Speed Demon Eye Pro: So Metal

Speed Demon Metal Sunglasses
May 25, 2023  
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Categories: Gear Curious

Fast Metal’s Speed Demon is the best metal frame ballistic sunglasses I’ve wornThey’re also the best polarized sunglasses I’ve worn, though they’re not polarized at all. They’re made with Revision Military’s i-Vis lens technology (the significance of which I’ll explain below), and they’re the best metal frame eye pro I’ve worn to date. 

Below I’ll tell you why. We’ll look at:

  • light as information to the brain
  • the impact of contrast on differentiation
  • ballistic vs. ANSI impact eye pro testing

I’ll address how traditional shooting eye protection, color-tinted and polarized included, uses improved contrast to impact how shooters view targets, clays, and the world. We’ll look at why they sacrifice certain wavelengths of light to do so and why that’s significant vis-à-vis the i-Vis lenses (see what I did there?). 

BLUF: Polarized/tinted glasses = greater contrast at the expense of less light. Less light = less detail. Less detail = less information to the brain.  But Revision’s i-Vis lenses provide this sort of beneficial contrast without the previously unavoidable loss of detail. 

It’s pretty freakin’ badass, but it’s also beyond stupid hard to explain. Especially in just a few hundred words using basic imagery viewed on a phone, tablet, or computer. Also, let me acknowledge from the git-go, i-Vis advantages may not be sufficient for many shooters to warrant the expense (the price tag for a pair is currently a little north of $200). think they’re worth it, but I don’t know if I’d have felt the same way without a thorough education on how they work. 

So, I’ll explain it as best I can and let you decide.

Looking through a pair of metal frame eye pro: Speed Demon ballistic glasses, a Fast Metal frame with Revision i-Vis lens technology.

Here’s a pretty terrible picture to show you what looking through an i-Vis lens is like. It isn’t the best representation, but hopefully, it’ll whet your interest. This article originally ran in January of 2023. It has been updated and republished.

I’ll start with the frames, move on to lenses, address what real eye pro should be like, and hopefully get a snicker out of a couple of you with a smartass remark.

Note: I’m not impugning polarized or (insert your favorite lens color here) eyewear. I have several. I’m just going to show you something better. 

Revision’s i-Vis lenses provide this sort of beneficial contrast without the previously unavoidable loss of detail. 

Speed Demons: Metal Frame Ballistic Glasses

The Speed Demon line was formally released shortly before SHOT Show 2023. A collaboration between Fast Metal and Military, they’re a more everyday/aesthetically pleasing style of eye pro than the i-Vis Stingerhawk versions released late last year. I wrote about those on Soldier Systems Daily after a drinking-from-the-firehose media event with Revision and SIG Sauer last October, and I’m just as chuffed with this i-Vis lens technology now as I was then. The shiny has definitely yet to wear off. 

Revision Military specializes in eye protection – not just ANSI-rated but tested to a ballistic standard. There’s a pretty good chance if you’re reading this, you’ve been issued some in the past — the lenses are theirs.

Fast Metal, a company run by the founder of Gatorz and Liquid Eyewear, builds made-in-the-USA metal shades — the frames are theirs. 

Speed Demons are available with six different specialized environment-specific colors. Each utilizes Revision i-Vis lens technology to provide contrast and clarity in those particular environs.

Speed Demon ballistic glasses (spectacle style, mind you) are available with six specialized, environment-specific lens options for improved optical clarity. 

If you like Gatorz, you’ll really like these. The geometry of the glasses is very similar, which shouldn’t be a surprise since they were developed by Ken Wilson. He’s the dude who started Gatorz (which also makes good eye pro). About five years ago, he started Fast Metal in a garage in Yuma, AZ. They manufacture ANSI-rated eye protection and the first (that I’m aware of) metal eye pro with interchangeable (field-replaceable) lenses.

To say the Speed Demons are robust would be an understatement. I don’t think you could beat someone to death with ’em, but you could sure deliver a good pop knot.

Speed Demons and bacon. Bacon is good. So is Revision's i-Vis technology.

If you’re asking yourself, “Self, is that a pair of Speed Demons on a pile of bacon?” the answer is, “Yes. Yes, it is.” Doesn’t have much to do with the eye pro, I just like bacon. And I wore these to breakfast one day, so…

I don’t want to look like I’m copying and pasting specs from a marketing sheet product description, but here’s an idea of how robustly they’re built:

  • 7 barrel hinges on the arms
  • twin Teflon-coated screws on the hinges to keep them in place
  • built with 7075 Aluminum alloy
  • Cerakote coyote brown frame color (also a black option)
  • interchangeable lenses
  • adjustable frame
  • ANSI Z87.1-2015 rated impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses (more on those below)
 
As you can see here, this eye pro is so good that even DCU-style metahumans like this dude wear them. 

