Self-defense shooting with corrective lenses (readers, bifocals, progressives, monovision, etc.)

A lot of times, the techniques that we use for plinking and having fun with guns doesn’t necessarily carry over to self-defense shooting.

Take shooting with glasses or contacts as an example.

The fact is, we may or may not have our corrective lenses handy when we need to defend ourselves.

It may be bifocals, trifocals, correcting astigmatism, monovision, progressives or readers, but roughly 3/4th of Americans wear corrective lenses of one sort or another.

That can pose some interesting challenges with shooting…particularly self-defense shooting using traditional iron sights.

Of course, a laser or red dot make this easier, but the fact is that most non-competitors and non-professionals don’t use red-dots or lasers on their carry guns.

One thing that people do as it becomes more and more difficult to see their front sight is slack off on their acceptable group size…thinking that a flat footed, static group on a paper target somehow carries over to a real-world shooting situation.

That’s the wrong attitude to have.  As you’ve heard me say, the bigger the difference between your training conditions and reality, the more disciplined you need to be and the tighter your groups should be.

Part of the problem is that a lot of people kind of over-buy into the whole “Train like you fight because you’ll fight like you train” mantra.

It’s true to a point…but it’a also kind of a joke.

If it were true, we’d do all training without eye or ear protection and we’d only train against live targets who were in the process of attacking us.  < We don’t do this.

For people who wear corrective lenses to shoot, this is a big deal.

Take people who need to wear readers, bifocals, trifocals, or progressives to see their front sight.

It’s a royal PAIN to tip your head up far enough to see your front sight clearly.

For a portion of your training, it’s perfectly fine to use SSP “Top Focals” with the “reader” lens at the top instead of the bottom.

You can check them out by clicking >HERE<

When you get to their site, click on “store” and then “top-focal”.  I’m friends with Mike, the owner, and his glasses are some of the few shooting glasses that are TRULY ANSI rated.  His grandpa lost an eye and Mike is a shooter and motorcycle rider, so he’s a little fanatical about his lenses actually protecting against impact—I appreciate that and it’s why I am wearing his lenses the majority of the time when I shoot.

It’s also perfectly fine to use stick-on readers with your existing shooting glasses as a short term solution:

(The stick-on lenses are kind of a stop-gap.  The SSPs may very well be a lifetime solution)

Now, you may be wondering why you’d practice with either of those options when you’re not going to have them with you in a self-defense situation. 

You’re also probably not going to have hearing protection, but you don’t hear people advocating for practicing much without hearing protection.

What the lenses are going to let you do is learn what perfect sight alignment FEELS like and how quickly you can run the trigger without disturbing sight alignment.

The lenses will let you see your front sight clearly and, at that point, if you aren’t drilling holes, you can’t blame your eyes or age…it’s your trigger press, and you can fix that!

What if you wear other types of corrective lenses…not “readers?”

The following concept holds true regardless of what kind of vision correction you need…so long as you can SAFELY do the reps without vision correction.

When you (dry fire) practice,
you want to
start and end with clear vision

and do some reps
in the middle
without any correction. 

(Use safety glasses without correction if you’re using projectiles of any kind)

For the dry fire reps without correction, it really helps to use lasers as a feedback tool…a from SIRT, an always-on laser boresight, or a laser sight and 1” or 2” driveway reflectors for easy feedback.

When you’ve got this foundation, it’s possible to make very accurate shots at common self-defense distances, even when your sights are mostly a blur and you’re mostly using the frame of the pistol to aim.

Is it ideal?  No.  It would be better to be able to see your sights clearly, have a laser sight, or red dot sight.  Heck…it would REALLY be better to have a long gun.  But shooting with compromised vision is a reality for a LOT of shooters and we’re much better off meshing our training with reality than trying to ignore it.

In the email, I mentioned a couple of drills that glasses wearers should do that may help with low back and hip discomfort…

Basically, movement of the eyes activate parts of the brain that control residual muscle tension…think tight muscles that you can’t relax.

When we wear glasses, the tendency is to go from moving your eyes to see things to moving your head and eyes together…and sometimes even your torso.  The eyes get locked into only looking through the center of the lens…kind of like a prison.  And for an organ that’s made to move around a lot and provide sensory input to the brain for survival purposes…that’s not good.

