Stress test: ESS Crossbow Suppressor eye wear

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You know when you see a marketing claim and you’re curious to see how well it holds up? That happened to me when I saw an ESS claim in their 2013 brochure. Here’s the claim:

ESS

The ad reads: “ESS high-grade, extra thick Polycarbonate lenses can resist ballistic-force impacts. In this case, a blast from a Remington 12 gauge shotgun firing #6 shot from 10 meters– dimpling but not penetrating the lens.

If you aren’t familiar with ESS, a subsidiary of Oakley, they make eyewear for military, law enforcement, airsoft, fire & rescue, hunters, and competitive shooters. When I contacted ESS to tell them about the stress test I wanted to run, they sent me a few pairs of their Crossbow Suppressors to destroy.

My shotgun of choice was a Benelli M2 modified for 3-gun by my sponsor, Salient Arms International. I started off by upping the ante and at 10 meters, I sent some Winchester Super X 2 3/4″ 00 buckshot up against the ESS 2.4mm thick polycarbonate lens. One of the BBs struck the lens and punched right through.

I guess I wasn’t too surprised, so I dialed everything back and used some Winchester Super X 2 3/4″ #7.5 shot shells I use for 3-gun comps.

Now things got interesting. The first shot separated the lens from the frame, but none of the #7.5 shot penetrated the lens.

The first shot separated the lens and frame, but none of the BBs penetrated the polycarbonate lens.

The first shot separated the lens and frame, but none of the BBs penetrated the polycarbonate lens.

An ESS Marketing rep let me know that the separation was rare, and was probably due to me shooting at pre-production samples. Successive shots continued to impart more damage to the lens but after four blasts, there were plenty of dimples but no through and throughs.

The glasses held up solidly until the fifth shot, where there was a small compromise in the lens.

The glasses held up solidly until the fifth shot, when a small compromise in the lens occurred.

The fifth shot slightly compromised the backside of the lens where I could see a few visible cracks. I took a sixth and final shot which ended up being the tipping point. Even then, only one BB made its way through the lens.

Left to right: An unscathed pair of ESS Crossbow Suppressors; a single 00 buckshot BB hit the lens and punched straight through; the end result of six #7.5 birdshot blasts where there was a full lens compromise.

Left to right: An unscathed pair of ESS Crossbow Suppressors; a single 00 buckshot BB hit the lens and punched straight through; the end result of six #7.5 birdshot blasts where there was a full lens compromise.

The full video footage I took is available here:

In conclusion, I think ESS’s marketing claim stood up to the test, and then some.

www.ESSeyepro.com.

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career. He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. www.TopShotChris.com.

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Chris Cheng

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion and an NRA News Commentator. A self-taught amateur (and former Googler) turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career.

He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. www.TopShotChris.com.


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  • Bryan .

    Where the glasses just sitting loose, or where they on something that would have the backing of a head?

    Perhaps mounting them on a melon would suffice.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      I’ve actually tested them as well. I placed one pair mounted to a 2×4 and the other on a piece of cardboard. There was a bit of difference. The pair mounted on the 2×4 showed a little more indention but not close to penetration.

    • http://www.TopShotChris.com/ Chris Cheng (TFB Staff Writer)

      Hi Bryan, that’s a really good idea. If I ever run another test like this I will mount it on something.

      In this test I simply poked two holes in the cardboard with my knife and slipped the glasses in.

  • shockfish08

    Now the big question is, how well do they handle the shock of the pellets impact? They may not penetrate but I’d think that the force of glasses being shoved into your face by shot would be less than ideal in the comfort/safety department.

    • Marc

      A lot less uncomfortable than without the glasses, that’s for sure.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      The pics I’ve seen showed the person bruised from the frame impact. These pics were from a blunt trauma.

  • j in ga

    I’m fine with a pair of glasses holding up to what the did before they broke. Honestly, I don’t think you’re alive after being shot in the face a couple times by a shotgun.

    I am curious how it would hold up to sharp pieces of shrapnel like debris or parts of an IED.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      That’s going to depend on size, weight, distance, shape and velocity. Better to have em than not!

    • 11B

      In the Army myself and many others wear these, or very similar eyepro. They WILL save your eyes from an IED. I’ve seen turret gunners get hit by shrapnel/debris and while their faces are jacked, their eyes are fine. Everyone hates wearing clear eyepro, but it will save your eyesight.

      • J in ga

        I was referring to those glasses specifically, not clear eyepro in general. I’ve seen the pics they have all over base of people who were wearing eyepro

      • http://profiles.google.com/chrontius Chrome Dragon

        After a decade or two of wearing glasses, I tried switching to contacts. I feel incredibly uncomfortable without something there – Oakley M-frames do a nice job of switching between sunglasses and safety glasses.

        Not *quite* everyone hates ‘em.

    • Bill

      I wasn’t wearing ESS, but I was wearing Oakleys (full ANSI-87) and an IED went off a few feet away. Unfortuently, the blast ripped the glasses off my face as well as my helmet. The surrounding frag shredded my left eye and blast overpressure damaged my right. So it really comes down it how well eyepro is secured to your face relative to what it is likely to encounter. I’m positive that my eyes would would be in better shape if the eyepro did not get blown off before my face was hit by frag.

  • John184

    In my opinion, you should always have two quality items: a quality knife and quality sunglasses/eyewear. Those are two things you shouldn’t skimp on.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Amen to that brother!

  • Ben

    Isn’t testing these glasses with buckshot a little redundant, given that you have a head left to put some glasses on if you were shot in the face with buckshot?

    • noob

      i’d wear ‘em if i was going hunting with Dick Cheyney.

      • Karina

        Or Joe Biden… ;)

  • bbmg

    I don’t think the claim is an exceptional one, it would have been interesting to compare the ESS product with much cheaper eyewear and see how they would have stood up. I would expect based on my own experience that even unbranded laboratory eyewear costing 1/10th of the price would provide similar levels of protection from birdshot.

    • http://www.TopShotChris.com/ Chris Cheng (TFB Staff Writer)

      That’s an interesting idea for a follow up test. I guess the lab eyewear I used to use in school was a soft plastic, so I’d have to search for some similar polycarbonate lab eyewear.

      • bbmg

        I managed to destroy such a pair of glasses using a 3/8″ steel ball bearing fired from a pneumatic launcher: http://i164.photobucket.com/albums/u28/hw97karbine/misc/glasses.jpg

        The same brand of glasses did however manage to compeltely stop an 8 grain airgun pellet travelling at 850 feet per second, that’s around 12.8 ft lbs. A single #7.5 pellet carries around 4.5 ft lbs at the muzzle, of course penetration depth is not dependent solely on energy but in this case I think it is indicative that it would likely have survived a blast of birdshot.

      • ParksVS

        Not to flaunt another similar blog, but I’m pretty sure Andrew Tuhoy (Vuurwapen Blog) did an eyewear test including everything from cheap Remington eye pro to regular eye glasses, to a couple ESS and Oakley models.

  • Thorne

    in other words, the glasses will fair better than the face attatched to it

  • lennyr

    Chris, if you do more eyepro tests, I’d really like to see comparative testing of Trivex ones (e.g. what Rudy Project calls “ImpactX”). They are much better optically, and I’d like to see how they compare ballistic protection-wise to good polycarbonate ones like these.

    • http://www.TopShotChris.com/ Chris Cheng (TFB Staff Writer)

      Hi lennyr- thanks for the suggestion! I’ll keep it in mind if I end up doing another eye pro test.

      • Chrome Dragon

        Good to know – my current glasses are trivex!