Cheap Glasses

I’m cheap.

The less I spend on other things, the more I have for bullets. And as any Bullseye shooter will tell you, to get good, you have to push a lot of lead downrange and, as most of you know, lead is not cheap anymore. Gone are the days of three or four cent heads. Today, you’re probably looking at eight to nine cents for a 200 grain LSWC, and if you buy in 5000 unit quantities, that’s not small change.

So when I get a chance to save some significant bucks, I do it.

I recently came across what has to be just about the cheapest place for glasses. Not surprisingly, it is in the People’s Republic of China and everything is handled through the web. You choose your frames and lenses through the web, enter your prescription through the web, and you order and pay through the web. And then about two weeks later, your glasses arrive … via the postman.

The place is Zenni Optical and I decided to order a pair of glasses for iron sights both to see the quality of their work and so I’d have something specifically for shooting.

Since I would be entering the numbers into their website for my prescription, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money only to discover I had done something wrong. This would be a “test pair” to see if the system, mostly me, would work.

A pair of single-vision glasses in Zenni’s cheapest frames would be $8.00 plus $4.95 shipping, or $12.95. That’s what I would try.

Of course, I needed an accurate prescription and that’s not something I can do. For that, I needed a professional and, as luck would have it, not very long ago my work had taken me to the bay area and I made an appointment with Dr. Norman Wong who happens to also be a Bullseye shooter. If anyone knows what a shooter needs for his eyes, Norman is the very best in the world. (He let me shoot his Masaki 1911 a few days later at the Sunnyvale club, but that’s another story.)

At Dr. Wong’s office, after the most thorough eye exam I’ve ever had which included the fine tuning of my prescription on both iron and red dot sights “shooting” out the front window of his store, I had three prescriptions, one for my daily use (the progressives), another for a lense for use with a red dot and Knoblock frames which I said I was going to buy someday, and the third for shooting iron sights. (I shoot with my right eye even though I am left-eye dominant. Again, that’s another story.)

The shooting glasses I wanted would have single vision lenses only, with the left eye focused at distance, and the right one focused on the front iron sight. I used Dr. Wong’s left eye progressive prescription without the “ADD”, and his right eye “Iron Sight” prescription.

Because these would be my shooting glasses, I wanted to be sure they would also function as safety glasses. I emailed Zenni Optical to ask about the materials they use. Here is their reply:

"Dear Mr/Ms. Skinner,
All of our Single Vision, Bi-Focal and progressive bi-focal lenses are
premium quality high index Polycarbonate composite polymer high impact
resistance lenses with full UV protection, special strong anti-scratch
Thank you for your interest in Zenni Optical."

That sounds good.

The last thing needed was my inter-pupillary distance, the distance between the centers of my pupils when looking far away. Zenni Optical’s website recommended having someone make this measurement for you. It’s not something you can easily do for yourself. I found a metric ruler since they wanted the measurement in millimeters and had my son do it and we followed the instructions on Zenni Optical’s website. We measured 64 millimeters. (Later, I had the optical department at CostCo repeat the measurement. They came up with 66 millimeters, close enough to 64 that the difference does not matter, especially for the single vision lenses I was ordering.)

I entered my Pupillary Distance as 64 in the order for single vision lenses, no coating, no tint, and in the $8.00 frames. That went to the P.R.C. along with my credit card information on May 1st (2008).

My glasses arrived by USPS on May 13th. They came in a plastic case with a cleaning cloth, in a rip-open, marginally padded mailing envelope. The return address was in San Rafael CA which, I presume, is where my shipment entered the mail after arriving from China (by unknown means).

Of course, I immediately tried them on, showed my wife who then wanted Zenni Optical’s web address so she could see what frames to get for her new pair of reading glasses, and I got out my 1911 – checked to be sure it was unloaded – and dry-fired a dozen shots to check the right-eye focus. Yep, the front sight was crystal clear, exactly as I wanted.

Since then, I’ve used the new glasses on the line a couple of times. The front sight continues to be clear as a bell in my right eye, and after a shot with the 45, I can peek around the blinder I wear on the bill of my baseball cap to spot the hole down in the 50 yard target through the left lense. Yes, I still use my spotting scope but as often as not, the left distance-focused eye is sufficient with the LSWC 45 rounds.

My next order from Zenni Optical will be for my walk-around progressives. Probably rimless but with the best frames Zenni has. For less than $50, it’s going to be hard to go wrong.

But I must add that, by “off-shoring”, I am continuing a trend that makes it hard on some Americans. I know because I’ve been on the dirty end of this same stick. Indeed, in 2002-2003, I was out of work for almost a year because the software industry in which I had been employed for 20+ years was deserting the United States. My job, and that of almost all other software engineers in the United States, was going to India, Russia, the People’s Republic of China and a dozen other countries where engineers are paid significantly less.

Yes, I know all about off-shoring. But there comes a point when you have to ask, “What do I need to do to take care of my family?” And after a year with practically no income, I had to find that answer. I won’t bore you with the details but, suffice it to say, there were some changes that I had to accept. And there were some realizations in the industry that helped somewhat as well.

Today, I’m still employed in the software industry but with some significant differences. And today, when and where I can, I spend each buck a lot more carefully.

So, now it’s time to order some 200 gr LSWCs.

Yikes! Have you seen the prices?

History debuted in 2023, and includes content from the author’s previous website ( redirects here).
Comments and suggestions are welcome where enabled and via the Contact page.

© Copyright 2023 by E D Skinner, All rights reserved