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Field Test: Tactical Goggles

Written by Jennifer Gavigan

Today’s tactical officers have many different choices when it comes to what brand of goggles to use. Deciding which set of goggles is the best often depends on personal preference. Tactical Response sought 14 of its readers to test five different pairs of goggles for four weeks. The reviewers are current SWAT officers or trainers from agencies throughout the United States. They came from a wide cross-section of law enforcement, including both rural and urban departments and both large and small departments. They came from all over the country, including Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, California, Minnesota, New York, Colorado, Michigan, Montana and Arkansas.

Tactical Response asked five of the top goggles manufacturers in the United States to submit goggles for testing and review. The following goggles were tested: Eye Safety Systems’s Profile Thermal; BlackHawk’s A.C.E.; Wiley X’s Nerve; Revision Eyewear’s Desert Locust; and Elvex’s Visionaire. To be sure we were comparing the same type of goggles, each company was asked to submit its all-around tactical operations goggles. Each company knew this was going to be a direct, head-to-head comparison, and that the goggles would be rated and ranked.

The goggles were used on duty or during SWAT training exercises. After the 30-day test period, the officers were asked to evaluate the goggles. The goggles were each specifically rated for comfort; weather tolerance / fogging; SWAT gear compatibility; vision; and durability using a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = Poor, 5 = Very Good). They were then ranked overall. Following is a detailed description of each pair of goggles and a summary of the results and how each pair of goggles ranked.

BlackHawk Products Group

The BlackHawk® A.C.E. (Advanced Combat Eyewear) is designed to meet the demands of military and law enforcement tactical operators. Its low-profile design is ideal for use with PASGT, ACH or MICH helmets and allows peripheral vision. An injection-molded 3.0mm polycarbonate lens provides protection and dimensionally stable optics. Optional tear-off lenses can be used to protect the lens; allow for quick removal of debris from view; or enable quick tinting / un-tinting of lens when operating in changing light conditions.

Other features of the A.C.E. include: 100% UV-A and UV-B protection; flow-coated anti-scratch and anti-fog treatments; cage frame design with dust filter around circumference for ventilation and particle filtration; canted 35mm strap with anti-slip silicone; removable protective nose guard; acetate tear-off lens capable (one clear and one grey (smoke) tint included). The goggles are available in black, coyote tan or foliage green. The MSRP is $99.99.

BlackHawk’s A.C.E. goggles technically took third place overall, but only by the slightest margin. The A.C.E. took top honors in the comfort category. An overwhelming majority of the reviewers felt they were very comfortable, either with or without a helmet. Sergeant Patrick Fortenberry, Greer, SC Police Department, thought the A.C.E. was the most comfortable of them all. “There was a lot of padding…and the retention strap’s ridges kept the strap from sliding needlessly,” he said. In addition, Officer Robert Collard (Commander Chris Havens’ SWAT team), Burleson, TX Police Department, thought the nose guard was “great.”

Fogging seemed to be a moderate problem for several of the reviewers who tested the A.C.E., especially when going from warm to cold weather. According to Commander Michael Anderson, Oswego County, NY Sheriff’s Department, the fogging took several minutes to clear. “However, the goggles were still operable,” he said. On the flip side, other officers had no problems with fogging in cold weather. Officer Brian DeRosier, Oak Park Heights, MN Police Department, said the A.C.E. had “excellent ventilation” and scored it a 5 in the weather tolerance category.

Most of the reviewers rated the A.C.E. high in the SWAT gear compatibility category. Officer Bill Twinem, Thornton, CO Police Department said the goggles had good compatibility with ear bud and mic, and “better flexibility than some.” Corporal Martin Genter Sr., Eastpointe, MI Police Department, said the BlackHawk A.C.E did not interfere with weapon shouldering or communications gear.

In the vision category, a lot of the testers liked the BlackHawk goggles for their clarity and tear-off lenses. Officer Duncan Crawford of the Missoula, MT Police Department said the A.C.E. was “very clear, [with] some limit to peripheral vision.” Similarly, Sergeant David Barnes, Marietta, GA Police Department, noted a slight optical distortion when acquiring a sight picture on his M4 rifle.

In terms of durability, Officer Roy Bryson, Burlingame, CA Police Department felt the goggles were made very well and liked the protective bag, “but I would prefer a more rigid case for a greater level of protection,” he said. Sergeant Fortenberry especially liked the nose cover, calling the A.C.E. “a very durable product; nothing negative noted.”

