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Old 11-22-2015, 07:34 PM   #1
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Old eyes and shooting

I wrote this a couple years ago for the guys at the PD just to pass along some experience. I stumbled onto it and thought some may get some benefit from it here:

I have spent quite a bit of time and money over the years searching for solutions to my ever changing eye problem with regards to shooting. I thought that I would pass on some of my experiences as I often get asked for some guidance by others.

First of all, the problem with most people is they are always looking for an easy equipment solution to the problem. Although the right equipment can be helpful, equipment in no way can replace time on the range and sending bullets downrange.

Once your day comes for glasses, just face the fact that your eyes are never going to get better-only worse. Dwelling on the past is only wasting the time you could be spending on bettering your skills by learning how to master your new handicap. In fact I am a much better shooter than I was prior to having to wear glasses. You will definitely learn the true meaning and importance of trigger control when the sights are no longer clear.

As your eyes continue to age there will be periods when you are in between lens solutions and compromises will need to be made. Either targets will be blurred or the sights will be. Having a set of prescription glasses just for range and qualification use that allow a crisp sight picture but make the target blurry is a recipe for disaster. Off the range we must be able to distinguish targets and make decisions. Improper decisions may lead to a long prison stay or loss of your life.

After startling a few eye doctors by bring a backpack of pistols and rifles into the office for my exams; I was fortunate enough to get referred to an optometrist that is a competitive shooter and understands our needs and is very willing to work with shooters.

First let’s discuss the service pistol. The one system that we all must have, carry and be proficient with.

The iron sights on the pistol are merely reference points. Despite the hundreds of sight designs available many claiming to help you be faster and be better for “old” eyes, can make the problem worse. Don’t be misled into the belief that as you age you cannot shoot well at distance. Or that those wild looking bright colored bulky sights are what you need. You may get a feeling of confidence with how fast you acquire them and can shoot 6 inch groups at 10 yards; but these are horrible for precision work and distances beyond that.

Again, sights are merely points of reference-even if blurred. As long as you see and use them consistently you can shoot well with proper trigger control. Even when blurry, there are areas of the sights that are darker than others. Learning to shoot well with blurry sights WILL make you a better trigger presser. Sights are a just visual reference (a gauge if you will) that if used throughout the press, tell you if you pressed the trigger correctly. The cruder the gauge, the more it will force you to maintain them in a consistent manner.

Remember, it is a must that we “out in the world”, be able to identify and discriminate targets at distance. So how is this done if one needs glasses to see their sights clearly?

First thought and I believe incorrect solution is the bifocal lens. Again, I have seen many score well on a qualification course with bifocals but they are slow due to most bifocal glasses are set up for reading not focusing on objects at full arms-length plus 4-6 inches. Another reason is that the shooter needs to crane his neck severely in order to look through the bottom lens. Transitions type bifocals are worse causing you to locate the “sweet spot” where the sight is clearest. I prefer to snap quickly from far to near focus when shooting.

Remember that you will need to switch your focal distance quickly in defense situations in order to analyze the target and then shift to the sights.

One method is to have your dominate eye (the one that looks down the sights) lens set to the distance of the front sight. This is not reading distance and will vary with each person. Yes you will need the gun when getting your eye exam.

The other (non-dominate) eye lens is set for distance/infinity. Or just clear with no correction if you are lucky enough to not need Rx lenses for far vision.

This form of “monocular” vision is quickly adapted to by the brain though some experience headaches at first. This combination enables you to see at distance to access the need to shoot then quickly focus on the front sight for the shot. In some cases the user may need to close his non-dominate eye.

Another option for those needing corrective lens for both near and far vision is what is known as the “boat right” lens. Anyone that wears bifocals can tell you how much of a pain in the neck it is to do close overheard work like painting near the ceiling. The boat right lens is simply upside down bifocals. Most pistol shooters tend to drop their head slightly and look through the upper third or less of their shooting glasses; so a bifocal insert in the upper portion of the dominate eye lens can aid the cause immensely. You may find you have to move to a larger frame like an aviator style to accomplish this but our work is not about fashion.

This concept can be cheaply explored by going to the local drug store and trying on the cheap reading glasses and seeing which level of magnification you need for front sight distance. Then purchase that strength lens on line or at a dive shop in the stick on lens type. You can cut them to size and put them on your glasses in the upper portion to determine the size frame and lens you need to accomplish your task…and save your life.

I know at least one person who has traditional bifocals (top for far with bottom for reading distance) with the addition of a front sight distance lens in the upper portion of the dominate eye lens. When he drops his head slightly the sight is clear using the boat right lens.

I have no experience with this though I know those who have had corrective eye surgery for shooting. The dominate eye is set for near and the other for distance. Monocular sight. But as the eyes age this solution does not last but a few years for most.

I have gone the boat right lens route in the past but currently do monocular lens setup with reading distance bifocal in the bottom. You will likely need to have another set of glasses for long sessions on the MDT when writing reports however. But to me it is more important to function out of the car than in it.

I have tried contact lenses but have not had success. I know some who do the monocular vision thing with contacts and put on glasses for reading and writing work. I have also heard of weighted bifocal contacts and it may a solution for some but I am no eye doctor to comment on the issue.

