.co.uk
I was particularly intrigued by how the Oakley glasses would fare as I have recently started using the frames. They are some of the easier frames I’ve used regarding the interchangeable lenses, as the frame is on long piece with soft rubber grips over where your ears might be, and the one-piece lens slots in to one long slot.
The right half of the lens was struck by two strong pellets and there are two marks on the frame that show signs of being hit, but that’s only upon close inspection. The frame is coloured black and grey with a crosshatch design that hides most blemishes, but with a new lens this would be good to go.
M Frames £65
M Frame Sweep Standard lens £40
West Country Guns 01984 623829 www.westcountryguns.com
We compared the dedicated shooting eyewear against two pairs of shop-bought sunglasses to show the difference between the cool shades you want to be seen in day to day, and the polycarbonate lenses and durable frames required for shooting conditions.
Applying the same test to these glasses as we did the polycarbonate lenses, the results speak for themselves, and anyone caught wearing them at a ground should change them quickly. Read on for the results.
We went into the trendiest high-street shop we could find and picked up two pairs of sunglasses to show how important having the correct spectacles is on a shooting ground. The first pair have one wrap-around lens with metal frames and plastic ear pieces featuring the letter G, which stands for the brand Golddigga.
These actually fared better than I anticipated, but I think it had more to do with a bad shot than the robust construction. Only one pellet hit the left corner of the lens and while it looks like it didn’t make it all the way through it did shatter parts of the lens, which would have meant spending a long time in surgery carefully picking shards out of your eye. The lens is also half hanging out.
High-street shop in Leamington Spa.
With two single lenses and a metal frame, these SoulCal&Co glasses are a designed that has been popular since Tom Cruise wore them in the film Top Gun. They might be considered cool, but safe on the shooting ground they are not. Four pellets hit the lenses and 100 per cent success of penetrating the weak lenses.
Without a doubt, someone wearing these on a shooting ground would be blind should an unfortunate accident take place. These go to show more than anything else, that eyewear, correct eyewear, is essential, and those not wearing any should reconsider going to a shooting ground at all.
High-street shop in Leamington Spa.