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When you realize you have a full life to live still, why hold back? Whether you hope to travel around the world in 80 days on the back of your Kawasaki, plan to turn your blacksmithing hobby into a full-time career, or simply make your living by mixing chemicals day in and day out, nothing is more valuable than your eyesight. When sparks start flying and you’ve got a deadline to meet, the last thing you need on your mind is keeping those sparks out of your face so you can keep your eye on the prize. Whether you work inside or outside, whether you wear prescription lenses or not, proper eye protection is no area for compromise.
Luckily, there are plenty of options out there, perfectly designed for just about any activity you could ever imagine. So, don a pair of safety glasses and show the world who’s boss.
Sometimes, all you need is something simple and straightforward to get the job done, and the Smith & Wesson Corporal does just that without breaking the bank. These safety glasses come with polycarbonate lenses that minimize visual distortion and provide full peripheral eye coverage thanks to the wraparound frame design. The lenses boast a UV400 rating for maximum UV protection and have earned both an ANSI Z87+ rating to resist high-speed impacts from flying debris, and an MIL-PRF-32432 ballistic rating, making them safe to use in almost any situation. The nose pads and ear pieces come with an anti-slip rubber coating to keep these half-frame safety glasses securely in place. The Corporal comes in three frame/lens color combinations: blue/clear, red/amber, and black/smoke (non-polarized). If you prefer a full frame version instead, check out the Smith & Wesson Major. Besides the frame design, the only real difference is that the Major only comes with blue frames regardless of lens color. Both the Corporal and the Major include a microfiber bag for safe storage and easy cleaning.
If we’re being perfectly honest, prescription lenses are expensive, and prescription safety glasses are no exception. Thankfully, the wraparound NoCry Over-Glasses Safety Glasses and their tinted twins provide an extremely cost-effective alternative. These safety glasses are OSHA-approved and have earned the ANSI Z87+ rating. The polycarbonate lenses provide scratch-resistant, UV400 protection with the clear lenses blocking 90 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays and the tinted version blocking 99 to 100 percent, all with minimal visual distortion. Both variants include three-position, adjustable ear pieces in order to allow for a semi-custom fit and a cushioned nose bridge for comfortable long-term wear. Due to their light weight, you can wear these safety glasses for hours on end and forget they’re even there.
When you need the absolute best safety glasses available, look no farther than the Wiley X Valor. These ballistic-rated wraparound safety glasses can handle just about anything thanks to their shatterproof Selenite polycarbonate lenses. These lenses provide full protection against the full range of UV light, and meet ANSI Z87+ standards, OSHA 1910.133(b)(1)(1) standards, and MIL-PRF-32432 ballistic standards, covering virtually every possible application while keeping visual distortion to a minimum. Available in both matte black and Kryptek® Typhon frames, the Valor offers lenses in gray, polarized smoke, or a three-pack of gray, clear, and rust for maximum versatility. With the interchangeable lens design, you can even pick up a set of replacement lenses should you ever lose, damage, or destroy your original pair(s). Those who love the Valor but have a smaller or narrower face structure should take a close look at the Wiley X Saint instead. While both the Valor and Saint are expensive, they are worth the extra cash. Need prescription lenses? Wiley X has you covered with both the Valor and the Saint.
Anyone looking for a reasonably-priced pair of polarized safety glasses should try on a pair of Edge Eyewear Kazbek sunglasses. These full frame safety sunglasses provide plenty of protection with an ANSI Z87+ rating, compliance with MCEPS GL-PD 10-12 for ballistic protection, and UV400 protection from 99.9 percent of UVA, UVB, and UVC light. Not only does the Kazbek come with polarized lenses, those lenses appear in multiple colors, including smoke, blue mirror, and copper. The lenses and flexible wraparound frame provide top-tier protection from light and debris, while Edge Eyewear’s Tapered Lens Technology helps reduce eye fatigue and visual distortion. The Kazbek’s frames were built with long-term wear in mind and include a rubber nose pad and straight temple arms for all-wear comfort.
For some, wraparound frames alone may not be enough to provide maximum protection from environmental hazards, but thanks to the closed-cell foam gaskets on the Pyramex Endeavor Plus, flying grains of sand suddenly lose their negative impact. These safety glasses feature scratch-resistant polycarbonate lenses capable of withstanding the worst that ANSI tests can throw at them, earning them a solid Z87+ rating. The wraparound frame, foam gaskets and brow shield, and soft, adjustable nose pads provide an almost airtight seal against flying hazards, yet the small ridges along the gasket edges allow just enough airflow to minimize fogging during long hours of wear. Due to the light weight and ergonomic frame design, the Endeavor Plus safety glasses provide a comfortable fit. With both clear and tinted lens offerings and 99 percent blockage of UVA, UVB, and UVC light, they are perfect for both indoor and outdoor applications. Best of all, these safety glasses are priced very affordably.
Why should you trust us
Shooting, working with chemicals, and similar activities all require proper PPE to keep you safe, and in one capacity or another, I have relied on my own safety glasses to help keep my eyes happy and healthy. Whether it’s a solid yet inexpensive pair of Smith & Wesson’s I can throw in my pack or a cool set of polarized Wiley X shades, I’ve put mine through their paces and know what to expect from a reliable pair of safety glasses (or tactical sunglasses). Whether I review flashlights or watches, bags or blades, I expect the best from my gear, and I’ll only do the same for you.
The most common types of safety glasses
If you wear prescription glasses on any sort of a regular basis, you understand the pain and frustration of finding safety glasses that fit over your glasses while still providing proper protection from flying debris, dripping oil, and other hazards. Thankfully, there are a number of designs for safety glasses that were made with you in mind.
