by Rob Kay
Editor’s Note: This is the eighth article in our ongoing “Christmas” buyer’s guide. While the items we’re highlighting are not exactly stocking stuffers, we’re only featuring products in the $150 range or less that we think represent exceptional value. Stay tuned for more great gifts ideas targeted at your favorite gunslinger.
If you’re like a lot of people I know, you head off to the range with a pair of $20 goggles acquired from an industrial supply store. They don’t last too long. In a few months you either sit on them, the lenses get horribly scratched, or they inevitably self-destruct.
If something God-awful happens it’s a toss up that the lenses will protect your eyes.
The lesson is pretty obvious, if you’re going to drop good money for a decent gun and all the trimmings, why not spend a few bucks to protect those eyes of yours?
The object of this review is to look at several items from Ketchum, Idaho-based ESS.
The company was founded in 1998 by John Dondero in Sun Valley, Idaho. He had formerly worked in the eye glass protection sector as a product manager with Ketchum, Idaho-based Scott USA. His first foray into the market was with fire-resistant goggles made specifically for wilderness firefighters.In 2001, ESS availed itself of a change in federal regulations that allowed the four major branches of the military to purchase equipment on the open market rather than through specific military contracts. The company excelled in this space and was acquired by Oakley in January of 2007 for $110 million. After the acquisition, the Oakley design team combined forces with the ESS R&D group to produce several new products. These include the Crossbow, Crosshair, 5B, Credence and Rollbar glasses.
Given the slew of competitors, I asked Product Manager, Chris Dawson how ESS products differed from other brands of “shooting glasses” in terms of lens and lens impact resistance.
His response: Some brands may or may not meet every aspect of the Mil spec and ANSI Z87.2010 performance standards; however, he says every ESS product is designed from the ground up to consistently meet these standards. He noted that ESS currently has both the Crossbow and the NVG Profile goggle on the Army’s APEL. (Authorized Protective Eyewear List).
With that street cred in mind, we looked at two ESS products–the Crossbow Suppressor 2X Kit and the Rollbar.
The Cross Bow Suppressor 2x Kit
The Crossbow kit consists of two distinctly different frames—the Crossbow Standard frame and Crossbow Suppressor frame. The contents of the kit comes in a stylish, zippered hard case and includes a Clear Lens, Copper Lens, Micro-fiber pouch, snap-on elastic retention strap, ESS sticker and instruction booklet.
Naturally the first thing one does when receiving glasses is to try them on. Immediately the sense was they were both incredibly light compared to a run of the mill set of glasses. On closer inspection you could see a marked distinction between the Crossbow Standard and Crossbow Suppressor frames.
The Suppressor’s frame is substantially thinner and for good reason. It’s specifically designed to be worn over ear protection.
To the best of my knowledge no one had ever done this before. As they say, common sense is uncommon and ESS has designed a pragmatic, ergonomically correct fix for the annoyance and irritation that go along with wearing protective glasses over shooting ear muffs. Not only is the Suppressor more comfortable that standard fare, because its temple arm does not protrude, it makes for a much better seal around the ears. The better the seal, the better the hearing protection.
Every one of our staff that donned the Suppressor commented—“I gotta get one of these!”
Not only are the Crossbow Suppressor and the “standard frame” comfortable, it’s easy to swap lenses with this model. There a little latch that ESS dubbed the DedBolt™ Lens Lock System on the frame where the bridge of your nose lays. Just unsnap it and you can remove the lens. Shove the outboard edges of the incoming lens inside the temple frame until it catches. You may need to tweak the frame a bit to pop the lens out the lens in and out but it’s fairly intuitive. The lenses have 100% UVA/UVB protection and there are Rx inserts available if you need ‘em. (Note that if you pop out the lenses you’ll also have to change out the nose bridge piece. No big deal, with a little coaxing, it pops out and easily snaps back in).
The lenses are treated the lens with a special anti-fog coating on the inside and another coating on the outside to make the surface more impervious to scratches.
The cool thing about this kit is that you get two pairs of glasses (and an extra lens) that are great for shooting. One tip: If you’re going to be moving around during a three gun event, hiking or whatever, you’ll want to deploy the strap that comes with the kit. It fits comfortably under a hat).
The bottom line is that you’ll want to use the Supressor exclusively on the range, whereas the standard model is great for everyday use as well.
They are available on Amazon for $99.00.
The On Target staff was extremely pleased to try out the Rollbar, one of the newest offerings from ESS. I am loathe to use the term “tacticool” to describe it because of the obvious inferences. What I will say is that these shades epitomize tactical chic. Americans have never matched the industrial design savoir–faire of the Italians but I’ll wager somebody from Milano must of have spent time in Ketchum, Idaho on these glasses.
Like the Crossbow, these are really light.
Aside from having all the requisite ballistic and UV protection standards, they also allow one to easily swap out lenses. On either side of temple frame, right at the end piece where the temple arm hinges, is a locking lever called an end-gate. The end-gate can be opened when you bend the arm inward and it allows you to remove the lens. Once you replace, and snug the lens inside the grooves in the eye piece, just move the temple arm back out and it will close the gate shut.
Very slick indeed.
They come with a clear and smoke grey tinted lenses so they will work on or off the range. (Other colored lenses such as copper, yellow, mirrored grey, etc are also available). You also get all the accoutrement such as a cool little zippered container and a microfilter cleaning pouch.
Form follows function and design. They were a pleasure to wear. They are ergonomically “correct” and so light that you can wear them all day without getting that irritation on the bridge of your nose or that unpleasant pressure on the side of your head. Like the Crossbow, they come with a strap which may come in handy if you’re using these for duty and you have to jump over a moat or climb a telephone pole.
Once more back to the aesthetics of the Rollbar.
They are stylish, sturdy and masculine. There’s nothing foppish or metrosexual about them. (Not that any of my readers are worry about their sexual identity). They have a sort of classic feel—something akin to the aviator style sunglasses that captured so many young men’s imagination in the post-war period.
We say they are a winner. Price on Amazon is $103.49
Photos courtesy of On Target staff.
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