Tactical Response asked six of its readers to test six different patrol-oriented sunglasses. The reviewers are tactical-minded officers or members of tactical teams from all regions of the US: large and small departments; rural and urban departments; city, county, state and federal departments. They came from all over the country, including Illinois, Indiana, Idaho, Missouri, Montana and Texas.
The field test period was between three and five months. The sunglasses tested are the standard, general-use eyewear for officers and/or SWAT team members. The sunglasses were tested in law enforcement use, not sport or hiking. They are intended for basic eye protection and are not a substitute for safety glasses or goggles. Tactical Response
Magazine asked six of the top manufacturers to submit sunglasses for testing and review. Each manufacturer was sent the criteria by which their sunglasses would be evaluated. TR
left it up to the manufacturer to pick the make and model. The following sunglasses were tested: 5.11 Ascend; Bobster Whiskey; Eye Safety Systems CDI; Revision Vipertail; Rudy Project Rydon; and Wiley-X P-17.
The sunglasses were evaluated and rated on a scale of 1 (worst) to 5 (best) in a number of areas: Initial Fit (initial comfort, initial fit, no pressure points on nose pads or temple tips, not too bulky or too heavy); Area of Coverage (wrap-around protection from sun, glare, wind, fluids, dust/particles); Practical Use (clarity of view, no visual distortions, glare reduction; Tactical Use (fog resistance, abrasion resistance, glasses stay on even during strenuous activity, retaining strap).
The evaluation also included Durability in Patrol Use (flexible enough for quick but off-center removal, lenses remain inside frames, hinges strong enough, hinges spring loaded, bridge or bar strong enough); Extended Wear (daylong comfort – nose pads, temples, temple tips). The reviewers were also asked for their overall opinion of each pair of sunglasses. Revision Vipertail
Average Score: 3.7 of 5
Key features of the Vipertail sunglasses from Revision include high-impact protection that exceeds ANSI Z87.1-2010 and MIL-PRF-31013; premium comfort and superior fit and retention for all-day performance; Grilamid TR-90 high-impact frame with reinforced hinges; lenses precision manufactured for distortion-free vision. In addition, tough coat lenses prevent scratching in the harshest environments. The hard case is ideal for compact storage and protection. The MSRP is $90.
Although the Revision Vipertail tied for last place, with an overall average score of 3.7, it scored highest in the Area of Coverage category. “The Revision had large lenses and provided adequate coverage,” Chief Deputy Mike Quintal, Lewis County (Idaho) Sheriff’s Office, commented. In addition, they provided good protection from sun and glare as well as dust and dirt, according to Captain Brad Giffin, Missoula County (Mont.) Sheriff’s Office.
In terms of Initial Fit, “I kept having to push the glasses back onto my face,” Officer Michelle Ray, Wentzville (Mo.) Police noted. Similarly, one officer said they “fell loose” in the Tactical Use category. Opinions on the Vipertail’s Practical Use differed. One officer said the glasses had a clear view, with no visual distortions while another officer experienced some peripheral vision loss due to the “bulky frames.” Also, the color of the lenses seemed dark to Ray: “Hard to see.”
Ratings on the Vipertail also varied in Durability. “The frames were solid but not as flexible as some,” Giffin commented. Although Ray thought they were lightweight, they “seemed low quality in materials and construction.” On the other hand, Officer Juan Duran, Chicago (Ill.) Police gave them a 5 in Durability, because they had “sound construction materials.”
A majority of the officers said Revision’s glasses were comfortable, but after Extended Wear, they felt bulky with some pressure on the temples for some of the officers. However, Corporal Dale Abbott, Cleburne (Texas) Police, said the Vipertail is “light enough to wear all day; holds well to the head and doesn’t slip.” Bobster Whiskey
Average Score: 3.7 of 5
Bobster’s Whiskey™ Ballistics Sunglasses exceed the ballistic impact requirements of the new MCEPS standard, with anti-fog smoked lenses, black frame and gun metal detailing. The eight-base wrap design provides peripheral vision as it protects against wind, debris, sun and fragmentation. The Whiskey comes equipped with a carry case and microfiber cleaning cloth.
The anti-fog lenses are available in smoked, smoked polarized or clear. The polarized lens eliminates glare; clear lenses are best for low light conditions or can be used as protective eyewear at night; and the anti-fog smoked lenses are an all-purpose great for natural color perception. Distortion-free clarity is offered with scratch-resistant polycarbonate lenses in a lightweight flexible frame for comfort. The Bobster Whiskey has an MSRP of $100.
Although the Whiskey tied for fourth place with an overall average score of 3.7, it scored high in the Area of Coverage category for most of the testers. “Good coverage from top to bottom and left to right,” Abbott said. In addition, they protected well against sun and glare, wind and dust for many of the officers. However, Officer Mike Brewer, West Lafayette (Ind.) Police did notice “some sun through the upper sides.”
