Safety rules; the commandments of shooting – call them what you will, aside from conducting combat operations, if rounds are heading down range in a controlled environment there are a plethora of rules that one must follow. Some would even argue the point of adhering to the same rules in an uncontrolled environment aka, shooting bad guys! Aside from the nuts and bolts of weapons handling, there is certain gear that needs to be in place… for your safety; so, if you’re one of the types that thinks shooting eyewear and hearing protection is beneath you…try it once, the first time you catch frag to your eyeball, it will be [what we call in the biz] a self-correcting action. I have never caught Spaulding… or anything for that matter to my eyeball…simply because I’m not an idiot and I am a sunglass whore! For those of you that enjoy the same vices as I do; guns, ammo, and the gear to accompany. We took a set of Oakley, Gatorz and Smith Optics out of the pile of eye pro that has been accumulating over the years to write this round up. There are hundreds of reputable companies out there that make sunglasses, these 3 test subjects are among our favorites. Before you go out and spend money on glasses, do your homework and make sure they will meet your needs. All 3 of these models have some ballistic protection and are considered wrap around a requirement that many if not all ranges stick to.
Oakley, hands down…the most preferred eye glass between shooting enthusiasts and operators alike. I can distinctly remember the late 80’s and 90’s when the frog skins and early M frames (previously called the Razor Blades) Were as popular as tight rolled jeans and Iroc Z28 Camaros. Living in Geneseo Illinois, I quickly associated those sunglasses with Springfield Armory. Knowing now that the two companies had nothing to do with each other, at 8 – 12 years old I thought that Oakley was right here with Springfield. Just about everyone working at Springfield wore Oakley glasses for one reason or another; and since a clear majority of the booming metropolis of 6,000 people worked at Springfield…that’s all I saw.
Fast forward about 20 years as I was issued my first pair of M Frames as soon as I got to FAST company, and continued to shoot, move and communicate in them throughout the entirety of my enlistment. Through multiple deployments and countless schools where shooting was the focus, both of my eyeballs remained intact and my vision stayed 20/20.
Since my EAS, I have moved away from the M frame style of eye pro and into something that doesn’t resemble a simmunition mask. Like most with my skillsets, a job that was overt for the most part, quickly transitioned to overt. I needed eyepro that was more conducive for protective operations in deserts! As many veterans transitioned from active duty to the private side of security; predominately in Iraq, the age of beards, tight shirts and flashy sunglasses flooded that demographic. I was regrettably part of that group of trendsetters. Back in those days, practicality didn’t dwarf the cool factor as it does now. Oakley’s Juliet’s were among the most popular style being worn and a lot can be said for raybans, and other Gucci glasses as well; again, cool over practical!
Fast forward a few years, and a decade’s worth of maturity and experience; the flashy glasses that we all once wore have reverted to being subdued and less expensive. There are hundreds of models and styles that Oakley offers, yet only a few [comparatively] that fit the rigors of modern day private warfare. For me, the Gascans are the most comfortable and low profile yet still provide the wrap around protection needed for frag.
The test subject for this article was a multi-purpose lens, that are polarized, and offer ballistic protection. The Gascans are rated by ANSI for not only impact resistance but also for clarity, and visual fidelity. When you put the Gascans on they may seem to fit snug and for some too small. The overall width of the lenses is about 60mm and each ear stock is 127mm from temple to tip. What the Gas Cans lack in frame flexibility they make up for in customization. Oakley has priced the Gascans at $120 and offer the ability to customize your glasses so you can throw together any color scheme and lens variation you want, If you really want to offend a hipster; American flag icons can be purchased at additional cost enabling your to give that healthy dose of freedom to the regular patrons of Hipsterbucks.
Somewhere between my “cool guy” Juliets and my go to glasses of late; I stumbled upon an aluminum framed ballistic wrap around glass. Gatroz eyewear is the choice of many Special Operators and Athletes alike. From the Leap Frogs [The SEAL jump team] to base jumpers and Crossfitters.
During an Oakley hiatus, I bought just about every pair of glasses that Gatorz made…literally. I found myself wearing the Radiators the most for my everyday use. They have the sleekest profile and gave me the wrap around protection that I needed. The frame offers a unique shape that can be manipulated by simply applying pressure to the outer most points. Gatorz ear stocks are also bendable to accommodate for a tighter fit.
