as published in TAKE AIM North America, March, 2012
While I don’t wear vision correction for distance, many of my patients and YouTube viewers do. Time and time again I get questions and requests about how to protect your eyes and still see when you wear prescription eye glasses. With these requests in mind, I made it my mission at Shot Show 2012 to find out what the major tactical eye protection manufacturers had to offer for eye glass wearers. This article will exclusively cover the products seen at this year’s Shot Show. Be sure to see our upcoming article in a future edition of TAKE AIM for information on full face masks that can be worn with normal eyeglasses.
As I sit typing this article, I am listening to Oingo Boingo’s “What you See.” Doesn’t that say it all? If you are not familiar with my airsoft video channel, Airsoft Medicine, you need to know for evaluation purposes I have established a standard for safe airsoft eye protection. This same standard is consistent with the forthcoming standard for eye protection by the airsoft sub-committee of the ASTM. Eye protection for use in airsoft skirmishing should, at a minimum, include a solid optic with a full seal around the eyes or entire face with ANSI Z87.1 rating. The products in this article all far exceed that rating with either Mil-spec MIL-V-43511D (or -C) or MCEPS Military Ballistics Impact Standards. That means they can withstand impacts from .22 caliber chisel-point projectiles fired at 550 feet per second without penetrating the lenses. In my medical opinion, any protective eyewear that meets or exceeds the above standards will keep your eyes safe during airsoft play. With your eyes well protected, another feature that I always recommend is overall face coverage, including the nose. Although it may seem overkill to focus on nose protection, it is something you need to consider. In our extensive testing and from player feedback we have found that bbs striking the side of the nose can penetrate through the seal of an otherwise good pair of goggles to enter the eye area. While I have not seen any documentation, nor heard anecdotal accounts of a significant eye injury resulting from such a breach, I still prefer eye pro that includes coverage over the nose. You can never be too safe when it comes to your eyesight. All of the goggles in this article though meet the minimum requirements for ballistic impact ratings and coverage during airsoft skirmishing. The Cortex Clip of the ESS Profile and the nose guard of the Blackhawk A.C.E. go above and beyond with coverage all the way across the goggle for the front of the nose.
So on to the plight of the visually impaired airsofters incapable of effective play without prescription lenses. Such players often wear their eyeglasses inside the goggles, but that doesn’t always work well unless their eyeglasses have a low profile that closely accommodates the curve of the face. Converting to contact lenses is an alternative for some, but not all. There is also the option of surgical vision correction to take away the need for corrective lenses altogether. But surgery comes with added costs and risks. For those who don’t find any of these solutions satisfactory goggle manufacturers do offer some reasonable options.
The first option you have is prescription inserts for your goggles. This is offered with the ESS Profile, The Revision Desert Locust, The Smith OTW, the Bobster Alpha, and the Wiley X Spear. These five goggles have optional custom lens frame inserts and plastic stands to attach the frames inside the goggles. These are purchased from the goggle manufacturer and usually cost around $20. You can then either take them to your optician or send your prescription to the goggle manufacturer to have lenses made for the inserts. Many players may wonder what it is like to use these inserts compared to their normal glasses. The experience is quite familiar. The prescription lenses are quite similar in size and distance from your eyes as normal eyeglasses. At the end of this article I have provided a video playlist for details specific to each manufacturer.
One downside to using inserts is dealing with fogging. After all, the song says, “Underneath the mask there’s something brewing.” The inserts themselves do not have as much fogging as goggle lenses because they are in the same compartment as your face, but you still have to access the inside of the goggle lens. The inside of the goggles will still fog as it would without the presence of the inserts. I especially recommend fan goggles to players using lens inserts because applying anti-fog sprays or using wipes requires the extra step of temporarily removing the lens inserts.
My favorite solution to the fogging issue is the one I have found to be the most reliable. That is to have a goggle with a fan to circulate air to remove and prevent fogging. There are three goggles in this article which can be purchased with a fan already integrated within the frame. They are the ESS Profile, the Revision Desert (and Asian) Locust, and the Smith OTW. I use the ESS, and Rangemaster Larry uses the Revision. We are both very pleased with the goggles. Neither of us has a problem with fogging. I have found that the ESS fan can be loud on the highest setting, especially when wearing the strap under a helmet instead of around it. There are also after-market fan kits available to modify goggles that do not come equipped with them.
I mentioned early in this article about the ballistics protection and minimum coverage common to all of these goggles. The manufacturers try to differentiate their products with a few other features. The Smith OTW has a unique surface on the seal of the goggle that contacts the face for extra comfort. Wiley X includes a removable felt-lined cushion shield to serve the same purpose with their made-in-America Spear goggle. The Spear also sports a unique design that is supposed to do a better job of circulating air through the goggle by taking advantage of the warmer temperature inside the eye space. The A.C.E. by Blackhawk is the only in this article that does not come with a fan, but it is the only goggle that has an easily removable nose guard. ESS has the only goggle with nose coverage which can be purchased with an included fan. The Revision Desert Locust is unique in having an alternate form, the Asian Locust, to accommodate shallower facial profiles. The Bobster Alpha is unique in having the largest lenses on its prescription inserts and the least expensive prescription insert.
Those who need vision correction while playing airsoft and still wearing ill-fitting glasses under your eye pro, or worse yet, wearing eyeglasses without proper eye pro, take action now. Make your game more enjoyable by changing to contacts, surgical vision correction, or prescription inserts for your goggles. Make a point of discussing this issue with your optometrist. Chances are that you are due for your next vision appointment anyway. Make your appointment before your next game, or opfor will be “Bashing you around, Trying to make you like them . . .
What you see is what you get.”
Sidebar: Goggles mentioned in this article:
ESS Profile with the Cortex Clip (www.essairsoft.com)$80, w/ fan $180
Revision Desert Locust and Asian Locust (www.revisionmilitary.com) $99, w/ fan $169.99
Smith OTW (Outside the Wire) (https://elite.smithoptics.com) $80, w/fan $180
Bobster Alpha (http://www.bobster.com) $89.98
Wiley X Spear (http://www.wileyx.com) $94
Blackhawk A.C.E. (http://www.blackhawk.com) $99.99
Airsoftmedicine YouTube channel companion playlist
BIO: Dr. Airsoft and his co-host, Rangemaster Larry, write about, speak about, and make videos about airsoft safety and protection. They host the Popular Airsoft Players’ Choice Award-winning Airsoft Medicine audio podcast and the airsoftmedicine YouTube channel.