In Initial Fit, several of the testers commented the Whiskey had “sharp temples” and felt “bulky.” It was “comfortable where it sits on my nose,” Ray said, but Giffin said the non-adjustable nose pad did not fit his nose and it could not be adjusted to fit.
For Practical Use, the Whiskey scored well, with the majority of the testers saying the lenses were clear with no distortions. However, “I could see the upper and lower frame when looking straight ahead,” Abbott noted. In Tactical Use, Bobster’s sunglasses scored slightly lower, with two of the officers experiencing fogging issues and the glasses not staying in place. On the other hand, the Whiskey did stay secure on most of the reviewers’ heads during activity and the resistance to dust accumulation was good for other reviewers.
Scores varied in Durability for the Whiskey. Some thought they were “rigid” and lacked the flexibility of some of the other sunglasses. Other officers said the hinges were strong and the frames felt “very durable.” After Extended Wear, some officers said the Bobster glasses were painful at the temples. “The arms dug into my ears and head,” Ray stated. 5.11 Tactical Ascend
Average Score: 3.9 of 5
The Ascend Polarized Eyewear from 5.11 Tactical features polarized smoke lenses that allow light transmission of 11 percent. The Gloss Black Grilamid™ TR-90 nylon frame with peripheral vision and smoke distortion-free eight-base lenses provide 100 percent UVA and UVB protection and are scratch, crack and craze-resistant. Proprietary polarized lens technology adds 99.9 percent polarization to reduce glare off water and other reflective surfaces.
In addition, Ascend exceeds ANSI Z87.1-2003 and EN 166 (F) high-velocity impact safety and optical standards. Other features include adjustable soft TPR nose piece and temple inserts keep eyewear in place; includes zippered compression molded protective case with SlickStick™ web platform attachment point, cleaning bag, and neck strap. The MSRP is $100.
Placing third overall, 5.11’s Ascend sunglasses scored high in the Initial Fit category for most of the testers, except Quintal, who found the glasses to be “slightly bulky and heavy.” The majority of the officers thought the 5.11 glasses had a good Area of Coverage. “Keeps sun, wind, dust out of eyes… no glare,” Abbott commented. However, one reviewer did notice some wind through the sides.
The Ascend also scored high in Practical Use. “They worked well on the range for shooting scenarios,” Giffin stated. Duran said the Ascend had a clear view, good wrap-around lenses and very good polarized lenses.
In Tactical Use, several reviewers rated the Ascend a 3, stating that retention was an issue due to the loose fit. “However, a retention strap was provided,” Quintal said. One officer noted that the glasses had smooth temples, but were slippery. In addition, “I noticed some fogging when putting them on after being in a cold vehicle all night,” Brewer commented. On the flip side, the lenses seemed to resist abrasion well and stayed on well even during strenuous activities for Giffin.
In terms of Durability, the Ascend received different scores. Ray thought it was lightweight and durable, and liked the fact “the case was able to fit on your duty belt.” One reviewer thought the 5.11 glasses were not very flexible, while another said they were flexible but durable and “were certainly strong enough to endure constant off-center removal without much discomfort,” Giffin elaborated.
For Extended Wear, scores again varied for the Ascend. “I wore the glasses on a 90-degree day and they kept sliding down,” Duran noted. However, he went on to say they were more comfortable after adjusting the nose pads. The nose piece and bulk of the glasses became uncomfortable after long wear for Quintal. For other officers, the Ascends were easily worn all day: “Very comfortable, just a little heavy,” Ray commented. Rudy Project Rydon
Average Score: 4.3 of 5
Rudy Project’s Rydon™ in stealth matte black with ImpactX™ pure grey lenses blends cutting-edge ergonomic features with advanced materials (carbon, aluminum, magnesium, silcium and titanium) to create a lightweight, versatile, high-performance sunglass.
Rydon has been uniquely engineered with a carbonium frame and revolutionary aerospatial aluminum alloy (Kynetium™) temples which combine magnesium, silcium and titanium to create an unbelievably lightweight, durable and flexible sunglass. The MSRP is a hefty $205.
The Rudy Project’s Rydon sunglasses tied for second place, with top honors in Practical Use. When describing the Rydon, Abbott said: “Great; no distortion, no glare, view is unobstructed at any angle.” Another officer used them on the range frequently without problems.
Several reviewers gave Rudy’s glasses a 5 in Extended Wear, but a few officers disagreed. “The tips of the arms were sharp, and the arms were hurting the contact area where they were resting on my ear,” Ray said. Most of the officers praised the Rydon’s light weight and comfort. Quintal added the slim design of the limbs: “There was no discomfort from pressure or pinching in the nose piece or temples.” Some of the officers said they forgot they were wearing the Rydons and it showed in their Initial Fit scores. On the other hand, Brewer gave it a 1: “Very uncomfortable from the start.”
Some also noted the adjustable nose pads made it easy to adjust the fit. In Tactical Use, most of the testers said the Rudy glasses never fogged up, even in high heat and extreme cold during heavy exertion. “The lenses have a notable ability to flex under physical pressure,” Quintal added.
