Today, we have a guest blogger. She’ll tell you how to avoid eye injuries when shooting airguns and how to protect your children from the same.

by Mirfee Ungier, M.D., Ophthalmologist and eye surgeon

Airgunning, for all its fun as a shooting sport and its relative safety compared to firearms, is still a high-risk sport for eye injuries. A small projectile moving at a high speed concentrates energy impact at both a desired target and occasionally at an undesired target. Six percent of all serious eye injuries are BB-related. Eighty-four percent of these injuries result in legal blindness. In fact, the eye injury rate from airguns has actually remained stable at approximately 6 per million, whereas the rate of firearms eye injuries has declined from 14.8/million in 1993 to 7.5/million in 2002.

YOU are the first line of defense!
It’s not just the increase in deliverable energy that results in a disconnect between airgun safety and firearm safety, but two entirely different factors: lack of supervision of children using airguns and underuse of protective eye wear.

A study from Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, found the mean age of the victim at the time of eye injury due to airguns to be 13. Another study from Canada demonstrated airgun injuries were responsible for 25 percent of all injuries severe enough to cause loss of an eye. The mean age of the victims was 14.

The circumstances of these injuries put the burden squarely on the parents. Injuries were:

1. 24 times more likely to occur when there was no adult supervision
2. 12 times more likely to occur at a friend’s house
3. 5 times more likely to occur indoors
4. 6 times more likely when no target was used

Ricochets accounted for 26 percent of injuries. In almost all cases, no eye protection was used.

Obviously, we can prevent the vast majority of these injuries with proper supervision and instruction of our children. I’m including teenagers in this group.

How to pick the right shooting glasses
Eye protection should not just be available, but mandatory for both adults and children. In fact, shooting glasses should be worn by everyone in the vicinity of the shooter. Street glasses are not satisfactory unless they are polycarbonate (which I actually recommend for all children anyway) and in a wraparound frame. Targets should be soft and capable of trapping the pellets without causing ricochets. Airguns are fun, but they’re definitely not toys. They deserve respect for the damage they can do.

Pyramyd Air sells a full line of shooting glasses. If you’re buying glasses for children or teens, be sure to pick glasses that will fit them properly.