Many of us have multiple pairs of inexpensive shooting glasses lying around the house. There is, however, a trend in the shooting world toward higher-quality and commensurately higher-cost protective eyewear.
Companies like Wiley-X, Revision Eyewear, Bushnell and others are making shooting glasses that offer greater protection than the stuff by the checkout counter at the range. Additionally, manufacturers better known for their fashion or sporting glasses are recognizing the potential of the shooting market with products and marketing efforts directed at shooters.
Motorcycle riders have long relied on Bobster glasses and goggles for protection, and the company saw a natural crossover for shooters. "The two markets share similar requirements, like impact resistance, interchangeable lens colors for different lighting conditions, comfort due to use for an extended period of time, good peripheral vision, good coverage and more," said Brand Manager Stacey Cox. "[Shooting] is becoming more of a significant part of our business since the official launch of a complete ballistics products line in 2010."
Oakley is perhaps the best-known eyewear brand for any use, and it has been producing shooting eyewear for more than 30 years. What started as a niche market for the company has grown to $300 to $400 million per year in sales to shooters, the military and law enforcement. According to Sports Marketing Repres-entative Louis Wellen, Oakley's reputation has helped it succeed with shooters. "Eyewear/eye-protection is not the piece of equipment you want skimp on. Bad optics can cause many problems from eye fatigue to just plain missing your target because the eye can't focus through distorted lens material, not to mention debris or shrapnel that comes flying at your eye," Wellen said. What's more, Oakley revels in its outsider status, even in an industry that is often insular. "At Oakley there is a quest to find a new way of doing things and a new way to define ourselves. Traditions don't really apply unless they're our own.
That might be testing something more than is logically necessary or driving a one pound metal spike right into the lenses of our eyewear," Wellen added. Both Cox and Wellen stressed the importance of the following factors for quality shooting eye protection: comfort, good peripheral vision, ANSI Z87.1 safety rating, optical clarity, versatility and UV protection. According to Wellen, "Professional shooters, including military and law enforcement personnel, purchase and gravitate toward our products because they know without question they are using the best engineered, most comfortable, optically perfect, bulletproof lenses manufactured today."