Eve Flanigan 03.23.22
I’m not going to lie, I’m tough on sunglasses. Not only do I lose a pair every two months, but I clean the lenses with a dirty shirttail instead of a proper cloth, and crush the frames between my riding helmet and my nose until a lens falls. So when a representative from the Gatorz company contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing a pair of their super-duper protection specs, I warned him that it might be akin to sending his dog into bad daycare. He still sent a pair. Here’s how it goes.
While waiting for the specs to arrive, I read about the Gatorz legacy. It is an all-American company founded by former members of several SEAL teams. All Gatorz have machined aluminum frames. The goggles were designed as an eyepro for extreme sports, specifically freefall skydiving (read about the HALO jumps SEALS do if you want to know more), and speeding down the highway on a motorcycle at over 100 mph. Maybe these glasses would resist me after all.
Gatorz expands its reach and product line beyond these exclusive sports. Shooting is, at least in peacetime, more docile than falling through the atmosphere without a parachute. Some models are wrap-around designs for protection while others are reminiscent of the “Wayfarers” Tom Cruise wore in ’80s movies. Some have ANSI-rated protective lenses; some don’t. Some, including the Wraptor model I’m testing, have lenses that darken or lighten depending on the conditions.
What is consistent between the models is 100% American construction, adjustable aluminum frames and an adjustable nose. These are features that I have come to love. I’m sure I’m not the only person with an asymmetrical head. Normal sunglasses or prescription glasses tend to roll askew on my face – and especially with a hat or helmet – I struggle to find a good fit. I was eager to find out if these specs are as customizable as advertised.
First, the packaging…the folks at Gatorz got it right. My new specs arrived in an elegant black pouch. Inside was a rectangular aluminum case with rounded edges. It is adorned with the Gatorz logo and lined with black felt. I like that they look classy, not like a mess, aboard a shotgun in my vehicle.
Unlike most mounts, the Gatorz are adjustable in two ways. It is important to adjust according to the factory instructions, as shown on their official video on this, in order to maintain evenness of the frames. The nose can be pinched or spread to move the glasses away or closer to the face. Overall frames can be pressed into a smaller U-shape for a tighter fit, or spread out for larger skulls.
The Wraptor turned out to be adjustable as advertised, although I wish the frames had come in two sizes. My 7-1/8 hat size head has the lenses overlapping my hairline on the sides. If they were traditional metal or plastic frames, they would just be too big to wear on my head. I gave them a good squeeze as shown in the video. They’re comfortable and stay in place without slipping for most of the day, unless I’m running, in which case they require occasional push-ups. On most male skulls they would look just fine. The same goes for time spent with a horse. I find myself pushing them further up my nose while doing the myriad of movements required during thorough grooming than while driving. Potential Wraptor carriers should check out the excellent description of the company’s dimensions on their website.
In addition to adjustable frames, some specs in the Gatorz line, including the Wraptor, have light-sensitive lenses. Unlike Transitions brand lenses that many people know from prescription eyewear, Wraptor lenses become completely clear in a relatively short time in darker conditions. For some security work, I regularly walk from the bright exterior into dimly lit office buildings that have closed for the weekend, a great test of this feature. It is remarkable how quickly the lenses adapt to both settings. A few seconds of squinting occur when I step outside, but the desired shade (a dark gray) for my eyes quickly appears. Between the lightweight and comfortable lenses, there has been a near elimination of the on/off fiddling that I do with normal sunglasses when going outside and coming inside. I appreciate the potential benefit of having wraparound protection inside and less time with nothing at all knowing I might encounter pepper spray or a physical threat to my eyes at work.
Five lens choices are offered with the Wraptor. The newest additions are those ANSI rated, suitable for steel shooting and the protection required in some workplaces. This is the version seen in the photos, in addition to being photochromic (self-adjustment to light in 60 seconds). Polarization is another option, ideal for fishing or viewing certain screens.
Frame and lens color choices as well as an American flag pattern are also offered. While my pair look quite understated, which I prefer, you can also make a statement at Gatorz with their colored and mirrored lenses and other frame choices. A helpful chart showing the light transmission properties of each lens is provided, so consumers can make an informed choice. Need corrective lenses? They do that too.
As a lifelong wearer of gas station/dollar store sunglasses, I can say that these glasses are about more than just style. They are a great solution for anyone who wants to transition from office to sport and vice versa. I was won over by the complete lack of fatigue from wearing glasses and the indentations on my nose that lesser glasses made me expect. Knowing that they are made in the USA from American materials makes me proud to wear them. Prices for the Gatorz Wraptor model start at $180. The ANSI-rated lenses in my test cost $240 — a small investment to protect valuable eyesight.