Landscapers and countless other outdoor professionals need to protect themselves from both visible and invisible threats to their eyesight. Enter safety sunglasses. These safety glasses provide the same protection one would expect from traditional safety glasses with the added bonus of tinted lenses designed to protect against the assault of the sun. Whether you need simple UVA and UVB protection or anti-glare polarization on top of ultraviolet protection, there are plenty of options available on today’s market.
Ballistic safety glasses (a.k.a. shooting glasses) take traditional safety glasses and add in a few features you would expect on the range. Sometimes, the only difference between basic and ballistic safety glasses is a Z87+ rating rather than the baseline Z87. Shooting glasses often come in a variety of lens colors to accommodate different lighting situations with some models offering interchangeable lenses to decrease the number of frames you need to store in your range bag. For those planning to head downrange, top-end offerings include ballistic-rated frames, replacing basic plastics with beefed-up polymers designed to withstand some serious flying debris.
Small, airborne particles can be a significant concern for some individuals, but anti-particle safety glasses can save the day. An intermediate option between basic safety glasses and full-fledged safety goggles, anti-particle safety glasses use frame gaskets, usually made with closed-cell foam, to create a tight seal between the already minimal space between the frame and your face. Often, these gaskets will include ridges with very small gaps on the face-side of the gasket in order to minimize the inevitable fogging that comes with a complete seal.
What to look for when buying safety glasses
Above all else, make sure to find a pair of safety glasses that fit your face best. Just because one pair of safety glasses receives a boatload of glowing reviews does not necessarily mean that that same pair will fit you well. Whenever possible, try on your desired safety glasses before committing to them, because there’s nothing quite like hot brass stuck between your face and your new lenses to let you know you picked the wrong pair.
Due to the close-fitting nature of safety glasses, foggy lenses can become a problem in short order. As such, look for safety glasses that include an anti-fog treatment. While even lenses with the best treatment may still fog up on occasion, the fog should be short-lived, allowing you to maintain maximum visual and situational awareness. Most modern safety glasses include anti-fog treatments as a standard feature, although very inexpensive offerings may skimp in this area.
As a general rule of thumb, standard safety glasses (and regular sunglasses) do not fit the facial structure of most people of east Asian descent. This poor fit causes the bottom of the frames/lenses to rest on the wearer’s cheekbones and the nose bridge to float in space, making these safety glasses anything but safe. As such, shoppers of Asian descent should look for Asian-specific models of their preferred safety glasses. Different manufacturers may use different terminology when describing these frame specs, and these frames can be difficult to find. As such, we recommend contacting a manufacturer directly to see if the company produces your preferred safety glasses. For more information on this topic, check out this article by SportRx.
Depending on your intended application, you may need a pair of safety glasses with lenses that are not clear. Shooters at indoor ranges may need yellow or amber lenses in order to maximize the perceived light in their darker environs. Those spending plenty of time outside will want dark tinted lenses, and some will even insist on anti-glare polarization in their lenses. Planning to do a little welding? Buy some safety glasses with welding-specific lenses.
Without the proper safety rating, safety glasses are nothing more than mere plastic and metal. Enter the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Starting in 2003, ANSI established safety standards for eye protection with its Z87.1 testing protocol. Since then, the standards have been reevaluated and updated as necessary in 2010, 2015, and 2020. All safety glasses should bear a “Z87” marking, indicating their ability to resist basic impacts according to ANSI standards. The “Z87+” marking indicates high-speed impact resistance, a minimum standard for ballistic safety glasses. For an excellent breakdown on ANSI markings and their meanings, check out this article by Safety Glasses USA. Click here for more information about Z87.1-2020.
The bane of every lens’s existence is the almost inevitable drop they will sustain at some point in their lives. No matter how much you baby your lenses, getting a pair of safety glasses with scratch-resistant lenses will save you a good bit of frustration, especially if your hand-eye coordination matches that of a trout.
The advantages of owning a safety glasses
As the old saying goes, “Your eyes are the window to your soul.” On the flip side, your eyes are how you see the world. No matter where you go, you rely on your vision to both work hard and play hard. When your job or your hobbies include high airspeeds, flying particles, dripping fluids, or any number of potential hazards, safety glasses keep your eyesight in working order without compromising your performance. Of course, one of the great advantages to owning a pair of safety glasses for one activity is that in most cases they will adapt well to almost any other hazardous activity, especially if they come with interchangeable Z87+ lenses.
Pricing ranges for safety glasses
As a general rule, you can get out the door with a decent pair of general purpose safety glasses for under $20. Basic safety glasses often go for $15 or less, while similar prescription-friendly safety glasses may hit the $20 mark. Tinted lenses and frames with gaskets also appear in this price bracket, although these can be found at higher price points as well. For something a bit more specialized, like polarized or interchangeable lenses, you can expect to drop at least $25. If you want upper-tier features, such as ballistic frames or a top-shelf brand name, you can easily spend over $100.
How we chose our top picks
When reviewing new gear, we much prefer to go the hands-on route, but sometimes, a lack of resources may thwart our attempts to get our mitts on some cool gear. To make sure we don’t let you down, we take the time to listen to those who have firsthand experience, combing through reviews on Amazon, professional publications, enthusiast blogs, and more to bring you the best intel available. We sift through it all, keep the gold, and toss the rest.
In putting together this guide on safety glasses, we relied heavily on our own experiences with the Smith & Wesson Major, Wiley X Saint, and other offerings. We also found the input from the folks at SportRx to be quite helpful.