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Thread: Handguns, iron sights, and presbyopia ...

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

    rfd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    NJ via TX

    Handguns, iron sights, and presbyopia ...

    Here's when handgun iron sights can suck big time - personal vision handgun requirements.

    As one advances in age, presbyopia becomes an issue for almost everyone sooner or later, and reading glasses or bifocals or progressives (trifocals) become the norm.

    So here's wherein the problem lies - the distance from the dominant eye to the front sight of a handgun. It's longer than reading distance, and even if that eye-to-front-sight was shortened, bifocals or progressives with their diopter at the bottom of the lens requires tilting of the shooter's forehead up and back, which is a completely unnatural and incorrect shooting form.

    One could acquire shooting glasses with top mounted diopters, or even glasses with both top and bottom diopters. These almost always work great at the range, but they are typically not practical as everyday use glasses for EDC CCW. A handgun mounted red dot, or laser, eliminates the eyeglass dilemma issues, and such a sighted handgun is always ready for action no matter what eye assistance the shooter is wearing.

    To be clear, I'm not saying that an optic or a laser is better or worse than iron sights, it's just that for us older folks (you be judge of what "older" means) there are vision issues that creep up and demand addressing.

    Heck, I always prefer iron sights and fortunately at my 74 year age I can still compete with a black powder .45-70 Sharps with a vernier rear and spirit globe front because my every day progressive lenses work fine at that bbl's 30" long sight radius. Dittos for my flintlock long rifle w/44" bbl and iron sights. Scope guns won't ever be an issue, thankfully.

    But handguns, dang, that's where a short sight radius that's longer than the average reading distance really creates problems. Solved with a diopter or two fix at the range for plinking or matches, but that's not a practical solution for EDC CCW.

    I'll be talking with my optometrist about the viability for a custom progressive lens set where the lens for my dominant right eye might allow for a top diopter ground into just that lens. I'd thought about an external diopter lens clip-on, but that wouldn't be prudent for EDC CCW where I wouldn't even carry with an external safety that requires flipping let alone have to think about having to flip down the dominant eye diopter lens when a second or two matters most for life and death.

    So, here's my strong advice to all y'all young 'uns - don't get old and have to deal with presbyopia

    Other than all of the above, how are you dealing with handguns and ophthalmic conditions such as presbyopia?
    Last edited by rfd; 03-11-2020 at 08:03 PM.
    "Owning a handgun doesn't make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician." - Jeff Cooper

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    over the hill, out in the woods and far away
    This is a long read, but I hope educational. I can read The Wall Street Journal without corrective lenses, and the sights on my carry gun and M1 Garand are sharp without corrective lenses.

    The back story is helpful:

    In 2008 I had a retinal detachment in my dominant right eye, caused by a workplace injury. This was repaired on the same day as the injury by using vitrectomy and internal drainage in which a gas bubble was injected into my eye to hold the retina in place, while its edges were tacked in place with a laser. The prompt retinal repair was completely successful. The eye developed a cataract, removed a year later. During cataract surgery an interoccular implant of intermediate focus inserted into my right eye. The specific lens implanted was an AcrySof acrylic foldable IOL with UV filter by Alcon Laboratories, Model SN60AT of power 21.5D having a ThetaT length of 13mm and a ThetaB optic of 6mm, implanted in 2009. Objects from 20-40 inches away are today still in sharp focus. I use a slight correction for distance and for precision close work, sharpening machine tools, tracing circuit boards, etc.

    Before suffering the detached retina I competed in highpower rifle and indoor bullseye pistol shooting using shooting glasses approximately -0.75 diopter less than my reading prescription. My shooting glasses were optimized for a focal length based upon the measured distance my cheek bone below the eye to the front sight, being approximately 1 metre or about 39 inches. This gave a sharp sight picture, but the target was fussy if I used only my right eye. The target would sharpen considerably if I also used a Merit adjustable iris with the corrective lenses, but this isn't always practical in dimly lit indoor ranges. It works great outdoors for conventional NRA pistol shooting in full sun.

    Prior to the 2009 cataract surgery in the right eye when shooting service rifle outdoors I could read the number boards OK with my left eye, but when down in position looking through the sights it was necessary to count target frames to be sure I was on the right one, so that I wouldn't crossfire. I could hold 6:00 on the bull for standing, 200 and 300 rapid, and would frame the target at 600 yards. In the 1980s I shot High Master, but these days I'm very happy with Expert.

    I could use a scope if the eye lens was backed off to put the reticle in sharp focus without corrective lenses, and hunt deer and upland game with no issues. Firing a shotgun or iron sighted rifle I shoot with both eyes open, because I have good distance vision in the left eye. The brain has no trouble merging the target image in the left with the sight image in the right.

    I was told by my retinal specialist when the vitrectomy was done to repair the detached retina, that the surgery eye would eventually develop a cataract because while the laser used for the retinal repair was focussed at the back of the eye, putting all that energy through the lens tissue causes a localized opacity. This was not a matter of "if" I would get a cataract in that eye, but rather of how soon it would grow become objectionable. Within 6 months after the retinal repair the focal distance in my right eye shortened to about half of normal and distance vision in that eye had eventually deteriorated such that I required a corrective lens restriction on my driver's license.

