In this article, we focus on the options available, both good and bad, for shooters who wear prescription glasses.
When shooting, protecting your eyes is very important. Seeing your sights and the target and being aware of the surrounding environment are also important.
Since there is generally no immediate consequence of wearing poor and improper eye protection I often observe that many gun owners do nothing more than continue to wear their prescription glasses on the range just like they do off the range.
Why Your Standard Prescription Glasses Aren't Suitable
One of the greatest safety mistakes I witness on gun ranges I visit is the prevalence of shooters wearing very standard prescription eyewear.
Certainly, I wouldn't consider this a major safety violation. Most ranges and instructors don't either, and as such it often goes unmentioned and uncorrected.
Often prescription glasses are not made from the same materials as rated safety glasses. Prescription lens are often made up of different plastic and metal materials like Zyl and Monel, whereas safety glasses are made from a more durable material.
A common misconception of safety glasses is that “safety-rated” is safety-rated. There are different levels of ballistic protection and when it comes to protecting one's eyes I would think that the very minimal level of acceptable protection wouldn't be ideal.
Poor Shape / Face Coverage
Just as important a failure to point out is the lack of protection traditional prescription glasses offer from the side and other angles. Anyone who has spent a lot of time on the range can understand that often the dangerous objects safety glasses protect you from don't come at you directly but from a side or angle.
Prescription glasses generally have flat lenses and come in all sorts of different shapes in different frame designs generally built around fashion and personal preference.
Safety glasses are usually curved to provide side protection and to fill in the gaps above, below, and to all sides of your eye. This “face-fitting” design objective provides more universal protection and on more than one occasion I've seen the “shape” and “curve” of prescription glasses protect a shooter from a significant potential injury. In these instances, it has nothing to do with the quality of the lenses but with the “coverage” the glasses provide on the face.
Don't Do It – Side Shields
Many factors contribute to effective safety eyewear as discussed above. This low-cost solution certainly provides you with some side protection but often creates optical distortions which can be distracting to your peripheral vision, and they may not fit your head well enough in terms of wraparound coverage.
Further, most prescription glasses are not manufactured to high safety standards in terms of ballistic protection and just slapping some side shields on your glasses does nothing to increase the quality of the lens materials.
Side shields like these shown can be had on Amazon for less than $10 but ultimately fall short of delivering adequate protection.
In short, this is not a recommended solution. (Plus you will look like an idiot)
Great Solution #1: Prescription Safety Glasses – TacticalRX
TacticalRX, based in Denver Colorado, provides a fantastic solution if you want a pair of quality safety glasses in your prescription. This is going to require a budget north of $300 and if you want the really good stuff it will likely be more than that.
TacticalRX deserves a special call-out in my opinion as a company that not only has been serving the shooting community for decades but also the team that invented the curved prescription lens. To be clear, what I mean is that the founder of TacticalRX was the first person to ever “discover” how to make an effective curved prescription lens and continues to lead the industry in doing that better than anyone else.
They feature a good selection of different frame options to fit any head and their customer service is great. They will also make prescription lenses for your existing frames from Oakley, Wiley, and a number of other manufacturers.
I know the owner and have seen their operation, and I think you can't go wrong with TacticalRX. They do this without having crazy high prices. Check them out.
Great Solution #2: Methow Kit & RX Adapter – SSP Eyewear
SSP Eyewear, based in Washington State, has been supporting shooters and the shooting sports a long time. They have a unique solution that deserves your attention.
SSP sells the Methow kit (shown in the picture above) which is a kit that comes with 6 different lenses that are interchangeable in the included frame. These different colors give you several options for indoor and outdoor shooting.
Available to add on, or purchase after the fact is their Methow RX adapter adapter which comes with lenses in your prescription. The RX adapter clicks into the Methow frame as shown in the above picture.
By the time you purchase the full kit and adapter in your prescription, you will spend more than $500 but you will have 6 different color lenses and in the future if your prescription changes you don't need to invest the same amount of money to just get a new RX adapter in your new prescription.
One potential downside is the RX adapter won't provide as wide of a field of view (FOV) as a set of actual wraparound prescription safety glasses from TacticalRX, but it isn't dissimilar from what you are accustomed to with your normal prescription glasses.
The owner of SSP, who I also trust and count as a good friend, also told me that in some extreme circumstances (in terms of your actual prescription) they may not be able to make Methow RX lenses but they will let you know when you order, and in that very rare case SSP refers people to TacticalRX.
Hey, This Looks Expensive 🙁
Yeah good gear isn't cheap by definition. Prescription glasses aren't generally free either. Consider however that repairing eyes is much more difficult and expensive. If you lose an eye it can't be replaced.
Prescription glasses are medical devices and both the vendors I've referenced above will allow those with HSA cards to make a purchase which will be eligible for reimbursement.
Increase Your ROI by Wearing Your Glasses More Often
Wear these glasses when you go hiking, fishing, biking, and any number of other outdoor activities. I am aware of people who have lost eyes due to inadequate eye protection while mountain biking and hunting. Getting a good pair of glasses will remove your excuses to not wear eye protection during all those situations also.