What Does Ballistic Rated Mean?

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 impact protection, and this standard differs quite a lot from that of safety eyewear for civilians. Basically, ballistic rated eyewear is designed and tested to survive the military’s high speed impact and fragmentation standards.

Civilian vs. Military Standards

The civilian standard for safety eyewear is indicated by a Z87+ marking which denotes meeting ANSI Z87.1(American National Standards Institute) standards. 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 High Impact and ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 industrial safety standard for eye protection. Safety eyewear meeting these standards are used in a variety of industrial and personal applications.

The Military’s rigorous MIL-PRF 32432 Ballistic Fragmentation standard uses tests similar to those in the ANSI Z87.1 standard, however, 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, along with additional criteria, may qualify to be listed on the APEL (Authorized Protective Eyewear List), which indicates the product is approved for individuals serving in the US Army.

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

Ballistic-rated sunglasses are a necessity for today’s military and law enforcement personnel.

Most military-grade eyewear will meet ANSI certifications, however, normal ANSI-certified safety glasses will not be APEL certified. The impact standards required for APEL certification 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 impact standards for goggles are even more rigorous!

In addition to impact standards, the US Army also requires that ballistic eyewear is functional, reasonably comfortable, contains no bright colors or distracting designs, and is 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).

How To Identifying Non-APEL Ballistic Eyewear

Unfortunately, for non-APEL certified eyewear, there are no special product markings to make identifying ballistic rated eyewear easy. Safety glasses that meeting military ballistic standards can only be identified by reading the manufacturer’s product description. Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and see a “Vo” marking on the frame or lens. However, this marking appears to be falling out of favor with most manufacturers.

How To Identify APEL Certified 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 listed on APEL.

Currently, the best way to know 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 tested and 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 the risk of impact injury to the eyes for individuals in the military.

Wiley X PT-1 APEL Marking Example

Example of the APEL marking on a pair of Wiley X PT-1 Safety Glasses

Where can I find Ballistic-Rated Eyewear?

Most manufacturers of ballistic eyewear will list which of their styles meet or exceed military impact standards on their packaging or in the sales descriptions. Safety Glasses USA has a dedicated Ballistic Eyewear Section to make the selection process even easier.

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 or contains the APEL certification marking.