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Fuzzy front sight? Tactical Rx: may have the answer to your aging eyes.

I have to say, watching my eyesight decline as I aged was frustrating. As I made my way through my 40s the front sight on my pistol suddenly began to lose its crispness. Over time it became an indistinct blur somewhere between my target and I. Eventually I concentrated less on the front sight, which I could no longer see, and simply looked over the top of the pistol. It worked, kind of. When it came to rifles I merely migrated to red dots and magnified optical sights. Eventually I began playing with a red dot mounted onto a pistol. But I was never really satisfied. I just wanted to be able to see again, so I harassed my local optometrist. Frankly he was not overly helpful. "It's just part of life and growing old, deal with it," is what he had to say. I didn't want to deal with it though. I wanted a solution. Eventually, thanks to the advice of a colleague; I found the answer to my problem in the form of Tactical Rx.

I know many reading this have less-than-perfect vision. I'm sure many wish they could see their sights like they used to. I also know many are in the same boat I Was in, seemingly cast adrift with no solution in sight. If this is how you feel take heart: I found a solution that works for me, and it just might work for you. Not only that, but it's straightforward. You provide Tactical Rx with your current prescription and some information and they custom grind a set of lenses specifically for you. They fit the lenses to the frames of your choice and the first time you put them on, your world will change. No magic fairy dust, no Voodoo, just out of the box thinking on the part of a talented master optician.

In my case, I am nearsighted like my father. About the only two things he gave me were poor eyesight and a King James Bible. Due to my nearsightedness, or myopia, I have difficulty seeing distant objects, but can clearly see objects up close. As luck would have it, I am also blessed with Astigmatism in my right, eye. This makes objects. I view at any distance blurry and wavy. However both of these conditions are easily corrected with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. While I have issues wearing contact lenses, glasses have worked well for me. I've worn them since about the fourth grade and can still remember the first time I stepped outside with them on as if it were yesterday. I was astounded by my new found ability to see.

Down through the years eyeglasses worked fairly well in daily life for me. I had a set of mirrored sunglasses made with my prescription during the Plymouth Roadrunner days of my youth. When I shot High Power in my 30s I used a pair of custom Carl Zeiss shooting glasses. I wore Revision protective eyewear with prescription inserts when I covered the war in Iraq just before turning 40. It wasn't long after that however, when Presbyopia reared its ugly head and began to become a problem. Unfortunately Presbyopia is a normal part of aging that happens slowly over a lifetime, but you may not notice any change until around age 40. Then one day you suddenly realize you can no longer read fine print or see close objects like before. This is when shooters suddenly start to have a hard time clearly seeing their front sight.

In my case the solution for daily life was a simple one; my optometrist put me in glasses with progressive lenses, sometimes called no-line bifocals. Progressive lenses are true multifocal lenses in that they provide a seamless progression of many lens powers allowing viewing at all distances. A lens corridor provides viewing of near objects in the bottom of the lens, intermediate in the center and distant objects through the top of the lens. For me these worked well.

Or at least they did except for when it came to shooting with iron sights. The problem I ran into was the lens design was basically the reverse of what I needed for shooting. With progressive lenses you view near objects, such as a front sight, through the bottom of the lens. But in a shooting stance this requires lifting my head noticeably, which is the opposite of how I shoot. Instead I needed to be able to see near objects through the top of my lens. Speaking to my optometrist te offered no solution. "They just don't make lenses like that," was his reply.

Luckily I found out he was wrong when my friend and colleague Joseph von Benedikt introduced me to the good folks at Tactical Rx. Tactical Rx is a division of Sports Optical which is a leader in modern lens design. Both are owned and operated by Bret Hunter, who is a veteran of the US Army. After serving as a Sapper he went to Opticianary School on the GI Bill. An avid outdoorsman and competitor (he competed in the first X-Games) Bret wanted to revolutionize the sports eyewear industry. So after working in the industry for a time he went out on his own when he started Sports Optical in March 1993. His goal was to, put prescription lenses into the latest curved, wrapped frames while maintaining the purity of the optics. It sounds easy, but when you change the curve and angle of a lens it changes the power and induces prism, which leads to a fishbowl effect. Bret understood that in order for the optics to work he had to adjust the prescription to accommodate for this curvature. Back in 1995, this was cutting-edge, fringe technology.

Today one of the many services he offers to shooters in the form of his Almost Lens. This is basically an inverted bifocal. While Bret did not invent this concept, his execution is flawless and a boon to aging shooters. What does the Almost Lens consist of? Bret custom grinds a lined bifocal directly into the upper part of the lens. A lined bifocal is ideal for this application because it gives you a large, single-focus area to acquire your sight picture quickly and easily. The line provides clear demarcation of the focal shift from your distance vision to your near vision.

Now, rather than being randomly placed, the bifocal is custom-placed for your specific needs. We all have different eye-dominance/shooting-hand combinations, shooting stances and positions, and of course not all frames sit the same way on different faces. So Tactical Rx sends you an actual frame (or a few) to try on along with a marking kit and instructions to show them exactly where the bifocal lens needs to be cut in the lens. Plus they will have you measure the distance from your eye to front sight of your rifle/pistol. They will then adjust the focal distance of your prescription so it's precisely tuned for the distance of your front sights.

