Written By
Published Oct. 12, 2021

Protecting your vision should be one of your top priorities. It doesn’t matter if you’re in combat, riding a motorcycle, or trimming the weeds in your yard — one piece of debris hitting your eye with enough force can cause lifelong vision impairment. Traditional sunglasses don’t do enough to protect your eyes, and at their worst, they can actually break and turn into shrapnel on impact. You can protect your eyes with a pair of ballistics glasses, and there are plenty of options available for everyday use. These days, you can find reputable manufacturers that offer ballistic glasses designed to be tactical, stylish, or a close enough match to replace the eye-pro that was destroyed in a firefight and now some civilian contractor at supply wants you to reimburse them out of pocket (not that we’re bitter or anything).

When comparing ballistic eyewear, there are two standards you need to know about. One is ANSI Z87.1. This standard is upheld by the American National Standards Institute and applies to civilian eye protection. ANSI will sell you a copy of their criteria for $60, but all you need to know is that this is how ballistics glasses are deemed to be adequate protection against workplace hazards that could affect workers’ eyes. Glasses that have been tested against and meet this standard will be marked with “Z87+” (or “Z87-2+” for prescription lenses) someplace visible.

The second standard is the U.S. military’s MIL-PRF 32432, which applies to ballistic glasses but not ballistic goggles. This military standard is significantly higher than the requirement set by ANSI Z87.1. Manufacturers identify ballistic glasses that meet this standard by naming MIL-PRF 32432 in the product description and literature or by noting that the product can be found on the Approved Protective Eyewear List.  

This list has something for everyone, so find a pair of ballistics glasses that fits your style and offers the protection your eyes deserve. 

Everybody loves Oakley sunglasses, and the Det Cord is no exception. These advanced lenses meet military ballistic standards, filter out all harmful ultraviolet light, and significantly reduce blue light. The high-quality lenses are designed to provide the undistorted and extremely crisp view you need. Anti-fog coating adds an extra layer of protection so you don’t have to choose between eye protection and clear vision. The comfortable frame is designed to contact your face only at the bridge of the nose and behind each ear so you’ll forget you’re even wearing them. Choose from four frame colors and either clear or gray lenses. A protective drawstring bag is included. These lenses are not polarized, but the other features make the Det Cord a solid choice.

Chances are, these ESS Eyewear Ice ballistic glasses are what you were issued from supply. Remember, those are the glasses you lost or broke somewhere along the line and now you have to replace them or fill out a missing gear statement. The included hard case contains one pair with clear lenses, one with gray lenses, and an elastic strap. Both are single-lens designs with minimalist frames like you’d see on cycling glasses. Naturally, these glasses meet military standards for shrapnel protection. They sit snug on the face and shouldn’t be worn on top of normal glasses. Getting two at this price is a deal, but these certainly aren’t as advanced as some of the other options on our list. Still, if you’re looking for standard-issue eye protection, this is it.

Smith Optics Elite ballistic glasses stray from the tactical trend to give you advanced eye protection with enough style to satisfy James Bond. The thin, composite frame can come with matte black or matte gunmetal finishes. Tinted polymer lenses meet military standards but are not polarized. They do protect against all ultraviolet rays, though. The nose pads adjust to your face for a comfortable fit, and they shed sweat for a secure fit all day. Although the frame is durable, these lenses are permanently mounted and cannot be replaced or switched out for another color. You’ll pay a premium for these stylish ballistic glasses, but they’re comfortable and look just as great around town as they do on the range.

Wiley X has been a major player in the ballistic glasses market for years, and they continue to build on their success with the Saber. These minimalist glasses are designed to be lightweight and provide a wide angle of view unimpeded by bulky frames. Get a perfect fit with the flexible nose piece and removable foam padding for the lenses. One-piece lenses meet military ballistic standards, are coated to block ultraviolet light, resist scratches, and are shaped to offer maximum optical clarity. You can even fit prescription lenses to these frames. Each pair comes with gray, orange, and clear lens options that can be switched out in seconds. These glasses come with a cleaning cloth, retention strap, and hard clamshell case.