The end result for many is excess residual muscle tension, knots, and aches.

There are a couple of drills you can do that may help.  And you can do them while waiting at a stoplight or while waiting in line during your day.

The first is to do a big range of motion with your eyeballs.  Basically, try to look all the way around the outside of the lenses on your glasses.  Do it slowly at first, so that it takes 12-20 seconds to go around the circle.  Slow down if it’s uncomfortable.  Stop if it hurts.  Either way, only do it once or twice in each direction at first.

The second is to cross your eyes 🙂

When you cross your eyes looking straight ahead or up, it stimulates the midbrain in the brainstem and helps with residual flexor muscle tone.

The easiest way to do this is to take a pencil and do “pencil pushups.”  Basically, hold a pencil at arm’s length, level with your eyes and slowly bring it so it’s 2-4″ from your nose and then push it back out while focusing on it.  Repeat this 3-5 times.  (you can use your finger too)

Next, bring the pencil in 2-4″ from your nose and then go up 4-5 inches, back down, and back out.  Do this 3-5 times.

Next, bring the pencil in 2-4″ from your nose, then go down 4-5 inches, back up, and back out.  Do this 3-5 times.

Finally, bring the pencil in 2-4″ from your nose to start.  Then move the pencil 4-5″ above your eyes, then 4-5″ below your eyes, and then back to center.  Repeat this 3-5 times.  When you bring your eyes together and down, it activates the bottom of the midbrain and the top of the pons and that area controls residual extensor muscle tone.

If those parts of your brain are under-activated because of a lack of eye movement, these drills can have an awesome impact.  Try them out, and let me know how they go.

If you wear glasses or lenses of any kind and shoot, I want to STRONGLY encourage you to check out the See Quicker Shoot Quicker tactical vision training.

It will show you how to improve peripheral awareness, situational awareness, improve the speed that you shift focus, improve reading speed and enjoyment, and much more.

When you check it out, you’ll see why shooting greats like Jerry Miculek, Mike Seeklander, and Max Michel spend as much time as they do on vision training…and why you should too!

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  • John Belsher

    Reply Reply January 19, 2022

    I was able to take my carry firearm to my optometrist. He determined that by raising the reading part of my progressive glasses by 2 mm, my front sight is in focus without changing my head/neck position. If you find an optometrist who works with shooters, there are solutions available.

  • Kerry Lewis

    Reply Reply September 29, 2021

    My last two pairs of glasses were progressive transition safety lenses with the computer focus zone just below center. That mouthful means there are 3 focal zones. The main part for clearer distance, the bifocal for close up reading, and a little arch in the middle for reading the computer screen. I measured how far from my eyes my front sight is when shooting. Used that as the distance to set the computer focus (then adjusted placement of the screens on my desk to match my front sight distance).

    The little arch in the middle gives me a clear image of my front sight without doing weird neck contortions to use the bottom or top of the lens. The distance portion around the arch give me clear image of the target. Yes, that means everything is clear without ever needing to adjust my focus between the target and the front sight. And, since these are transition lenses, I don’t need to change when going in and out of buildings.

    I have tried all of the other options commonly listed. If you actually wear glasses, nothing else comes close to this full-time solution.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply September 29, 2021

      That is an AWESOME solution!

      That being said, I would still suggest 2 things…

      1. Doing vision training to maximize your natural vision as much as possible and minimize the effects of underuse. Most people can read 2 font sizes smaller in 2 weeks or less of minimal training.

      2. Whether you wear glasses or not, it is incredibly valuable to do the range of motion and pushup drills every day.

  • Mark

    Reply Reply January 29, 2021

    I had my optician order an occupational bifocal lens design called “Double D”, often used by my fellow pilots. The glasses are used to read the “eyebrow” panel and other instruments right above the windscreen and overhead in the cockpit. The glasses have a narrow band for reading/sighting the firearm that works really well. You can even use them for working on overhead objects like hammering nails. The only problem is the glasses cannot be “progressive” lenses–they have to be bifocals. They also cannot be made of the preferred polycarbonate material, but have to be made of plastic. But, you can wear them all day without having to compromise your ability to see your sights!

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