Whenever I teach a firearms class, I require my students to bring three things. One is a baseball cap to prevent hot brass from falling on their face, while the other two things are hearing protection and some type of eye protection. These last two things require no explanation, right? Wrong! Most students show-up for a training session with no eye protection, for some reason. I simply don’t understand this at all. Nevertheless, it happens, so I keep extra pairs of eye protection in my shooting box along with extra ear plugs for those who don’t think their hearing is important. Like many life-long shooters, I have some hearing loss. My wife will say I have a lot of hearing loss. Because of shooting so much, even with the use of hearing protection, you can still lose some of your hearing, so be advised.
I even keep a pair of welders glasses (not a helmet) in my shooting box. These are polymer glasses that appear to be regular old sunglasses, until a student puts them on. They are extremely dark to protect eyes for the blinding light from welding. I use these “sunglasses” to simulate low-light shooting skills to a student, as many shootings take place in low-light conditions. Putting on these welder glasses instantly turns bright daylight into very, very low light so that it simulates night time!
I have several friends who are blind– some from birth, some through tragic accidents, and some from medical conditions. They would do just about anything to have their eyesight back. So, it just puzzles me as to why so many people come to my firearms classes without some type of eye protection, even after I tell them to bring eye protection. Look, it’s real simple; when you lose your eye sight, the only way to get it back is through a transplant. Isn’t is smarter to do all you can to protection your vision?
My long-time friend and an all around good guy, Lynn Thompson, who owns Cold Steel Company is a guy who takes things to extremes in his business. Lynn doesn’t take any short cuts when it comes to his products. Thompson has been known to reject entire shipments of knives, after inspecting them. That’s how picky he is. We, the consumer, benefit from this. You really need to visit his website and watch some of the extreme testing he has done on his products, because no other company even comes close to this sort of testing. Again, we as consumers benefit from this, and quite honestly it’s a lot of fun watching the testers try to destroy some of the knives and other products that Cold Steel sells. It’s both entertaining and informative.
Recently, Cold Steel came out with a line of sunglasses they call Battle Shades, and these are not your dollar store sunglasses. Thompson’s customers are folks like you and me, as well and military and law enforcement, and we demand the best. To be sure, Cold Steel’s Battle Shades are made to the same exacting standards as all of their products.
Let’s take a quick look at the invention of sunglasses. In 1929, Sam Foster, of the now famous Foster/Grant sunglasses fame, sold his first pair of sunglasses on the Boardwalk in Atlantic city, NJ. By 1930, sunglasses were all the rage across the USA. Prior to Sam Foster inventing the modern sunglasses, there were attempts in the past to smoke glass lenses for several reasons, including to aid in keeping the bright sun out of our eyes; it was common sense. One thing I learned was that Chinese judges back in the 1300s wore smoked glasses in their court rooms to conceal their eye expressions. Strange, huh?
Sunglasses serve a special purpose. No, it is not to wear on top of your head, behind your head, or on top of your baseball cap so you look cool or at least so that you “think” you look cool with your sunglasses on top of your head. Honestly, I don’t know how many people– men and women– I’ve seen who were out in the bright sunlight wearing their sunglasses on top of their head! Can you say “duh”? Let’s not forget many rock ‘n roll personalities who wear sunglasses all of the time. Well, it’s not really about the sun, is it? Many are on drugs and any sort of bright lights hurt their eyes, because their pupils are dilated from the drugs. It also drives me crazy when I see people wearing baseball caps backwards on their heads, but that’s for another story.
Back in the 1930s, Baush & Lomb was commissioned by the Army Air Corp to produce spectacles to protect pilots from the bright glare of the sun while flying their planes at high altitudes. During WWII, Ray Ban designed an anti-glare aviator type of sunglasses using polarized lenses that not only shaded the eyes but also protected them from the UV rays of the sun, and they popularized the “drooping” lenses that are still extremely popular today. Let’s not forget how Hollywood popularized sunglasses, especially for women, by using them in TV commercials to hide their seductive eyes until the sunglasses were removed and we could see their beautiful eyes. Go figure?
