I can see clearly now the game has come
We take care to protect our hearing but many guns risk eye damage. A good pair of glasses will offer protection – and could improve your vision in the field
The importance of good shooting glasses, outlined by Sarah Pratley
The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association’s ruling for hearing protection is clear: “The wearing of recognised and purposemade hearing protection products is compulsory.” When it comes to eye protection, however, the rules are rather less strict. “The appropriate wearing of adequate and effective visible eye protection… is mandatory.” Eye protection must be worn but it needn’t be stringently “recognised and purpose-made”; “adequate” will suffice.
This lack of strict regulation is certainly not due to low risk. A shard of clay or stray pellet could cause irreparable damage, as could a gun malfunction. These are not uncommon occurrences in the field and need only happen once for irreversible damage to be done.
Simply wearing glasses does not guarantee protection; shooting eyewear requires a high level of impact resistance. The CPSA recommends a minimum standard: BS.EN.166.2002, the European Standard for personal eye protection, but this is no more than a friendly suggestion. Pay attention to the material, says Sunglasses for Sport managing director Denzil Lee. “The key, critical thing is that the lens must be made of polycarbonate or Trivex. A 2mm polycarbonate lens provides a very high degree of protection, whether from a shard of clay or a pellet.”
Polycarbonate is favoured by most sports eyewear manufacturers. It has 20 times the impact resistance of glass and is shatterproof. Polarised lenses are to be avoided and are not required for shooting, as light is polarised when it reflects off a surface such as snow, Tarmac or water. “Most sub-£50 polarised sunglasses use a material called TAC. This is thin, around 1mm, and does not provide full impact protection,” explains Lee. Prescription glasses are also to be considered with care. “Just about every prescription lens made by an optician uses a material called
CR39 – this does not provide impact protection and it will shatter.”
The best take their safety testing seriously. Evolution, Sunglasses for Sport’s own-label brand, all have 2mm polycarbonate lenses and some are 2.5mm. Iconic sports eyewear brand Oakley meets or exceeds the testing standards of the American National Standards Institution and some of its models meet military standards, which are much more stringent. The majority of high-profile shooters use Pilla Performance Eyewear, the glasses of which are subject to rigorous testing. They must meet or exceed multiple American National Standards, including the ANSI Z87.1 high-impact test, which specifies that the lens must be able to withstand the blunt impact of a 500g steel missile, dropped from a height of more than 4ft. For CEO Philip Pilla, the stringent tests are of utmost importance. “Function is first, this is the hallmark of the brand.”
Glasses should be worn for protection first and foremost but they can also assist performance. Pilla was one of the first to bring ballistics and optics together. “Safety glasses have always been available but the reality is that they were deficient optically,” says Pilla. “There was an opportunity. For years, impact resistance and optical quality were at odds. Pilla was one of the first to offer the optimum from a ballistic and optical point of view.”
Guns don’t have a hope if they can’t see properly. The human eye performs at its best when the proper amount of light enters it. Too much light results in squinting to retard the brightness, too little leaves the eye straining. Both cause eye fatigue, loss of crisp hand/eye coordination and a loss of focus. For the eye to perform at its best, it needs to be relaxed. Simply wearing sunglasses will not improve your shot, however. There must be a proper balance of colour enhancement for the eye to gauge depth of field. Without this, it becomes harder to recognise the speed, distance and trajectory of the target.
Pilla’s lenses address all these problems, its advantage being an exclusive partnership with Zeiss, world leader in the optical and optoelectronic industry. Formed in 2012, the partnership has created VIVX High-definition Lenses by Zeiss, certified by the “Z” found on the back of every dual lens or mask lenses. Pilla’s Light Management Technology is based on regulating the proper amount of light into the eye and its colour-enhancement science allows the eye to register the complete visual colour spectrum. This gives accurate depth perception and allows the wearer to recognise the true flight speed, distance and trajectory of the target.
