Do progressive lenses work for hunters?

Here's what your glasses can do for you when hunting.

"Progressive lenses and hunting? A contradiction in terms!" We've collected a few tips to show you that this is not a contradiction and how you can learn to love your hunting glasses.  

Do progressive lenses work for hunters?

Image: ZEISS Sports Optics

Having the best possible vision when hunting is no less important than in everyday life. When you're out hunting, you want to enjoy nature and bag your prey while still making safety a #1 priority. Unfortunately, it happens to all of us sooner or later: our eyes don't accommodate switching focus from near to far as well as they used to. Hunters are no different. They also require vision support for near and distance vision. But which glasses are most suitable for hunting? Not everyone feels adequately supported with a traditional pair of progressive lenses when shooting. Some prefer single vision or contact lenses, whereas others do away with their glasses altogether. Many hunters set their prescription on the riflescope using the dioptre adjustment of -3.5 to +3 dioptres.

What's the problem with wearing progressive lenses when shooting?

In general, we need to distinguish between the hunter – with a gun and riflescope – and the marksman shooting for sport, who needs to see through the front and rear sights. For sports marksmen, progressive lenses are normally not recommended. In this case, your best choice is a single vision lens which is customised to your personal viewing distances and the targeting eye when shooting. This is why many professional marksmen take their optician with them to the firing range for the measurement. Shooting eye wear with an iris diaphragm is another option. You look through a small hole to ensure that the front and rear sights are clearly defined and to improve your depth of field when looking at the target. The non-targeting eye is partially covered with a milky/grey film.

Your vision needs are different when you're shooting a rifle using targeting optics. You need an optimum view through the riflescope because hunters, unlike sports marksmen, should be able to see up-close – moving safely through the undergrowth, reading while you wait, etc. – you're just not optimally supported with a single vision lens. The result: distraction and noise while changing your glasses or hunting with compromised vision.

This is why a lot of hunters swear by progressive lenses, even when hunting. To ensure that your progressive lenses do their job properly, your optician should select a progressive lens design which ensures that the distance range is customised for shooting with a riflescope. Not only is it important that each eye is optimally accommodated. Your binocular vision is equally important. If the interaction between the eyes and the new progressive lenses is not perfect, you will not have optimum vision. For example: an overcorrection of the non-dominant eye is one possible adverse consequence.

Our tip: when purchasing your new glasses, make sure that your lenses are optimised for both eyes and that the selected vision zones offer you an optimum vision solution for both everyday life and hunting. A stable and large distance zone is an absolute must.

What are the right frames for hunting?

Small frames look good and are fashionable, but make sure you choose larger frames for your hunting glasses. This makes it easier to look through the riflescope – especially when you need to act fast. The frames should not impair your sight, especially around the upper rim of the lenses. You also need to make sure that the frames are compatible with the headgear you wear for hunting and that the frames sit perfectly! It's not just annoying but even dangerous if your glasses are too heavy or slide down your nose. Strapped sports glasses can also be a big help.

The material for the frames should be robust and as durable as possible. This is also true for the lenses themselves – make sure you choose sturdy plastic lenses so that the recoil from the rifle or branches in the underbrush don't damage the lenses.

What lens coating should you choose?

A premium anti-reflective coating is important to prevent irritating reflections on the lens. If you're out hunting at night, clear lenses are advantageous because they make your surroundings crystal-clear.

Your plastic lenses should have the best hard coating possible. This makes your glasses more durable and helps them last longer when you're out in the forest.

There's been a lot of discussion in hunting and shooting circles about tinted lenses. The following colours are generally preferred:

  • yellow (in bad or diffuse light or when it's cloudy)
  • vermilion (for better 3D vision)
  • orange (in twilight, for hunting in the underbrush)
  • bronze or gold (for better contrast)
  • purple (for attenuating green backgrounds)

Generally, the effects of tints vary from person to person. There's no hard and fast rule except that you should feel at home with the colour you choose.

Our tip: try out different colours yourself! Then choose the brightest tint possible. You should find it comfortable without needing to squint.

The interplay between glasses, the riflescope and binoculars

Three precision optics come into play when hunting: your glasses, the riflescope and binoculars. All three should be compatible with each other. You should be comfortable using a riflescope and binoculars when wearing glasses. The lenses should not touch the riflescope or binoculars, and the interpupillary distance (PD) should be large enough. This not only ensures clear vision but also prevents the rifescope from hitting the lenses because of recoil.

Our tip: some ZEISS opticians can advise you about riflescopes, binoculars and spotting scopes. 

Our most important tip:

Find an optician you trust and discuss your vision requirements when hunting, your vision problems and typical viewing distances. The more you tell your optician, the better optimised your glasses will be. Ideally, your optician already has experience with glasses for hunters.  


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