Your eyes are one of the most important pieces of kit in your arsenal. They’re also the most fragile. By some estimates, ocular trauma represents between 10% and 15% of combat-related injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s why wearing shooting glasses in combat zones and dangerous environments is so essential.
There are tons of options out there for ballistic glasses, and the choices can get overwhelming. Your personal style obviously plays a role but thinking about how you plan to use your glasses will help you determine what’s best for you. Will you be serving in combat? Are you in law enforcement and want extra defense on the job? Do you need a standard pair of ANSI-certified sunglasses, or the total vision coverage afforded by ballistic goggles?
What does ANSI Z87.1 mean?
Without getting too technical, the American National Standards Institute Z87.1 is a rating eyewear frames, and more importantly, their lenses earn if they pass certain high-mass and high-velocity tests. An appropriately certified frame will bear the ANSI Z87.1 marking, either on the inside temple or stamped on the lens itself.
It’s important—and perhaps a little obvious—to note that ballistic eyewear and ANSI Z87.1-rated frames are not bulletproof. The standard simply says that the frame can withstand getting hit by high-velocity fragments. Imagine a bullet striking a concrete wall next to a soldier’s face. The force of the round ejects dust and concrete particles traveling in all directions from the point of impact. An ANSI-certified frame stands a better chance of deflecting those particles than a non-certified one.
Purpose of the Eyewear
How do you plan to use your ballistic eyewear? (By the way, “looking cool” is a perfectly valid answer to that question.)
Do you want a dedicated pair of shooting glasses you only plan to use at the range? If so, you can’t go wrong with the Oakley M-Frame, a popular range-ready shooter’s frame with lenses that meet or exceed ballistic fragmentation impact standards.
If you’re using hearing protection or comms gear, choose a frame with thinner temples, like the Crossbow Suppressor ONE. The Oakley M-Frame is also compatible with comms gear.
For tactical professionals who need goggles, go with the ANSI-certified OTG Goggles System by Rothco. The top and bottom vents prevent the goggles from fogging over, and the moveable hinges prevent the goggles from pulling away from your face while worn over a helmet.
For total coverage, choose the Alpha Operator Kit, a customizable three-part version of the M-Frame, and modify it depending on the scenario. If you need a shooter’s frame, use the M-Frame as normal. For dusty, windy conditions, add the soft rubberized gasket for a snug fit around your eyes to block out the elements. And if you find yourself going up against tear gas, use the include Ballistic Halo goggles for total vision protection. It’s everything you need for eye protection, all in one case.
You also don’t need be a uniformed servicemember to benefit from the security of ballistic certified frames. Construction workers also wear ballistic eyewear due to risks posed by “spalling”—fragments of metal, wood, and concrete. If you’re in a field like this, make sure the next frame you bring to the job site is ballistic certified.
Admit it. Ballistic shades are just cooler.
You don’t have to be a tactical professional to wear shooting glasses. It never hurts to be prepared, and the protection offered by a ballistic-certified frame offers peace of mind. It’s one of those situations where you’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. You could be passing by some dude mowing his lawn and he runs over a rock, which ricochets off the blades sending the stone directly into your face. You don’t know what could happen. I don’t know.
The point is, this is definitely an excuse to look cool. I’m not recommending you go around wearing a pair of infantry goggles all the time, but I am recommending the next time you’re shopping for a pair of shades, choose a pair with that ANSI-certification checkbox.
So not only will you look awesome in a pair of Logan sunglasses by SPY, you’re cruising around in comfort knowing your eyes are protected. Go with the tried-and-true Half Jacket by Oakley, a sleek frame that’s just as popular with athletes as it is with tactical professionals.
We can also recommend Gatorz, a made-in-the-USA tactical eyewear brand especially popular among veterans. The milspec version of the bestselling Magnum is a rock-solid choice here, with ballistic ANSI-certified protection, and all-metal wraparound coverage that will withstand years of tough work.
Your service community might have regulations in place dictating what you can and cannot wear on the job. Every branch of the military and most law enforcement departments nationwide keep their regs simple: Just stick with black and you’ll be ok. And we mean all black. You’ll get dinged if you come to work wearing a pair of black shades with shiny silver decoration on the temple. Fortunately, a bunch of brands have responded to this need, with many modifying their bestsellers to be in line with current uniform standards. Take the bestselling Wraptor by Gatorz, for example. Their ANSI-certified frame features an all-blacked out design which even applies to the brand’s logo on the temple.
Bottom line? Stick with black. Choose ANSI-certified. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy. Be sure to check thoroughly for any regulations your department may have before grabbing a pair of shooting glasses.
Ballistic certified glasses are essential for folks who spend a lot of time around guns. But they’re also important for construction workers, safety inspectors, welders, and any other job you can think about where things might go flying in unexpected directions. They’re also a great choice for anyone who wants to be prepared for the unexpected. Whether you choose a pair for the mission or just weekend hangouts, protecting your vision is highly recommended.
And just become safety comes first doesn’t necessarily mean style must come second. There’s a huge collection of shooting glasses available on GovX that offers the protection you need and the tactical, professional look you want.