Product Review: WileyX eyewear

I got an opportunity to tour the WileyX facility in Livermore California. WileyX is one of the most popular law enforcement brands with a long list of NSN and NATO products, which includes protective eyewear and gloves like the hybrid models that combine lightweight, hard knuckle protection. I’m proud to say that one of their latest contracts means that our beloved US Marines will be sporting their gloves also.

Everyone is making some form of tactical eyewear these days. My visit to the corporate headquarters of WileyX confirmed that they are truly unique in the industry.

I shot their lenses in a very unscientific test, and they survived, by the way. I got to pull the test lens right off the manufacturing line. I also got to see WileyX eyewear perform in some standard scientific tests. WileyX eyewear does everything advertised.

WileyX has been manufacturing eyewear for law enforcement and the military for more than 25 years.
WileyX has been manufacturing eyewear for law enforcement and the military for more than 25 years. (Image Courtesy of WileyX)

WileyX Performs as Advertised
WileyX has been manufacturing eyewear for law enforcement and the military for more than 25 years. WileyX pioneered several proven eyewear technologies like Climate Control and Top Down Ventilation. They also have some proprietary designs for special military applications. My only criticism is the fact that they don’t have an endurance sports model in their Active line.

FYI, all models in the the WileyX Black Ops Collection, most popular among law enforcement officers, exceed the ANSI Z87.1-2003 High Velocity Impact Safety & Optical Standards. This model line will be expanded for 2012. All models of the Tactical Changeable Series exceed the MIL-PRF-31013 Ballistic Standard.

Steven Gerlovich, Vice President of Military Sales, told me that WileyX tests every product they make every year at an independent laboratory. This ensures that a product that was spec’ed several years ago maintains the same standard as the original spec. In fact, a WileyX product gets inspected four times prior to making its way to the end user.

I got to see the testing process at WileyX firsthand. I got to shoot a T-25 chisel point pellet into a WileyX product selected randomly off the manufacturing line. This is literally a chisel-pointed pellet of a specific mass fired into the eyewear (within the central portion of vision) at a specific velocity. Now that you’ve heard this, go on to the WileyX website and read all of the testimonials from service members and public safety officers.

Always-On Protection
It is a fact that an eye injury can take someone out of the fight immediately. Statistically, Law Enforcement personnel should be wearing tactical eyewear 24/7. I recommend having a look at the Black Ops selections.

I am familiar with most of the testing protocol, because of my fascination for this kind of thing. WileyX is, shall I say, a bit overzealous in the testing of their product. I kind of got a feel for this from just walking around. There is a sense of urgency at the shop with the theme, "… This stuff is going to service members and LE professionals who stake their lives on this product." It's almost as if the employees raise their right hand before their hands can touch a product. I'm serious. They're serious.

Back to testing... Lisa, the WileyX lab technician, was in the process of inspecting eyewear randomly pulled off the line. The product had to go through the test for angular deviation. This is done in a protocol called the prismatic bench test. A laser is projected on a screen and a control projection standard is established. The eyewear is placed between the emitter and the projection. The projection is checked to ensure that the eyewear does not deviate from the original standard. This is done in the eyewear on a mannequin shaped form to duplicate a mounted lens on the face.

It's important to understand the subtlety here. WileyX is testing their product as the consumer or soldier would use it. Consider this: the lens blank or the completed lens could meet specifications. However, when it is mounted in the frame, does it still meet the specifications? WileyX knows the answer to this question.

There are two other benchmark tests that ensure clarity in the lens. One insures consistent and clear light transmittance. The other ensures that the wearer can clearly resolve horizontal and vertical parallel lines, similar to an eye test. Obviously, this ensures that the eyewear does not create any type of refraction in the user's view.

Most people who put on safety eyewear generally don't have to worry about a completely accurate rendition of the image in front of them on a daily basis. However, someone who needs to project something from themselves (like a bullet or an aiming device) needs to know that what they are seeing is not a product of refraction like a fish swimming in a pond, seen from the surface.

Moreover, the ability for eyewear to lack spurious refraction and have accurate resolving ability is paramount when looking through a TMR at a target 960 meters away. One does not need optical or chromatic aberrations. The colors have to be true. The object cannot have even a minute distortion and the eyewear should not affect the light transmission of the optic.

Using Prescription Lenses
I spent a few minutes with WileyX Prescription Manager Leslie Gunn. Once again, WileyX has some of the most advanced standards in the industry for prescriptions. First, they are capable of in house prescription service. Second, opticians who fill civilian WileyX products must be capable of adhering to the WileyX standard.

Leslie explained to me that they use true digital servicing for their prescriptions. This is a prescription servicing method that increases the accuracy of the prescription and its alignment to the user. Leslie compared the improvement in clarity akin to HDTV vs. standard video. True digital surfacing is remarkably obvious.

When a person's eyes are examined and a prescription is given, the equipment that establishes the prescription is flat in relation to the position of the eyeball. When the prescription is cut into a lens that is not flat (like just about any eyewear product on the market today), the lens blank and design is based on a continuous consistent curve. This means conventional surfacing is accurate only if the user is looking through the center of the lens.

Digital surfacing does three things. First, the surfacing is on the back of the lens, nearest the eyeball and where the prescription was measured in the first place. Second, the prescription is continuous. That is, the user who keeps the head upright and uses the eye to scan in a tactically sound manner, will have accurate vision throughout most of the periphery. Third, persons with prescriptions that are not continuous throughout the lens (like astigmatism correction and bifocals), will have uninterrupted and continuous clarity.

WileyX uses an MEI machine that enables the prescription to be completed while maintaining a minimum thickness (and protection) throughout all surfaces. Digital surfacing of prescriptions can also push the parameters of prescriptions, simply because the lens cut is more accurate. Those who didn't think they could wear sunglasses before because of thick lenses should look into this.

I know that the talk about the economy, both worldwide and domestic, dominates our conversations these days. WileyX is one of those companies that is successful because of very simple rules. They emulate a particular standard and adhere to it. Their product development reflects an interest in improving the standard, regardless of the fact that they are at the top of the food chain. They respond to the needs of the end-user. The people that use their products rely on them to protect them. We rely on the people that use their products to protect us. It is only incidental that they look like movie stars at the same time.

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