The Cornered Cat
Eye can see clearly now

When I was in second grade, my parents took me to the eye doctor. After I squinted at the chart and made a bunch of bad guesses about what it said, the doctor scrawled out a prescription for glasses. “I’m surprised she didn’t notice sooner,” the doctor told my parents. “She’s very nearsighted.”

Thus began my love-hate relationship with glasses. I love living in a place and  time where it’s possible to correct your vision. Can you imagine living in the days before eyeglasses were invented? That would be awful! So no matter how much of a hassle I find my glasses, I’m certainly thankful to have them.

When I first began shooting, I soon discovered that safety eyewear and prescription glasses don’t go together all that well. You can’t go without safety gear, because you need side shields and some protection from the top to prevent brass from getting behind your eyeglasses. You also need lenses made of solid polycarb, so they won’t shatter if something bounces back at you. Most regular eyeglasses just won’t cut it by themselves.

No problem, I figured, I’ll just grab some $5 cheapie safety goggles from the hardware store, the kind with an elastic strap that will just go right over the top of my glasses.

Uh-uh. No. Goggles and glasses aren’t made to wear together no matter what the package says. The glasses fog. Smear ‘em with no-fog goop, and they still fog. The goggles – did I mention cheap? – distort the images. The cheap plastic scratches on first use. You get glare. It’s uncomfortable. Not worth it. I’d pay $5 to avoid this hassle.

Fine, I thought. I’ll move up to a $20 pair of over-the-glasses protective eyeglasses, like you can find at the gun store.

Better, but still not ideal. For one thing, wearing two pairs of glasses means the seal on your ear muffs gets twice as disrupted. So now you’re fighting with your ear protection as well as your eyewear. You still get a lot of glare and distortion. I found that sometimes the outer pair of glasses would slide down my nose, which made it decidedly hard to shoot well. At least this method reduced the amount of fogging. Sort of. It was still a long way from ideal.

A friend suggested just wearing protective eyewear without my usual glasses underneath. Yeah, like I hadn’t already thought of that. My vision is too bad without glasses to go this route, so I thanked her and moved on.

So what’s a girl with bad eyes to do? For me, the answer was simple. With as much time as I spend on the range, I simply had to pony up the money for prescription safety glasses. Oh, I can hear you cringing from here. But it’s nowhere near as expensive as you’d think, and for me it was a godsend. Totally, 100% worth it, no questions asked. If you shoot a lot, you should look into this possibility the next time you get your prescription updated. Did I mention worth it?

Meanwhile, back in the real world where people are sometimes broke and where most people don’t spend as much time on the range as I do, here’s one answer.

  • First, ask your optician to put polycarb lenses in your regular eyeglasses. It’s an upgrade, but it’s typically only around $15 as an add on when you’re buying your glasses. You might do this anyway, as polycarbs tend to be lightweight and a bit more sturdy over time. And that whole “won’t shatter when struck” thing is kind of important too.
  • Next, pop over to Amazon and order simple $5 side shields (like these) for your glasses. The side shields keep brass from flying in from the sides when you’re shooting. As you can see, they do work best with non-fancy earpieces, so that’s something to keep in mind.
  • Finally, always wear a ball cap on the range to keep brass from falling in behind your glasses from the top.

Problem solved!

10 Responses to Eye can see clearly now

  1. A Girl says:

    Absolutely perfect timing. I finally had no choice, but to go from reading glasses to full on, I-am-over-40-have-to-wear-them-all-the-time-progressive-lenses glasses. Wondered how they were going to work on the range.

  2. larryarnold says:

    “I’m surprised she didn’t notice sooner,” the doctor told my parents. “She’s very nearsighted.”


    Uh, no. Kids won’t realize they have vision problems because they don’t know other people see differently.

    As a kid I was nearsighted enough that in first grade I had to strain to read the blackboard, sitting on the front row. The teacher noticed it and told my parents. I remember quite clearly driving home wearing my first glasses. Trees actually had individual leaves, not just a fuzzy green ball. I was amazed. This was what other people saw?

    Years later I remembered that feeling. As a senior patrol leader in a Boy Scout troop I taught a class on stargazing. One of the tenderfeet couldn’t pass. He swore he was studying, but when we went outside he couldn’t point out the constellations. I asked his father if he’d had an eye check lately. The next meeting, with new glasses, he passed easily. “That’s what stars look like?”

    So I watch for kids that squint, and every once in a while I find one. I tell whoever is responsible for them. Nearly every time the kid is surprised. “This is what other people see?”


  3. Judy says:

    Like AGirl above, I have to wear glasses all the time. Since my prescription seems to get stronger each time I visit the optometrist, I didn’t want to make a huge investment in prescription shooting lenses, so I went with these:

    Now, each year I spend a few bucks on new inserts for my safety glasses. Once my vision stops changing all the time, I might go higher-end, but for now, these are just fine.

  4. orygunmike says:

    Hey Kathy … It seems I recently saw you post a source for prescription safety glasses … or maybe I just dreamed it?

    If you did, could you please repost your source, or can my Optometrist provide these?

  5. orygunmike says:

    Accck….I think I found my own answer…

    Perhaps someone else will benefit from me posting this here..

  6. RabidAlien says:

    Been wearing glasses since the 6th grade (probably needed them in the 5th grade)…I have had a book welded to my nose ever since I learned how to read, so I’m seriously nearsighted. However, I made the switch to contacts just prior to getting out of the Navy :mumblemumble: years ago. They’re their own brand of hassle, but, in my opinion, I’d rather have contacts than glasses. ‘Course, always have a spare pair of glasses handy in case you lose one of those bad boys (or are in an OhCrap situation and don’t have access to handy stuff like containers and solution).

    The best possible solution, though? Go with what you’re used to, with what is comfortable for you. There are safety measures you can take with either type of eyewear.

    …of course, discovering that I am cross-eyed dominant helped improve my shooting by several orders of magnitude, no matter what I was using to correct my vision.

  7. Andrew Rothman says:

    I can’t recommend simply switching to polycarbonate lenses. The strength of your prescription may mean that they are or are not thick enough to resist shattering.

    Real safety glasses meet a minimum ANSI standard call Z87.

    For me, inexpensive prescription safety glasses called “Rec Specs” — about $50, with prescription, at Sam’s Club (no membership required) have been terrific. The elastic strap in the place of the rigid bows ensures a that my muffs maintain a good seal.

  8. peterb says:

    Glasses with prescription inserts can be heavy, but offer excellent protection. The outer lens can be inexpensively replaced if scratched or to change colors.

    Some examples are shown here on the APEL:

    The Uvex glasses are very inexpensive — $10-15/pair without the inserts.

    A good explanation of the different protective levels is here:

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