Our eyes are one of our most valued senses, and for those Military, Police and Fire/EMS personnel, that sense must be protected. We depend on our sight to do our job, so having a good set of eye protection is a must. Although I had heard of Eye Safety Systems, Inc. (ESS), I had never worn a pair. For review, I received the ESS Crossbow 2X™ Dual-Eyeshield Kit, which included the following: Crossbow Standard frame, Crossbow Suppressor™ frame, Clear Lens, Copper Lens, zippered hard case, Micro-fiber pouch, Snap-on elastic retention strap, ESS sticker and instruction booklet. Along with this, I also received the ESS Universal Rx System (URx), more on that later.
Upon opening the packaging, I found the zippered hard case that I would describe as being semi-hard. What I mean by that is, it is hard but has some flex and give to it. On the front of the case is the ESS logo and on the back is a MOLLE compatible strap for easy attachment to you range bag, back pack or whatever. When I unzipped the case, I found that the zipper was smooth and didn’t bind up, and still is that way after over a month of use. Upon opening the case, I found the above listed items. I pulled out the set of standard frames that already had a set of lenses installed and immediately put them on. Let me tell you, they were comfortable right out of the case with no adjusting of the nose piece. I then pulled out the Suppressor™ frame and put them on. At first I didn’t know what the difference was between the standard frame and Suppressor™ frame. I quickly found out.
On the Suppressor™ frame the temple arms are much thinner and a little shorter, but didn’t know what the purpose of this was, so I pulled out the included instruction booklet. What I found out was they are designed for wearing with Ear-Cup Hearing Protection. Brilliant idea, how many of us have been on the firing line with our standard sunglasses, put on hearing protection only to have it pushing the temple arms into our head making it uncomfortable and not making a good seal around our ears, which in turn didn’t provide optimal hearing protection. I also found the Suppressor™ frame to be very comfortable to wear and the temple arms hug the side of your head quite well. That being said, because the temple arms on the Suppressor™ frame are shorter, I would recommend using the included Snap-on elastic retention strap with them. The Snap-on elastic retention strap does exactly that, it snaps on and off very easy on either set of frames via a small hole at the end of each temple arm and a small tab at the end of the retention strap that get snapped into the hole. The retention strap as mentioned is elastic, but is also adjustable to fit your head properly and comfortably.
Before we go any further, I’ll give you the key features and specifications as described on the ESS website.
- Ballistic 2.4mm high-impact polycarbonate lenses
- Tri-Tech™ Fit technology achieves a universal fit with max comfort and zero pressure points
- Advanced ClearZone™ FlowCoat lens treatments eliminate fog inside and prevent scratches outside
- DedBolt™ Lens Lock System keeps lenses secure under impact yet easy to swap
- ESSOPTICS™ deliver distortion-free optical precision throughout the entire field of view
- Interchangeable lenses
- 100% UVA/UVB protection
- Rx Inserts available
- Ballistic Protection Standards
- Compliant with: US Federal OSHA, ANSI Z87.1+, CE EN 166 and US MIL-PRF-31013
As previously mentioned the Crossbow™ is very comfortable. I have worn them for hours on end, for entire shifts on-duty and not once did they feel uncomfortable. The lenses are easy to see through and don’t give any kind of eye strain. One of the issues that everyone tends to deal with, whether it being eye protection, sunglasses or prescription glasses is fogging, especially in the winter months. I have not had an issue with that what so ever. Just this morning I was out in mid 20 degree weather and returned inside to my warm house and had no fogging. I’ve worn them with balaclavas, which almost always causes your eyewear to fog, and they still didn’t. That impressed me.
The lenses are interchangeable, and unlike some manufacturers, it is very easy with the ESS Crossbow™. ESS uses what they call their DedBolt™ Lens Lock System to secure the lens to the Crossbow™ frame, even when impacted. To change out the lens, all you have to do is rotate the DedBolt™ Lock located above the nose piece, pull the lens down in the center, dislodging it from frame, then pull the lens forward away from frame. It was pretty easy, and just as easy to insert and secure another lens in the frame. In a matter of seconds you can change your lenses.
ESS is well known for having lenses that provide ballistic protection, and the ESS Crossbow™ is no exception. As stated above, the Crossbow is compliant with the following standards: US Federal OSHA, ANSI Z87.1+, CE EN 166 and US MIL-PRF-31013. One of the things I did find out when visiting the ESS website was, ESS is “Now on the U.S. Army’s Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL) and the only approved eye protection for U.S. Marines”. Most people know that the U.S. Military has some of the most stringent specification requirements, and for ESS to be on the U.S. Army APEL and the only approved eye protection for the U.S. Marines, that is saying a lot about ESS and what they provide to you.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the ESS Universal Rx System (URx). After checking this out, I wish there was something like this around years ago when I wore prescription glasses. The URx comes packaged with the following: two sets of nosepieces and goggle adapters for both ESS and Oakley products, the nylon-frame U-Rx™ insert, installation instructions and guidelines for the optical lab. Those products would be the ESS Crossbow Eyeshield, ESS Crosshair Eyeshield, ESS Suppressor Eyeshield, ESS ICE Eyeshield, ESS ICE NARO Eyeshield, ESS Profile NVG Goggle, ESS Profile TurboFan Goggle, Oakley SI Ballistic Goggle and Oakley M-Frame 2.0 Eyeshield. I pulled the nosepieces and goggle adapters out of the bag and found that those for the ESS products had the ESS logo molded in. The ones for the Oakley products had the distinctive Oakley “O” molded in. That being the case, it is kind of hard to screw up which one is for which. I popped off the nosepiece on the Crossbow™ with ease, snapped on the ESS URx nosepiece. Then I inserted the U-Rx™ frame and put them on. I was surprised at how comfortable they still were. I didn’t notice any increase in weight, although there is a minor increase. Take note though that I did not have Rx lenses in them. The only other thing that I noticed was that it spaced the ESS Crossbow™ away from my forehead a little bit in order to accommodate the URx. ESS states that the URx will accept a wide range of prescriptions to +/- 11. As stated previously, there are guidelines for the optical lab to make the lenses fit the U-Rx™ frame.
ESS Crossbow 2X™ Dual-Eyeshield Kit is priced at $105, and the ESS Universal Rx System (URx) is priced at $37.50 on the ESS website. If you order the ESS Universal Rx System (URx) from their website, you also have the option of purchasing the prescription lenses at the same time for an additional charge, just by providing all your prescription information. Not a bad additional service they provide if you ask me. Both these products are well worth the money, especially knowing the kind of protection you will be providing your eyes. As with anything, if you do some searching online, you can find these products at a lower price.