Having trouble seeing the target? Jim Sheffield shares a myopic clay shooter’s experiences while exploring the world of prescription shooting glasses
I had been shooting for five years and had already won a number of competitions, including the English Open Down-the-Line and English Open Skeet Championship when, at the age of 17, it became apparent to me that I could not see clearly what I was shooting at. This coincided with my learning to drive a car. Just before I took my test, I shocked my instructor, a former Thames Valley Police traffic officer, when I asked in all seriousness if we could practise reading number plates.
A trip to a local optician was arranged without delay. My vision was found to be quite poor and prescription glasses were deemed essential to correct short-sightedness and astigmatism. When I received my new glasses I suddenly became aware of individual bricks in walls, branches on trees and that the rules of cricket had not changed after all, there still being three stumps at each end of the pitch and not four. In truth, my eyesight had deteriorated so slowly I had been unaware of the changes.
In the early 1960s, less than 20 years after the end of World War II, there was not the choice of glasses that there is today. Furthermore, specialist brands for shooting were not available in the UK. My first shooting glasses had clear, rimless lenses with lightweight metal sides and a simple wire nosepiece similar to the spectacles worn by my local vicar. Despite their austere appearance, not surprisingly, my shooting improved considerably, having regained 20/20 vision. In fact, not long afterwards I topped the national Down-the-Line end of year averages with 99 per cent on 1,675 registered targets.
Here comes the sun
Shooting in bright sunshine still presented a challenge because obtaining tinted prescription lenses was an expensive proposition in those days, especially for somebody who was earning little, having just left school. I compromised by wearing a set of Polaroid clip-ons, looking through four lens surfaces per eye instead of two introduced annoying reflections, however. In the end I concluded clip-ons were more trouble than they were worth and discarded them.
Shortly before emigrating to Canada in 1974, I invested in a new pair of prescription shooting glasses, similar to the Ray-Ban type, with large, dark- green (20 per cent transmission) lenses incorporating an anti-reflection coating. They were superb, and I wore them for several years in summer and winter.
Probably the most popular shooting glasses in North America at that time were Decot Hy-Wyd. They had lightweight frames with large lenses that sat high up on the nose so that, with your head on the gun stock, your eyes looked through the centre of each lens and not through the top of the frames. Hy-Wyd glasses were available with different-coloured lenses, the idea being to enhance the visibility of targets, whatever their colour, against various backgrounds under different ambient light levels.
Coloured lenses for shooting glasses
Much debate ensued among shooters as to the best lens colour to wear under different conditions. I’m not convinced of the need for as many colours as are now available. In my own case, for the most part I wore my 20-per-cent transmission dark-green glasses on bright days and a pair of clear glasses when the light deteriorated.
Shooting in the rain when wearing prescription glasses can be frustrating, especially if it’s persistent. No amount of lens cleaning banishes raindrops, which inevitably appear in your field of view at the most critical moment.
I experimented with contact lenses. This was before the days when wearing glasses in clay-shooting competitions was mandatory.
I tried hard contact lenses, then oxygen-permeable ones and finally the soft daily-use type. I could see well with all of them, but could not get used to wearing any of them for long. My eyes produce a lot of oil, perhaps as a defence mechanism to combat the presence of foreign bodies in my eyes. It was as if I was shooting in a thickening fog, so I reverted to wearing prescription shooting glasses.
Other shooters have not experienced the problem I had with contact lenses. Ian Peel, who won the individual silver medal for Olympic Trench in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has used contact lenses for years. From 1 January 2004 the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association brought in regulations requiring all competitors in registered competitions to wear shooting glasses on health and safety grounds. This helped level the playing field for users of prescription shooting glasses. Everyone would have to look through rain spots on their glasses. Gone would be the days when those with either perfect eyesight or those wearing contact lenses would have an advantage.
Prescription shooting glasses over contact lenses
My preference for prescription shooting glasses has caused me to spend a lot of money. I have exhausted opticians and boutiques. Results have been mediocre.
Then two years ago I drove to Bristol to investigate having prescription Zeiss shooting glasses made. I had made an appointment with Simon Goldsmith of JH Steward (Bisley) Ltd, Shooting Sports Vision Opticians (www.stewardsportsglasses.co.uk).
The service I received was of a level that I had not previously experienced. Simon is a specialist with many years of experience. I now have five pairs of prescription Zeiss shooting glasses – clear, light purple, target orange, brown and dark green – all of which fit perfectly and provide me
with better than 20/20 corrected vision.
Distractions while shooting caused by events taking place in peripheral vision are also a thing of the past, as Zeiss makes side blinkers that clip neatly and securely on to the frames. Its products are not cheap, but they are highly competitive with other leading brands and are worthy of consideration when you are seeking quality and service.