At some point (over 30 for some, 40 for many, and by 50 for most) the eyesight prescription (Rx) which corrects for the best distance vision no longer also provides a sharp handgun front sight.  For many, “progressive” eyeglasses or “multi-focal” contact lenses do not work well for shooting, and thus they are not the answer.  Here’s a suggestion for a relatively easy fix which can work for duty, competition, and everyday activities.  It’s called monovision; one eye is corrected to see close up (normally for reading), and the other to see distance.  If it is going to work for you, within one week or so you will no longer realize you are using a somewhat exotic Rx.  However,  you may experience a slight decrease in the depth perception you would have using regular binocular vision.

First, make absolutely sure you have the Rx which gives you the best possible vision.  If loss of front sight sharpness is what sent you to the eye professional, make sure you are tested for the presence of an astigmatism, which can make the front sight of a handgun seem a bit fuzzy, even though eyesight is otherwise acceptable.  Then, ask your eye professional to give you an Rx for the eye which focuses on the  front sight that results in a resting focus at the distance where the front sight is when you are in your usual shooting stance.  Example:  If you are nearsighted and your Rx is normally -4.50, try a -3.25 for that eye.  This is most easily done with trial contact lenses of several strengths that you can wear while shooting, or  serious time in the eye professional’s chair on the machines figuring an Rx for that eye to be able to read small print four to eight inches beyond arms-length. The other eye receives the normal Rx (to best see to infinity).   I dubbed this  “specific use monovision.”

The same Rx should also help you reload and clear malfunctions in your “workspace” provided you make the conscious effort to keep the front sight eye on the handgun as it is brought to the body.  In a short time the eyes usually adjust and you will not notice the vision split or be able to tell each eye is doing a distinct job.  Each eye will be drawn to its zone of reference and focus accordingly without interference by the other.  You likely will be able to shoot an array of targets in both directions without significant effect.  If you are farsighted, you can play with various over the counter Rx reading glasses to determine which + adjustment gives you the sharpest front sight.  Depending on the condition of your eyes, you may be able to dial it in to make the front sight sharp while the rear remains a bit fuzzy.  A caveat: When barricade shooting,you will likely need to get both eyes out and around the barrier in order not to be disoriented.

What about when your tour or shooting activity is over and you want to drive home, or need a fully corrected Rx in your front sight eye?  One way is to have a pair of clear or tinted glasses made with a plano (plain, no Rx) lens for the other eye and the balance of the correction Rx for your front sight eye.   In the event you are called upon suddenly to have to be able to shoot or manipulate a handgun, toss aside the special Rx glasses and don normal eye protection or non Rx sunglasses.  The reverse can also be in your eye toolkit.  You can wear fully corrected contacts with covering eye protection or sunglasses which cut the correction back on your front sight eye to the modified monovision Rx.

If you wear contacts, watch out for solutions with preservatives and other unnecessary chemicals.   The best contacts for eye health are the daily disposable.  (They are made in most prescriptions, including toric lenses for astigmatics).  If you wear 2-4 week disposables,  try hydrogen peroxide based soak, like Clear Care.   For duty or running and gunning, correctly fitting contacts are imperative, as is carrying eye wash to re-moisten lenses, refresh your eyes, and to wash out debris.  Single use vials of solutions usually contain no preservatives.

If you wear glasses, and want Rx lenses which can be changed out quickly as described above, there are a couple of options, see for example

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About Steven Harris

Steve Harris is an experienced attorney (member of Florida Bar, 1979) who has represented federal agents and local LEOs in duty related matters. He has written and lectured about officer involved shootings, self-defense, and use of force law, including "Stand Your Ground." Steve has been a seasoned and active competitive handgun shooter for over 20 years.

9 thoughts on “PRO TIP: AGING EYES

  1. I shoot steel quite often and am on the range while others do so. Consequently, I need more “wraparound” coverage than the Decot type glasses provide. My distance vision is excellent, but my front sight has gotten fuzzy. To address this, I purchased some ESS ICE glasses, with an Rx lens holder. I had a set of lenses made; plain for my non-master eye and with an Rx bifocal segment in the UPPER portion of the master-eye lens. Thus, I have normal non-corrected vision when holding my head erect, but I am looking through the Rx segment with my master-eye if I just slightly dip my head to the sights.

    I still practice with plain eye-pro too, as I don’t want to depend on having my glasses on. With a wide rear notch and some sort of contrast (paint, white ring around a tritium vial, gold bead, etc.), I can still do fine. However, the little Rx segment is very useful for situations where on can don the glasses.

    • I always had issues with fogging using a Rx insert set up behind shooting glasses and ear muffs. The inverted reader like you had made was one I meant to try and never did. You could also try a single use contact lens with the Rx needed for your master eye. Then you have the full panoply of shooter wrap protective eyewear available.

  2. Great article, Steve! I hit upon this idea myself several years back and wear mono vision contacts every day @ work. It took less than an hour for my brain to accept the different focal lengths. The only time I notice it is trying to read car tags, etc.

    I’ve also noticed the shooting eye contact works better with some riflescopes than others.

    Actually picking up a pair of specs from a big name chain store today set up somewhat as Rosco described, with the front-sight bifocal on top but a reading distance bifocal on left lens in normal position.

    Hard time explaining these needs to non-shooters @ the vision center; will try the source recommended in this article for specs next time.

  3. Steve
    Great Article.
    My solution was having my progressive bifocals set up higher in my lens than usual. I can then hit the focal area I need for the front sight without tilting my head back to get front sight focus. The Doc and I got some looks from his staff when I was checking the positioning of the bifocal with a Blue Gun in the office though.
    Be Safe

    • Thanks. If they make one in my Rx, I am going to try one of the newest multifocal contact lenses in my front sight eye with a single vision lens in the other at the distance Rx. Sometimes what didn’t work last year suddenly works.

  4. Another way to skin this cat is to use 3M Press On lenses. They run 20.00/pair and you can place this small plastic Fresnel lens at the top of your progressives, using the “drugstore correction method” to figure out what +(plus) number one needs. A tiny tilt of the head brings the front sight into crisp relief.
    The lenses are can be removed and repositioned with warm water (or saliva on the range!).

  5. About 7 years agoI had LASIK surgery. The procedure was for monovision, distance with my right eye and close-up with the left. I found that the first couple of weeks were the hardest as my brain figured things out. I could see fine, but noticed the different focusing from each eye. After that time, I got to where I didn’t even notice it unless I was thinking about it. Sort of like learning the position for progressive glasses at different ranges. I love monovision. I no longer have to wear glasses. I can wear off the shelf sunglasses and shooting glasses–no prescription. After 7 years, and annual checkups, no change has been detected in my 20-20 vision. No problems at night either. This works well for me.

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