ESS Airsoft Profile Goggle System
ESS Airsoft Profile Goggle System review by Booligan
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ESS is one of the few professional protective eyewear companies that has a really has a focus on the airsoft market, so much so that they've started a branch of their company specifically for airsoft products. ESS primarily sells to the military and law enforcement market, and their products are known as being some of the best eye protection options out there, and they've proven themselves time and time again on the battlefield. ESS Airsoft offers a few airsoft specific products, all based around their revolutionary "Cortex Clip", which is designed to prevent the entrance of airsoft BBs into the frame and past the lenses. I will go over the various aspects of this goggle system in the next few sections!
I met with ESS at SHOT Show '10 in Las Vegas, and was impressed with their airsoft offerings. The ESS Airsoft line has been out for a few months, but there hasn't been much information about them that I've seen, and I wanted to rectify that! ESS was kind enough to provide a pair of their "Profile" goggles with the Cortex Clip, which makes up their entry level airsoft goggle system. It is available on their website, priced at $80 for this system. Their Turbofan model, with an integrated anti-fog fan system is priced at $195. If you currently have a set of ESS Profile, Turbofan, or Thermal goggles, you can purchase the Cortex Clip separately for $20, and spare lenses are available in clear, yellow, or smoke for $22 each. Their products are also available through Spartan Imports, ZShot, and Vertex Airsoft, so more retailers should be picking these up soon.
The Airsoft Profile package comes in a retail display ready box with a clear plastic window showing the goggles held within. The cortex clip comes preinstalled, so the goggles are ready to roll our of the box. My package included the goggles, cortex clip, a storage bag/cleaning cloth, and manuals for both the goggles themselves and the cortex clip. ESS also tossed in a few stickers, and a nice metal ESS bottle opening keychain, but I can't say as to if all orders will include them.
From this point on, click all thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.
This is how you know it's from the airsoft division
...which doubles as a cleaning cloth
Cortex clip manual
The Profile series of goggles from ESS are their widest distributed model, both in airsoft and in their military distribution line. They are both ANSI Z87.1 rated, as well as MIL-DTL-43511D rated, which involves shooting the lenses with a .22 chisel point metal projectile at 560 FPS. The lens is certainly strong enough for airsoft use, and then some. The issue with traditional airsoft goggles is that even if the lens can take the hit, the frame itself may allow a BB to pass through, either due to odd shot placement, or even due to a ricochet off of skin or gear. This is where the cortex clip comes in handy, and the Profile goggles should NOT be used for airsoft without it, but I'll cover it in detail in the next section.
Goggle front, cortex clip installed
Goggle rear, clip installed
The Profile goggles are a compact and low profile system, which fit nicely under most standard headwear, including hats and helmets. They will NOT fit over most prescription eyeglasses, but ESS offers a drop in RX kit to mount prescription lenses inside the goggle itself.
Profile goggles with cortex clip removed
The frame is very soft and flexible, which helps it conform to the individual user's face. This is both for comfort and for safety reasons, as well fitting goggles have less gaps for BBs to get through. There are vents literally everywhere on the frame, which helps prevent fogging during use. The goggles touch your face through a foam cushion; again, adding to the comfort and safety of this system.
The strap is easily adjustable for the individual user, using a simple two slider system. Pull the sliders apart, and the goggles get tighter. Put them close together, and it gets loose. It's fast and easy to adjust on the go, which is important, as poor fitting goggles are a big safety risk. The range of adjustment is wide, allowing it to fit over just your head, a hat, or even most helmets.
Close together for looser fit
Further apart for a tighter fit
Goggles are useless without lenses, and the included lens with my kit is the clear version. The lens is easily and quickly replaceable if you want to pick up the yellow or smoke lenses for different lighting conditions, or if you need to replace your lens due to damage. You change the lens by carefully pulling the frame apart at the lens, popping it out. The manual explains it quite well, but honestly, it's pretty much common sense. Reinstallation is basically just the reverse of pulling it out.
Lens removed from frame
Overall, the goggles themselves are extremely nice, and I can see why they are found on as many heads as they are. They are lightweight, comfortable, and as ESS' testing shows, they are extremely strong and capable. That being said, it is important to note that the goggles alone are not suitable for airsoft use, and for maximum safety, must be used with the Cortex Clip system.
The Cortex Clip is, in the simplest sense, a plastic shield that attaches over your goggle frame, strengthening the frame itself, as well as covering up most of the vents, while still allowing them to function. It also offers an extended nose piece, which gives you a bit of facial protection, however for maximum protection, additional face protection such as a mouthguard, shemagh, etc, is advised.
Cortex clip removed from frame
The Cortex Clip is installed by popping it onto the goggle frame, ensuring that all six mounting clips are securely snapped onto the frame. Once installed, you'll notice that it stiffens up the frame a bit, and that it sits on top of the vents at the top and bottom. It, however, does not block the vents, and doesn't affect goggle fogging as far as I can tell.
Attached, the ventilated "hump" is for the Turbofan goggles
Bottom mounting clips
There are several warning inside the cortex clip, specifically stating that the system is NOT for use with paintball guns, or with marking/training ammunition, such as Simunitions.
As mentioned earlier, these are built to surpass both ANSI Z87.1 and MIL-DTL-43511D ratings, so they are pretty much stronger than you should ever need your airsoft goggles to be. One thing that is a bit pet peeve of mine is goggles fogging, and thankfully, these goggles are quite fog resistant. I've tested them both directly, by breathing onto the lens, as well as "real world" testing by wearing them in full battle rattle and using them as they're meant to be used. After some extended use, the anti fog coating on the lens may wear off, and if it does, ESS offers anti fog wipes to refresh the coating. Overall, I think I'll break down before these goggles do.
Designed specifically for airsoft use
Trusted protection by ESS
Unique look on the field
Interesting nose protection system
No fogging in my testing
A little bit pricy
Won't fit over most glasses - RX insert available though
I've been using my old Arena FlakJaks for years now, and they've finally started to show their age. I've had to tweak them a few times for comfort as well as to prevent fogging, and frankly, I'm sick of dealing with them. The new ESS Profile Airsoft goggles have officially replaced them for my use, and I feel both more comfortable and safer. My ONLY major complaint is that you can't wear them over most glasses, so I may have to pick up a RX insert and have an awesome setup. Overall, I want to thank ESS for their commitment to building safe and high performing products both for real combat usage, as well as specifically for airsoft use.
Many thanks again to ESS Airsoft, and of course, Airsoft Retreat!