We’ve asked some professionals who make a living helping shooters make the best
lens color choice to give us some advice. Read on and see what they have to say.
anking right up there with the top 10 topics most often discussed in the clubhouse or on the range is how to choose the proper lens color for your shooting. In my shooting career, I generally chose colors that gave me a clean, distinct image of the target. I chose that benefit over color enhancement of the clay target, and, for the most part, that’s been a fairly good strategy.
However, I thought it would be a good idea to let our readers hear from professionals who sell shooting glasses and lenses for competitive shooters — Sam Cherry of Decot Hy-Wyd Sport Glasses, Inc., Susie Gray of Gray’s Shotgun Cache, Allan Lehman of Lehman Optical, Wayne Morgan of Morgan Optical Sport Glasses and Dr. Jack Wills of Dr. Jack Wills, O.D. Here is what those professionals shared about making the right choice in selecting shooting lenses.
Assuming a shooter has good vision (no correction required), what is the
first thing he or she should know about lens colors for shotgun shooting?
Susie Gray responded: The first thing I’d take into consideration is where the shooter shoots most often. You might find a range with lots of green background in the Midwest and East or perhaps in the Southwest, where the vegetation often starts out green then ripens into a gold/wheat color. The general “color scheme” of the area in the Southwest has lighter, brighter ambient conditions — the gravel/sand is light in color, there is a lot of glare from surrounding structures, and the sun is intense. Other areas have more grass and tend to be darker in color, with less glare in the sky.
Wayne Morgan shared these thoughts: Correction or no correction, the best choice for any situation is that the lens not be too dark for the occasion.
What is the more important thing to consider when choosing lens color — definition and clarity of the target or color enhancement of the target?
Sam Cherry responded: For most, color enhancement of the target is more desirable. Normally, the darker the lens is tinted, the more it will brighten the color of the target. But it will decrease the sharpness of the target because the darker tint will cause the eye to dilate more, causing a decrease of definition.
Wayne Morgan explained: Definition and clarity should go hand-in-hand with color enhancement of the target. If the target is defined and clear, it will also be enhanced as well. The proper balance of color, either with a prescription or without, is what we aim for.
Dr. Jack Wills responded: Assuming no red/green color deficiency, pink-based lenses have proved to be most successful (i.e., pink-based oranges, purples and browns).
Allan Lehman explained: The very best way to pick a lens is by actually looking at targets on the field you shoot through lenses of different color and density. The perfect choice is out there; you just have to find it. But budget constraints (let alone the challenge of carrying around 20+ color choices) make this approach impractical. The next best method is to understand the visual spectrum and try to make sense of it using a color wheel.
The retina of our eye contains rods and cones which are our color receptors. The rods do most of the color heavy lifting. Those receptors can only interpret light in wavelengths of about 400 to 725 nanometers. Any wavelengths below or above that range are invisible to the human eye. Visible wavelengths, when viewed through a prism, create what we call a “rainbow,” breaking down “white” light into its six color components. There are only six basic colors we can see. If you want to illustrate the relationship of those six colors, that is done with a color wheel organized just like a rainbow. The primary colors — red, yellow and blue – are separated by their secondary colors — orange, green and violet (purple). The premise is colors next to each other complement or enhance their neighbor. Across the chart are the colors that clash, cancel or dull each other.
The most important issue to consider when choosing a lens color is the color of the target. Consider green targets, which we see more in the West and Southwest and, occasionally, in sporting clays. Green targets require green lenses. Yellow or yellowish-green lenses enhance green targets by brightening them. Blue lenses are “friendly” with green targets and brighten the sky to enhance the green targets in open backgrounds. But blue has reservations, being a short wavelength of light. Blue light falls short of the retina and is hard to focus, thus, we see “blue-blocking” colors. (What would a “blue-blocking” color be according to the color wheel? Certainly orange, but red, too, because of it being the longest wavelength of light.)
