I will state this up front. Janelle and I received a free pair of ESS frames and lenses with no attachment to them. They were ours to keep and use. I have worn them constantly since I got them at Boomershoot this year. So while I did get free stuff, there was no request for a review, and I was not compensated for this. In other words, the following is entirely my opinion and no one paid for any of this so the FCC can go suck an egg.
My previous eyewear was no slouch however they left something to be desired, doubly so since I was spending considerably more time with ear muffs on. For those who haven’t spent all day wearing hearing protection while wearing sunglasses, let me enlighten you. There is the frame which runs back behind the ear. Your ear muffs sit around your ear attempting to create a tight seal.
Two things happen because of that frame. Extra pressure is applied from the muffs pinching your head between your frames and a decrease in noise reduction from the hearing protection. Enter ESS’s Cross Series.
I have two of the three frames, the Cross Bow and Suppressor.
The Cross Bow frames are your everyday frames and I have worn them every day since Boomershoot and they have been amazingly comfortable. The rubber pads maintain the comfort while also helping to keep them from sliding off your head. I also use these when working in the shop doing things that don’t require hearing protection. That includes cleaning the toys, I just swap out for the clear lenses.
Every part of the series in individually replaceable. Scratch or destroy the lenses order new ones. Break a frame, order a new frame. Break a nose piece, order a replacement.
Now the Suppressor frames are why I fell in love with ESS, plus a little story I’ll get to here in a minute.
Notice how thin the ear pieces are on the frame? They are unbelievably flexible and well are wide and thin to help distribute pressure. Not only do they solve the pressure problem but the fact they are thin helps hearing protection form a good seal around your head. In other words they solve the two main problems you find with most safety glasses. The visibility while shooting with the copper lenses I might add is amazing. The rear strap effectively keeps the glasses in place while you’re not wearing hearing protection.
The comfort and visibility are quite nice. With most glasses if there is a gap anywhere I can see out, I will most often find myself using that to look, completely defeating the purpose of the safety glasses. These however I just look as I normally would, my peripheral vision remains while I cannot effectively look through gaps to try to skirt around the glasses.
These have become my go to glasses for yard and shop work where I need hearing protection. Even my father-in-law, who is a machinist, is going to be ordering a prescription set that he can use at work. My mother-in-law is getting a pair as well. I’m going to get a complete kit to toss in my range bag so I know I’ll always have a set with me when going to the range.
As a FYI for how much use these things see for those who haven’t met me, I am actually unbelievably anal when it comes to eye and hearing protection around tools and equipment. I know growing up with many 4th of July’s I’m sure I’ve done a decent amount of hearing loss. To top that off I enjoy my weekends by spending time shooting guns and blowing up explosives. I regularly wear plugs on top of wearing muffs specifically because I’m around such loud impulses.
It has become such a habit I wear hearing protection if I’m going to be around loud noises, it’s just easier to wear eye and ear protection than to buy hearing aids and hope the doc can repair my eyes… which brings us around to the story.
You see, your humble host has spent so much of his time around explosives, entertainingly close is entertaining for me. For many it’s terrifying but I’ve been around explosives enough that as long as you remember the cardinal rule I’m not that afraid. In other words a box on the ground with nothing between me and it doesn’t cause me discomfort being close.
Now I won’t go as close as the current record holder and never will.
That said, even without stuff between you and the explosive, odds are you’re going to get peppered. Some time’s you’re lucky and your optic catches the mud destined for your eye.
Now, towards the end, the video doesn’t show it too well but I was easily with 10-15 feet of a bunch of those boomers. If you don’t understand how close that was, let me say, I should have been wearing my Carhartt jacket. What do you mean I hear you ask, well let me show you.
That wasn’t from the mud, that was from the ammonium nitrate prills. There were more injuries on the other side of my arm too. That peppering occurred during one of the last couple shots. So at this point I found my limit of how close I was willing to go.
But you see, your humble scribe often acts before the page fault has allowed all the necessary data to be returned to memory for the correct decision. Even more than that, often the page fault doesn’t occur until after the fact where the event itself causes the page fault.
Can you guess what happened? I’m sure you can, especially since this is a post about eyewear. Well let me set the stage for you.
