My Eyes Got Old
...but I still want to shoot
by Kirk Lawson
It sucks getting old. As you age, your body undergoes many changes from muscle tone, to athleticism, to how quickly it heals. One common malady afflicting aging people is age related presbyopia. That's a mouthful. What it means is that the eyes have reduced ability to focus at close range. It is believed that this is caused by a slow loss of elasticity in the lens and age related weakening of the muscles of the body, in this case the muscles which pull on the lens and change its shape, allowing it to change focus. This begins for many people around or after 40 years.
One of the problems for shooters is that presbyopia makes it difficult or impossible to focus on the front sight of the firearm. This means that accurate shooting becomes more difficult to impossible
There are treatments for presbyopia. Most often corrective lenses are prescribed. However, most of these have distance ranges which they correct for. For closer distances, such as reading, when coupled with farther distances, such as driving, bi-focal lenses are often used. Some people choose to have a specific pair of lenses for "computer" distances made. "Computer" glasses are often set at just about the right distance for the user to focus on the front sight of a gun. However, frequently swapping glasses can be frustrating, or even dangerous under some circumstances. Some choose monovision LASIK surgery where a laser is used to sculpt each lens for a different depth distance.
But there is another. Professional shooters, photographers, and natural health advocates are all aware of the use of a "pin-hole" device. Sometimes called a "diopter device," this technique uses a small hole, a "pin-hole" appliance. To oversimplify, a pin-hole allows better apparent focus by trimming out spreading and diffusing light reflected from the object being viewed. Essentially, the image is already focused because the light being reflected is trimmed down to what hasn't spread out. There's a whole lot more to it than that of course. Pin-holes allow for what scientists and photographers call "Depth of Field." That's the range, from near to distant, in which objects appear to be in focus. The smaller the pin-hole, the greater the Depth of Field. In the best case, Depth of Field for the shooter can be expanded to the point where the rear sight, front sight, and target, all three, are apparently in focus using a pin-hole!
However, the smaller the pin-hole, the less actual light enters the eye and therefore the dimmer and darker it will appear. The biggest drawback to a pin-hole device is that it becomes less and less usable as the light dims.
There are various pin-hole applications and devices which shooters can buy, starting from around $30 + S&H and going up to $70 or more. However, there is a simple Do It Yourself solution. You can make a pin-hole device yourself.
[Merit Optical Attachment (c)]
[EyePal peep shooting system (d)]
The simplest solution is to use tape with pin-holes punched in it, pasted to your glasses. However, this almost always leaves gummy glue residue on your glasses which must be cleaned off. It also requires the shooter to perfectly place the pin-hole tape in exactly the right place on his glasses every time. If the tape doesn't pull off properly or has no way to be stored between uses, it means new pieces must be created for every use. This is not an optimal solution. What is needed is something with permanent pin-holes which easily attaches to existing glasses similar to the commercial devices referred to above.
Enter the Do It Yourself spirit and a pair of cheap clip-on sunglasses.
Because I only need the "Diopter Device" pin-hole on my Dominant Eye, I simply cut off the lens on the non-dominant side (my left eye, in this case). Then I attached the sunglasses to my glasses and acquired the sights on a rifle then used a permanent marker to "dot" the exact spot I was looking through the lens. I did the same thing with a handgun, noting that I typically acquire the sight in a different area of the lens. The next step is to put holes in the sunglasses lens. It is easier to do this with before applying the tape but not absolutely required if you can line up the marked positions. For me, it was easier to add a step. I bent out a paper-clip and heated it to dull cherry red on a natural gas stove top, but any similar source of heat will do. I used this to melt through the lens instead of drilling. Then I applied two ~1/2" pieces of black electrical tape and repeated the process, melting through the same holes. My "rifle sight pin-hole" is closer to the corner of the lens and the bridge of my nose. I made this hole smaller; about 1/16" or so. The "pistol sight pin-hole" I made larger, at about 3/32" to 1/8" but you may experiment with what works best for you. This is why I chose to burn through. I could more easily control the size of the holes, simply wallowing out the larger a bit more.
Placing my new pin-hole "diopter device" back on the glasses, the fit is good.
Sighting through the pin-holes is easy using the one-eye-closed method.
And it still flips up and out of my way when not needed for shooting.