Polarized vs Non Polarized Sunglasses

Wearing eye protection when shooting is a must-have. Glasses help keep the eye protected from debris, dirt, or even an errant shell in some instances. But what about the debate around Polarized vs non-Polarized glasses? While not specifically geared towards the shooting world, Dr. Allen with Doctor Eye Health has a great video to help illustrate the differences and the practical use of either.

So, what’s the difference?

Dr. Allen starts out the video by talking about the difference between Polarized and non- Polarized lenses. First off, to tell the difference just by looking at the lens, you’ll see a “P” somewhere or the word Polarized etched into the lens. If you can’t find it, it’s not polarized.

Polarization makes a huge difference in glasses and how much light reaches your eye. The terms refer to how the incoming light is reflected off the lens. Just a quick explanation to help everyone out. When light is emitted from the source, it goes in all directions. Those same rays of light act differently depending on what objects they bounce off.

polarized lens function
When light rays are emitted from their source, the rays go in all directions. However, when those rays bounce off a flat surface, they bounce off in a flat horizontal way towards the eye, thus creating glare or a shine. Polarized lenses in glasses help eliminate that glare and allow the user to see more clearly.

When the light rays bounce off something flat, like a road, water, or whatever, that light radiation does not scatter in different directions. It comes off in a solid horizontal beam. Polarized lenses neutralized that horizontal beam and can eliminate the reflection caused by those flat surfaces.

Polarization of a lens is only done in a certain direction to neutralize the horizontal beams of light. So, the polarization effect can change if you rotate your head to the side by a few degrees, thus allowing more light to bounce through the lens to the eye. Pretty easy to see and understand.

polarized lens marked with a P
Dr. Allen used a polarized lens, which is designated with a “P” etched into it to demonstrate how they work to cut down on the shine off of flat objects like water or a road surface.

Do you really need Polarized lenses?

Dr. Allen says that not everyone actually needs polarized lenses for their glasses. However, if you are light-sensitive, suffer from migraines, or have difficulties with bright lights, then Polarized lenses are a good option for you. Additionally, if you drive a lot and want to minimize the glare off of wet roads, windows, or the like, then go for that option.

To add to that, if you are an outdoorsperson who likes to fish, they are an absolute must. The Polarization of the glasses can eliminate the glare from the water and will allow you to better see what’s underneath, whether that is fish, weeds, or rocks. When that same idea is applied to shooting sports, it seems pretty necessary for those shooing at bright targets in direct light, or when doing shooting courses to eliminate the glare from windows or similar structures. For those reasons, Polarized lenses are worth it for shooting.

polarized lens demonstration
To help illustrate the effectiveness of a polarized lens, Dr. Allen put his watch in a bowl of water. From this perspective, you can see that the light is reflecting and almost hiding the watch from view. When he then rotated the glasses, the watch showed up with almost no glare to obscure the view.

Who should not have them?

Dr. Allen states that any one of these people should stay away from polarized lenses:

  • pilots
  • military personnel, or
  • ship crew.

This is due to the electronic dials present in many of those situations. The dials themselves usually have a polarization present in their screens so the combination of the glasses with the dial will make them unreadable and can lead to some very unsafe situations. A quick way to demonstrate this, newer electronic gas pumps, car radios, and some phone screens have built-in polarization that will make it so you can’t see anything when the two polarizations match up.

Dr. Allen finishes up the video by saying that he doesn’t know of any particular differences between Polarizations between different brands. There is a difference in the quality of glass and applications, for sure, but unsure about the rest. Ultimately, he concludes that the technology is pretty cool, and he recommends it if you need it.

Patti Miller is one of the most awesome females in the tactical/firearm (or any) industry. Imagine a tall, hawt, dangerous Laura Ingalls Wilder type with cool hair and a suppressed blaster and you'll be getting the idea. What's interesting is that in addition to being a willing brawler and intrepid adventuress, she's also an Ent/Ogier level gardener and a truly badass baker.

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