Gatorz manufactures their lenses with polycarbonate resin, which is one of the most impact resistant lens materials on the market. Currently Gatorz does not have an ANSI rating but are working on it diligently and plan to provide certified safety with the continuation of the 100% UVA protection. The frames of all Gatorz eye wear are held together by the classic 4 rivet system and 5 barrel hinges. All the Gatorz frames are hand crafted right here in the USA.
Gatorz price points are higher than most nonprescription glasses on the market, however the craftsmanship behind each pair is unmatched. You can get into a pair of Radiators for around $160, but rest assured that the anti-scratch coating on each lens holds up to normal wear and tear better than most.
While Throughout numerous testing and evaluation periods every line of Gatorz brand sunglasses stood up to everything from 12-gauge buck shot, and we’ve even seen instances where they held up against .22 rimfire. That said, Gatorz does not certify their product should you try to test this yourself. During the companies, last ownership regime there where a few articles posted about a soldier whose eyes were spared after being hit with a fairly large IED while in Iraq, the soldier took a “I can’t believe I survived that shit” picture post blast and his face was peppered with burns, and small frag except for the area where he had his Gatorz radiator eyepro in place.
Last on our list of go to eye pro are the Hideout Tactical glasses from SMITH optics. If you know anything about the company, they are one of the industry’s leading eye wear manufacturers that focused a lot of their efforts in the snow sport world. Smith Optics has since, introduced a complete line of tactical eyewear from Goggles to glasses.
All 16 styles of eyewear range from straight operator to casual and everything in between. As a matter of fact the casual glasses are even called the Gray Man. We chose a style that was in the middle of face shooter and circa 2012 PSD. The Hideout Tactical is a perfect combination of “just enough but not over the top”. They’re black with smoke lenses so if you happen to be wearing them where someone wants to kill you, your glasses aren’t target identifiers. The large coverage area proves to be an effective eyepro while on the range. The Hideout Tactical glasses meet both ANSI and MIL-PRF standards so depending on what you do, and how you do it, they can be worn as safety glasses without looking like a complete goob! For under 100 bucks these glasses are comfortable as hell and practical to boot! The only less than positive point to make about the Hideout Tactical is the fact that if you have a skinny or longer shaped noggin they might be a bit too large, in that case, the Hudson Elites would probably be a better option.
There is no argument that in the gun industry, Eye wear goes with shooting as synonymously [if not more] does peanut butter and jelly. Whether it be looking good (guys we all know that is half of it) or beating the living shit out of your glasses like we do, good quality glass needs to be secured on the bridge of your noses or on top of your head. On the protection side of the coin, glasses can play a key role in the ABC’s of PSD (Always Be Cool). You can tell a lot about a person by their eyes (or so they say) so if you’re scared shitless and you have good quality sunglasses on, the bad guys are none the wiser!
OUR LAST SENTENCE WAS NOTHING MORE THAN A PUN FOR ALL THE PSD TYPES OUT THERE, KEYBOARD COMMANDOS RELAX
Need To knows
FRAME – O Matter stress resistant material
LENS WIDTH – 60mm
BRIDGE WIDTH – 15mm
LENS HEIGHT – 35mm
ARM LENGTH – 127mm
LENS – Plutonite/Polarized
ANSI CERTIFIED – Yes
INCLUDES – Microbag (large)
MSRP – $100.00
MANUFACTURER – Oakley
FRAME – T7075 Billet Aircraft aluminum
HINGE TO HINGE – 133mm
FRAME HEIGHT – 37mm
BRIDGE WIDTH – 18mm
LENS – Scratch resistant Polycarbonate
ANSI Certified – NO
INCLUDES – Microbag (large)
MSRP – $160.00
MANUFACTURER – Gatoz eyewear
SMITH OPTICS (HIDEOUT Elite Tactical)
FRAME – Impact resistant resin
HINGE TO HINGE – 133mm
FRAME HEIGHT – 42mm
BRIDGE WIDTH – 10mm
LENS – High impact resin
ANSI Certified – Yes
INCLUDES – Microbag (large)
MSRP – $80.00
MANUFACTURER – Smith Optics