Almost everywhere you look, you see something that looks like sunglasses hanging on someone's nose and for years we've seen top names in the sunglasses industry. But a few years ago, those names started to change. What caused the change was manufacturers who actually made PROTECTIVE eyewear starting to design that eyewear to look a little more stylish. Some succeeded--some didn't. Today we're going to look at a few types of eyewear from Wiley-X, one of the leading names in the industry.
I first became familiar with Wiley-X when I wore their B2s for the three-day Tactical Pistol Course at Blackwater a few years ago. The B2s were the first "sunglasses" I'd found that were specifically designed for eye protection and which I found to be comfortable. They are a two-lens design and the frames were highly flexible. That added to the comfort, I'm sure. I had the smoke lenses in, although they come with amber and clear lenses and the lenses are relatively easy to change out. Thanks to the overall design of the B2s, the coverage achieved by the lenses is sufficient for most shooting events. If I put the B2s on and put my index finger up to the rear-most point of the lens, it's well behind my eye--about 3/4 of an inch.
Relatively new from Wiley-X are the PT-1 and the PT-3 (PT-1 shown here to the right). This curved design reaches far enough around to do a good job of cutting the wind, but more importantly, they provide extended coverage for the eyes. You can get the single lens in a variety of colors to include clear, light rust and "smoke" (shown here). The rounded frames are made from something Wiley-X refers to as "Triloid nylon." A web search on the term reveals that it is a popular material for making protective eyewear. Nearest I can tell it's a fancy and strong form of nylon that, for all intents and purposes, is like plastic.
The PT-3 has a different cut of lens, looking slightly more squared off in the back corners, but providing just as much--if not more--coverage for your eyes. Whether you choose PT-1s or PT-3s is largely just going to depend on your style preference. A search for options and accessories shows that Wiley-X makes a prescription insert for both, as well as zippered carrying cases that carry both the glasses and interchangeable lenses (so you can carry all the different colors with you).
Although I am not familiar with the details of these standards, the PT-3 meets the ANSI Z87.1-2003 High Velocity Safety and the military's Vo Ballistic Standard--MIL-PRF-31013. This ballistic protection is, of course, desired in any and all eyewear worn during training or operations. Additionally, according to the published material, all of the above listed eyewear protection systems filter out 100% of the sun's damaging ultra-violet rays. That's good news--and it's not something you really pay attention to until you get used to it and then have to live without it.
So, to test these various systems out, Borelli Consulting obtained several pair of each (we already had two pair of the B2s on hand) and delivered them to several law enforcement and military professionals in the Washington DC area. Virtually every person receiving them chose the darkest lens color available for typical daily wear. But at the range--or during training when precision was necessary--everyone switched to amber or "smoke." On a couple of occasions, the wearer chose to use the clear lens because of the environment.
At the end of our predetermined wear-test time frame, all testers were pleased with the fit, comfort and coverage of the eyewear. Then they got disappointed when they were told we all had to trade. I'll be the first to admit it; I started with a pair of B2s and wanted to stick with them. But after a couple weeks with PT-1s, I wanted to keep them. Then I got the PT-3s and wanted to keep them. Having to pick just one pair, I ended up selecting the B2s, but that's more a function of familiarity than it is comfort, coverage or comfort. I just have gotten used to them.
Although the eyewear was specifically distributed for testing during training or work assignments, every tester ended up wearing them during off-duty hours as well. None of them have mirrored or metallic appearing lenses, but that was not perceived as detracting from the overall stylishness of the glasses. What was found to be of great utility, and what increased the perceived comfort level, was the curved shape of the frames themselves. Where the frames meet the earpieces is usually a blocky hinge. These frames are molded so as to curve fairly smoothly around the front of the wearer's face. With the B2s I can feel them around my eyebrows and my cheek bones. The PT-1s and PT-3s are just as carefully designed to provide a close fit, without making the wearer feel like his eyes are being crowded.
At the end of the test period, I asked for everyone to give me back the test pairs they had. Every one of them expressed disappointment at having to give them up. Each tester had his (or her) own preference. I still ended up with the B2s as my favorite. A former Marine friend of mine who is now a police officer fell in love with the PT-3s. A K9 handler I know decided the PT-1s were his favorite.
Pricing ranges from $90 to $110 on the Wiley-X web site, depending on which model you're after. A search online shows that they can be had at prices slightly better than those. I consider them well worth it. After all, what's your vision worth?