A Year with a Pair of Randolph Sporters

It’s fair to say I do a reasonable amount of shooting.

It revolves around shotguns, and my discipline of choice is generally English sporting. However, during the season I’m partial to a bit of pheasant, and I’m lucky enough to be part of a syndicate back home in Wigan.

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll also know I get the chance, occasionally, to participate in a few driven days. These are often surprises I’m rarely- if ever- prepared for.

The one bit of pre-shoot preparation I do, however, is ensuring I have eye protection. Wherever I am, the clay ground, the partridge drive- up a mountain in Wales- I insist on wearing protection.

There’s one issue with this. I’m as blind as a bat- I mean, can’t read text a foot from my face blind, which means I wear a big pair of glasses. There aren’t many options for a blind man who wants ballistic eye protection.

In this regard I’m lucky that I work at York Guns- importers of Randolph Ranger Eyewear. Randolph produce a range of shooting glasses with a choice of Carl Zeiss ballistic lenses, and some of their range can be provided with prescription inserts.

At the start of this year I took advantage of my employee discount (I’m not good enough to be a “sponsored shooter”) and acquired myself a pair of Randolph Ranger “Sporter” frames with a set of clip-on lenses.

I had them glazed, which, with my prescription, was akin to glazing the Empire State Building.

When I first put them on, I wasn’t even sure it was worth it.

To explain a little, for the past three years I’ve worn the same pair of glasses. My eyes have adapted to said glasses as much as the glasses have adapted to me. They’re misshapen, scratched to hell, and probably the wrong prescription now.

Popping a completely new, crystal clear lens in- especially in such big frames- was nausea-inducing.

£200 deep into these things, however, I decided to “cart on”. To give my eyes time to adjust I drove home in them (not the smartest of moves) and arrived in Wigan with a shiny new pair of glasses, ready to be adored by my loving family for my excellent choice of eyewear.

“It’s Eddie th’eagle!” -My brother

“Nah then feller, as’t thi left Top Gun?” -My Father

“What the hell are those?” – My brother’s girlfriend

Even my dearest mother laughed at me.

It’s probably ironic to say that I hadn’t considered the optics of the situation. A glance in the mirror did confirm that, indeed, I looked like I’d just arrived from an Elton John impersonation. The reason for this is Randolph’s heritage as a company; they made their name supplying sunglasses to the aviation industry, and one could say their trademark “style” is the big ‘aviator’ lens type.

Boy do they work, though. I went with Medium Yellow, Light Modified Brown and Dark Purple lenses to cover a range of bases. They basically stay in the boot of my car, now- Randolph boxes are sturdy, padded things- and I’ve carried them o’er hill and down dale. They’ve been to Scotland with me; seen freezing rain on a flight pond in Wales; picked out partridge in the mist of a Billinge morning. I wore them to the last competition I ever shot- and won- as a student.

It’s hard to overstate the value of the field of view these things provide. Despite my heavy prescription, the flat “aviator” style and money I invested in a thin lens grind provide minimal distortion. Tracking quartering targets from the edges of your vision is a dream with these glasses; Combined with the Medium Yellow lens very little went by unnoticed on my last Simulated Driven day.

I’ve come to rely on these Medium Yellow lenses for my day to day shooting, as it seems to heighten the contrast of greens and bring clay targets into sharper focus. The modified brown lens works well rough shooting, stopping glare and picking out game and fowl against green backgrounds. The dark purple I’m less sure of, at the moment. It’s supposedly great for bright, blue sky days- which I’m sure it is.

We just don’t often have those in Wigan.

Randolph lenses also provide serious peace of mind. I’ve been clipped by enough broken clays at certain grounds to insist anybody shooting with me always wears a hat and eye protection. I’ve also seen Randolph lenses take a shotgun round at 10 yards (#6s shot) so I’m fairly confident they’ll stop a clay.

