A Christmas Story (1983) . . . .
Ralphie: "No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!"
Mrs. Parker: "No, you'll shoot your eye out."
. . . . . .
Narrator Ralphie: "Oh my god, I shot my eye out!"
Probably one of the most iconic movies for “fire arm safety”, often quoted as the real reason you do not buy children firearms for they will surely put their eye out!!!
I say this a bit “tongue in cheek” and yet – there is truth from a few points of view. Eyes are NOT replaceable, they are incredibly delicate pieces of equipment that they easily damaged.
Our bodies have developed a number of defensive systems to help us keep our eyes protected. They are located in extreme close proximity to the brain. As a result, signals for movement, closure or our eye lids, dilatation of the iris and flexing of muscles to manipulate the lens can initiate action much, much faster because the distance to travel through the neural-net is so short.
Eyelids have been provided to cover the eye’s surface protecting it from abrasion and providing some level of protection against penetration.
A cleansing system is built in to constantly clean the eye’s surface and to wash away particles that may damage and scar the surface.
The eye’s defensive systems have been provided a parallel connection to our body’s autonomic nerve system, allowing the eyes to blink and the eyelid to close as soon as it detects a threat. No conscious thought is required to do this. And yet, we can “manually” control these same functions as well.
All said, the body has done much to protect one of our primary senses – sight. Yet, in the environment a shooter finds themselves – be it on the range or engaging a threat – the possibility of damage to the eye by foreign bodies far more dangerous than our body was designed to protect against abound.
On the range shrapnel from shattered bullets, components ejected from an exploding firearm, un-burnt powder, hot gases around revolver cylinders or something as simple as an ejected case can do real, severe and permanent damage to your eyes. You can, in deed, “shoot your eye out”!!!
In a high threat environment – combat for example – damage from everything from as small as a small rock to a shard of an exploding RPG can take a combatant out of the fight for a long time. Even something as simple as a handful of sand thrown in your eye can temporally blind – something that can easily prove fatal.
Being creative critters, humans have developed supplementary protection for this valuable sense. Today they are “shooting glasses”, “safety glasses”, “protective lenses” – strengthened, typically polycarbonate lenses that are worn in front of our eyes. Our natural defenses are left in place covered by an additional, transparent layer to help insure our eyes are not penetrated by some type of projectile.
Standards, standards, standards . . . .
When you purchase a set of shooting glasses to “protect your eye”, it’s good to know just what kind of “protection” you are spending money on. There are two primary standards that have evolved that describe exactly the level of protection you are purchasing. They are defined by ANSI Z87.1-2003 and EN 166 (F).
The ANSI standard is a US standard states that lenses will be divided into two protection levels, Basic Impact and Hi”gh Impact as dictated by test criteria. Basic Impact lenses must pass the “drop ball” test, a 1" diameter steel ball is dropped on the lens from 50 inches.”
The EN-166 (F), while mirroring the same Basic Impact requirement, add a specific test for high velocity impact by requiring the lenses to defend your eyes from a 6mm steel ball weighing 0.86g travelling at at least 45 m/s at the time of impact.
These specifications, and manufacturing tests, are what define the word “protection” when in applies to the protection you are purchasing when you pick up a pair of shooting glasses.
The following are a couple of links that can give you a more detailed description of these specifications, they are well worth your time to read through.
My personal choice for eyewear is the “5.11 Raid Eyewear” . Their biggest advantage is 3 different lenses inserts – clear, amber and smoke – that cover the full range of shooting conditions.
So, the next time you are at the range, make sure your “eyes” are on and that they meet the minimum specifications to protect one of your most important senses . . . . your sight.
“ . . . . you’ll put your eye out!!”