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Survival Gear Review: Magpul Terrain Sunglasses

While you weren’t looking (or perhaps while your eyes were recovering from debris damage), sunglasses have quietly evolved from simple “shades” to keep the sun’s glare from your eyes into a full-on vision-enhancing system that offers protection of the ballistic and UV sorts. Lots of companies have popped up offering superior sunglasses, but recently, a small, rowdy, upstart company you’ve probably never heard of – Magpul – introduced the production of sunglasses made with their interpretation of what sunglasses should be. Not only did they hit the mark, but they slid into the crowded arena, bowled over the competition, then promptly dropped the mic. BOOM.

By Drew, contributing author to Survival Cache and SHTFblog

I recently introduced a pair of Magpul Terrain Polarized sunglasses to my face. This is my story.

Magpul Terrain Sunglasses

For years, Wiley X sunglasses have nose-perched on my face whenever any eye-shading duties have presented themselves – shooting included. However, when I noticed that the mighty Magpul design team had furrowed their collective brows and dedicated themselves to producing sunglasses, I simply had to try them. Magpul – in my experience so far – just doesn’t do anything they put their minds to in a half-assed manner. 

Navigating my way to the Magpul website to peruse their eyewear selections, the Terrain series of sunglasses struck my fancy; it seems Magpul designed this series of shaded specs to not only enhance the user’s day-to-day mundane life, but also to provide unparallelled field of view and comfort while wearing hats and hearing protection. Also drawing my attention was the fact that the Terrain was designed for larger faces, which would likely play nicely with my planet-on-a-stick head size.

The frames of the Magul Terrain sunglasses are made of TR90 NZZ, a lightweight polyamide material that has been specifically engineered to provide not only shatter resistance when bent or deflected, but also boasting superior impact strength – important for those of us who prefer our eyewear to be able to resist coming apart at the range if we’re unfortunate enough to catch a wayward bullet splatter or ricochet impact.

In point of fact, the frames are so lightweight and flexible that the most common first impression I got when showing the Terrains was, “these are from Magpul? They feel flimsy!” However, a few minutes of twisting and turning the sunglasses frames resulted in 100% first impression turnarounds – these sunglasses can’t be turned into pretzels or seriously damaged without ridiculous effort.

The lenses of the Magpul Terrain sunglasses are available in either polarized or non-polarized configurations. However, either option comes standard with anti-reflective (AR) treatments on the inside of the lenses to minimize distracting mirror-like reflections on the interior surface of the glasses. The lenses also boast oleophobic coatings that keep liquids – rain, chemicals, gasoline, blood, et al – from building up on the lenses, and promote runoff and/or beading up of these liquids, maintaining clear, usable vision for longer periods of time.

The entire Terrain glasses envelope meets not only the US civilian ANSI Z87+ high-impact standard test rating for safety, but also the military NATO standard MIL-PRF 32432 for ballistic protection of eyewear. These military standards mean that not only do the glasses pass tests for optical clarity, environmental stability (won’t expand/contract/quit working with temperature or moisture extremes), and UV ray protection, but the glasses also meet the protection requirements against a 0.15 caliber projectile travelling at 640-660 feet per second. As a frame of reference here – if Ralphie in A Christmas Story had been wearing Magpul Terrain sunglasses while fighting off Bad Bart’s wayward gang, he wouldn’t have been reduced to a whiny casualty when his trusty Red Ryder 200-shot carbine ricocheted.

Changing Your View Of The World

Donning the Magpul Terrains after wearing my old Wiley X P-17 glasses is akin to sipping a glass of refreshing, ice-cold fresh squeezed lemonade on a 100 degree day – when the only other thing you have to drink is room-temperature Guinness. The Terrains are stunningly lightweight, and the points of contact to your body – the nose pieces and temple arms – are overmolded rubber and integrate seamlessly with your face. The next thing you notice is the stunning clarity of the lenses – the polarized bronze gold mirror lenses of my Magpul Terrains let an incredible amount of undistorted, tinted light to my eyes while still providing enough glare reduction to be comfortable in bright sunlight. 