As you can see here, this eye pro is so good that even DCU-style metahumans like this dude wear them.

The interesting thing about these frames is how easily you can adjust them to fit. Sure, They’re rugged, but you can bend them without much trouble. And apparently, without causing permanent damage or strain to the specs. I’m pointing that out only because I was a dumbass and had to have two different someones recommend I do so when I mentioned they were giving me a headache at dinner. 

The hinges on the Revision + Fast Metal Speed Demons are 7-Barrel style, secured with Teflon coated screws.

The Revision + Fast Metal Speed Demons hinges are 7-Barrel style, secured with Teflon-coated screws. 

Brawny as these frames are though, the real draw for me is in the lenses. 

i-Vis Lens Technology

Although I’m reviewing the Speed Demons, I have to address the lens tech. That’s what sets these apart from Gatorz, ESS, Wiley-X, or any other eye pro. It really is remarkable – like fine-tuned polarization that makes you see real colors with true contrast instead of just…well, instead of contrasted colors. 

i-Vis lens technology (via Revision Military)

Here’s an example of the i-Vis “lens tech” or whatever you want to call it. Because we’re dealing with colors, light, and contrast – that you’re looking at on a computer or phone screen, it’ll be very difficult to explain how it works adequately. But I’ll give it a whirl.

So, here’s the deal. Revision lenses are made in the USA. Specifically, they’re manufactured in Essex Junction, Vermont. They’re a polycarbonate made with an advanced dye formulation process I can’t begin to explain scientifically. What I can tell you is they do substantially enhance visual performance. I’m gonna try to explain, but, again, it’s damn hard to explain without putting actual specs on you outside and walking you through it. 

I showed you a Revision-made gif demonstrating the difference i-Vis makes on how you look at something. Here’s another. Then one that I made with my own video

Revision-i-Vis-lens-technology-gif

The quality of both is poor due to image compression, but hopefully, it will at least give you an idea of how much contrast these lens dyes provide.

Verso lenses in Idaho

Bear with me here. Now I’m gonna go a little bit in the weeds, but it’ll be worth it. Promise.

Types of Vision

How You See ‘Em

There are three kinds of vision: Scotopic, Photopic, and Mesoptic. Photopic, which is used for daylight, color, and detail, uses cones. Scotopic, which is used for nighttime, is black and white, with a lack of detail. Tinted protective lenses provide a sense of superior focus by moving color reception from photopic to scotopic. This improves contrast but does so with a corresponding loss of detail. 

The thing to know is this: the colors you see through one of these lenses are not true colors. Your naked eye, or your eye looking through a clear lens, has access to the entirety of the visual spectrum Tints and polarization remove some of that, necessarily distilling what you see down to less “accurate” colors. 

Let’s use Crayola to break it down more simply. 

If you had to color a complex and detailed picture, which would you rather have? The box on the left or the one on the right? 

lens-technology-Crayola-comparison

You have to color a masterpiece. Do you want red (a polarized lens), or do you want the choice of red, maroon, scarlet, brick red, vermillion, incarnadine, and blood orange (an i-Vis lens)?

With more crayons, you can draw (i.e., see) with better resolution and depth perception. It’s not that the red object you see becomes “redder”; it’s that you’re now able its more natural real red. This effectively reveals things you might not otherwise have seen. 

This is from Revision:

Revision explanation of i-Vis

I-Vis glasses are color neutral. This enhances color accuracy, reduces eye fatigue, increases depth perception, and provides greater visual detail.

They increase differentiation, i.e., contrast. Increased contrast without a loss of detail allows for accurate recognition of colors. Accurate recognition of colors ensures depth performance, mitigates eye strain, and promotes visual comfort.

How Polarized Lenses Work

How polarized sunglasses work.

