If you’re squinting or straining your eyes to see the target or your sight pins, you’re not alone. The World Health Organization reports 2.2 billion people are visually impaired.
Several eye problems affect archers and hamper shooting. Fortunately, most are quickly fixed.
“People will say they’re having a hard time judging yardage, seeing the target, or seeing definition on 3D targets,” said Chuck Cooley, a licensed optician who’s shot competitive archery for over 20 years. Cooley has helped several archers overcome eye issues. Your first stop should be an optometrist for a diagnosis.
Ideally, you can ask your shooting friends or someone in the archery or gun community what they can see. “A lot of issues we archers encounter are different than the traditional expectations of an eye exam,” Cooley said.
Farsightedness and nearsightedness are common conditions. Nearsightedness means people see close objects crystal clear, while distant objects look blurry.
Targets appear blurry to nearsighted archers, or they struggle to see the rings on a standard scoring face. “It makes it a little hard to aim,” Cooley said. “Instead of crystal clear, things are fuzzy.”
Farsighted people have the opposite problem. Close objects appear blurry while distant objects appear clear.
“Setting a sight, and making sure you’re looking at the right pin can be issues when you’re farsighted,” Cooley said. “It depends on the degree of deficiency. Some people have mild cases, but others have stronger cases that are really debilitating.”
The Case for Contacts
At the end of eye exams, optometrists assign vision prescriptions for both eyes, which can be used for glasses or contact lenses. For everyday life, such choices are personal. Archery, however, requires people to consider unique factors. Contact lenses improve depth perception and peripheral vision.
“Contacts are definitely the preferred solution,” Cooley said. “Eye glasses tend to flatten the world and make it two-dimensional. It’s hard to see depth, especially with stronger corrections. Contacts give a much more 3D view of the world.”
Finding Go-To Glasses
Wearing glasses while shooting is trickier, but it’s possible to find the perfect pair. Cooley suggests avoiding particular styles. Polycarbonate lenses are popular because they’re thin, but Cooley said the optics at their edge are bad for archery.
If you wear bifocals, don’t shoot with progressive or no-line bifocals. “It can be very difficult to be repeatedly accurate,” Cooley said. “Other options will work much better.”
Several companies make shooting glasses, but most are designed for firearms. Cooley suggests searching for a pair with a thin metal frame, rimless frame, or no mechanical frame.
“With this style, you can get the lens to rest right up against the nose for the greatest lateral view while in the shooting position,” Cooley said.
The best shooting glasses might not be the best everyday glasses, either. Cooley recommends buying a pair of glasses used solely to shoot, especially in competition.
“It’s a small investment, but given the time and money competitive archers dedicate to the sport, it’s not a good idea to wear the same glasses at the office that you do shooting,” Cooley said.
Color blindness can also challenge archers. Red/green color blindness is the most common form. People with this weakness struggle to see reds and greens, especially their subtler shades.
Color-blind archers often struggle to see rings on the target face. They might also struggle to see a sight’s fiber-optic pins, which are often red and green. Some glasses and contact lenses help with color blindness. Another great option is a single-pin sight.
Finding the right solution often takes some trial and error. Cooley recommends getting as much information as possible by speaking to eye experts and other archers. You can also reach out to Chuck Cooley on his Facebook page.