If you mostly shoot orange targets and use your orange lenses on green targets, you are not getting the most bang for your buck. Quite the opposite! If you are mostly shooting at orange targets, the color wheel reinforces what we already know. The most popular color choices for orange targets are orange, yellow and red lenses. Purple lenses enhance orange targets, with reservations. Purple lenses do a great job of darkening green backgrounds and enhancing blue sky. All-orange targets, especially if they are on edge against a blue sky, are visually challenging, and purple lenses can darken a blue sky and contrast the duller orange for better enhancement or contrast. But purple is not an asset when skies are partly cloudy (puffy), as the purple enhances the clouds and makes it hard to pick out an orange target that travels through a cloud then blue sky. Again, use purple to dull a green background or brighten a blue sky.
Does the percentage of light transmission through a
lens color make a difference when choosing lens color?
Wayne Morgan lends this advice: The percentage of light transmission can be overrated. An individual who is very light-sensitive may choose to use a lens that is much darker than an individual who is not light-sensitive. I, for example, will choose to use a lens much darker than what most shooters would choose, as I am rather light-sensitive. My shooting partner may choose to use a light-purple lens, and I may choose to use a dark-purple lens.
Sam Cherry provided this input: Light transmission will be reduced with more tint in the lens or a darker tint in the lens. The specific color doesn’t always make a difference in the amount of light transmission. In the yellow tones, you will get more light transmission than in the reds, browns, etc. In lower light conditions, you will want lighter colors so you get more light transmission.
How important is it to consider different
backgrounds when deciding on a lens color?
Susie Gray tells us: If the background is predominantly green trees, the Target Sun 70 (purple) lens works really well. Add a lighter shade of purple for darker days. I like to stay in the same color family for lenses so the transition between colors isn’t so hard on your eyes.
Sam Cherry shared his opinion: If you can find a color that will dampen the background colors and brighten the target, you will get better contrast and see the clay sooner out of the trap. If you shoot only against open backgrounds, you will want something different than someone who shoots only against green backgrounds. Some colors will work well in both situations, but others not so well.
Dr. Jack Wills responded: It is very important. Different colors are required for different backgrounds.
Allan Lehman had this to say about considering backgrounds when choosing lens colors: I think the second most important factor in picking lens colors is your background. We already discussed open-sky backgrounds, but what about green backgrounds? Orange, green and yellow will contrast with green. Yellow and purple are opposing on the color wheel and each has the opposite effect on green. Purple darkens green, while yellow, its neighbor, enhances or brightens green. Orange tends to brighten green, while red tends to cancel green. The longer wavelengths of red are no match for the short wavelengths of purple when it comes to darkening green.
Does a shooter’s eye coloring have an effect
on what color lens to use when target shooting?
Sam Cherry explained: Eye color may have something to do with sensitivity to the sun and the need for darker tints, but I don’t know that eye color would have any effect on the lens color that would provide the best contrast for target shooting.
Susie Gray had this to say: Lots of first-time buyers tell me their friend said to get “X” color. Parents buying glasses for kids do the same thing. If it works for the parent, then it must be okay for the kid. My reply to that is, “That might be great for your buddy, mom, dad or grandpa, but you need to try on lots of colors and find the ones that work best for you.” The bottom line is your eyes are your eyes, and nobody looks through them except you. Get a color that enhances the target and is comfortable for you.
Is it really necessary to keep many different colors of
lenses in inventory or can you get away with just a few?
Wayne Morgan’s response was: A couple lenses would usually be sufficient — a lens for low light, average light and bright light will cover any condition one might encounter.
Sam Cherry shared: Most shooters will be good with two or three colors – something for bright sun, something for overcast skies and then something for real low light. Our Vlite Rose is our most popular color for average-bright days in either the #1 or #2 shade. The Lite Med Target Orange or Sunglo is popular for overcast, dull skies. And Lite Yellow Gold 15 is preferred by many for really dark days or shooting under the lights.