Elvex Corp.

Elvex’s Visionaire™ is a combination impact and splash high-performance goggle with a molded base six polycarbonate lens (2.2mm thick). SuperCoat™ anti-fog coated lens and indirect ventilation slots are also included. It is also available with a gray lens. Other features include a nose bridge and an adjustable support strap. The Visionaire complies with ANSI Z87.1 requirements. The MSRP is $9.00. Note: That price is not a typo. According to Fred Ravetto of Elvex Corp., “Elvex’s origins are in the industrial safety market where cost competition is much more aggressive than military and law enforcement markets.”

Although the Visionaire came in fifth place, the reviewers disagreed on its comfort. According to Officer DeRosier, the Visionaire had an “excellent seal to the face” and further described it as “comfortable, secure.” However, many of the testers thought the plastic material was stiff and uncomfortable. “I noticed discomfort to the cheek bones after only a few minutes,” Officer Bryson said.

Again, the reviewers were split on the Elvex goggles’ weather tolerance / fogging. Half of the testers experienced little or no fogging with the Visionaire, citing “good ventilation” as a reason. Officer Michael Owen, Burleson, TX Police Department, said the goggles breathed really well. Alternately, others thought they were “stiff” and “sticky.” Sergeant Barnes said the vents “were inadequate to prevent fogging, especially when the goggles were applied when cold.”

Even though Lieutenant David Mitchell of the Rogers, AR Police Department found the Visionaire to be flexible and compatible with his weapons, “The goggles are too large, [in my] personal opinion.” A couple officers also thought the Visionaire was “bulky” and “rigid” under the helmet. Still, other reviewers had no problems shouldering weapons.

Corporal Genter scored the Elvex goggles a 5 in the vision category: “Best visibility on any goggles that I have ever used!” he said. Many officers agreed with Genter, but some of them had problems with peripheral vision and distortion or glare. “At about 140 degrees you lose vision,” Sergeant Fortenberry said. Commander Anderson thought the lens was clear but different light sources caused glare.

As far as durability, the Visionaire scored low due to no padding or carrying case. “No good method to carry…will wear quickly,” Officer Twinem said. Otherwise, it held up during regular training as well as when deployed rapidly, according to other reviewers.

Eye Safety Systems Inc.

The new Profile Thermal™ from Eye Safety Systems (ESS) is a low-profile goggle intended for tactical operations. It features a compact frame, night vision equipment and weapons sighting. For use in extreme temperatures, closed-cell face padding provides comfort while the ArcticZone™ dual-thermal lens resists impacts and lens fogging, and provides 100% UV-A/UV-B protection. Other features include: 2.8mm lenses; ANSI-compliant; MIL-SPEC; Rx available. It also includes a protective soft case. The MSRP is $90.00.

ESS’s Profile Thermal took second place overall, but again, only by the slightest of margins. “Close to perfect” is how Officer John Brackett, Burleson, TX Police Department described ESS’s Profile Thermal goggles. The majority of the testers liked the fleece-lined seal and thought the goggles were comfortable with or without a helmet for extended periods of time.

The Profile Thermal took top honors in both the weather tolerance / fogging and SWAT gear compatibility categories. Most of the reviewers had no problems with fogging: “[The] ESS [goggles] did not fog in cold weather even while wearing glasses inside the goggles,” Officer Bryson said. After intentionally fogging them, they cleared fast, according to Commander Anderson. Most of the testers thought the Profile Thermal was very compatible with SWAT gear, but one reviewer felt differently: “The design of the nose area can cause a visual obstruction when acquiring sights on long gun,” Sergeant Barnes said.

Many reviewers praised the Profile Thermal goggles for their clarity, but some experienced problems with peripheral vision. “There was a slight distortion in peripheral vision with about a 10 degrees loss on sides,” Sergeant Fortenberry said. In the durability category, many liked the carrying case and the fact that ESS’s goggles did not scratch. “The ESS goggles are made with detail to durability,” Officer Bryson said. But a couple reviewers had concerns that the straps may break after prolonged use.

Revision Eyewear Ltd.

Revision® Eyewear’s Desert Locust® goggles combine ballistic protection and a wide field of view with facial and helmet fit. The high-impact protection is certified to ANSI Z87.1 and military requirements. The OcuMax™ coating provides protection against fogging and scratching. Top and lateral forced air vents provide airflow while filtration media prevents small particle entry.

