How Good Is Your Eye Protection? What Are They Made Of?

    Bret Hunter is the founder and owner of TacticalRX. I met Bret at Big 3 East a few years ago and although I have 20/20 vision I am amazed by his glasses. Many shooters who use prescription lenses typically use their normal glasses as eye protection or they might get some form of prescription sports eyewear. This usually means an insert or flat lenses. Bret’s shooting glasses are curved and the prescription is 100% throughout the lens. Tim Yan did a review on them back in 2014.

    I have seen some serious torture tests done by Bret. Here is a set of one of his glasses shot with #4 shot from a shotgun.


    James Reeves even tested some of Bret’s glasses.


    What are your glasses made of?

    Bret makes his shooting glasses out of polycarbonate lenses that are made to his specifications. The glasses industry tends to use Trivex lenses. And while Trivex are strong and the material is used for Apache helicopter windshields, they are not actually that strong when it comes to prescription lenses. Once the lenses are ground an anti-scratch coating is applied to the back of the lenses. This coating actually makes Trivex behave differently and they become brittle. Bret has seen Trivex prescription lenses shatter like glass. This is one reason why Bret uses polycarbonate. Even Oakley uses polycarbonate for their lenses.

    But how strong are they?

    I was curious what the worst case scenario would be but in a realistic scenario. Shooting bullets at lenses is not something we shooters experience on a regular basis. The worst we could get would be spalling and fragmentation. Sure an out of battery detonation is probably more likely but I am not going to blow up a gun just to test it. I figure a decent compromise would be to have spalling hit the lenses directly by having the lenses against a steel target. So I put the lenses on a rubber dummy and positioned the lenses right next to my steel target.


    The results surprised me.


    The spalling from the 55gr fmj 5.56×45 cut the Trivex lenses in half. while the polycarbonate lenses caught the fragmentation.


    This was eye-opening for me. I had no idea that the quality of the lenses could differ so drastically.

    What about time?

    Something else to seriously consider is time. Think about where and when you wear your eye protection? How many hours have they been used in the sun exposed to UV radiation? How many years have you been wearing them? Now think about plastic that sits out in the sun for too long? What happens? They become brittle. As shooters, we change out worn gear all the time. We switch out the worn down parts of our guns if we use them a lot. But how much time have you spent even thinking about your eye protection and how long has it been since they were new? Nothing lasts forever but more importantly, they degrade after some time. I took my Oakleys for granted and never thought that they might be compromised when it comes time to protect my eyes. I think it may be time to upgrade my Oakleys to some new lenses pretty soon since I cant remember when I bought them new.

    Nicholas C

    Steadicam Gun Operator
    Night Vision & Thermal Aficionado
    Flashlight/Laser Enthusiast
    USPSA competitor

    Any questions please email him at [email protected]