Motor cops are cool. They know they’re cool, we know they’re cool; everybody knows they’re cool. They melt in the summer, they freeze in the winter, they eat bugs for a living, they acquire more busted bones and skin grafts than any other police assignment, but they’re cool. They were the guys who started that “cool cops with cool shades” image that we’ve seen in the movies for 70 years.
Remember the old Highway Patrol cops of the 1930s? Brown leather jackets, peaked hats, high boots, jodhpur pants and, yep, dark glasses to keep the eyeballs debugged on that classic Harley with no windscreen. The rest of us who worked out of a car instead of off a bike had less success with the cool shades. Many departments didn’t care if you wore them; some had chiefs like the one I had, who felt that gloves and dark glasses intimidated the public and were absolutely verboten. Unless, of course, you worked motors…
Fortunately, times change, and most departments today recognize a much greater need for protective eyewear for everybody from the regular guy or gal on a beat to SWAT operators to departmental range qualifications. When I started out in the business, eyewear at the range was optional and seldom used; when I retired it was mandatory, as it should be.
Ray Bans ruled the road for decades among those who knew cool, but regular glass lenses are pretty limited in what kind of debris they can deflect from hitting your eye. Even tempered safety glass has its disadvantages, one of which is weight. Plastic safety lenses were an improvement, but the place to put your money, and the continued usefulness of your eyes, is polycarbonate in the modern cop world. Polycarbonate is typically 50 times stronger than tempered glass, weighs a fraction of what safety glass does, relatively inexpensive, can be produced to fit prescription lens requirements, and comes in several colors and configurations with the added advantage of filtering out those UV rays that have a cumulative effect if much of your job requires you to be in the sun.
One of the better known names in “ballistic eyewear” is the Gargoyles brand. These are pretty popular among military users, and they’ve established a good reputation for durability and effectiveness. Gargoyles (the company) produces several models of Gargoyles (the glasses); probably their best known line is the Classics. These were an early semi-wraparound style with the company’s patented “Toric” curve to reduce eyestrain and large lenses that offered substantial coverage and protection for the eyes. Lightweight and of simple construction, they’re available in clear lenses or your choice of six different colors, with or without removable sideshields, and a removable insert for prescription lenses that fit just behind the regular lenses. These are particularly effective if you buy a clear lens pair with additional inserts in clear and dark prescription lenses for changing lighting conditions on the range, bi-focal or regular single vision needs, and so on. It can give you the equivalent of several pairs of glasses for the road, range, or raid in one main frame with interchangeable inserts.
Wiley X Climate Control Series are available in a plethora of models in each of Wiley X’s varieties, be it for Tactical, Racing or Outdoors use. All Climate Control Series frames have Wiley X’s High Velocity Protection, which are crafted from Selenite polycarbonate for shatterproof, distortion-free clarity, and all exceed ANSI (American National Standards Institute)-certified impact resistance standards. Each lens is treated with a scratch-resistant hard coat and they block 100% of harmful UVA and UVB rays. Polarized variations provide superior glare reduction and light reflection off the road or other cars.
The Climate Control Series includes lightweight frames and feature a patented, removable, durable foam gasket that is symmetrically vented and locks into the ANSI-certified frames. Together they form a comfortable Facial Cavity Seal that surrounds your eyes in a climactically controlled cocoon that prevents irritation from eyestrain and dehydration as well as wind, gravel, dirt, insects, dust, debris and other airborne hazards. As opposed to traditional sunglasses, this unique design prevents sunlight or airborne particles from invading your sight,
especially in windy or dusty conditions.
Moving up into the higher stratosphere of goggle technology, ESS (Eye Safety Systems, Inc.) offers an actual battery-powered tactical goggle with a two-speed internal fan. The Turbo Fan features a clear one-piece lens with anti-fog coating and UV protection, along with a V50 impact rating (a .22 caliber bullet at 650 feet per second will not penetrate the lens). The rugged and fully ventilated frame design provides a wide peripheral vision and buffered filtration protection against airborne particles, smoke, and splashes. In humid or highly active conditions, the fan clears air out from inside the goggles to maintain clear vision in seconds, and can run on the low “stealth” mode for up to 50 hours on two AAA batteries.
Accessories available include tear-off lenses to prolong the life of the primary lens in wet or dusty situations and immediately restore clear vision to dusty or splattered goggles, inexpensive replacement lenses, and prescription lens inserts that snap inside the goggle frame. An intriguing approach for SWAT and similar applications.
Also for more specialized applications, the ESS Profile NVG goggle was designed with input from US Special Forces to be night vision and PASGT helmet compatible. The Profile comes with one clear and one gray lens, both dual coated to reduce fogging on the inside and increase scratch resistance on the outside. All lenses provide the same UV and impact protection as the Turbo Fan lens. Full perimeter ventilation enhances anti-fogging and dust filtration; the soft frame material conforms to most face shapes, and you get a soft cloth pouch for the spare lens along with a hard case for each goggle. Accessories include tear-off and replacement lenses, and laser protective lenses, which is a bonus in certain situations. Snap-in prescription inserts can also be ordered for the Profile goggle. A good multi-purpose setup at a good price with a more comfortable strap than the military issue goggle.
H. L. Bouton
If you’re not in a position to either buy or be issued the higher-end stuff, you can still pick up a basic goggle. The ANSI certified Bouton Model 450 is a ventilated unit that features a replaceable polyurethane foam filter system, a black frame with rubber headband, a clear polycarbonate lens, and offers good eye protection against flying debris and liquid splatters.
By the same token, Bouton’s Model 6800 Soft Brow is also a more affordable piece of safety equipment. It features a patented anti-slip nose piece, a cushioned brow ridge, padded temple piece tips, integrated side shields, an ANSI rating, and UV protection. The Soft Brow is available in clear, gray, and amber.
Generally, the goal is to retire with as many bodily functions intact as possible, and your vision is certainly near the top of the list. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but with what’s easily available today in eye protection, there’s no excuse for not wearing something to shield them from both the sun and flying particulates.
Knives and weapons from Benchmade, BlackHawk, Heckler & Koch and more!
by Rich Grassi / Feb 15, 2009