“Safety Practices – First, Last, And Always."


Before starting, I need to state that in the alternate reality that allows me to afford to participate in CAS events, I am a Safety Professional.  Ensuring that risks and hazards are identified and appropriately mitigated to the lowest reasonable level is my focus every day.  The safety of our people and the environment is part of every activity we do.  Now, back to this reality . . .

The ‘SASS Shooters Handbook’ (Version 21.8) has a section on safety starting on page 23;  it is nearly at the end.  In that section, 40 of the 41 listed items discuss safe firearms handling requirements, including what must not be done (all good information; after all, the goal of any good safety program is to prevent an incident).  Safe handling of firearms is most efficiently managed by the introduction of ‘Engineering Controls’ (e.g., guards and barriers) and ‘Administrative Controls’ (e.g., rules and procedures).  These controls are generally well-covered in these 40 items, although two areas allow for improvement: appropriate footwear, and adequate eye protection.

Appropriate footwear should be required for all categories (not just B-Western and Classic Cowboy).  Not wearing suitable footwear allows for unmitigated known hazards (rocks, nails, hot brass, etc.) to the shooter, as well as presenting a potential new hazard: the involuntary muscle reactions of the shooter in response to those previously mentioned hazards could result in an accidental discharge, possibly leading to devastating consequences beyond just a stage or match DQ.  Such an event poses a potential risk to other shooters and observers.

The primary focus (pun intended) of this article is on eye protection.  Item 31 states:
“ . . . high impact glasses are strongly recommended.”
I believe we have really missed an opportunity here.  This section of the ‘Shooters Handbook’ begins with the following statement:
“Our sport, by its very nature, has the potential to be dangerous and a serious accident can occur.”

Yet, there is no specifically stated requirement for all participants to wear appropriate safety eyewear!  By ‘Appropriate Safety Eyewear,’ I am referring to ANSI Z87.1-2010 (or later) rated safety glasses with wrap-around lenses or rated-rigid side shields - not standard sunglasses, sport glasses, ‘period’ eye wear or “impact resistant” prescription eyewear.  (Surprisingly, some of the colored “shooter’s glasses” that shotgunners wear are not ANSI Z87 rated; some of these are the ones with lens colors not found in nature.)

Safety eye-wear meeting the ANSI Z87.1 requirements are tested as a system (lenses, frame, fasteners and side shields) for impact, shatter and penetration resistance.  This is to ensure that if the eyewear is impacted, the lens won’t pop out and become a new projectile that can injure the wearer.  (The YouTube video at this link illustrates the differences: https://youtu.be/ddgHf0PgaAI )

Over the last few years, targets have become larger and closer; closer targets increase the potential for “splatter,” impacting the shooter, counters, timer operator and others in the area.  Older targets moved closer can increase the potential for more damaging ricochet.  Having the appropriate  protection will save your eyesight.

ANSI rated non-prescription safety eyewear will be marked with “Z87” on the lens for impact protection and “Z87+” for high-velocity impact. (Figure 1)  Products rated at Z87+ generally meet the military standard for ballistic eyewear as well.  These products are also marked on the frame (Figure 2) and side shield (if separable) with the appropriate rating.  Our military personnel wear eyewear that is Z87+ rated.

For non-prescription ballistic safety eyewear, you do not need to spend a lot of money.  The “less fashionable” versions start at less than $3.00 at some online vendors; prices go up from there with some high-end versions costing over $200 per pair.  Prescription versions are also affordable.  There are two options: prescription eyewear and prescription inserts.  The prescription eyewear option is best for those requiring bi-focal lenses as it allows the optician to get very accurate measurements.  This option will cost about $125 per pair (a bit extra with anti-fog and scratch-resistant coatings) from an online retailer.

Prescription inserts offer the most versatility, as the insert can be used with several set of lenses for that model.  This gives the shooter the opportunity to purchase several colors of lenses for changing conditions (Figure 3) or to replace a scratched safety lens.  Prescription inserts start around $15 plus the price of the prescription lens.  Depending on the brand, safety glasses that accept prescription inserts start at as little as $15 and can go over $200, with most averaging below $100 plus the prescription lens.  Another advantage of this option is that the non-prescription protective lenses will take the abuse and are much less costly to replace.

The decision on what works best for you must be made between you and your optician.  Be sure your optician is experienced with fitting prescription safety glasses - even better if they are shooters, as they can understand the best focal point for your prescription. 

Participating in CAS is not a cheap sport.  We have all invested a great deal of money into our  firearms, ammunition, costuming and shooting accessories.  Why not spend a hundred dollars to protect our eyesight?  We can’t purchase a back-up set of eyes, but we think nothing of earmarking the funds to buy a back-up firearm.

This article may not result in a change to our safety requirements.  But, I do hope I have convinced at least one shooter to upgrade to appropriate safety eyewear.

Figure 1: Bollé Safety Glasses markings.  In this case, the lens is rated: Z87+; maximum Ultraviolet protection (U6); and, has a special (S) lens tint

Figure 2: Oakley M-Frame 2.0 markings for Z87 rating

Figure 3: Wiley-X PT-1 wrap-a-round style with prescription insert and interchangeable lenses

This article was posted with permission of the author and appears in the December 2016 Issue of the SASS Cowboy Chronicle.