Written by Richard Mann
Also known as the, “my arms are too short” disease, presbyopia is the normal occurrence of your eyes gradually losing the ability to see things up close. It’s nothing new, in fact according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the term “presbyopia” comes from a Greek word which means “old eye.” Most humans start experiencing this problem at about the age of 40, and the first indication of its onset is that you have to hold reading materials further away. This of course is when you start thinking your arms have gotten shorter.
What does any of this have to do with shooting? Well, it ought to be obvious; when shooting a handgun, the sights are generally held at about reading distance. If you cannot focus on them, you cannot hit the target with precision. And, as presbyopia worsens, even the front sight of a rifle can become blurry. The typical solution to this common ailment is the inexpensive reader glasses sold at drug stores. Though they will help you read and even see your sights, they create a new problem, and that’s the ability to focus at distance.
The lens behind your iris changes shape to focus light onto the retina. When you’re young, this lens is soft and flexible, allowing you to focus up close and far away. As you age the lens becomes more rigid and cannot change shape as easily. The bad news is there is no way to stop or reverse presbyopia. The good news is the condition can be corrected with glasses, contacts, or blended vision surgery. However, for open sight shooters who need the simultaneous close and far focus flexibility, these common corrections all short.
I struggled with the condition for a few years until I had the bright idea of asking my optometrist if he could modify my reading glasses’ prescription to sort of balance my near and far vision. We discussed where I needed to focus to see open sights on handguns and rifles, and how sharp of a focus I needed at distance. He then tweaked my prescription and I ordered a pair of Oakley glasses with interchangeable lenses. It was expensive but some of the best money I’d ever spent. However, because of my narrow interpupillary distance, there was only one pair of Oakley glasses that would work for my eyes.
Nonetheless, I used these glasses with great success for several years and was damn glad I had them. Fortunately, earlier this year I was teaching a Scout Rifle class and one of the students was a fellow named Brian Conley. Brian operates a company called Hunter’s HD Gold – huntershdgold.com – they make protective safety glasses that meet the ANSI Z87.1+ standard. In hillbilly language that means they make OSHA-approved, ballistic shooting glasses. Designed to offer contrast and clarity, the unique tint of the photochromic lenses helps with night blindness, macular degeneration, and seasonal affective disorder. And, they also block 100% UVA, UVB, and blue light.
Just as importantly, the Trivex material – originally developed for the military as visual armor – the lenses are crafted from are more impact resistant than regular plastic or polycarbonate lenses and offer more than 43% light transmission. These lenses have an anti-glare coating that virtually eliminate reflections from the back, and this optimizes visual acuity and allows the lenses to be more scratch/dust resistant than non-coated lenses.
There are a wide variety of shooting glasses on the market but what sets Hunters HD Gold apart is their ability to include your prescription into their lenses. For more than 40 years Conley’s company has been providing the best lenses possible for optometrists and ophthalmologists. His new-found interest in shooting and hunting led to the creation of Hunters HD Gold glasses, and when I described my narrow-eye, presbyopia-effected, optical situation, he offered to craft me a pair of glasses to help me shoot better. He also loaned me a pair of the non-prescription glasses to try.
When I returned home, I contacted my optometrist and asked if he would send me my corrected – shooting – prescription, so I could forward it to Hunters HD Gold and have a pair of shooting glasses built. He said since it had been six years since my last appointment that I would have to come in for a fresh eye exam. I tried to explain that my current prescription worked just fine but he was not interested in helping unless I paid for an office visit. I called Brian and explained the situation and he said it was not a problem, that if I would send him my current prescription shooting glasses, he could extrapolate the prescription and apply it to his glasses.
And that’s exactly what he did. In less than two weeks I had a pair of the Hunters HD Gold Archer style glasses with my “shooting” prescription in hand. They work perfectly and, in all honesty, have less edge distortion than the glasses supplied by my optometrist. Hunters HD Gold executed my prescription flawlessly, and not only did some range time with a few handguns prove this, I used those glasses to help me shoot a buffalo in Africa this summer while using an open-sighted rifle.
I now have two pair of Hunters HD glasses. My non-Rx Aviators I wear almost all the time. This is partly because of the great impact resistance they offer, but also because of the aforementioned advantages of contrast and clarity they provide. I wear my Rx Archer Hunters HD Gold glasses anytime I’m shooting open sights, whether they be on a handgun or a rifle. In short, I’m sold, and if you like you can consider this a full-fledged endorsement.
My suggestion is that if you’re suffering from presbyopia, visit your optometrist and ask him to modify your reading prescription to better balance the focus for shooting handguns or open sights on rifles. Then, send that Rx to Hunters HD Gold and get some shooting glasses that’ll help you hit what you’re aiming at. Hunters HD Gold can build your glasses with whatever prescription you like. While you’re at it, I’d also order a pair of their non-Rx glasses and I’ll bet you find it hard to take them off. While in Africa everyone who tried mine liked them and they became known as the “happy glasses,” because they seem to make the world a brighter, cheerier, place.
They sure make me a lot cheerier when I’m shooting with them, because I hit what I’m aiming at. Hunters HD Gold glasses are not cheap but missing can get damned expensive. There’s a reason lots of competitive shooters wear them.