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Photochromic Lenses for Shooting

This article should help you to understand the photochromic lens. For shooters, this type of lens, also known as the transition lens, can have some interesting benefits. Paramount for this overview, is that you understand the characteristics and real-world value of photochromic lenses. Hopefully from a holistic perspective.

That is the aim of this article. We’ll use the journey of discovery of the value of the Photochromic lens for shooting glasses. We want to educate you about the broader concepts of protective lenses. Additionally, we’d like to explain the importance of nuance in selecting shooting glasses.

A side note: there are some very distinct use cases where photochromic lenses make sense. Unfortunately, there are a lot of situations where they don’t make sense.

It’s important that a shooter deciding on what type shooting glasses to purchase is aware of all the options.

For this article and others in this series about protective lenses and different use cases, we are focused on educating rather than simply steering you only to a specific lens type or even a particular brand, though we are partial to the high quality and versatile lens colors of our own glasses.

Are lenses that transition from light to dark good for shooting?

They can be, certainly, but they do favor specific circumstances. Particularly, where you may be moving from under tree cover to open areas while hunting. The subtle differences in the transition lenses can help to cut glare and dampen harsh sunlight which will dramatically negatively affect target acquisition without a remedy. This is the remedy.

Foggy conditions at sunrise are also a very specific scenario where photochromic lenses shine. The ability to get subtle shading from the lens, while still having a dearth of clarity can be very helpful in the field.

The ability to have crystal clear lenses at times can also help to minimize distraction and keep your FoV open. Shooting in sunlight allows the photochromic lens to perform, where the help with cutting glare is obvious.  

Where Transition/photochromic glasses make sense for shooting

There are some specific real-world scenarios where transition glassesmake the most sense.

  • While hunting in foggy or damp early morning conditions, the transition lenses can ease the transition from dark to light and help you maintain great clarity while the sun comes up and streams through the branches of the overhead trees or onto the ground.   
  • When on the water or in the marsh hunting waterfowl, the lower glare that comes from the water.
  • While shooting in outdoor competitions, the transition lens is spectacular. It’s probably the best performer on hot sunny days thanks to it’s ability to cut glare (usually on metal targets), help define edges (usually high contrast target edges) and get lighter in tint, as you move to other areas outside of direct sunlight.
  • There is some improvement when utilizing a gray lens regarding the color contrast. This can be helpful with multi-colored targets, especially in outdoor shooting scenarios.

Here is a good example of a pair of transition lenses for shooting glasses.


Meets ballistic standards Mil-Prf-32432:
ESS Crossbow One Photo


Meets ANSI Z87.1 – 2010 High Impact:
Bullhead Safety Eyewear BH10613 Photochromic Lens

If you’d like to see how Photochromic lenses stack up against Polarized lenses, read this.

How can ambient temperature affect Photochromic shooting glasses?

When it is hot outside, the photochromic lenses won’t have the opportunity to reach the darkest shades of the spectrum. The temperature-sensitive formulation of the build will keep the tint lighter rather than darker. This may or may not be a bad thing, depending on where and when you shoot.

In very cold conditions, you will see the lens color favor towards the darkest end of the spectrum. As an additional characteristic, it will also take longer for the transition back to clear to happen. There may be times when you wait for more than a minute for the glasses to transition after you enter a building.

Some additional Concerns with Transition lenses for shooting

Some people might feel that the Photochromic lenses on shooting glasses are the answer to a question nobody asked. This is especially true when because people want a dedicated pair of shooting glasses. Even wearers of prescription glasses want to take advantage of the extra level of safety on dedicated shooting glasses

It’s not for us to say whether they’re the answer to an unasked question or the future of shooting eyewear. Regardless, there are some issues with this lens type, that might give a shooter cause for concern. When considering the photochromic lens type for their first choice shooting glasses, please consider these.

Some of these concerns are as follows:

When it’s cold, the lenses can get really dark, but when it’s hot, they may not get that dark.

This isn’t really an issue in most scenarios, except for instance, when you have a long day in a cold hide, where you don’t need the difficulty of the lens taking a long time to adjust to the actual light. The lenses take much longer to transition when it is colder, too.

Indoor shooting could be awkward, especially at long distances, where there is a suspended ceiling and where different lighting exists.

When shooting indoors with multiple levels of ceiling height or multiple lighting scenarios, a transition lens is likely to impede target acquisition and stifle quick accuracy.  This is especially true on indoor small caliber competitions, where the range has multiple transitions because of the length of the lanes.

Note: they are fine for normal distances at indoor ranges where lighting is consistent.

You’re not likely to get as dark a shade as mainstream sunglasses

Transition lenses tend to have some difficulty in hitting the extreme ends of the ranges on color. You won’t get the same darks as regular sunglasses; you won’t completely lose your tint in most scenarios.

There are not a lot of options at the top tier with all the right stuff

You can find transition lenses; they exist in the shooting protection world, but you’re not getting the kind of options you get with other shades. Generally speaking, most options for photochromic lenses will be attached to prescription glasses. The options available that don’t include a corrective lens, will tend to be generic looking models.

The photochromic lens doesn’t excel one way or the other

A good lens, but not a redefining lens. This is not the lens you get when you want the best of a specific characteristic. It’s not a top tier lens in any category really. Instead, this is the lens you look to, when you need a lens that is good in several conditions. (You’ll also want to be able to accept that it is not a standout best in class in those areas.

Sometimes you may have a situation where the lens doesn’t darken enough and the ability to control the depth of darkness and the benefits that come with that transition isn’t readily available. This can be annoying for hat wearers, mobile shooters who may change environments on the fly, and others.

The biggest benefits of wearing Photochromic Lenses

In foggy conditions with overhead light, or full sun outdoor conditions The transition lense is very good. Photochromics work well when you need enhanced color accuracy and like having a versatile lens. The clarity and straightforwardness of the clear lens when it is not transitioned automatically by ambient light can also be helpful in adding simplicity with variable use cases. A very interesting combination.

It’s an interesting set of lenses that can come in handy during several hunting specific or competition specific scenarios, and shooters who need those characteristics should highly consider the variability of the photochromic lens.

Conclusions about Photochromic Lenses for Shooting Glasses

Admittedly, this article has been a bit ambiguous about the photochromic lens for shooting glasses. We can point directly to the nature of the transition lens for that slant to the overview. The lens style/type is a bit ambivalent itself.

It is good, but not great at several tasks, and ultimately, for those who want the best improvement they can get from a piece of safety equipment like shooting glasses, we recommend dedicated lenses, not a multi-purpose choice.

We recommend a set of two pairs from the GruntX lineup, with choices that give you the best traits in your needed focal points in the shooting sports. This will give you options, while still highlighting individual lens choice benefits.

That said, the purpose of this article is to ensure you have a balanced and comprehensive overview of the lens type so you can make conclusions that suit your individual needs. We think we accomplished that while being fair to the obvious benefits of the transition lens, without shying away from shortcomings.

We are proud that you can look to GruntX, not only for quality personal protective gear and shooting glasses, but that you can see our blog as the go-to resource for realistic knowledge about the differences in products that can help you to optimize your skills, with the right equipment.

1 thought on “Photochromic Lenses for Shooting”

  1. Pingback: Shooting Glasses - Polarized or Not? Exploring Polarized Shooting Glasses | GruntX Safety & Tactical

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