Shooting Eyewear – what you need to know

Shooting Eyewear – what you need to know

It has now become mandatory to wear eyewear at CPSA registered shoots and most shooting schools, shooting grounds and even many members’ clubs either make it compulsory or strongly advise that eyewear is worn. Shooting sunglasses should be made from plastic – polycarbonate is the material favoured by most sports eyewear manufacturers because it’s impact resistant and shatterproof and provide a very high degree of protection whether from a stray or falling pellet but more likely a shard of broken clay. Unlike glass however, polycarbonate will easily scratch so you do need to take care of the lenses. 

Good shooting eyewear are ‘sports style’ and quite different from fashion and leisure styles in that they are much more wrap around in other words closer fitting and the frame and lenses will be made of a plastic material like polycarbonate.  Sports, wrap-around style sunglasses give plenty of eye protection to keep out wind, rain and harmful UVR; lightweight frames for extended wear and impact resistant lenses. This adds up to performance and protection. Frames will typically also have rubber or silicone nose pads and temple tips to stop them slipping off your face when you’re moving or perspire. A good thing about sports sunglasses is that as they close fitting they tend to fit both men and women and the majority of sports sunglasses are unisex in size and style.

For shooting the main reason for using sports eyewear is to protect your eyes from either a pellet or piece of clay but a second and very important reason is to provide protection from harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVR), in particular the more-damaging UVB radiation. UV rays from sunlight can damage the retina and the lens of the eye. Too much exposure is linked to conditions like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Good quality sunglasses and eyewear should meet the industry standard UV400 rating and will provide the eye with substantial protection against solar UVR and reducing the amount of UVR that the eye is exposed to over a person’s lifetime will be beneficial.

Lens colours and their uses

Adhering to the compulsory eyewear rule at most shoots means that some shooters will simply use clear ‘safety glasses’.  That is a contradiction in terms because glass, for obvious reasons, isn’t an advisable lens material for shooters and in reality clear ‘safety glasses’ use plastic lenses. But why just use clear lenses when you can use different colour lenses to your advantage? Having said that there is undoubtedly a great deal of confusion about what the different lens colours are for and when theyshouldbe used.

Here is a guide to what they do:

Grey (also called Smoke)

Reduces all light equally, does not increase contrast or alter the colour of objects and best used in strong or direct sunlight.

Amber and Brown

Increase contrast (objects appear sharper); they provide a warm appearance and good for most weather / light conditions.


One of the most popular shooting colours yellow is a light enhancing colour – good for low visibility, dark, hazy and cloudy conditions. Provide exceptional contrast and enhance depth perception. Not suitable in strong sun or bright light.


For protecting eyes from impact, dust / dirt or abrasion.

Rose, Red, Vermilion & Orange

Highly popular shooting colours these colours help filter out blue light (extended exposure to blue light causes eye stain and eye fatigue).They are high contrast lens colours that will make objects appear sharper. Suitable for most light but especially overcast conditions. Orange is a good colour for shooting blaze clays against a sky background. Red and rose work best for shooting blaze clays against a dark background such as trees.

Polarised lenses

A common misconception amongst shooters is that you need to wear polarised lenses but the polarising filter used in polarised lenses only eliminates reflected light (glare) off a surface like water (which is why fishing enthusiasts use them) or a road so for shooters they have minimal benefit (other than increasing contrast). It’s worth noting that the brand worn by virtually all the world’s top shooters has no polarised options!

Interchangeable eyewear sets

Interchangeable eyewear sets have become very popular with shooters because they give a choice of lenses fitting the same frame. They will typically come with three different lenses such smoke (grey), yellow and red (or vermilion) so they allow for different light conditions and clay colours.

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