In 2006 I wrote an article about eye safety and the importance of good eye-protection. Since that story many stunning looking spectacles by famous brands have flooded the market. But do they all meet the requirements when it comes to offering adequate protection. I just hope so for the soldiers wearing them. One new kid on the block does offer that protection, ESS’s Crossbow eyeshield.
Military eye wear in the class of the Crossbow must comply with ANSI Z87.1 requirements and the US military specs of U.S. MIL-PRF-31013 . According to the manufacturer, the Crossbow does all that. That means it will protect the wearer against impact from a 12 gauge shotgun blast at 10 meters of similar impact from high velocity debris from an explosion.
One of the advantages of an eyeshield over normal glasses is the protection it offers to the eyes from the side.
The experience ESS gained from their previous eyeshield, the ICE, led them to design the Crossbow. And they obviously listened to their customers. Did they really reinvent the eyeshield as they claim? ESS was kind enough to give DDP samples of the Crossbow to test and experience first hand the claims of comfort and ease of use.
The Crossbow comes in two configurations. A US one with two complete eyeshields with smoke and clear lenses, and an international one with one frame and nose piece and three lenses, adding a yellow one. Also an improvement is the new case the Crossbow is shipped in. You can fix it to your belt or to a MOLLE system. Black being the only color of the case available, maybe ESS can make it in camouflage as well.
It comes to no surprise the Crossbow can be fitted with Rx inserts for prescription lenses.
Until now I have used the ICE Naro. The one thing I don’t like about the ICE is the way it is made up of several loose parts. That is a pain to change lenses in the field. The two-piece frame means you have to juggle even more pieces when changing lenses. With Crossbow the frame is one piece but I would like to see ESS sell separate nose pieces so I can fit them to the two other lenses, so I don’t have to fumble in bad light conditions.
I am still struggling a bit with taking the lens of the frame, but that is more my inadequacy. The fit is tight and secure to prevent the lens from disengaging when it gets hit and it takes a bit to get the hang of it.
So now on the the wear test. When putting on the Crossbow for the first time it is comfortable from the start. The low weight and nice fit are obvious. Even my wife thought the fit was good and even that it looked good on me.
I took the Crossbow to Curacao in the Caribbean for a week as my only pair of sunglasses. I wore it every day in hot and humid conditions. The wrap around design, besides offering side protection, completely covers the arc of the eye. You never see the edge of the lens whatever direction you are looking at. That made me completely forget I was wearing them.
The claim of not fogging up is also true. Going in and out of airconditioned rooms from the hot and humid outdoors never was a problem. Nor was sweat trickling down from my forehead onto the inside of the lens. It’s far away enough not to be a problem but close enough for me to see through the viewfinder of my camera. The new frame is also very comfortable. Even with external sound suppressors the arms of the frame did not press into my head.
My personal opinion about the ESS Crossbow is positive. They are a great improvement over the ICE, and that was not a bad piece of kit either.