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Why do some shooters wear yellow glasses?

Those new to shooting sports will easily become overwhelmed with all of the associated bits and pieces you need to buy before you can really get into your chosen discipline. While you can always get cracking with a gun, some ammo and basic maintenance gear, there’s always something else that you probably “need”.

One of those things that I never really understood was yellow safety glasses. Well, I understood the theory, but I didn’t really think they would make that much of a difference…

So what does the colour do?

Well, yellow isn’t the only colour available. In fact, there are many glasses that come with interchangeable lenses and packs of these in various colours/tints.

The various shades are for shooting in different lighting conditions. You can get some that are similar to sunglasses, – these are great for extreme brightness, such as sunny days in winter, over frosted or snowy ground. You also get those with purpley-blue tints, which are great for picking up orange against a green background. In other words – perfect for trap shooters who have tall trees or hills as their backdrop.

The Champion glasses I was gifted were perfect for the low-light/foggy conditions I was shooting in.
The Champion glasses I was gifted were perfect for the low-light/foggy conditions I was shooting in.

Yellow and orange glasses are great for increasing contrast. These are brilliant for a few reasons. For older shooters with weaker eyes, these really help the targets “pop” into the foreground.

It’s not just for those that have eye conditions or who have been shooting longer than you’ve been walking. They’re also great for shooters who engage fast-moving targets, such as Olympic clays, or who themselves move fairly rapidly, such as IPSC pistol shooters.

Do they really work?

As I mentioned before, I never really bought into the higher contrast for better shooting theory. I thought it was just something else to spend money on. However, having recently been bought a pair for my birthday, I am thoroughly convinced.

Since I’ve picked up pistol shooting, I’ve been using clear safety glasses to protect my eyes. Of course safety glasses of some description are mandatory on pistol ranges. So, having gone through the first few weeks of my tyro course with clear glasses from the work bench, I thought I was doing fine.

When I tried out the yellow glasses, it was a particularly rainy/overcast/cloudy day. It was varying between overly bright and overly shady, with everything looking like a different shade of grey.

Not only did the Champion brand shooting glasses I was wearing make it easy to pick up the black bullseye from 50 yards out (on a Service Pistol shoot), but they didn’t fog up or need cleaning with the changing weather and fast-paced match. I was seriously impressed.


Shotgun shooters are generally wearing glasses for their beneficial effects on their vision, while pistol shooters and 3-gunners are wearing them for those benefits, but also to protect their eyesight, as they have barrels and ejection ports much closer to their faces, and expend hundreds of rounds of ammo at some considerable pace.

Proper shooting glasses wrap around your eyes a lot better than sunglasses or reading glasses.
Proper shooting glasses wrap around your eyes a lot better than sunglasses or reading glasses.

I’ve personally witnessed a potentially blinding incident first hand, when a reloaded 9mm round blew up in the gun, forcing burning powder up towards the shooters face through the open ejection port. The round had weakened in the webbing, so after the head of the case separated, the gas had nowhere to go but up.

Fortunately, the shooter was wearing safety glasses and after a bit of time to recover from the fairly intense experience, she was fine.

In fact, I would even recommend bolt action rifle shooters wear glasses in some instances. I always wear a pair when I test brand new loads, fire a rifle I haven’t fired before, or after modifying anything near the bolt. I’ve heard of ruptured primers sending hot gases backwards along firing pins and straight into a shooters face. Anything can happen. In an ideal world, all shooters would wear their “eyes and ears” at all times.

What about sunglasses/reading glasses/safety glasses?

While the above are better than nothing, they are less than ideal. I would (and have) used these over nothing.

Sunglasses and normal eye glasses provide good protection from the front, but generally don’t wrap around to the sides of the face or protect from the bottom. Sunglasses can also make it harder to see the target in many situations.

Shooting glasses and safety glasses wrap around better. Cheap safety glasses will scratch easily and will also fog up when you’re running through a course. And if you’re going to spend the money buying fog-proof safety glasses, you may as well try out some yellow glasses or a set with a few options.


Geoff is a shooting and reloading enthusiast who would rather be at the range, but is content to write about it. He is a member of Waiuku Pistol Club, and shoots rifle, pistol and shotgun in various disciplines, occasionally, managing to get out for a hunt.

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