Shooting Glasses: Why You Need Them, and the Best to Choose From

Here is why shooting glasses are so important.

Protective eyewear is one of the most important investments you can make if you're a regular at the shooting range. A good pair of glasses offer eye protection not just from spent shells or casings, but from things like unburned powder and small pieces of material that may ricochet off your target and back at you.

Safety glasses are arguably as important as hearing protection for preserving two of your most important senses. But while people talk about ear protection all the time, eye protection is a secondary thought.

Which is why we're addressing this issue today. We're going to give you some suggestions on the best shooting glasses out there and why you should be wearing them more often.

Both men and women who shoot guns need to take this simple advice: find a pair of shooting glasses that work for you, and never skip wearing them for as long as you're aiming down a barrel.

Why eye protection is so important

As we've already stated, shooting can be hazardous to the eyes. The biggest and most realistic thing I've encountered is spent casings. Every once in a great while, my Glock 19 handgun will throw a piece of hot brass back in my face. You don't want something like that to hit your eye. It could cause permanent damage and in some extreme cases, even blindness.

When you're shooting a target at close range, there is also the chance for pieces of your target or even unburned powder to get deflected back at you. Now, you should always be taking precautions to avoid this type of thing. But weird stuff happens sometimes, and a piece of debris can get launched back at you from far downrange. The more you shoot, the more likely something like this will happen to you.

The other reason why shooting safety glasses are so important is simply because of the off chance of a catastrophic failure. It's very rare, but if something happens and a round leaves the barrel sideways or there's an obstruction in the barrel, it could cause your firearm to literally blow up in your hands.

If your face is down peering through a scope or set of sights, that puts your eyes in immediate danger in a situation like this. Protective eyewear could literally save your vision.

Factors to consider in a pair of shooting glasses

There are many different things to consider for eye protection. First off, I've seen some people just wear a simple pair of sunglasses from off the rack at Walmart. While this will protect your eyes from the little things like spent brass or powder, you should really use a pair designed for shooting.

That's because most safety glasses are made with a polycarbonate material that helps prevent them from shattering. This goes back to what I said about preparing for a worst-case scenario. Many glasses will have a list of safety standards they meet in their promotional materials.

You might see the phrase "ANSI Z87.1 certified" tossed around in marketing for shooting glasses. It's not a marketing buzz term. This simply refers to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The Z87.1 just means it meets basic standards. It's not a bad idea to get a pair of shooting glasses that satisfies them.

In regards to lens color, you'll be inundated with a ton of choices. I find clear lenses work best for most scenarios. Many people stick to clear just for indoor ranges, and tinted when they shoot outside. I suggest trying several pairs to see what you like best.

The lens color can actually enhance your shooting if you know what to look for. Have you ever watched an Olympic shooting event on TV? You probably noticed the shooters change their lenses depending on the lighting conditions.

For instance, if it's sunny and clear out, you'll see them wearing darker lenses that look like sunglasses. But if there are clouds in the sky, you might see them in blue, bronze or yellow-colored lenses.

There's a tactical advantage here, especially for clay shooters.

The contrast created by the colored lens, especially the yellow option, helps them more easily pick up their target. Some of the best ballistic shooting glasses on the market today offer interchangeable lenses to help adapt to the conditions.

You should also consider a comfortable fit, especially if you're going to be wearing them for extended periods of time. Look at things like the nose pads and flexibility. If they leave a mark on your nose, they probably aren't ideal. Users of eyeglasses are already aware of how important a comfortable nosepiece can be.

Some styles will protect better than others. A flat, aviator style of glasses isn't going to offer better protection than a wraparound style.

Other features to consider are how scratch-resistant a pair is, and whether or not they are covered by any warranty. You want to get your money's worth, right? Oh, and don't forget about anti-fog properties. Nothing is more annoying than having to constantly wipe the lenses because your warm breath or thick humidity keeps fogging them up.

Shooting glasses with prescription

I used to wear prescription eyeglasses when I was younger. These days I wear a pair of yellow-tinted glasses to protect my eyes from computer eye strain while I'm working. So, I'm aware of the problems a pair of glasses can cause when it comes to simple things like using binoculars or rangefinders.

I'm sure many of you will agree with me when I say that sunglasses or shooting glasses designed to fit over prescription eyeglasses are a real pain to use. Annoyingly, I've never found a pair I liked. The choice was always between hassling with annoying gimmicks that never seemed to work properly, or sacrificing my vision while shooting.

But fortunately, some companies have recognized this and are now offering specialty prescription eyeglasses that allow you to keep your vision and protect your eyes from danger at the same time.

If you're lucky, your ophthalmologist may be able to order a pair of these for you. Otherwise there are companies like Tactical RX or Revision Outdoors that you can order a pair from. They are more expensive than a standard pair of safety glasses, but at least you won't have to fool with adapters or fit-over styles anymore. It's probably worth the investment in the end.

The best shooting glasses

We checked out some of the offerings of the top brands out there and here are a few with great impact resistance we can recommend that will help protect your eyes at the shooting range.

The good news about most of these glasses is that they are very reasonably priced.

Wiley X Saber Advanced

These Wiley X Saber Advanced glasses are one of the top offerings on Cabela's. They carry high ratings from users on the site for their comfort and adaptability. The Wiley X meets ANSI Z87.1 and OSHA standards and feature foam on the nosepiece for a more comfortable fit. They also come with a variety of lens options including grey/rust, grey/clear and grey/rust/vermillion options to truly get your money's worth. Some reviewers say they get double use as UV protection as sun/driving glasses off the shooting range!

Beretta Performance Shooting Glasses

Sometimes simplicity is best. These Beretta glasses are available with clear, orange or yellow polycarbonate lenses. The frame is plastic, meaning these are extremely light weight. This is a wrap-around style which should fit most faces comfortably. We especially like the price. At just $20, this is a great option to protect your sight on a budget.

Cabela's S.T.R. Ballistic Series

These Cabela's branded glasses are also priced at only $20. But these are a little more stylish if you want to use them off the range to keep harmful UV rays out of your face. They're ANSI-rated and include a rubberized nosepiece. That will help keep them on your face for a long day at the range. As a bonus, you get a pair of foam earplugs with these in case you haven't bought hearing protection yet.

Oakley SI Ballistic M Frame Alpha Shooting Glasses

You know what they say, you get what you pay for. Oakley is a very popular brand of high-quality eye protection that you can trust to keep your eyes safe. These M Frame Alpha impact resistant glasses come with an anti-fog coating and the ability to swap out lenses via a "Trap Door" exchange system. The only downside to them is the price. These glasses cost $156.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis Youtube channels