The term “ballistics” means “the science that studies the movement of objects (such as bullets or rockets) that are shot or forced to move forward through the air.” In the world of safety eyewear, ballistics means military-grade, and this standard differs quite a lot from that of safety eyewear for civilians.

Civilian vs. Ballistics Standards

The civilian standard for safety eyewear is indicated by a Z87 marking which denotes meeting ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards while the Military Ballistic Standard 662 indicates a product meets military-grade standards. The difference between the two is important.

The Z87 markings on safety glasses and goggles indicate that eyewear is compliant with ANSI Z87.1-2003 High Impact and ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010 industrial safety standard for eye protection. Safety eyewear meeting these standards are used in a variety of settings from personal use, such as while doing yard work or home-improvement projects, to industrial use, such as in factories or for road construction crews.

Although the Military Ballistic Standard 662 uses tests similar to those used in the Z87 standards, the requirements are much different. There are two main Military Ballistic Standards used for testing, MIL-PRF-31013 (spectacles) and MIL-DTL-43511D (goggles). Eyewear that passes these tests are listed on APEL (Authorized Protective Eyewear List), which indicates the product is approved for individuals serving in a military setting and for those working in law enforcement.

Ballistic-rated sunglasses are a popular choice for todays military and law enforcement personnel.

Ballistic-rated sunglasses are a popular choice for todays military and law enforcement personnel.

Also, while likely all military-grade eyewear meet ANSI certifications, all ANSI-certified eyewear “” in fact most “” is not APEL certified because the standards are much higher than those for ANSI. In fact, the MIL-PRF-31013 testing produces approximately 7 times more impact energy than the ANSI Z87.1 standard, and the military standards for goggles are even more rigorous.

In addition to impact standards, the US Army also requires that ballistic eyewear be functional, reasonably comfortable, not faddish with bright colors and distracting designs, and able to be disinfected. In addition, they have requirements for optical clarity, protection from UV rays, fit, chemical resistance and environmental stability (no changes when exposed to a range of temperatures and humidity levels).

Identifying Ballistic Eyewear

While all ANSI-certified eyewear must be indicated as such with the Z87 marking somewhere on the product, up until recently there was no such requirement for APEL eyewear. However, starting in January 2016, the APEL mark of approval indicating eyewear is authorized for military use will be required on all ballistic eyewear.

Currently, the only way to know for sure if eyewear meets APEL standards is by checking the Qualified Products List (QPL) provided and updated regularly by PEO Soldier. Only eyewear on this list has been validated as meeting military requirements for ballistic fragment protection. Eyewear not on this list is not authorized for wear during combat, training, or when there is risk of impact injury to the eyes for individuals in the military.

Note that most manufacturers of ballistic eyewear will list which of their styles meet or exceed APEL standards on the product, its packaging or in the sales descriptions. Many even have a Ballistic Eyewear Section to make the selection process even simpler. However, it’s important to still make sure any product purchased for military use is listed on the QPL, at least until the marking requirement takes effect in 2016.

Where can I find Ballistic-Rated Eyewear?

Most manufacturers of ballistic eyewear will list which of their styles meet or exceed APEL standards on the product, its packaging or in the sales descriptions. Many retailers even have a Ballistic Eyewear Section to make the selection process even simpler.

To help get you started, here’s a list of popular brands offering ballistic-rated styles:

Even with the help provided by most safety eyewear manufacturers and retailers, it’s important to still make sure any product purchased for military use is listed on the QPL, at least until the marking requirement takes effect in 2016.