If you’ve ever been to a shooting range, you know that they always make you wear protective glasses. You’re told that it is for your own protection, but can ballistic glasses really protect you from a speeding bullet?
Ballistic glasses CANNOT stop bullets. Ballistic glasses are military-grade, tested by military procedures, but the most they can protect your eyes from are rubber bullets, not metal bullets.
However, just because ballistic glasses can’t stop a bullet (they’re not as powerful as Superman) doesn’t mean they’re not useful. Keep reading to learn everything about ballistic glasses and whether or not you should wear eyewear while handling firearms.
Before we can dive into what these glasses can do for you, it’s important to know what exactly “ballistic glasses” are, and how certain glasses get that title.
“Ballistic” isn’t just a fancy name for good, protective eyewear. “Ballistic” is a title given to eyewear that pass certain tests.
So, how do they know what glasses are safe enough to wear? In order for glasses to qualify as “ballistic” eyewear, they must undergo a series of tests, one of which shoots projectiles directly at the eyewear at 102.3 mph. These tests are done by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and if eyewear passes this test, it will be certified by the ANSI as “ballistic eyewear” and become available for commercial use.
The eyewear used by the military has even higher standards. Their goggles are tested by being shot at with metal balls going at a velocity of 375 mph, whereas the glasses are shot at with metal balls going 444 mph. Even if this test is passed, the goggles and glasses still must be comfortable, functional, resistant to climate/environmental changes, chemically resistant, and have a minimalistic design. No bright colors or flashy patterns; after all, it would be hard to stay hidden in the bushes if your protective goggles looked like something out of The Bee Movie.
There are many other things to look for when judging good eyewear versus cheap kinds. It’s no wonder that the military test includes functionality; some eyewear might be able to protect you from most projectiles coming at you at high speeds, but it might be horrible at staying on your face while running or while in active combat scenarios.
More often than not, ballistic glasses will also be tinted. This isn’t a fashion statement; ballistic glasses are made to protect soldiers from all sorts of scenarios, including (but not limited to) explosions, long exposure to UV rays, and different lighting in different environments. The list below explains what tint color works best for what environment:
- Red: These glasses tend to enhance details within environments and depth perception.
- Green: These heighten contrast, but not as much as other colors on this list.
- Blue: These glasses are the best at blocking out yellow light.
- Indoor/Outdoor: These are great for when you’re going to use them inside and outside, as the lenses change tints from the amount of sun coming through them. They also help block out glare.
- Dark Copper: These enhance contrast, and they work best for blocking out large amounts of sunlight and glare, especially if the sunlight will cause the eyes to get tired faster.
- Amber: These also enhance contrast and work best for low light conditions. Unsurprisingly, they also block out blue lighting.
- Vermillion: The color of this tint is a brownish-red hue, and it is very useful in enhancing contrast in surroundings.
Click below to see a page where the functionality and protection of the most popular ballistic glasses were tested and then ranked:
Do you really NEED eye protection?
If you’re read up to this point, you might have the question: “If ballistic glasses can’t even protect against bullets, why wear ‘protective’ glasses anyway?”
While ballistic glasses can’t completely protect your eyes from a metal, speeding bullet, there are plenty of other things that they do protect you from, which is why you should always make sure to wear protective eyewear while shooting.
The number of projectiles and things that can harm your eyes while shooting is infinite. Gun powder or cleaning materials can get stuck in your eyes while you’re cleaning your firearm between rounds. Any number of random projectiles could fire off from other shooters around you, from branches to the bullet shells. The possibilities are endless, and there are plenty of things that can and will go wrong if you’re not careful.
If you are out shooting without any protective gear on, and you hit your target, that’s amazing! It’s less amazing, however, if you hit something that split into pieces and now is sending flying projects back through the air, aimed right at you. It’s also not great if the gun misfires or something goes wrong on the inside, and the entire thing explodes. That last case is extremely rare, but since people and guns are both notoriously imperfect, it could happen, and it would suck if you lost your vision because of it.
All of those worst-case scenarios might seem extreme, but there are hundreds upon thousands upon millions of cases where someone used a gun improperly (or properly) and something went wrong. It’s normal to be desensitized to guns, after all, they show up all the time online and in movies and even in books, to the point where someone pulling out a gun in a story is normal. But a gun is a weapon; a weapon that shoots off extremely hot balls of metal at high speeds with a controlled explosion.
This is the main reason gun ranges insist that you have eye protection. When working with firearms, wearing protective glasses is just safer. You don’t have to buy military-grade ballistic glasses, but making sure you have some level of protection while at the shooting range is better than nothing.
In the end, “do I really need to wear eye protection?” is similar to the question “do I have to wear a bicycle helmet?” No, you don’t have to do anything, but you’ll really wish you had one on if you find your head cracked open like an egg by some stranger’s car.