Polarized lenses have a special chemical applied to them to filter light. The chemical’s molecules are lined up specifically to block some of the light from passing through the lens. Think of it like a miniblind hanging in front of a window. Only light that passes through the blind’s openings can be seen. On polarized sunglasses [vs. regular sunglasses, ballistic or not], the filter creates vertical openings for light. Only light rays that approach your eyes vertically can fit through those openings. For instance, the lenses block all the horizontal light waves bouncing off a smooth pond or a shiny car hood. As a result of this filtering, the image you see with polarized lenses is a bit darker than usual. But objects look crisper and clearer with polarized lenses, and details are easier to see. The American Academy of Opthamology (AAO)

Environmentally Conscious

I-Vis lenses are available in six tints. Five of them were designed for specific operational environments. Developed using National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, they’re intended to elevate contrast and color recognition in five prevalent terrain types. Those are Aros, Cano, Alto, Clara, and Umbra. A sixth tint (Verso), the most technically complex, is a general-purpose lens for those who don’t need the whole line. If you’re going to buy one out of pocket, that’s where I’d start.

i-Vis tints by terrain type

i-Vis tints by terrain type

Is this improvement something you can utilize? That’s something only you can answer. Unfortunately, there’s no way to do a loaner program for you to see for yourself literally. I have a pair of Versos, and I would buy another. I would probably not buy the full kit of lenses because I’m unlikely to be fighting Russians at Raja-Jooseppi or duking it out with Liwa Fatemiyoun dudes in man-jams anytime soon, or I probably would.

I say probably because I’m retention-challenged. The more sets of eye pro (or anything else) I have, the less likely I am to know where it all is at any given time. But if you’re someone whose job or hobby takes them to a variety of terrain types, the full lineup of lenses could be beneficial. It’s definitely worth bringing to your S4’s attention. 

 
Speed Demon metal frame sunglasses and binoculars from SIG Electro-Optics

In full disclosure, I’ve only owned a few pairs of metal sunglasses (fewer still metal ballistic sunglasses), most recently a set of Gatorz. You’ll want to take that into consideration when I say best metal frame sunglasses. Usually, I wear something with a little more comfort factor (like Shadowstrike sunglasses), at least on the daily. Preferably something also suitable for the range. That, to me, is the best kind of “tactical sunglasses.” I wear Oakley, of course, Wiley X while deployed, and sometimes other brands. Polymer frame, industry-standard polycarbonate lenses in the usual colors, typically less coverage than 100%-intended-to-shoot-with-these eye pro, you get the idea. Most of us wear pretty much the same kinda thing if we’re not in something like the Wiley Saber, Oakley Radar, Revision Sawfly, or the like. Happily, Revision has that style available in i-Vis too. 

 

I-Vis glasses are color neutral. This enhances color accuracy, reduces eye fatigue, increases depth perception, and provides greater visual detail.

 

Ballistic Glasses

Impact vs. Ballistic Rating

I’ve mentioned ANSI and ballistic ratings a couple of times in this article. What ANSI – the American National Standards Institute – and MIL-PRF-31013 have to do with all this is really damn important. More important, in fact, than a classic look, classic design, tacticool aesthetics, the relative merits of metal and any other frame, or even wazoo lens technology.

Here’s why.

Anyone who has spent any time on a shooting range, doing quals, taking a CCW class, or at any professional course has heard the phrase, Eyes and Ears! 

The rules regarding the use of eye and hearing protection are, after those of gun safety, the most common and significant guidelines for proper firearm use. Unfortunately, it is also the most commonly flouted rule despite being canon. Not always or even usually wilfully, but out of ignorance. 

Wearing eye protection is more than just having some generalized “safety eyewear” on your face when you’re doing live fire – but that’s what many of us do. Unless they offer fragment and high velocity, high impact protection, sunglasses are, at best, no help when it comes to protecting your vision. At worst, they can make your injury more severe. Regular prescription glasses of the corrective lens type are even less helpful and potentially more damaging. 

Set a thin-walled glass shot glass down over a grape. Now, shoot the shot glass using a slingshot and a ball bearing. That’s a redneck engineering way to see how it would affect your eyeball, and that’s with something moving much slower than a ricochet, steel target fragments, or other form of range projectiles. 

You need to wear actual protection, not something cosmetic and cool (though sometimes you can get both, and +1 to AC and DEX saves if yours has a wraparound frame). That’s where ANSI and ballistic testing come in.

Here’s another perspective.

First, the eye pro: 

Revision ballistic glasses vs buckshot

Revision ballistic glasses vs. buckshot in a test by Frank Borelli many years ago. This is an image of a pair of Revision Sawfly eye pro. It has been hit three (3) times with Federal 2.75″ #8 shot shells, fired from a 12 gauge Remington pump action with a 20-inch barrel. The rounds were fired from 15 yards (16 hits), again from 15 yards (23 hits, now 39), and finally from 7 yards (53 hits for a total of 92). No penetrations. How would a pair of aviator sunglasses have fared here?* What about high quality (but non ballistic) sport glasses? *I mean regular aviators, not Smith Optics Gray Man Elite and the like.

