Testing Eye Protection with Select Fire Guns at IV8888 Shoot
Eyewear is both crucial for safety and shooting performance. Many people go through an array of pairs before finding a good set. At Guns.com, we did the legwork to help you find the ones that will work for you. Evaluations included clarity, comfort and looks.
We tested seven types of eye protection at the Iraq Veteran 8888 Range Day by giving them to various machine gun shooters on a hot Georgia day. From high-end Oakleys to inexpensive Walkers, this was a real-life test of the glasses listed below.
Here’s the breakdown of what we found and the eye protection we found that worked best.
Besides being the least expensive, the Clearviews were also one of the best performing glasses. They simply worked. The completely frameless wraparound design is clear and caused no obscurity of view. It also works for many different head sizes and shapes. Walker made the arms thin, which means these glasses will tuck under a hat with ease and stay in place while hitting that happy switch on a full auto.
Personally, I’ve had extensive experience with these glasses. For two years of sporting clays, I shot with a yellow set before upgrading to Oakley. They made the clays pop in color and didn’t interfere with shooting a long gun. The same set endured for two years and proved durable with the combined lens/frame, so there was no worrying about a lens popping out.
During our testing, they breathed very well and were lightweight, making long term wear comfortable. The morning fog got to the lenses. But once that burned off, they never fogged while shooting in Georgia’s humidity. A bit of anti-fog treatment would make these a top runner. With such a simple design, they look good on everyone we tested them on. They were a bit small on extra-large heads but still good all-around eye wear. At this price, everyone should have a set even if it’s just a backup.
Oakley SI Speed Jacket
What makes a pair of glasses worth three hundred dollars? Clarity. The Oakley SI Speed Jackets provide a level of clarity that truly makes everything appear sharper. This can be attributed to their PRIZM technology, which includes glare-free polarization. Choices of clear, smoke, and rose tints more than covered all the range conditions – rose being the most versatile and by far the most preferred color. Changing out the lenses was a snap. A nifty button on the sides releases them with ease. Everything is kept in a hard case, which is large and bulky but nicely padded. A sleeve for cleaning and carrying is also included.
Wearing the Speed Jackets was very comfortable. Though not as lightweight as some of the other choices, the design makes them good for long-term use. Modern lens shapes helped hug the top of the cheeks. When your cheek is pressed against a stock, that shape helps them stay in place.
The thin ear stems worked well with hats as well. During the hot days, the glasses kept fog free and had great ventilation. The nosepiece on the Speed Jackets was more low profile and less sweaty compared to the other sunglasses. Designed to grip under wet conditions, they stayed put during the rapid fire of machine guns. Though the Oakleys come at a steep price, they are great glasses.
Walkers Game Ear
These have a bulky design with thick arms and full frames. For those who like bold styles, this is a great option. With an array of testers, some people looked great in the Game Ears. On smaller heads, however, they were overpowering. It was interesting that despite appearing large the Game Ears fit tightly on some medium and large heads. Head shape might also affect fit. After a long day of wear, the frames pinched a bit in the back, but the pliable adjustability in the arms helps with this some. Complaints included the nose and frames getting sweaty – a common complaint in eye wear – but people also noted the nose piece fit well.
As far as clarity, the frames did show in your peripheral vision but only slightly obscured the view. The clear lenses were perfect for low light and are the tint of choice for foggy mornings. They did, however, scratch easily and fogged moderately. Overall, the Game Ears come down to style preference. If you like the looks, these glasses provide good clarity, durability, and feel well made. The downfall was the thickness of the frames around the lenses. This made them one of the least comfortable glasses of the group.
Magpul has been stepping it up by entering the eyewear space, which is no surprise because it seems all their other products have great designs. Almost everyone gravitated to the Explorers. They look really good and feature a casual design with mirror lenses. Comfort wise, these glasses felt great for all-day use. They were lightweight, and the thin arms worked great with hats. In the Georgia heat, the Explorers proved to have great ventilation as well.
Clarity was perfect. Polarized lenses really helped with glare on the range, and blue seemed to work good in all lighting conditions. Magpul’s oleophobic treatment helped with fogging and scratching. They seemed to fit best on medium faces but worked on some large and small heads depending on the size. Honestly, it looks really cool to have safety glasses that look more like traditional sunglasses. The drawback of the shape is that they do not meet the Z81 safety rating, but they still have the same ballistic protection.
Our testers did not have any issues. There were a lot of metal targets and debris did not get behind the lens even when standing sideways to the range for videoing. I wouldn’t recommend these for competition due to the lack of side protection. The Magpuls are a really great buy for the features and all-around good glasses. This is a step towards high-end eyewear and comes with a DAKA Can hard case with cloth bag and lens cleaner.
Howard Leight Uvex
To be honest, the Uvex’s were the least liked of the group. From the beginning, they were picked last just based on looks. The frame behind the lens and overall styling were off-putting. Picking them up, these glasses felt really chintzy and practically rattled in your hand. There was some saving grace in the comfort. The frames are thin behind the ear and the curve in the arms offered a secure fit. They were specifically designed to fit under ear pro and were great with hats, too. Overall, they were light and easy to wear over long periods of time.
The deal breaker was the clarity. Espresso is an uncommon tint color, and one can see why. It seemed to dull everything out. They also didn’t seem to have an ideal lighting situation – too dark for overcast and too light for direct sun. The anti-scratch coating didn’t help these lenses a lick either as they proved to get the most scratched up. There was, however, no fogging, which is probably due to the high cut and angle of the lens. Overall, the Uvex was comfortable, but they were cheap feeling and offered poor clarity.
Walkers Sport Glasses
The Sports offer a lot of options for a great price. They boast four interchangeable lenses that include amber, yellow, smoke, and clear. This array leaves you ready for just about every lighting situation. The darker lenses look good on these glasses as the thick nose piece sticks out on the lighter tints. The nosepiece is actually how the lenses are changed. It’s a very easy system, but it does add weight on the nose and collects sweat. Ratcheting arms give these glasses one-size-fits-all flexibility, and the thin design is comfortable.
These are OK on looks, not showstoppers but not ugly ducklings either. What really matters is the clarity, which was great. During the event, the Sports became my default glasses as the yellow and orange tints really made all the colors pop and could easily be exchanged. Long term wear with these glasses was comfortable, but the nose piece did get sweaty in hot humid conditions. They fit well on just about everyone.
The soft case offers great protection for all the lenses but seems to be one size too small with an overly snug fit. The Sports are a great buy for the price. Both clarity and comfort are there with the only downfalls being the nose pad and looks.
The Summits seemed to offer the best in terms of protection. Magpul nailed it with the wrap-around design. Even on a variety of head sizes, these glasses fit well. They do look bulky on smaller head sizes, and the gray with rose lens is not the most common combo. But Magpul does offer other colors. Despite looking thicker, the arms are actually pretty thin, and the lightness made all-day wear easy.
These particular lenses were not polarized, but still offered very sharp clarity. Rose is a good color for most conditions, which was ideal for the shifty southern weather. The oleophobic treatment helped with scratches, but it seemed they smudged with sweat easily. Though the Summits didn’t fog, they were a little warm to wear. That could be because of the lens shape. All around, the Magpul Summits are a solid choice.
When choosing glasses, think about what else you will wear with them. Earmuffs and hats will all affect fit. Lens shape is also very important. You want glasses to sit properly to give the best protection. Based on performance, the Oakley Speed Jacket, Walkers Sport, and Walkers Clearview win this test. For looks, Magpul Explorer takes the cake, followed by Oakley Speed Jacket and Walker Clearview.