Get PPE to match all those rifle accessories with a pair of Magpul Radius ballistic glasses. Non-polarized options are available with clear and gray lenses, but we recommend the polarized gray lenses for the best clarity if you need to look through glass or across water — both of which can wreak havoc on your vision with glare. These glasses use advanced materials to be noticeably light without sacrificing any strength or protection from shrapnel. The lenses are coated to repel water and oily residues that can fog and impede your vision. Little details like stainless steel screws, soft nose pads, and a low profile that fits under your cover or kevlar make these a great fit for anyone. At this price, these premium ballistic glasses are a tremendous value, too.

Those of you hunting for a pair of ladies’ ballistic glasses on a budget should take a hard look at the Under Armour Battlewrap sunglasses. This option cuts costs by not using polarized lenses, but you’ll still get excellent ultraviolet protection. These glasses are also designed to improve peripheral vision with lenses that don’t distort your view. The durable frame is lightweight and provides a snug fit for all-day comfort. An adjustable nose pad is a pleasant surprise at this price. These glasses do sit close to the face, so don’t plan on wearing them over corrective lenses. Four lens and frame color combinations are available; all meet military ballistic standards. Throw in a lifetime warranty and these are a real bargain.

If you’d rather have the extra protection of goggles than traditional ballistic glasses, these goggles from Revision Military are a solid choice. In addition to keeping your eyes safe from shrapnel and dust, these are likely to keep your resident grouchy first sergeant happy. Revision Military identifies these goggles as satisfying ANSI Z87.1, MIL-DTL-43511D, and MIL-PRF-31013 safety standards. Clear and smoked polycarbonate lenses are included, and both receive anti-fog coating for clear vision in all weather conditions. The extra-wide frame is intended to provide an unobstructed field of view on the battlefield. A soft case is provided, but it isn’t compatible with MOLLE, unfortunately. We’ll be the first to say there are times when glasses are better than goggles, and times when goggles are better than glasses. It can’t hurt to have both bases covered.

Types of shooting glasses

Ballistic glasses must meet certain standards for how they respond to impacts. Civilian standards, as defined by the American National Standards Institute, require protective equipment to pass tests designed to replicate hazards found in industrial and personal settings. Glasses that meet these standards are marked with “Z87+” to indicate their compliance with NASI/ISEA Z87.1. 

Military standards are much higher and require protective glasses to withstand shrapnel traveling at higher speeds. Ballistic glasses that meet the standards found in MIL-PRF-31013 (or MIL-DTL-43511D for goggles) may be added to the Authorized Protective Eyewear List and marked with the “APEL” label.  

Key features of shooting glasses

  • Protection: Not all safety glasses are the same. The PPE you see at the hardware store might be fine for operating a circular saw, but you’ll need more than that to protect your eyes in combat. We only selected ballistic eyewear that satisfies MIL-PRF-31013 for inclusion on this list.
  • Lenses: When selecting a pair of ballistic glasses, think about the situations in which they’ll need to perform. Polarization is available and does a great job of reducing glare. Common lens colors include gray, clear, and amber.
  • Fit: It’s important to find ballistic glasses that fit your face well. Think about things like size and shape. Do you prefer adjustable nose pads? Do wide or narrow frames fit your face better? Don’t be tempted to buy based on appearances alone. 
  • Style: Let’s be honest, you’re not likely to wear glasses if you don’t like how they look. Luckily, ballistic glasses come in all styles. We found excellent examples with tactical, athletic, and casual appearances. 
  • Durability: Ballistic lenses and frames need to take a beating. Forget about scratches from non-microfiber cleaning cloths, your PPE needs to save your eyes from shrapnel. This is no time to pinch pennies, so don’t show up with a pair of bargain-basement shop glasses and expect them to do any good.

Benefits of shooting glasses

Ballistic glasses can make the difference between shaking off an impact and permanently losing your eyesight. Aside from combat, they should be worn any time you step onto the firing line or ride a motorcycle or UTV with an open-faced helmet. Fortunately, there are options to fit anyone’s personal style. Big-name brands like Oakley, Under Armour, and Smith have come alongside tactical brands like Wiley X, ESS, and Magpul to provide protective eyewear that exceeds military standards. 

Shooting glasses pricing

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: PPE is not something you should cheap out on. Affordable ballistic glasses will run you about $50. These glasses will drastically outperform anything you’ll find at the hardware store. By moving into the $100 to $150 price range, you’ll be able to choose from more style-conscious options that look good enough to wear every day. Any glasses marked with the APEL designation are sufficient for American military standards, so don’t feel like you need to spend more to get more protection.

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