Now, the target and backer.

Revision ballistic glasses tested with 12 gauge shotgun, #8 shot.

Revision ballistic glasses tested with 12 gauge shotgun, #8 shot, 92 pellets on the glasses without penetration. “Facial features” were represented by black adhesive Shoot-N-See decals, which show yellow when penetrated or scraped with sufficient force. You can see the outline of where the glasses were worn. Granted, someone hit in the face like this would be fucked up like a 3-eyed baby, but their eyes would still be intact. Borelli advises that he believes those holes that would have been behind the eye pro were pieces that came in between the lenses and frame or the nose piece after the first two shots impacted. 

ANSI’s standard for eye protection is called Z87.1-2015. It’s not a regulation or a law but is used as a rating model for both of those things – like Federal OSHA regs, for instance. ANSI rates eye pro for three things: impact resistance (or not), splash and particulate hazards, and optical radiation (welding, UV protection, etc.). When it comes to shooting, we’re concerned with that first one. 

An impact resistance rating is determined by high-mass and high-velocity tests – and even impact resistance doesn’t mean it’ll provide ballistic protection. That’s a step further. 

Ballistically rated eye protection indicates an ability to withstand an impact several times greater. Unlike body armor and plates, which are rated according to NIJ (National Institute of Justice) standards, eye pro in the U.S. is evaluated and categorized in accordance with MIL-STD-662 (or that’s what it was when I was in). Military Standard 662 is the DoD guidance used to test ballistic protective eyewear, which in turn determines what meets military protection standards, and, thus, what will go on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL).

APEL ballistic eyewear is usually available for commercial purchase. 

You need to wear actual protection, not something cosmetic and cool (though sometimes you can get both). That’s where ANSI and ballistic testing come in. 

While most shooting glasses have an ANSI rating, some brands and models claiming to be “shooting protection” have not been ballistically tested. And that’s a problem. Your ANSI-approved industrial/OSHA prescription safety glasses might help you keep your vision, but that’s not what they were designed for. Your shades might look great on you, but they’re not going to keep a metal fragment or a ricochet from blinding you for life. 

If you’re On The Job; do you have a set of clear ballistic eyewear with you in the car? 

Metro police at night

Law Enforcement officers should consider having good clear lens eye protection and a cleaning cloth as a part of their duty gear. You won’t always have a chance to throw them on before a call, but there’s a good chance you will. And even if they stop more spit, urine, or household cleaner than FOD you’ll be glad you were wearing them. Eye pro, like weapon lights, is the epitome of legitimately tactical gear.

ANSI impact-rated eye pro will be labeled Z87. It is supposed to withstand a quarter-inch steel ball moving at 150fps. That is significant protection but not enough to deal with typical firearm-related FOD (Foreign Object Debris). If at all possible, you should be wearing eye pro listed as Z87 + ; that rating is for spectacle-style eye pro. It indicates the ability to withstand being hit by a .15″ projectile traveling at 650fps. Unfortunately, not all ballistic-rated spectacles have such an identifier. If you’re looking for tactical eyewear, with or without the intention of adding a prescription lens, it’d be a good reason to look at what’s on the APEL. 

BuT tHey’Re ShaTterProof LenSeS! 

are they really shatterproof glasses?

Are they, though? 

There’s additional testing for goggles, but we won’t go into that here. One of the crew here can follow up with something for you users of ballistic goggles if you’d like.

Most people wearing “shooting glasses” (especially those wearing safety glasses over corrective lenses) only wear impact-protective glasses. So-called “tactical glasses” are often the same. Those are better than nothing, but they’d be better off with actual ballistic protection. 

I’ve worn cheap (or no) eye pro before, sometimes accidentally, once in a while out of laziness. Many times before understanding how the rating works. I’ll bet you have, too; I’m certain you know someone who has. Luckily I corrected that ignorant habit before I paid for it in visual acuity. 

Fuck around and find out chart

Would you like to know more? Read this excellent article on Lucky Gunner.

If you really want to get nerdy, read The Development of Eye Armor for the American Infantryman.

Find the APEL online at PEO Soldier. Just be aware that the list is sometimes a year or two behind.

 

 

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David Reeder

David Reeder

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1 Comment

  1. Bill Spurrier

    What is the best lens for sunlight and cloudy days

    Reply

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