    When I could no longer adjust scopes so that the reticle was sharp, and when using iron sights on a revolver became impossible, all I could do was superimpose a fuzzy gun over a fuzzy silhouette and instinctively point-shoot Applegate style. At that time I received extensive coaching from a retired FBI academy instructor who made me a true believer in point shooting, but that is another story... For those who want more on this read Applegate's book Bullseye's Don't Shoot back and follow it. It works.

    While I could have gotten new corrective lenses and lived with my condition for a while longer, my eye doctor advised that the younger I was when I had the surgery, the better the chance for a successful outcome, because the eye is more flexible and resilient that it would be if I waited several years longer after age 70. I would enjoy more years of good vision by having the surgery sooner, rather than later.

    Then being active and still working full-time outdoors, I decided not to wait on cataract surgery. I had it done when needed in the right eye and the outcome was wonderful. Years later I still function fine without glasses at all in well-lit, indoor office environments. But due to the nature of my outdoor work before I retired, and after retirement spending as much time as possible enjoying the outdoors, I wear progressive Transitions lenses all the time. My vision so equipped is like being 20-years old again.

    Six years post-surgery, as explained by my surgeon, it is normal to develop some scar tissue behind the implanted IOL. This was the expected outcome and no surprise. To avoid a corrective lens restriction on my driver’s license, once my vision in the surgery eye was no longer correctable to any better than 20-40, I had the scar tissue corrected using quick a laser procedure. The day after the laser procedure my vision in that eye returned to 20-20 uncorrected. Six months post-laser my prescription in the surgery eye required a very slight distance correction and another slight one for very close work, but my glasses obtained 4 years ago, about a year after the lens was implanted, still corrected everything to 20-20 and the sights on my Garand and carry gun are sharp so I did not need all of my glasses replaced, but did just one pair of Transtions Progressives, maintaining the others still useable, if not optimum, as spares.

    Fast forward to July 2019, the cataract which was slowly developing in my left eye had gotten to the point where "it was time." My eye doctor removed the cataract in that left eye using the Catalys laser-assisted procedure. An AcrySof monofocal toric IOL was implanted, which also corrected the slight astigmatism in that eye. At the same time a goniotomy was performed to improve the fluid drainage to correct my glaucoma in that eye, as I had some previous nerve damage and loss of visual field, so it was necessary to stop further deterioration and quit fooling around! The laser assisted procedure was quick and painless. It required a $1600 co-pay to cover the difference between that and the traditional procedure, which was not covered by Medicare, but my supplemental insurance carried as a former gov't employee covered everything else.

    Vision in my left eye was 20-20 the day after surgery and today, today 6-months post-op it still is and I see like a 20-year-old again.

    If you suspect a possible detached retina, DO NOT DELAY seeing an eye doctor if you see shadows, dark spots, multiple floaters or bubbles in your field of vision. PROMPT diagnosis and treatment is essential to a good outcome of a detached retina. Failure to do nso you may lose the sight in that eye!

    If your eye doctor happens to also be a retinal and cataract specialist, skilled in all the modern laser techniques, you are indeed lucky. If anyone needs a referral to an excellent eye doc in the Washington, DC and Northern VA area PM me and I'll give you my doc's name, CV and office particulars.
    The ENEMY is listening.
    HE wants to know what YOU know.
    Keep it to yourself.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Before my cataract surgery I used safety glasses that had about 1-1.25 diopters of correction in addition to my distance vision correction. This put the front sight in sharp focus. Since the target was now blurry I added a 5/16 inch pinhole to the safety glasses. This increased the depth of field and sharpened up the target.

    After the cataract surgery I just use the pinhole on regular safety glasses i.e. no correction.

    The above is for pistol. All of my rifles are now wearing aperture sights of one type or another. I use my regular progressive lenses for them which by the way are safety glasses.
    Some times it's the pot,
    Some times it's the pan,
    It might even be the skillet,
    But, most of the time, it's the cook.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

    Nueces's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Texas Hill Country
    I started CAS cowboy action shooting just after my 65th birthday. Wore glasses for reading and distance, neither of which worked for the requirements of CAS. I took the advice of another shooter and ordered prescription safety glasses with different prescriptions left and right. I'm right handed and left eye dominant.

    The right lens has a focal length of 26 inches, about right for a handgun front sight and for rifle sights. The left lens is for distance. Takes a few minutes to get used to them, after which, I can see clearly near to far, over revolver and long gun sights. Just perfect for that discipline.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    I worked for a public utility in NYC for 30 years. When they started paying for safety lenses and frames I started using both. They saved my eyes on more than one occasion. So when I retired I continued the practice with both safety lenses and frames. And on one or two occasions had something hit the lenses, no damage to either safety glasses nor my eyes. Had cataract surgery late last year, distance is fine but up close for reading and fooling with my machine tools I needed new glasses. Yep, followed my decades long practice as outlined above. Gave my SIL all the old safety glasses I'd been saving up. She has cancer and they can reuse or recondition them for other cancer patients. My eye doc wanted me to donate them to the Kiwanis (spelling) rather than take them himself. Granted safety glass frames aren't exactly a fashion statement but been wearing them for so long really don't care. Frank

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    try eye pal

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

    rfd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    NJ via TX
    Quote Originally Posted by barnabus View Post
    try eye pal
    yes, i did, and they do work. the issue with them is they're not at all practical for EDC CCW.
    "Owning a handgun doesn't make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician." - Jeff Cooper

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