Image from Magpul.com

At the range, the Terrains slipped comfortably underneath my Howard Leight Impact Sport hearing protection, and allowed a full seal, letting the earmuffs perform their job admirably with a minimum of hassle. The lens frames have been somehow magically designed to let the wearer see without the encumbrance of framing in the field of view, yet not bump into the buttstock of a rifle when snuggling up into a proper cheek weld. Red dot and holographic sights performed wonderfully through the polarized lenses with zero silliness or added reticle flare  – something I can’t say for other makes of eye pro I’ve worn – even clear with clear lenses.

Also read: Survival Gear Review: Magpul M-LOK Tripod Adaptor

While I didn’t shoot at the Magpul Terrain sunglasses to prove their ballistic worthiness – I did put them through the “Blowback Test”. Explanation: my Windham Weaponry 9mm carbine is a blowback rifle, meaning it uses direct gas to blow the bolt backwards – not a DI system of a standard AR. As a blowback design, the 9mm carbine expels an inordinate amount of hot gasses around the bolt, and directly back into the shooter’s eye around the charging handle. The experienced effect is similar to having someone aim a hair dryer on “High hot” directly at your eyeball while you’re attempting to control a firearm and provide good hits. It’s disconcerting to say the least. These gases occasionally do make it around eye protection if the design is poor. I’m terribly happy to report that the Magpul Terrain passed the Blowback Test with flying colors, and I received nary a puff of hot air or unburnt powder flakes in my peepers.  The Magpul Terrain setup is an absolutely superb eye protection system for the range.

Magpul Terrain in Daily Use

Admittedly, some of the readers won’t be using these Terrains at the range; it’s not their thing. These readers will be pleased to know that while the Magpul Terrains do feature a bit of an “Operator” look, they are not over-the-top designed to round out a full-blown tactical tuxedo and look pleasantly right at home on the nine-to-fivers piloting their daily drivers to work or home or the grocery store. Ultimately, the Magpul Terrains have absolutely updated my daily life with their light weight and stellar field of view. Driving with the Terrains on is far superior to other sunglasses designs, as there is no heavy framing or temple arm to obstruct peripheral vision.

The only day-to-day weirdness I experienced with the Terrains was due to the polarized lenses – and it is a malady any sunglasses with polarized lenses will suffer. Using a cellphone with the Magpul Terrains on was a little wonky, since both smartphone screens and polarized sunglasses incorporate polarized glare-reducing coatings that block light waves travelling in certain directions and frequencies – vertical or horizontal (hence, “polarized”). While these coatings reduce glare and protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB waves, it also means that looking at a polarized surface through a polarized surface may have the resulting filtered light waves produced by an LCD screen not run in the same direction as the polarized filters on your face, resulting in diminished smartphone screen visibility. Though your mileage may vary, this can often be negated by simply looking at your cellphone horizontally instead of vertically – this changes the lightwave direction by aligning polarization filters with the directional light waves, and allows you to look at a smartphone screen through polarized lenses. You’re welcome.

The other issue I found with the Terrains came from their light weight and larger lens size – on a grouse hunting trip in northern Maine this past week, I would often perch the glasses up on top of the bill of my baseball cap when pushing through heavy brush or dark woods. More than once, I found myself with the glasses missing – pulled off my head by a wayward branch or heavy brush. A backtrack would in in order to find the glasses – and it’s hard to hunt while looking for glasses. An integral retention system similar to my Wiley X P-17s would be hugely welcome – a way to utilize or quickly remove a strap/cord system would be a Godsend in heavy brush, while fishing, or roughhousing with the kids. Whaddaya think, Magpul? You guys are kind known for your ingenuity and all….

Wrapping it Up

Sunglasses ain’t just for keeping the sun out of your eyes anymore. Magpul has upped the shades game with the introduction of the Terrain, a platform that incorporates UV protection, glare reduction, chemical/dust/hot air defense, and ballistic protection into an extremely lightweight, immensely high-quality product that absolutely enhances your interface with the outside world. Available through Magpul’s website at $109 for the non-polarized variety, and a well-worth-it additional $40 for polarized lenses, you can pick and choose your favorite flavor combination of frames and lens colors/mirrors.

It seems Magpul has once again improved our lives by taking the mundane and accepted and completely revamping with a fresh outlook based on performance and experience. But really, did you expect anything less from a product with the Magpul logo on it?