Choosing Eye Protection for Shooting

Going to the range often involves taking a wide range of equipment, some optional and some absolutely necessary. Proper eye protection falls into the latter category. Not having proper ballistic eyewear can interfere with your ability to see the target clearly, allow dirt and debris to enter your eye (further obstructing your vision), or even result in a serious injury from flying brass or bullet fragments. But selecting the right eye protection can be a daunting task, even for seasoned shooters. So, instead of blindly roaming the sporting goods store and selecting the highest-priced pair (that means they’re the best right?), let us help you understand what you really need.

Protection Means Safety Glasses

The first thing you need to understand is that proper eye protection does not mean the old pair of sunglasses you found in your truck’s glovebox. Yes, they may provide clarity in the sun, but that is about it. They will not guarantee protection from dust, debris, or flying brass. You need to purchase a pair of safety glasses specifically designed to protect your eyes from impact, especially ballistic impact.

There are two main safety ratings you need to consider, three if you are in the military and plan on wearing on duty:

  • 1. OSHA Safety Standard 1910.133(a)(2): This standard requires impact-resistant lenses and side protection, which helps prevent entry of dirt, debris, and flying objects, in a work setting.
  • 2. ANSI Article Z87.1 and Z87.3: This establishes standards for impact resistance as set by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).
  • 3. U.S. Military MIL-V-43511C: This is the minimum standard for U.S. Military-issued eyewear. Personally purchased eyewear must also meet this standard, as well as additional regulations regarding color, style, etc., prior to being worn on duty.

While it is not important that you know and understand the specific requirements of each standard, it is important that any eyewear you select meets at least one of these standards. Simply review the packaging or manufacturer’s website. If any of these standards have been met, it will be clearly identified in the “Specifications” section.

Material

There is a wide range of lens materials available, but there are only a few that offer the impact resistance you need. The most popular material is polycarbonate, which is the same material used to produce bullet-resistant glass for cars. This is one of the lightest, most impact-resistant materials available at a cost-effective price. Other materials, including Trivex and SR-91, are possible options, each with certain pros and cons. Trivex is even lighter than polycarbonate and offers superior optical quality, but it is very expensive, meaning few manufacturers currently utilize it. SR-91 weighs even less than either polycarbonate or Trivex and offers optical clarity similar to that offered by Trivex. However, as it is a proprietary material, few companies currently have access to it. Because lenses made from SR-91 are polarized, they are not recommended for every shooting situation, though they are an excellent option for handgun shooters.

Side Protection

As stated earlier, one of the reasons you wear eye protection on the range is to prevent injury from dust, dirt, debris, or flying objects. Wearing regular sunglasses, even if outfitted with safety lenses, may not offer the full level of protection you need. It is important to select a pair of eye protection that includes side protection, either with a wrap-around style, side-mounted shields, or even goggles.

Lens Options

One of the more confusing aspects of purchasing eye protection is the wide selection of lens colors available. Do you need grey, clear, amber, green, or all four? Is one color better for daylight and another for nighttime? The answer to both questions is yes. Lens color is more than just a matter of personal preference. Most experts would agree that a well-equipped shooting bag will include a wide range of shooting glasses with different lens colors, including dark, clear, and yellow/amber. Dark lenses obviously work best on bright sunny days. Amber-brown lenses are an excellent choice for overcast days. Yellow, orange, or clear lenses are best for night shooting. Because of this, and to give you a greater choice, many manufacturers offer frames with interchangeable lenses.

If you decide to get a single pair of safety glasses without interchangeable lenses, most experts agree that it’s best to select glasses with yellow lenses, which offer improved contrast and can also be used a night.

Ready to buy your next pair of ballistic glasses? US Patriot has a huge selection from some of the most respected manufacturers. Shop here.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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