Are there legitimate benefits to using yellow lenses for shooting glasses?
Not all shooting glasses are yellow, but many are. Especially those meant for hunters and shooters who need high visual acuity and who may need to use them in low light conditions.
In this article, we will be covering the topic of why yellow lenses make sense for shooters and hunters. Also, why the shooters seeking the best performance often choose yellow-tinted lenses.
There are several factors that go into the reasoning behind yellow lenses, so we’ve broken it down by sub-topics.
How Yellow Shooting Glasses can help you improve your skills
What is “visual acuity”?
Visual Acuity is often most efficiently described as vision sharpness or contrast. That’s sufficient for our purposes, as, in the shooting world, having more contrast or sharpness in your vision allows certain aspects of your field of vision to be translated to better performance
Yellow lenses typically offer better visual acuity because they add light to your vision and give help with edge definition on movement of objects. In the field going after game, regardless of the type of game (examples to come), movement can be everything.
How does “visual acuity” make me a better hunter?
A turkey, for example, may not give you much time. They are traditionally very jumpy and cautious. Meaning the difference between 50 yards (where most loads make them unhittable) and 40 yards (about the first perimeter of realistic shots on target) is a matter of a second with a Tom that has a jump on you.
Deer might give you more room, say a couple hundred yards, but you might have the wind going against you, and a face to face shot, instead of the preferable broadside shot. Picking up movement in these scenarios even a fraction of a second quicker can position you for the only shot you might get with a skittish game animal.
Ducks flushed out of the reeds or quail out of the covey by a birddog, might only give you about three-quarters of a second to pick up the movement in the brush or cattails to pick up their trajectory or pathway. Sure, you get a bit of leniency with a shotshell, but you get more from a better tracking of movement and an early jump on the swing of your shotgun.
We’re talking fractions of seconds here, but the human eye is quite advanced. That fraction of a second to a skilled shooter can be the difference between filling tags and going home empty-handed.
How does “visual acuity” make me a better target shooter?
This is also true for target shooting, even for paper targets. Yellow lenses can help you to pick up outlines and define patterns on targets even out to longer distances thanks to this light-enhancing property. Also, the ability for the paper to be seen well thanks to the standout differences between it and the ambient environment.
That means: during indoor shooting, where florescent lighting can drastically impact your vision and different structures might change light transmission (like soffits and ceiling height differences in indoor ranges; or indoor-outdoor transitions in outdoor ranges), you’ll be able to compete better. This is because those transitions will get lighter overall, and the sudden changes will be smoothed out a bit.
This is especially true in full indoor ranges and ranges that are indoor to outdoor. In fully outdoor ranges, larger challenges tend to be trees or shade structures that may block out the consistency of the sun as a light source. This is much easier to overcome with full outdoor settings, where many different lens colors can make sense.
Furthermore, the ability to pick up outlines is enhanced, and movement markers can seemingly be found quicker too. Slight wind on a target can be seen in surface ripples of the paper, and moving objects will stand out faster. With proper training to realize these advanced sighting cues, you can enhance your performance.
This is primarily why many shooters swear by yellow lenses and won’t return to another color once they have moved to a yellow lens.
Yellow lenses are also better than most others (with the exception of amber probably) where oranges can pop particularly well thanks to this contrast difference. This makes them suitable for most sporting range shooting exercises like clays.
Lighting variances and how yellow shooting glasses can even out transitions
The human eye is strategically best suited towards picking up on yellow hues thanks to the way the sun radiates. Our ability to detect yellows and similar colors is quite good.
What yellow lenses can do is even out the transitions of light when different depth layers are in effect. Such as when you are scanning a field with many hills and valleys and drops. This is also true when there are varying heights of meadow grasses and different rock formations or soil colors.
The way the human eye works is very dependent on the brain filling in what we see by using a type of extrapolation to show us what it needs us to see. This visual adaptation is sometimes not exactly what would be captured if we didn’t have our brain advocating on our eyes’ behalf.
With a yellow lens, we can see movement quicker and in more places at once, which translates in microseconds to information that is more valuable for this extrapolation process performed by our brains, and we get a clearer picture of the actual field of view.
So, thanks to this evening out of light transmission across the entire spectrum of our FoV. The fact that we are picking up more fine details which can help our eyes see more clearly what is actually there, we tend to have more inputs from lenses like yellow. More light equals more information. Think of this like a large objective lens on a scope. The larger the lens, the more light that is captured and the better full picture we can see.
You could also view it like the way a camera takes time-lapsed shots, where the aperture is open and the exposure is longer. With the aperture open more, the finer details can be plotted onto the film and more details are captured. With a longer exposure, more light allows more of those details to come into focus.
The same is true when we, for only fractions of a second at a time, utilize the benefits of yellow lenses.
Dawn and dusk – the perfect time for yellow lenses in your shooting glasses
Brighter in the morning as the sun comes up, this is still a time where fog and mist can exist on a field that’s been dormant all night and collecting dew.
Colors in the yellow hues (as far as lenses go) tend to help block blue rays and haziness, as well as starbursts. Many users feel confident saying that they get less blurriness, lower incidence of hazy edges and better vision as they scan the full field of view, as a result of these edges being crisper and the blue light being filtered more easily.
That means the ambient environment is perfect for using yellow lenses at both dusk and dawn, and as long as you aren’t getting full sun during the daytime, it’s totally acceptable to wear yellow lenses the entire time. Of course, if you have too much brightness, it will make sense to transition between a couple of different shades, including a grey or polarized lens to block the extra heavy brightness during full sun exposure.
It is still considered a best practice to utilize yellow at dawn and dusk thanks to edge clarity, movement acquisition, and brightness enhancers. There are those times where the sun isn’t fully visible above the horizon line that you need help to determine depth and outlining because of the lack of full-spectrum light across the field of vision. Yellow lenses can help there.
“Can I get lenses in yellow that meet the best impact and durability standards?”
Yes. You can find yellow lenses with the top tier specifications on them, including MIL-PRF-32432. In fact, when shooting or hunting, you should demand that your chosen lenses have that rating, because it offers the best industry standard for impact and overall wearer protection and durability.
Yellow is the color that our eyes have most been attuned to, as part of our evolution as a species. But that doesn’t mean we cannot further enhance our sight during shooting through use of yellow lenses and other best practices.
Why are shooting glasses yellow? Because the color enhances targets, movement and our natural ability to utilize lighting in the proper way across the broad spectrum. While you might not desire yellow lenses upfront, you might change your mind once you try them out for a few trips to the range or while hunting.
You’ll likely find what more and more shooters have, as they have moved beyond preconceptions about yellow lenses: that visual acuity is super important, and if you want to optimize your shooting it just may be a great place to look to for incremental improvements.