by Terry Wieland
Last month, I wrote a piece lamenting the disappearance of the Bausch & Lomb “Ray-Ban AmberMatic” shooting glasses, but promised to get some of the new Leupold models, try them out, and report back.
Well, a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code. Herewith, the promised report.
A glance at the Leupold website, under the heading “Performance Eyewear,” reveals ten models, each available in different frame finishes and lens colors. But, with shooting glasses, other considerations count more than fashion. First and foremost is the capability of the lens in repelling errant shot pellets. Second is staying in place as you move your head—particularly, remaining snug on your face as you plant your cheek firmly on the stock. At that point, you are actually looking through the top of the lens; if they slip, they’re useless.
The final consideration is picking up the target as it leaves the trap, and that involves clouds versus sun, tinted lenses light or dark, and the tint itself. At this point I should add that, while we are mainly discussing trap, Skeet, and sporting clays, I would not hunt without glasses either. Tree branches, tall grass, and the aforementioned errant pellets can all be serious threats.
Many glasses now come with interchangeable lenses and, in my experience, these work anywhere from very well to not at all.
The two models I got to try were the Bridger and the Sentinel. The former is traditional (resembling, strangely, the glasses Buddy Holly made famous) while the latter is the modern wrap-around, with one piece lenses that can be interchanged. Each Sentinel comes with a clear lens, as well as whatever color you choose (bronze, grey, or the expensive [$379.95] but laser-safe orange.)
With the Bridger, you choose the color lens you want, and that’s it. If you want a different color, you buy another pair of glasses. At $189.95, they ain’t cheap, but it’s your eyesight you’re protecting, and what’s that worth?
I quite liked both the Bridger and the Sentinel, but not trusting just my own preferences and face size, I enlisted the help of two of our more serious trap and Skeet shooters, Jon and Sandy Evans.
Sandy liked both styles, but (to my surprise) settled on the Bridgers. They were, she said “ideal” and I’m sure you’ll agree they looked good on her. Her one complaint about the Sentinel was that the prominent, adjustable nose-piece intruded on her vision when she shot with both eyes open, although it seemed to recede when she closed one eye. Jon preferred the Sentinel overall, but also found the adjustable nose-piece intruding on his vision.
Jon and Sandy did find the tinted lenses in both styles too dark for shooting for most light conditions. Like me, Jon vastly prefers the traditional amber for low light and cloudy conditions, and that is one color that Leupold does not seem to offer—at least, not by that name. They have “Bronze Mirror” and “Orange Mirror” but no amber in any form. While we’re on the subject, nor do they offer vermillion. Remember 20 years ago, when vermillion was the tint-of-the month for clays? Now it’s nowhere to be found. But we digress.
In fairness to Leupold, the company is not shotgun oriented, except for tactical guns. I suspect their glasses are intended primarily for use by police, tactical squads, or competitors in rifle or handgun events, and in these, the ability to pick up a flying orange clay in low light is not a top priority. Eliminating glare is more vital, and this the Leupolds do with a vengeance. Almost all the lenses are Polarized.
In fact, that being the case, they might be just the thing for fishing, where sun bouncing off the water is a serious concern. (Editor-in-Chief, and Fisherman-in-Chief, Mike Floyd advises the mirrored blue tint would be good for salt-water sun. He prefers the Katmai and Packout models, on aesthetic grounds, and also laments the absence of amber.)
On the question of fit and stability, both the Packer and Sentinel styles got top marks. They stay in position as if they’re glued, but at the same time do not put pressure on your ears or cause any discomfort, even when worn for long periods. My one complaint about my venerable Ray-Bans—other than the fact they don’t make them anymore—is that the backs of my ears get a little sore after I’ve worn them for four or five hours.
My bottom line on the Leupolds is that they are great in terms of fit and stability. They offer all the durability and tech-specs one could wish, such as resistance to lead pellets, UV rays, and so on. If they made at least one model in traditional amber, they would be near-perfect for clays games. As it is, the clear lenses on the Sentinel do well in medium light, where you need neither light-dampening (grey) nor light-enhancing (amber) features.
Gene Hill advised that, if you find something you like, buy two because they are sure to stop making it. Our shooting editor took that to heart, and yes, he did own two pair of Ray-Bans, but one somehow got left in a hotel room in Madrid in 1987. At least he thinks that’s where it was.