Dr. Jack Wills’ response was: You can get away with keeping just a few colors that work for the individual’s shooting. What works for one shooter may not work for another.
Do clay-target shooters receive any aid in alleviating cross-dominance with a lens color choice?
Allan Lehman said: Some shooters ask about lens-color choices when discussing eye-dominance issues. Ideally, you want to reinforce the aiming eye while suppressing the non-aiming eye if you are cross-dominant. Practically, your brain cannot be restrained or tricked into changing dominance. Nothing we have tried in my 40-year career has ever helped the situation by merely making lens color choices. [See Chapter 33 of Allan’s book, “Occluders” — available at www.lehmanoptical.net — and learn why occluders work for many shooters. By the way, Allan says black occluders are the best for most shooters.]
Do clay-target shooters receive any
benefit from polarized and/or UV-coated lenses?
Sam Cherry said: All our lenses have UV filters, and everyone should be sure to have UV protection in any of their eyewear. Polarized lenses can help with glare when light is reflected from the ground, cement, water or snow. It can be quite soothing to the eyes but normally is fairly dark and may be too dark for some shooters.
Wayne Morgan explained: Polarized lenses usually fall within what one would consider a “sunglass” lens. Polarization will cut or eliminate most glare that may be bothersome to the shooter. If you are used to wearing polarized sunglasses for driving, fishing or just general outdoor use, I would expect you would find a polarized lens beneficial to shoot with. Morgan Optical offers a High Contrast brown polarized lens that is our #1 selling brown lens. Many who purchase our HC brown polarized lens to shoot with will purchase a set of sunglasses with their prescription to use as everyday sunglasses. All our lenses offer UV protection. Polycarbonate lenses offer 100% UV protection naturally, and any other lenses — prescription or plano — should be treated for UV protection.
Do shooters who shoot trap, skeet or sporting clays need to have different lenses
for each discipline they shoot or can the same colors work well for all disciplines?
Sam Cherry explained: We find the same colors work for any of the shotgun sports. It is more a personal choice or preference as to what works better for each shooter.
Wayne Morgan had this to say: The same colors will work on any course. On a sporting clays course, one may choose to stay with a lighter lens due to the vegetation and shadows; however, an orange lens is an orange lens, no matter what you are shooting.
Susie Gray added: Don’t forget lenses for everyday wear. Once you have invested in frames, lens colors are easy to change, and you can tailor your glasses to your needs. A nice polarized color for driving will leave your eyes feeling rested at the end of a trip. Two colors I’d suggest are the Gray C, which is a typical gray/green sunglass color, and Ruby Red, which is more of a brown than red and is incredibly comfortable for all-day wear.
Do you have any more tips for shooters choosing lenses?
Susie Gray gave this excellent advice on your shooting glasses investment: Whatever you choose, take care of your investment. Only use the cloth that came with your lenses or a micro-fiber cloth for cleaning, not a tissue and definitely not your shirt! Your shirt is dusty and may leave small scratches on the lenses. Any glass cleaner is fine. If you drop your glasses and can see small dirt/dust particles on the lens, pass them under running water before you clean them to knock off the bigger stuff. When you take your glasses off, wrap them in the protective cloth and put them in the case. Don’t leave them on the dash of your vehicle, in or out of the case, as the heat of the sun can warp the lenses and cause the color to fade faster. If the frames collect grime around the nosepiece, don’t be afraid to take the lens out and use a toothbrush with a little dishwashing liquid and water to clean them. Lots of shooters come to see me with frames that are easily 30 years old, so a little care goes a long way!
Wayne Morgan gave this bit of advice: Target acquisition is very important. Improving contrast and highlighting the target tends to lead to higher scores and, in today’s competitive shooting world, every bird counts.
These professionals in sports vision have provided a large dose of very good information on how to best pick your lens colors. We all know you can’t hit what you can’t see, and you have a much better chance if your eyewear helps you see targets better. Don’t neglect lens choice when looking for ways to improve your shooting success.