The NYT, via the indispensable War News Updates


One factor in the survival rates for American troops wounded in recent years has been the improved protective equipment, including armor and fire-retardant uniforms and gloves. The effects of the explosion last May 27 bring us to a piece of equipment that is relatively new to the grunts’ war but has become essential to preventing certain types of wounds: ballistic eye wear.

Vantage Point: The Gear That Saved a Marine Corporal’s Eyes –

Way, way back in 1986, as a young PFC in Hawaii, my battalion was selected to take part in a test evaluation of ballistic eye armor. Every soldier in the battalion was issued two pairs of Gargoyle glasses. Gargoyles were currently quite in vogue as the sunglasses of choice worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. We each received a pair of bronze tinted glasses, and a pair of clear ones. They were straight off the shelf, with no modifications. We were encouraged to wear them both on and off duty (this at a time when unit Sergeant Majors would get pissed if any troops wore sunglasses during daily formations).

It turns out, they were awesome. I don’t normally like to wear sunglasses. And indeed, I rarely wore the tinted Gargoyles. But the clear ones were another matter.  One of many, many minor irritations of moving through dense foliage at night is “the swat.” When the guy in front of you moves past a branch along his path, he pushes a branch out of the way. As he passes, that branch snaps back to it previous location, which just happens to be where your face is right now. Wearing the clear Gargoyles might not stop the branch from smacking you in the face, but it did mitigate the worst of getting poked in the eyes.

The Army, being the Army, fiddled around with the basic design of the Gargoyles, and managed to eventually make them heavier, less comfortable, less stylish, and more expensive. They also added a laser filter that would protect against some of the many lasers on the modern battlefield, but the laser filter also grossly distorted the vision through the updated eye armor and was therefore never worn. Indeed, being heavier and less comfortable, the updated sets of eye armor were usually signed for, then locked away somewhere, and only retrieved when it was time to turn them in.

It seems the Army is being a little more sensible about eye armor today, and focusing on saving eyesight from the most likely threats today. And lets face it, the modern eye armor just looks cool.

2 thoughts on “Gargoyles”

  1. I wore Wiley X during my recent trips overseas. Granted, my days of running around kicking in doors is long gone. But you couldn’t get on a helicopter or in a convoy unless ballistic glasses were on (or at least that was the rule when I was there). The only complaint I had about Wiley X was the fogging. That’s due to the seal around the eyes.

    Personally I found the fogging less an annoyance than the dust that gets in around the edges of other sunglasses. I found the Wiley X so well adapted to my warped skull that I grew very fond of them. I’ve bought two more pairs since the first.

    But I still keep a couple pairs of “Goggles, Sun, Wind and Dust” on hand just in case someone asks me to go play with tanks again.

  2. I remember the article in Soldier of Fortune mag back in the 80s. They thought very highly of the things.

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