So you’re shopping for a snazzy new pair of shooting glasses. Awesome! You want to make sure that you get the perfect pair, but which should you get? That’s when you notice a pair of polarized lenses on the shelf, but are they the best for shooting sports?
Wow, the name sounds cool, but what do they do exactly? You may have heard that they reduce glare and improve your vision, but how? Moreover, are they hands-down the best glasses for shooting?
Well, it depends. In certain cases, yes, polarized lenses are exceptional shooting glasses. You see, selecting a lens comes down to a few key factors. First, let’s define what polarized lenses are and what they can do for your shooting.
What Are Polarized Lenses?
As human beings, we’re able to see because our eyes can detect light that’s reflected off of objects. That light travels in waves, very similar to radio waves. As such, objects reflecting light will cause the waves to scatter. They tend to scatter in many different angles due to the uneven surface of many objects. For example, light reflecting off of rocks would scatter in many different directions.
For more information about light absorption (i.e. “color”) check out our article on using color to improve shot performance.
Reflected light is generally a good thing, as the scattering light waves make it easier for us to see. In other words, the uneven surfaces of the rocks break up the harsh concentrations of light.
What we perceive as ‘glare’ comes from light reflecting off of smooth, even surfaces. These types of surfaces include water, snow, sand, and roads . Since they’re very even and fine, the light has nowhere to scatter. Thus, there is nothing shielding our eyes from the harsh unfiltered light, or ‘glare’. That’s why it’s so hard to see through the water during bright and sunny conditions!
In a nutshell, polarized lenses can block out certain types of reflected light. We’ve already established that light waves travel in many different directions. In particular, glare travels horizontally almost 100% of the time. What polarized lenses do is only allow VERTICAL light to pass through. This effectively blocks horizontal light, in turn drastically reducing glare!
Do you know what else travels horizontally? Haze! That’s right, polarized lenses also virtually eliminate haze. Maybe now you can start to determine which conditions polarized lenses are best for. If you guessed bright, sunny, or hazy days, you’re correct!
Now that we’ve got the science out of the way, let’s take a look at the different conditions you’ll be shooting in. Ultimately, that will play the biggest role in determining which glasses to choose.
Pro Tip: How to tell if your glasses are actually polarized
WikiHow has a great tutorial for testing the effectiveness of the polarization on your glasses. I find the 3rd method the most straight forward and effective. Hold your glasses up to a computer screen and rotate them about 60 degrees in either direction. Your computer screen has an anti-glare coating and when the polarizations are aligned correctly the screen will go dark.
Are Polarized Lenses Right For You?
Indoors or Outdoors?
Are you a shooter that primarily frequents indoor ranges? If so, you won’t find much use out of polarized lenses. Rather, clear lenses would be your best bet. A kickass and durable pair of clear shooting glasses are your ideal choice for indoors. That’s because they won’t distort any colors and will keep the light nice and bright. Polarized lenses are for brighter, harsher outdoor conditions. After all, glare isn’t much of an issue indoors!
So let’s get to the good stuff. It’s a super sunny day, and there’s some serious glare coming off the white snow. This is a perfect situation to pop on your polarized lenses! They will:
-Drastically reduce glare and haze
-Enhance your vision
-Reduce eye strain
-Enable you to use brighter colored lenses during sunlight
-Remove the glare off roads
In short, if it’s hot, sunny, hazy, or even overcast, polarized lenses are your absolute best bet. There’s no other type of lens that reduces eye strain and glare as well as they do!
All right, so now we know which conditions polarized lenses are best for. We’re far from done, though! Let’s take a look at another factor in determining if polarized lenses are good for shooting.
Do You Use Electronics?
Are you a hunter that makes frequent use of a GPS? When you’re shooting, do you use a lot of electronics? That includes your smartphone. If so, you’ll need to double-check your technology before heading out! Why’s that, you ask?
Well, many electronics have their own anti-glare coating built-in. Obviously, they do this so you can see the screen even during harsh sunlight. But if you’re wearing polarized lenses, you’ve already got ample glare protection. This leads to electronics becoming very difficult to see through polarized lenses. Think of the screen at the gas station pump.
As you can see form the image, when the 2 polarized lenses are lined up just right they effectively block most of the visible light making some electronic screens hard to read. Be sure to double check your gear before heading out. This wont be an issue on most newer electronic devices.
Basically, if you can’t hunt or shoot without glancing at your GPS a bunch, polarized might not be the best choice. Instead, consider mirrored coatings or traditional sunglasses.
How Is The Weather?
Do you shoot in all types of weather conditions? If so, then more than one pair of shooting glasses is the answer. After all, the weather has a habit of constantly changing. A sunny day can turn into a cloudy day at the drop of a hat. Thus, many hunters like to stay prepared with at least THREE pairs of shooting glasses.
The breakdown usually goes like this:
–Polarized lenses: If there’s even a smidgeon of a chance you’ll see sunlight, don’t leave home without them! As we’ve already gone over, these are the kings of shooting in harsh light with a glare.
–Amber/Yellow lenses: These are for if it suddenly gets cloudy or if you shoot at sunset. Amber and yellow are both bright colors, and as such, they help you enhance the remaining light of the day.
– Clear lenses: If it gets completely dark, it’s time to bust out the clear glasses. They’ll give you the clearest image of what’s happening in the low light, no pun intended. Also, these are the lenses to choose if you take your shooting indoors.
All-Weather/ Changing Condition Considerations:
–An anti-fog coating: We’ve all experienced it. You get out of your car and poof! Your glasses immediately fog up and you can’t see jack. Don’t you hate that? Well, you can avoid it by choosing a pair of spectacles with an anti-fog coating! It will ensure your glasses never, EVER fog up.
–A quality storage case: Many shooters carry more than one pair of shooting glasses at all times. It’s also very important you have a storage system in place. You want to make sure your glasses stay pristine and scratch-free while not in use!
So Are Polarized Lenses Good for Shooting?
The answer is a resounding yes if the conditions are right! Let’s review. You should choose polarized lenses if:
-You want to reduce the harsh glare coming off the water, snow, metal, or other smooth surfaces
-You’re shooting on a bright and sunny day
-You want to reduce and see through the haze
-You’re sensitive to eye strain
Conversely, you should NOT use polarized lenses if:
-You make frequent use of electronics with anti-glare coatings
-You shoot primarily indoors
-You’re shooting in dark or low light conditions
Also, don’t forget to pack more than one pair before heading out for the day! Make sure they all have anti-fog coatings, and that you have adequate storage. Do that, and nothing will stand in your way!