In my case I had them place the bifocal in the upper part of my right lens. Doing so allows me to clearly see my sights with my right eye, and my target with my left eye. Both images are then combined into one clearly defined image by the brain. If you so choose you can have a bifocal cut into the upper part of both the right and left lens to allow shooting with either hand. If you so desire they can also cut a bifocal into the lower part of the lens to allow you to read/see near objects. With this in mind I had them cut a bifocal into the upper part of the right lens and the lower part of the left. So there are a number of options to consider. Keep in mind, these are custom lenses built specifically for your needs.

What about frames? Quality frames are almost as important as the lenses themselves. In this regard Tactical Rx offers a number of modern and classic looking frames on their website. These include frames by Wiley X, Smith Elite, Dragon Alliance, Numa Optics, Randolph Engineering and Spy Optics. However, your choices are not limited to the frames they list. Keep in mind, Tactical Rx is custom grinding your lenses in house specifically for you. This means they can grind lenses to fit most frames out there. Think about that. As an example, I'm quite partial to some French Julbo glacier glasses I have. Their reply was, "No problem. We dig the classic looks and can grind lenses for your Julbos."

What about lens coatings or color tinting? Tactical Rx has more options than you can shake a stick at. For use in daylight and lowlight conditions Tactical Rx can provide a clear lens or one with a yellow tint and anti-reflective coating. However if you will be in very bright conditions, such as the Middle East, they offer polarized grey and brown lenses which will block approximately 80% of visible light. These are well-suited for situations with strong sunlight as the polarized filter does an excellent job of reducing glare. If you'd like an even darker lens they can take their polarized grey lens and by applying an extra dark tint, they can provide a lens which will block approximately 90% of visible light. They also offer transition-style lenses which will automatically shift depending upon the conditions. Plus they offer scratch resistant coatings, anti-fog coatings and much more.

So how exactly do you go about ordering your glasses? The first thing you will need is a recent prescription from I your optometrist. Take your time when doing this and get it right. Along with this you will also need your pupilary distance. I didn't receive this with my prescription so I I stopped in at a Walmart eye center and had it measured I for free. Then I highly recommend you spend some time reading Tactical Rx's website, www.tacticalrx.com. This will fill you in on your options and things to be aware of and how the process will progress. Then contact them and they will begin the process. In my case I worked with a very knowledgeable young man named Kyle who made the process very simple. After listening to everything I had to say he helped me select the frames I was interested in. I selected some Smith frames with yellow tinted lenses for range use and then threw him a curve ball by requesting something along the lines of Ray Ban Clubmasters with clear lenses for daily wear with my CCW. He said no problem and sent me out some frames to try. Once I selected the ones I wanted I marked the lenses by following their simple directions and returned them. They then custom ground the lenses to my specifications, polished, coated and installed them in the frames I had selected. After passing quality control they were shipped out to me. The entire process from start to finish took about three to four weeks. If this sounds like a long time, please remember they are custom grinding a set of lenses specifically for you and building a set of custom glasses to meet your specific needs.

I had just returned from a business trip when I found a box mixed in with my built up mail. Popping it open I found two sets of glasses exactly as ordered. Trying them on I was floored by how well they performed. For the first time in years I could clearly see my front sight. To put them to the test I brought them with me to Gunsite. When I received a compliment on my shooting I was sold on them.

Over the three months I've been testing them I've learned quite a bit. Here are some things I've learned. The lens concept is valid and works extremely well. Tactical Rx's quality control and workmanship was excellent in my case as was their customer service. For some situations I like having the bifocal in both the upper right and lower left, while at other times in daily life it can be a bit distracting. I think my next set will only have it in the upper right. While these are ideal for use with iron sights, my prescription does not allow me to seamlessly transition from iron sight to optics. This may not be an issue for you depending upon your eyesight. It's just something to be aware of.

I'll also say the Smith frames/Tactical Rx lenses are light years ahead of the Revision frames with prescription insert I wore in Iraq. The Revision frames were less than comfortable and fogged with monotonous regularity between the insert and outer lens. Far too many times I found myself hunkered down somewhere ripping the Revisions off and popping the insert out while trying to clear the fogged over lenses. I can't tell you how much that blows.

Final thoughts? For me Prescription Rx glasses are a game changer. So much so that I took the time to meet and personally thank Bret Hunter at SHOT Show. I found him to be a very likeable, yet humble guy. If you are a middle-aged guy and having trouble seeing your front sight, then I highly recommend you consider their custom lenses. Cost? That depends upon your individual prescription, frames, what you want, lens coatings or tint and a few other factors. Basically just like any other glasses you buy. However they are not too far out of line with traditional glasses. Personally, I think their pricing is reasonable and only wish I found them sooner.

SOURCE

Tactical Rx // 888-807-5165, www.tacticalrx.com
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Title Annotation:THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: OPTICS NEWS & REVIEWS
Author:Fortier, David M.
Publication:Firearms News
Date:Mar 1, 2016
Words:2296
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