AllOutdoor Review: Gatorz Specter Laser Defender Sunglasses

   10.11.22

AllOutdoor Review: Gatorz Specter Laser Defender Sunglasses

A few months ago, Gatorz eyewear announced their latest release, a laser-resistant lens option. Having tried their Wraptor specs some time ago and remaining impressed with the protection and clarity they offer, I was excited to try a new frame, called the Specter, with this latest, laser-resistant feature in addition to the same photochromic qualities of the lenses in my Wraptor glasses. This review took a while, in part because I wanted to gain some understanding about how they work, and because I wanted to try them in a variety of conditions to see if they perform as promised.

First, the frames. Like all Gatorz, the Specters have a CNC-machined, 7075-T6 aluminum frame. My pair are Cerakoted in black; anodized finish is also available. Using the company’s very clear instructional video regarding adjustment of ear-to-ear and nosepiece fit, I was able to create a perfect fit. More so than the Wraptor frames, which are a bit wide for my head, the Specter frames fit in a way that doesn’t allow the glasses to move regardless of what I’m doing physically. The frames are so light, I have on many occasions worn them all day and into the night when working security, with no need to take them off for relief. Nor do they leave behind ugly pressure spots on the sides of my nose. Best of all, the wide but flat armpieces are comfortable for hours when wearing ear protection.

Specter

As for shape, the Specters are squarish and large enough to give good protection. I could do without the eight tiny but shiny dots on each side that are the stainless steel rivets that serve as hinge attachments, but these stay south of gaudy. I feel the shades still lend a professional appearance when I wear them as a uniformed guard. Over the couple months I’ve worn them almost daily, a little aluminum shine has begun to show on the edges where a cap and my ear pro ride. The company rep stated Gatorz had been outsourcing Cerakote services and a batch was not properly baked to ensure wear-proof color. He stated Gatorz has since taken over that function and offered to replace my lenses, which I declined out of deference for having received the glasses in exchange for media coverage. Had I purchased them with my own funds, I’d have taken that offer. Both frames and lenses are covered by warranty for manufacturing defects, by the way.

Specter
One adjustable aspect of Gatorz frames is the nosepiece, which controls ride height and distance from frame to face.

The lenses are worth in-depth discussion and are central to why it took me so long to understand the product. In terms of qualities that I’m sure are true across lens choices for these frames, these are amazingly clear. Along with the Gatorz, these are the only lenses I’ve experienced that don’t cause significant distortion when shooting targets at 500 or more yards. There’s a limit at which no lenses are helpful when using high-power scopes, but in the small chance of something going explosively awry, it’s comforting to have ANSI-rated, proven ballistic protection of precious eyesight. This is true not just for shooting but also in protecting eyes from spiky undergrowth while hiking/hunting, as well as protection from substances flung, sprayed, etc. by disagreeable humans.

Now for the traits of the lenses that may be based on the specific ones I chose from the several colors. Like my Wraptor’s lenses, these are photochromic, meaning they darken in bright light and lighten in dim conditions. At first I thought Gatorz sent the wrong lenses, as these are amber in tint, even in the dark. Turns out, that’s a necessity of having also chosen laser-resistant lenses. The tint darkens to block enough sun that I don’t squint except on the most July-ish of days here in the desert, when there’s not a cloud in the sky and the sun is doing its best to turn exposed skin into jerky. Gatorz says these lenses offer 94% UV protection. I’ve worn these shades working a concert after dark, and enjoyed good visual acuity in all but the same places where a flashlight would be helpful. In medium to dim light, the glasses don’t effectively block others from seeing my eyes as mirrored lenses would.

Spectre

It’s hard to describe the dramatic effect these lenses have on vision, especially in cloudy weather. The increased contrast they provide makes everything, even the clouds themselves, stand out in vivid detail that my eyes alone don’t detect. It’s an effect that never gets old on rainy days. For spotting game or hunting for artifacts, these glasses give a real advantage in terms of picking out details that might otherwise be passed over.

As for the laser-resistant qualities, I learned a lot on this review. Initially it seemed like a great idea to photograph a comparison between my Gatorz lenses and the Specter ones. Holding each well away from my eyes of course, with the lenses facing a wall, I shone a laser pointer toward the lenses, fully expecting some kind of bounce-back from the Specters while the others allowed it through. To my confusion, about the same size of an obtuse reflection of a laser dot appeared on the wall. It was time to call a pro and ask for an explanation.

On the ensuring phone conference and slideshow kindly provided by a Gatorz representative, I learned that fully blocking the kind of relatively low-power, but still dangerous beams that come from typical laser abuses, i.e. aiming them at aircraft pilots and security guards, would require an opaque lens, an obvious non-viable choice. To achieve laser resistance, Gatorz applies a special lens coating that slows down the beam’s travel and allowing the human reactionary gap to occur in time to prevent severe pain and eye damage in most instances. So, these offer no free pass on staring at lasers. What they do offer is time for the mind to identify the issue and divert the gaze. It’s something that no other civilian company I know of offers, and is a potential huge benefit to anyone at risk of damage from obnoxious humans wielding lasers.

Specter
A bit of aluminum is beginning to shine through in spots where the former Cerakote contractor didn’t do their job.

Finally, the lenses are scratch- and oil-resistant. I’m hard on glasses, and although the frames now show the previously mentioned wear, the lenses still clean up scratch-free despite my having used the Specters hard doing stuff like loading hay, and even having dropped them a time or two. I never intended on using them outside work and formal range training, but they’re so comfortable and offer such great protection, they’ve become my go-to specs.

Specter
The lack of distortion for mid-range, scoped shooting is really nice.

If an outdoors explorer/hunter, aircraft pilot, or concealed carrier moving through testy situations on the regular wants to round out their protective arsenal, Gatorz’ American-made photochromic, laser-resistant lenses are a great addition, and the Specter is a great frame choice, though I’m also fond of the Wraptor. I’m thankful to have them in my defensive arsenal, and fortunate to enjoy the enhanced views of the great outdoors they provide. Order your own Specters for $230 with a choice of four lens colors (all on the tactical palette), and three choices of lens tint for laser defender lenses or many other choices if only ballistic and sun protection alone are desired.

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Eve Flanigan is a defensive shooting and armed security practitioner/instructor who lives in the American Southwest. She is the author of "Ready to Defend: Tips for Living the Armed Lifestyle," and is a contributor to numerous gun-related blogs and print publications.

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