The lens colour is also critical for assisting performance and there are many to choose from. Game shooters often opt for yellow because, as Lee asserts, “it’s a high contrast colour and contrast is good for any shooting. More importantly, it’s a light-enhancing colour that helps on dull winter days.” Yellow filters out blue light that can make focusing difficult and it is one of only three colours covered by BS:EN:166. The others are clear and grey. Clear glasses are for impact resistance only. Grey lenses reduce all light equally and don’t increase contrast, so are best in bright conditions. Although not covered by the safety standard, other colours offer a perfectly sufficient level of protection; what is important is to buy glasses from a reputable supplier made from tested materials.
However, look beyond the safety standards and colour choices become more interesting. Purple lenses, popular with clay busters, are rarely seen in the field. “Purple is called the ‘background neutraliser’ because it dulls or kills green,” says Lee. “This means you will see any moving object including gamebirds better against trees or a grass bank.”
‘There has been a change in appetite for game-shooters to wear glasses’
Orange is recommended to game shooters, too. “Orange is a high-definition colour. Everything in the field of vision will be in sharper focus. It also works well in overcast conditions.” Purple and orange are the colours that Steve Scott, Olympic bronze medallist and double Commonwealth champion in double trap, swears by for clay-and game-shooting. “I use purple for a green background against a blue sky and when I’m [clay] shooting abroad that very rarely changes. They make orange stand out really well,” says Scott. “When you are on a game-shooting day and it’s overcast and there’s drizzle, which are the perfect conditions, orange brightens everything and makes everything sharper.”
in the frame
Even the most carefully chosen lenses need a complementary frame. Sunglasses for Sport recommends rimless or frameless eyewear, designed to sit high so as not to interfere with vision, and wraparound styles for extra protection from wind and rain. Oakley has patented Three-point-fit, where the frame only makes contact at the bridge of the nose and behind the temples. This keeps perfect optical alignment while eliminating pressure points. Pilla stringently tests its frames alongside the lenses. “Zeiss requires the entire frame engineering to complement the engineering of the lens so they are tested to deliver the spec as a unit,” says Pilla. For every Pilla system, the lack of interference is crucial. “When someone puts on our glasses we can guarantee that they will forget they are wearing them.”
In a sport steeped in tradition, however, eyewear can look futuristic. “Historically, we have had more velocity in the traditional glasses, such as aviators,” explains Pilla. “They fit with the expected attire of participation.” Change has been slow but it is happening. “In the past three to five years there has been a change in appetite for game shooters to wear glasses.” Pilla has tripled in size every year, which the company puts down to the quality of the glass and prolific shooters using its products.
Indeed, Scott is a Pilla devotee. “With Pilla glasses it is like going from standard TV to HD TV,” he enthuses. And Scott is certainly not alone, Pilla outfits an impressive stable of champion shooters. Twenty-sixtime world champion George Digweed was involved in the design of the original Panther system, focusing on interchangeability to swap the lenses without touching the glass. He now wears the Outlaw X6, which are a popular choice among the professionals. World clay-shooting champion Cheryl Hall also wears them, as does Olympic champion Richard Faulds.
Predictably, the kit of our best shooters comes at a price. Sunglasses for Sport is a Pilla Premier Dealer in the UK and it sells the Outlaw X7 kits for £570, which includes a frame and three lenses. A similar Panther X7 kit costs £460. For Scott, the price is justified. “Pilla are the most expensive on the market but you get what you pay for. They are, in my opinion, the best.”
But there are good options for less. “If you are only going on 12 days a year, the cheaper glasses will be just as good,” says Scott. Bollé has glasses for under £20 and UVEX and Evolution sell models for as little as £15. The latter is believed to be the current bestseller by volume in the UK. “It’s perfectly possible to buy good shooting eyewear for under £20 – indeed, we sell plenty at under that price,” says Lee. “We have CPSA shooting coaches wearing Evolution eyewear at under £30.”
You only get one pair of eyes but you can improve your vision in the field. So make a bold addition to your shooting kit. Eyewear will make you a safer and better shot, even if the lenses don’t quite match your tweeds.
Pilla has teamed up with Zeiss, a world leader in the optical and optoelectronic industry
Above: orange lenses are recommended for those shooting game. Left: Olympic gold medallist
Richard Faulds MBE wearing Pilla glasses
Evolution Matrix glasses in purple (right) and orange, light yellow and purple (above). Below: polycarbonate offers the best impact resistance