The way they look comes in handy, too. There’s nothing as disarming to a new shot or competitor in a uni club as expecting to shoot with a Pilla-wearing, Krieghoff-shooting, skeet-vest sporting “all the gear no idea” kind of bloke and coming face-to-face with Eddie the Eagle and his Browning Auto. It breaks the ice, so to speak, and removes a lot of the tension or nerves people feel on competition. It helps not to take yourself too seriously!

After a year with these things I’m impressed. Have they made me shoot better? Probably no more than a good pair of sunglasses, or a big pair of distance specs.

They definitely reduce the strain on my eyes on a bright day, though. They also deal with glare far more effectively than any other standard sunglasses I’ve tried. The protection they provide is priceless.

I’m so impressed I’m toying with the idea of getting a different set. We’ve just received a “Black Friday” special set of XLW frames (slightly less serial killer vibes) and as a wraparound frame without inserts they’re light, more comfortable than my Sporters and provide an even better field of vision. They’re also bloody cheap for what they are.

That will involve getting contacts, though, and I’m not one for jabbing stuff into my eyes.

I should wrap this up by giving a bit of advice for anybody looking at Randolph gear. If you want something to work, out-of-the-box, without a massive outlay, the Phantom 2.0 kits are perfect. Stylish and lightweight with the same Zeiss lenses as the main units, they provide protection and purpose at a reasonable cost.

The best choice for shooters who need a prescription lens has to be the Sporters; prescription inserts are available for other frames, but due to the “wraparound” lens style they *can* distort and you don’t get a massive amount of eye coverage. Sporters cover a large area and while they’re not the most attractive of things they’re perhaps the most versatile, able to be used as a normal set of glasses.

As for leg style, it’s personal preference; I use Cable frames (the long, curl-around-the-ears style) due to the heavy lenses and fear of them falling off. They pull the frame tight to the shooter’s face and immobilise it, perfect for rough shooting. “Bayonet” frames are the most traditional, sit lightly on the ears and seem the least fatiguing to wear. They’re probably best used for clay shooters who’ll be removing their glasses a lot, or not partaking in anything particularly physical.

As for lenses, that could be a blog post all in itself. Randolph have a section on their website here: https://www.randolphusa.com/re-ranger/selecting-right-color-lens/ that is particularly useful. If you’re picking your own, a good guide is what Randolph include in their Phantom 2.0 & XLW kits. Medium Yellow seems to be a common choice, and HD Copper acts as a good all-rounder. I’ve also yet to see a Randolph Kit that doesn’t include the Light Mod Brown lens choice.

If you need advice, there’s no substitute for simply asking, however. Most of our staff use Randolph Glasses (see my colleagues modelling their XLWs above). There’ll always also be one of our championship-winning Sponsored shooters on hand to provide opinions on their own favourite.

I spoke to Ed Lyons, at Flint & Partners– who we’d always recommend for glazing and prescription work. I asked him to give me a full breakdown of the costs for producing a set of glasses like mine, and he was only too happy to help:

“So these are ballpark RRP figures:

Inserts do not need a safety material as the outer shield acts as the impact resistant part. We use the best CR39 lenses with a special antiglare coating called HiVisionLongLife – this has a two year warranty against scratches – these are £120 per pair.

There are cheaper lenses too of course from £59 for the cost conscious. The above can apply to the Sporter too but only if the over clip shields are used – if not, they do not reach the appropriate safety standards.  In these cases we use a tougher material and clear lenses start at £260. Tinted lenses with an antiglare coating are £310 and the best treatments (anti static, water and oil repellent) are typically a £50 supplement.”

For example, with the gear used in this review:

  • Randolph Ranger Sporter Frame-Only 62mm
  • Brushed Pewter Cable 160mm RX: £160.00
  • Medium Yellow Lens- 62mm: £72.95
  • Modified Brown Lens- 62mm: £115.00
  • Dark Purple Lens- 62mm: £72.95
  • Glazing: £120

Total: £540.90