Okay, that’s enough history on sunglasses. Let’s look at Cold Steel’s Battle Shades. To be sure, they are NOT simply sunglasses; they are eye protection, and there is a difference. Many sunglasses simply protect your eyes from the UV rays of the sun, which is a good thing, but they do nothing to protect your eyes from the effects of a rock being thrown at your face, or from flying, hot brass fired from a gun, or from a KaBoom firearms accident, or even from severe wind. In my humble opinion, if sunglasses don’t offer you some sort of UV protection from the sun’s rays, why are you wearing them? In the past, I’ve experimented with sunglasses that have UV protection and those that don’t. On long drives in the car, my eyes would easily tire with the sunglasses without UV protection, and those sunglasses with UV protection made long and even all day drives much easier on my eyes.
Right off the bat, I will readily admit that the Cold Steel Battle Shades do offer that cool factor, and I’m here to tell you that everyone who sees my Battle Shades wants their own pair, including my own wife, and my wife is a woman who asks for very little in this world. So it really surprised me that while she was serving as my photography model for this article and was wearing my Battle Shades that she said she wanted them. Um, nope! I had to order her a pair of her own from Cold Steel. The only thing my wife requested was that they didn’t send her a camo pair. Cold Steel has at least 11 different types of Battle Shades on their website.
Lynn Thompson made sure that his Battle Shades would look good on you, whether in the hunting field, on the battle field, while driving, or out for a walk, and especially when out shooting. The lenses are made to tough Mil-Spec high impact standards, and the polycarbonate lenses not only offer 100% UV (A, B, and C) protection, but they also meet Military Standards for impact resistance. Some models also offer protective shields on the side of the sunglasses that are fully removable when you don’t need the side protection.
One thing you won’t see with many sunglasses is the way Cold Steel packages their Battle Shades. They come inside a cardboard box, and inside the cardboard box is a tough poly-style carrying case, and inside the carrying case is a soft microfiber case where you’ll find the Battle Shades. The hard carrying case has straps on the back so you can carry your Battle Shades on your belt, attached to your purse, or on your MOLLE vest. Inside the carrying case is also a small zip pocket, where you can conceal a small folding knife or some extra money or some ID, like a driver’s license. Even the nose piece on the Battle Shades has been carefully designed so as to not cause any hot spots on your nose, and I know you all know what I’m talking about if you’ve worn sunglasses all day long. We are talking total comfort when you put on a pair of Battle Shades.
I knew that the Battle Shades were going to be super tough. I had other sunglasses to compare them to, but I had no idea just how tough the Battle Shades were, until I watched the torture test on the Cold Steel website. The Cold Steel tester did things I wouldn’t have thought of doing to these cool shades, trying to destroy them. Please, do yourself a favor, and watch the video on the Cold Steel website; you will be blown away at what is done to these shades, and the tester couldn’t break the things. The lenses popped out of the frame a few times, but the lenses didn’t break. Even a pellet gun was fired into the lenses, and they didn’t break. Now, before I get nasty e-mails about this, yes, you can break the lenses if you fired a bullet from a firearm into them. They are not bullet proof, so be aware of that. However, for most of your uses for which you’d employ Battle Shades, they will stand up to the toughest you can throw at them, all the while protecting your eyes from things that could take away your vision.
I have a good friend who is a loyal SurvivalBlog reader– Jack from Arkansas. Jack is totally blind, and like most blind folks he wears sunglasses all the time. Jack gave me a call one day and said he had heard about the Cold Steel Battle Shades and wanted to know if I heard about them. Luckily, I received my pair for testing a little over a week before. Jack said he was sick and tired of buying regular sunglasses, only to have them break in short order. He wanted to know how tough the Battle Shades were, so I told him my findings. Then, Jack wanted to know if he would look cool in a pair of Battle Shades and if they were big enough to cover his ugly face! LOL! I explained to him, that only a welders mask would cover all that ugly. LOL! Jack bought a pair of Battle Shades and loves ’em.
I saved the best for last, and that is price. As I’ve said numerous times in my articles, if you buy junk, you buy junk over and over again. If you buy quality, you only have to buy quality once. The Cold Steel Battle Shades don’t come cheap, nor would I expect them to. We are talking super high-quality eye protection, not just sunglasses that you can purchase any place. Battle Shades, depending on which model you buy, run from $99.99 up to $149.99. Some may complain, saying they cost too much. Have you ever checked at your local eye care provider for some of their sunglasses, and I don’t mean prescription sunglasses but just sunglasses? We are talking upwards of $300.00 and sometimes even more than that. So, my question to you is, what is your vision worth?
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio