The benefits of prescription inserts in shooting glasses

James Marchington discovers there’s more to corrective shooting glasses than he realised.

Tinted safety specs typically used for shooting have the curved ‘wraparound’ style

If you’re reading this then I take it that, like me, you wouldn’t stand a chance of hitting a target without glasses, or perhaps contact lenses. That’s fine, because we can go to an optician and get the gear we need to see perfectly well. In my case that’s varifocal glasses, with bands of different strength so I can see properly at distance, middle distance and close up.

So far so good, except those varifocals aren’t ideal to use as shooting glasses. They’re not too bad, but the picture at distance is less sharp if I look through the corner of the lens rather than the middle – and it’s the corner I need when I mount the gun.

The other problem, of course, is that you need protective glasses for shooting, preferably the sort with tough polycarbonate lenses which will survive an impact from a clay fragment or lead pellet travelling at speed. The kind of glasses you buy for everyday use from a high street optician aren’t up to that standard.

Plus for shooting it’s useful to have a variety of different lens tints, to reduce glare and enhance the contrast between target and background. One tint might work well for an orange target against green foliage in dull light, while you’d want something else entirely for a black driven midi in a clear blue sky passing uncomfortably close to the sun.

Shooting glasses manufacturers offer a huge range of tints for that very reason, but that’s no help if you’re stuck with your everyday varifocals like me.

All of this made me very interested in the idea of shooting glasses with a prescription insert. Then I could take advantage of all the benefits of purpose designed shooting glasses, with my vision corrected as required – the best of both worlds.

Well I’ve tried a few shooting glasses with prescription inserts now, and I’m afraid to say they haven’t performed as I’d hoped. Perhaps I should say that I haven’t performed, because that’s what this is all about: hitting more targets – and with prescription inserts I didn’t see the improvement that my optimism had promised.

I was still getting a less than perfect picture with my right eye looking down the rib through the upper inside corner of the lens. But why? It took me a while to work out, but eventually the truth struck me as I fiddled absent-mindedly with a set of inserts in front of the telly one evening.

The inserts are, of course, curved to fit inside the wraparound protective style of shooting glasses. My regular varifocals are flat against my face, just as the lenses were when the optician tested my eyesight.

The insert is made of flexible plastic, so to prove my point I bent it into a straight line and held it up to my eyes – bingo! A perfect picture, the one I’d been hoping to see all along. So it’s not the lenses’ fault or mine, or even the glasses manufacturer; it’s just physics.

I’ve now talked to various experts about this, including our own Ed Lyons, and they confirm that a prescription doesn’t take into account the lenses being angled in front of your face in a wraparound style, so it can be a problem.

So what next? Well my quest continues to find out more, and hopefully end up with a pair of shooting glasses that meet my needs. I’ll report back when there’s more to tell!

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