It is the last day of Boomershoot. Everyone but staff has left and we are rounding up piles upon piles upon piles of explosives. There were so many explosives I said, and I quote,
You know something is horribly wrong with you when you’re finding it tedious and exhausting to set off hundreds of explosives.
If you’ve never been there for staff cleanup and haven’t worked the days preceding the event you just can’t really fully understand it. I seriously don’t know how Joe does it but I’m grateful that he does.
So I’m tired and exhausted and we’re tailing down the end of a very long week.
Continuing on though, we have to look for boxes of Boomerite that may have skipped over the berm, while walking behind the berm I discover an ant hill that is by no means small. Well to demolish said ant hill we place a couple of targets of Boomerite on it. I place them in such a manner as to give me the maximum distance without placing anything between me and it.
We start shooting explosives. We shoot more explosives. We shoot three waves of explosives most of us extremely tired and exhausted by the end. We call the range safe after the “last” boomers go off and we start cleaning up. Then as someone walks behind the berm, “Barron, we forgot the ant hill.”
Frick, Joe is already up on the hill in the direction I was originally going to shoot, well I only have one other option. I move about 120 degrees to give myself maximum distance from the target. Without realizing it though I have now inadvertently broken the cardinal rule. Parts of the anthill are between me and some of the explosive.
I squeeze off that round and immediately I’m encased in a cloud and my left hand, arm, and face feel like they’re on fire. It freaking hurts. I start falling off the top of the berm and immediately drop the muzzle and flip the safety on. Tango is behind me and I take off the rifle and hand it to him asking him to clear to make life easier. I probably could have cleared it, but at the time I was wanting to do it one-handed. One handed hand off is easier. I didn’t need to compound this with shooting myself or someone else.
Again for those who don’t know, my pain scale is screwed up compared to most people. There is a reason for that and I have done serious damage and then showed up to the doctor 2 day’s later with him saying “WTF!?”. I would take my pocket knife and dig out glass from my arm and hand when I would find it. In this case my arm felt like I had just take it to a belt sander with 120 grit on it.
I had a high number of pain exceptions and overloaded the system. It took a visual inspection to clear the faults. My brain registered a high number of impacts, thankfully only a few broke the skin, the two most notably.
You can’t really see it but the spot I’m bleeding out of on my knuckle is a ripped open scar, (it’s bigger now), and my lower arm and hand are both bright red from being peppered with smaller spots bleeding. The hit below my left eye was a solid hit, I washed some crap out of it when we got back to the hotel. Inspection of the ant hill after the fact indicated that I was also blowing up a stump. Also not visible in the picture was dirt and marks from larger debris that had obviously impacted the glasses.
I am extremely grateful I wasn’t any closer, given the few major cuts I had along with the peppering of bleeding I was on the hairy edge.
At the time I wasn’t so sure I was going to document my stupidity. I realized though now it actually is one of those things that speaks well for ESS. The glasses didn’t really end up with any pitting and they did their job. I will say I wish I had been at least wearing my flight gloves to save my hand.
So in closing a big thank you to the guys at ESS, especially Steve Dondero and Ari Drougas from ESS.
*Also I forgot to mention, there were a couple of folks shooting next to Shelly and Anette, and thus next to the ESS guys, who were shooting without eye protection. Yeah the ESS guys tried to give them free suppressors to wear but they turned them down. I’m of the mind that an extra 50 bucks in my pocket won’t make a lick if difference if the time comes my glasses have to do their job. In fact, I’ll probably wish I had sprung for the more expensive set.
Barron is the owner, editor, and principal author at The Minuteman, a competitive shooter, and staff member for Boomershoot. Even in his free time he’s merging his love and knowledge of computers and technology with his love of firearms.
He has a BS in electrical engineering from Washington State University. Immediately after college he went into work on embedded software and hardware for use in critical infrastructure. This included cryptographic communications equipment as well as command and control devices that were using that communications equipment. Since then he’s worked on just about everything ranging from toys, phones, other critical infrastructure, and even desktop applications. Doing everything from hardware system design, to software architecture, to actually writing software that makes your athletic band do its thing.