Choosing the Right Lens for Your Duty Eyewear

Choosing a new pair of glasses often comes down to your personal preference on style and design. Some people prefer a slim and sleek look, while others prefer a bulkier design. Some people like their lenses to sport a mirrored look, while others prefer a classic grey lens. When you are in the military, choosing the right eyewear extends far beyond superficial looks and must take into account numerous safety features.

Most sunglasses offered on the market are not designed to be worn in a tactical environment and, therefore, do not come with safety lenses built in. If you plan to wear your glasses while on duty, safety lenses are an absolute necessity to protect yourself from shrapnel and other hazardous projectiles. The need for safety eyewear is so important that the Army publishes what is known as APEL, or the Authorized Protective Eyewear List.

The glasses on this list meet the minimum standards set by the military for use while on duty. While standard glasses you find in retail stores may use plastic lenses, these glasses are constructed with polycarbonate lenses in order to shield your eyes from damage. The heavy duty polycarbonate material is designed not to shatter when struck by a flying projectile. By not shattering, you are less likely to sustain an eye injury while on duty.

EyewearThe lenses on the list are made with polycarbonate for protection, but merely using polycarbonate lenses does not make a pair of glasses acceptable for wear while on duty. To ensure that they are safe to wear, the lenses must meet or exceed ANSI Z87.1-2010 High Velocity and High Mass Impact Standards. These standards, published by the American National Standards Institute, identify what a standard pair of safety glasses should be capable of doing during wear. The standards are so thorough that they are referenced by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) as the minimum requirement for safety eyewear in the workplace.

The ANSI standards measure an eyewear’s performance in two high impact tests: a lens retention test and a high velocity test. In the lens retention test, a pointed projectile weighing 500 grams (1.1 pounds) is dropped onto the eyewear from a height of 50 inches. To pass the test, “no pieces can break free from the inside of the protector, the lens cannot fracture, and the lens must remain in the frame or product housing.” In the high velocity test, 6 impact points are subjected to a blow from a steel ball projectile measuring ¼ inch wide at a speed of 150 feet per second or 102 miles per hour. To pass the test, the glasses must meet the same criteria as the lens retention test, plus the eye and head may not be contacted through deflection.

In addition to using polycarbonate lenses that meet or exceed ANSI standards, glasses worn on duty must also comply with MCEPS GL-PD 10-12 military ballistic standards as well as Mil-Spec MIL-PRF-32432 guidelines. These guidelines touch on aesthetic portions of the eyewear, including the look and coloration of the glasses, in addition to the safety features. The next time you are in the market for a pair of glasses to wear while on duty, remember that your needs go beyond the general look and feel and include compliance with several layers of safety standards designed to shield your eyes and protect you while in the field.

Do the lenses in your duty eyewear meet the standards for wear in the US military? Make sure they do before your next trip downrange.

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.

US Patriot Tactical

US Patriot is a veteran owned and operated US-based retailer supplying boots, uniforms, apparel and gear to military and law enforcement personnel. By soldiers for soldiers. Visit them online at
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