Another issue arises when you plan to utilize two weapon systems. Some of you that carry a rifle have likely already experienced this problem. You can see the dot of an Aimpoint or EOtech clearly but the iron sights of your pistol are a mess. Or you use corrective lenses to see the pistol’s iron sights clearly but then the red dot of the rifle is a mess.

With large enough frames and the boat right lens you may be able to see the sighting system of both weapon systems clearly; since we tend to use the center of the eye glass lens for shooting the rifle and the upper third for the pistol. Though you will have issue when shooting a traditional prone position; finding “roll over” prone allows you to use the correct area of the lens. If this does not work I know of a couple other options….

As much as I hated to do so, getting rid of my Aimpoint Micro became necessary. For a while dropping from a 4 MOA dot to a 2 MOA dot helped since the messy 2 started looking like a 4. The 1 MOA dot of the EOtech was blurry but in that “starburst” there was a dense spot. The true focal point. It takes training and concentration but will work. But the multi pixel nature of the EOtech can make the reticle look like a kaleidoscope for those with bad astigmatism.

After that you will need to move to a prism scope on the rifle which has an adjustable ocular lens. There are now a few 1 power prism scopes available. The Leupold Prismatic (whose mounts is poor and needs replaced immediately) and the new Vortex 1x Spitfire(I am still testing it for long term durability). Or a 1-4x scope. Unfortunately these come in at greater weight being added to the rifle. A 1x is about 8 ounces and a full pound or more for a 1-4x scope. The battery life of the illumination feature is much shorter but they are etched glass reticles that still provide a reticle should the battery fail (unlike an Aimpoint).

These will provide the true one power speed of an Aimpoint with some practice while having the advantage of being able to adjust the focus so that you can use the same Rx solution for your pistol’s irons sights in the event of needing to transition.

I hope that this may provide you with a possible solution and some hope. Get out and shoot.
Yea. Keep telling yourself that split times don’t matter.
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Old 11-22-2015, 07:46 PM   #2
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Good article....I have a new pair of glasses on the way. Now I need to see if things improve when firing.
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Old 11-22-2015, 07:51 PM   #3
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We old blind guys thank you for making this "clear."
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Old 11-22-2015, 08:08 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Mike240 View Post
...First thought and I believe incorrect solution is the bifocal lens. Again, I have seen many score well on a qualification course with bifocals but they are slow due to most bifocal glasses are set up for reading not focusing on objects at full arms-length plus 4-6 inches. Another reason is that the shooter needs to crane his neck severely in order to look through the bottom lens. Transitions type bifocals are worse causing you to locate the “sweet spot” where the sight is clearest. I prefer to snap quickly from far to near focus when shooting...
Sharing my experience at "dealing" with this problem.

I tried the bifocal route, making sure the bifocal portion of my glasses was set to the correct distance for my arm's length plus the distance to the front sight. It IS clear, but I spent so much time craning my neck to see the sight picture clearly, I was spending way too much time doing so, AND was inconsistent with the shot groupings as a result.

Came time to qualify with my latest gun to add it to my ID, I just used the distance portion of my glasses and passed easily. My next pair of glasses will be for single vision for distance (I'm near sighted) since I don't yet need the bifocals or other reading glasses to read.

I have lasers on two of my handguns that alleviates the problem, but I don't like to rely on them alone and I don't have accessory rails on my current carry pistols. Thanks for posting this!
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Old 11-23-2015, 03:23 PM   #5
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Most of my life I thought my eyes were a problem. Turns out that what I thought was a problem has become a blessing. Left eye is far-sighted making hunting easy when hunting groundhogs. It serves well when shooting handguns. Right eye has always been near-sighted. Helpful for using scopes on rifles. Together, the brain seems to put it all together properly. I will be 65 in the spring and still do not have to wear glasses for anything. I believe that they can do lasik and set your eyes up that way. You will have to talk to your optometrist about it.
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Old 06-22-2019, 12:37 PM   #6
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Excellent article. I love your thought of glasses. As a shooter, it's so necessary to care about his ear.
Thanks a lot for such an article.
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Old 06-22-2019, 05:59 PM   #7
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I just completed my LEOSA qualification, about a month ago. A couple months prior, I noticed my vision in my right, (dominant) eye was almost gone and I had, when attempting to take aim, no vision, at all, in the center of my eye. While I made the requisite doctors appointment, (still pending), I had to qualify as I was. A little experimentation showed I could use my left eye and still shoot right handed. As it turned out, I turned in one of my best qualification score in years. The eyes may be tired, by the mind and ability to navigate a situation is still fine.
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Old 06-22-2019, 06:22 PM   #8
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in the last year i have started seeing dots scattered rather than a dot or a blurry dot...
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Old 06-28-2019, 09:26 PM   #9
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Cluster of grapes effect began in my 40s. The dot and target look fine as long as I wear my distance glasses when shooting.
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Old 06-29-2019, 05:06 AM   #10
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Astigmatism sux. Even worse when you get an early start of cataracts.

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