It’s strange that while we spend a lot of time obsessing about the clarity of our rifle scopes or getting the perfect set of sights on our gun, there isn’t the same attention to detail when it comes to shooting glasses. Most people just buy a cheap pair of eye protection from the range or hardware store and don’t give it a second thought.
But that decision makes a huge difference — you won’t get the full benefit of your expensive scope if you’re looking through a wavy pair of $2 plastic eye pro from Home Depot. Which is why it makes sense that Leupold would try to address that problem with their Performance Eyewear line of shooting glasses.
The last time I changed up my eye protection was when I reviewed the Revision Sawfly military eyewear system back in 2012. I’ve been using those ever since, but there’s definitely some room for improvement. They’re a great ~$50 piece of kit, but Leupold is asking damn near $150 retail for these Tracer model specs. And they’ve made a few improvements over other shooting glasses that really make the case for why they are worth the expense.
Speaking of making a case, the case the eyewear comes in is pretty snazzy. The packaging is top notch, the case itself is precision cut foam to protect your investment, and it easily survives being chucked into a range bag along with random boxes of ammo and spare magazines.
You’re not going to scratch up or break your glasses. It’s a solid improvement over the Sawfly system’s soft case, and a world of difference compared to the plastic shrink wrap for the $2 plastic injection molded things.
To be fair, you’re probably only going to see the cardboard packaging once. But still, it’s a nice touch.
Reason #2 this is an improvement is the interchangeable lens system.
Permanently affixed lenses are obviously no bueno, since a single scratch on a lens and you’re throwing the whole thing out (or just dealing with it, which might be worse). With the Tracer’s detachable lenses, you have the ability to swap them out if they get hit with something like a flying piece of super heated metal, a common and probable occurrence at a shooting range where flying super heated metal is kind of the point of the exercise.
Leupold has engineered these lenses to be scratch resistant — they also provide ANSI Z87.1+ ballistic protection, which is their real purpose — but at some point they’re bound to get scratched and need replacing.
Not only can you replace the lenses if you scratch them, but you can also swap them out depending on the situation. Whether you need these polarized reflective lenses for outdoor shooting, or want clear lenses for indoor low light situations, swapping the lenses out is quick and easy.
I’ll also note here that the optical clarity of the lenses is great. There’s no distortion of the target or what’s around you, it’s almost like you’re wearing nothing at all.
Interchangeable lenses is good and optical clarity is obviously a huge driver in wanting a better pair of eyewear, but comfort and stability are also up there on the list of must haves.
I like my Sawfly eye protection, but after nearly a decade of use I’ve noticed that they really do want to slip off my face when it’s hot out. Down here in Texas during the height of the summer the sweat just pours down your face, and without some additional help from the elastic strap that goes around the back of the glasses the Sawfly specs would have been long gone.
That’s not the case for the Leupold Tracers. These glasses stay exactly where I put them, even through an entire day of being on the range in the Texas sun on a 100+ degree day. The arms of the glasses wrap around my head and kept everything perfectly in place, and the nose bridge is so comfortable that I nearly forgot I was wearing them.
In short, they work. And they work great.
Let’s talk briefly about the one minor complaint I have about these: that they scream “tactical.”
Leupold makes two versions of the Tracer glasses (and four other styles that look more like conventional sunglasses), one in “shadow tan” (for yet another version of FDE to add to the mix) and black. The Shadow Tan version, especially with the reflective lenses installed, couldn’t more loudly announce to all those within visual range that you’re a gun guy or possibly a police officer. And for those in the know, the Leupold logo embossed into the frame removes all doubt.
Don’t get me wrong — the aesthetic fits in perfectly with my current “farting around” rifle and looks great on the range. And they certainly would go well with a Hawaiian shirt and a plate carrier.
But when you leave the range, and you want to get a taco from the taco truck on the corner that’s cash only and doesn’t speak a word of English, you probably don’t want to look like a law enforcement officer (unless you are a law enforcement officer). For that reason I think I’d recommend the black glasses with the black lenses over these FDE-ish ones.
Overall I’m very impressed. The Leupold Performance Eyewear Tracers work great, look snazzy (especially in black), and work better than almost anything else I’ve tried. Right now there aren’t any aftermarket or replacement lenses readily available, and prescription lenses don’t seem to be in the catalog, so it might not work well for those who need glasses or wear contact lenses. For that reason I’m dropping off the fifth star, but otherwise for me they are a clear winner.
Leupold Tracer Shooting Glasses – 179090
Kit Includes: Bronze mirror lens, clear lens, and a yellow lens, carry case
Overall Rating: * * * *
As always, Leupold is improving shooters’ sight picture and doing it in style.