The Rydon received all 4’s and 5’s in Durability. For the bulk and weight, they are very robust, one officer commented. “The strong yet flexible frames made them great for off-center removal,” Giffin said. Wiley-X Black Ops
Average Score: 4.3 of 5
The P-17M Black Ops from Wiley-X features non-slip rubberized temples and nose piece. It exceeds ANSI Z87.1-2003 high-velocity standard. It includes the following: T-Peg Strap, Leash Cord, Large Black Zippered Case and Cleaning Cloth. The system brings extended prescription ranges, and optical performance that has the capacity to adjust the design away from the optical center, achieving peripheral optics even in high-wrap frames. The MSRP is $75.
The Wiley-X P17 tied for second place, with an overall average score of 4.3 and the highest score (4.6) in Initial Fit. They were the most comfortable of all the sunglasses Giffin tested. “They stayed in place with very little slipping on my nose,” Giffin continued. However, Duran said they were “a little tight and some pressure on the temples but not uncomfortable.”
Scores differed a bit on Area of Coverage. On reviewer thought they had “excellent coverage” while another officer found the coverage to be sufficient, but “some peripheral vision was lost by frame blockage,” Quintal said. While most of the testers said the P17 was clear with no distortions in Practical Use, one officer described its clarity and glare reduction as “average.”
The Wiley-X sunglasses received all 4’s and 5’s in the Tactical Use category. They were not prone to fog easily and resisted most abrasions and dust, according to Quintal. “They were dropped on the concrete floor and got kicked but they held up well,” Brewer stated. Two of the officers mentioned how the rubber on the temples kept the glasses in place, even during physical activity.
In Durability, scores ranged from 3 to 5. “Although these were my favorite glasses, the nose pad fell off three times,” Ray stated. However, the P17 seemed very flexible to one reviewer and not very flexible to another officer.
“They were sturdy enough for frequent off-center removal,” Giffin said. This was important to him since his department has a strict policy against talking to people while wearing sunglasses. As far as Extended Wear, most of the officers said they were able to wear the P17 Black Ops glasses all day with no discomfort and no pressure points. Eye Safety Systems (ESS) CDI
Average Score: 4.4 of 5
Following a series of comprehensive overhauls, the redesigned the CDI™ US Mil-Spec high-impact lenses can be easily exchanged for quick adaptation to any environment with high-speed low-drag frame and shatter-resistant lenses. The CDI’s Lateral Exchange System™ makes interchanging any of the five available lens colors quick and easy.
New cam-hinge temples feature SmartTension™ engineering for enhanced retention and fit. New co-molded nosepiece and full-wrap temple sleeves feature advanced no-slip rubber for maximum slip resistance, even when moist. Redesigned strap attachment system provides more secure engagement of strap and frame. Now includes a zippered hard case and a micro-fiber pouch/cleaning cloth. The MSRP is $100.
Taking first place by a slim margin, ESS’s CDI had an overall average score of 4.4. It scored highest in Tactical Use, Practical Use, Durability and Extended Wear. “The ability to replace only the lenses coupled with their great fit and comfort made good sense,” Giffin stated when describing the CDI. Ray gave the CDI 5’s in every category, citing its “good fit” and “comfortable nose pads.” To Brewer, the best feature of the glasses was the ease of changing lenses. Ray added: “I enjoyed the interchangeable lenses that were included.”
“The ESS sunglasses stayed in place at all times… no adjustments even on hot days,” Duran noted for the Tactical Use category. Similarly, Quintal said the CDI glasses were tough: “I was never able to get them to fog. Dust never accumulated and they proved to be very abrasion resistant.” Most of the reviewers said the CDI glasses had a good fit and were lightweight, although one officer thought they were “somewhat small for larger faces but overall very comfortable.”
A majority of the officers rated the CDI high in Area of Coverage, except a couple of them mentioned the frames. “Due to the smaller size and full frames, some field of view was blocked by the frames,” Abbott said.
In Practical Use, all of the testers commented on the fact the ESS sunglasses were very clear with no visual distortions or glare. In the Extended Wear category, “I couldn’t even tell I was wearing glasses,” Duran stated. Most officers also thought the nose pieces were comfortable and the glasses were not too heavy. Opinions and Personal Preference
Even though three pairs of sunglasses were clustered at the top of this evaluation (ESS CDI, Wiley-X Black Ops and Rudy Project Rydon), the reviews of the sunglasses varied quite a bit. As with any field test comparison, opinions differed due to personal preference, as evidenced by the wide range of scores for each category. Some of the reviewers thought certain sunglasses were suited for all tactical applications, while others preferred them for light duty or more recreational use.
One officer commented that when choosing sunglasses, economy is important. In other words, consider two things. First, procurement - are they affordable? Second, replacement - can I afford another pair if I damage or lose them?
We extend our sincere thanks to our panel of testers. Their time and efforts are greatly appreciated. Jennifer Gavigan has been writing for
Tactical Response Magazine for eight years, providing readers with cutting-edge tactical information. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.