Interchangeable lenses are available for various light conditions: clear, smoke and high-contrast. (Note: High-contrast yellow lenses are not approved for U.S. military use.) The polycarbonate lenses offer 100% protection from UV-A, UV-B and UV-C rays. The low-profile design is compatible with helmet, weapon sights, binoculars and night-vision systems. An optional prescription (Rx) carrier is available (compatible with Sawfly). The Desert Locust is on the U.S. Army Authorized Protective Eyewear List. Ballistic protection with firearm is: 0.22 caliber, 17-grain, T37 shaped projectile measured at 747 fps in laboratory conditions. The MSRP is $129.99.

Revision’s Desert Locust goggles took first place overall, but as mentioned above, the scores were so close that is was a virtual three-way tie between Revision, ESS and BlackHawk. That said, the reviews were mixed for the Desert Locust in the comfort category. “Even with the strap of these goggles expanded over my ballistic helmet, I could barely feel them,” Sergeant Barnes stated. However, Officer Bryson said they “fit nice, but for prolonged wear it was a little uncomfortable around the nose arch.”

Commander Anderson was very impressed with the weather tolerance of the Desert Locust goggles, scoring it a 5. “Going from extreme cold to warm, the goggles did not fog at all. They remained totally clear,” he said. One officer experienced “slight fogging” in humid conditions. Most of the reviewers also liked the Revision goggles’ SWAT gear compatibility. They had no problems with shouldering weapons, but Officer Bryson commented that the gap from the retention strap would not allow hearing protection to obtain proper seal for correct soundproofing.

The Desert Locust scored highest in the vision category out of all the goggles tested, with more than half of the reviewers giving it a 5. Officer Roger Hall, Burleson, TX Police, liked the fact that “the nose piece is small and narrow and doesn’t interfere with my vision.” Many of the testers said the lenses had no glare and were very clear and distortion-free. Only one reviewer thought the upper and lower peripheral vision was poor up close, but good at a distance.

Feedback was positive on Desert Locust’s durability. A few of the officers said Revision’s goggles took a lot of abuse on duty (such as being dropped) and they did not scratch. In addition, Commander Anderson thought the belt case for storage of the goggles and extra lenses was very handy and functional.

Wiley X Eyewear

The Nerve™ from Wiley X Eyewear® is a pocket-size low-profile tactical goggle. All Wiley X lenses block 100% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Each lens is made from shatterproof selenite polycarbonate and exceeds ANSI Z87.1 safety and ANSI Z80.3 optical standards. Each lens is formulated and die-cut to eliminate distortion. A wide range of tints are also available. The MSRP is $90.00.

Taking fourth place, many reviewers thought the Nerve was tight around the nose, and therefore uncomfortable. Officer Crawford gave the Nerve a 1 in the comfort category, saying it “digs into lower eyelid area.” However, Sergeant Fortenberry thought Wiley X’s goggles were comfortable after removing the attached lens cover. “The seal and nose arch conformed to my face very well,” he said.

In the weather tolerance / fogging category, Officer Don Adams, Burleson, TX Police Department, said the Nerve’s ventilation reduced fogging, and Lieutenant Mitchell described Wiley X’s goggles as “fog resistant and cool.” Sergeant Barnes said the goggles went from 3 degrees to 80 degrees with no fogging. Conversely, four of the reviewers did experience some fogging, especially in cold and rainy weather. A few of the reviewers praised the Nerve’s low-profile design for compatibility with weapons and communications gear. However, two of the testers felt the goggles were somewhat rigid.

Wiley X’s Nerve ranked highest in durability out of all the goggles tested. Half of the reviewers scored it a 5 in that category. Officer DeRosier experienced no scratching on the Nerve’s lenses, even during exposure to tree and brush limbs. Many of the reviewers liked the “hard, protective” carrying case.

All in all, these goggles were very comparable, as evidenced by the close scores, virtually making it a three-way tie between Revision, Eye Safety Systems and BlackHawk. Revision’s Desert Locust was the winner a slight margin, followed closely by the others. As with any testing program, the opinions differed slightly due to personal preference. The reviewers liked certain goggles for different reasons and in specific scenarios. The same pair of goggles may not be right for every officer; it is best for each officer to choose the pair goggles that is right for him. We extend our sincere thanks to our panel of testers. Their time and efforts are greatly appreciated.

Jennifer Gavigan is the former associate editor of LAW and ORDER and Tactical Response. She can be reached at jengavigan@comcast.net.

Published in Tactical Response, Mar/Apr 2008

Rating : 3.0


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