How To Identify Ballistic Rated Eyewear

What’s the difference between Ballistic Eyewear & Safety Glasses?

Ballistic Eyewear from Smith Optics Elite

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

Ballistic rated safety glasses and sunglasses are becoming one of the fastest growing segments of protective eyewear, however there seems to be a considerable amount of confusion on what actually classifies eyewear as ballistic rated.

I’ve read several comments in forums, blog posts and customer emails where the “Z87″ markings on a frame or lens are mistakenly interpreted as proof of ballistic certification. The “Z87″ markings on safety glasses and goggles indicate the eyewear is compliant with the ANSI Z87.1-2003 High Impact and ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010 industrial safety standard for eye protection. Although the Military Ballistic Standard 662 uses some test 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). Here’s a chart from Smith Optics Elite showing the differences in projectile size, weight and velocity for each test.

ballistic eyewear velocity standards

As you can see in the above chart there is a significant difference between the Military Ballistic Standards and ANSI Z87.1, in fact the MIL-PRF-31013 test is producing approximately 7 times more impact energy than the ANSI Z87.1 standard.

How to identify Ballistic Rated Eyewear?

Unfortunately verifying your protective eyewear is ballistic certified is not always easy. Unlike the ANSI standards, which requires all safety glasses and goggles to be marked with some “Z87″ indicator, the Military Ballistic Standards do NOT have a marking requirement. In other words the military currently doesn’t require ballistic eyewear to be labeled in any manner to verify compliance with its ballistic standards. With that being said, most if not all ballistic rated eyewear will be marked with “Z87″, since they already exceed the requirements of that standard. Keep in mind the standards are developed by separate entities and certification of one doesn’t automatically mean the certification of the other.

*Update: Future APEL regulations will require “APEL” to be marked on the frame for all APEL approved eyewear. The exact time frame for implementation of this requirement is unknown, however some manufacturers such as Wiley-X have already started to mark some of their certified eyewear with “APEL”.

You should also check the U.S. Army’s official APEL (Authorized Protective Eyewear) List for a comprehensive listing of approved ballistic eyewear for combat operations. If you’re serving in the U.S. Military you can only wear the ballistic eyewear shown on the APEL list, so make sure you have a current version. Most manufacturers will list which of their styles meet/exceed Military Ballistic Standards on the product package and sales descriptions. If you’re unable to find certification information on the box or sales descriptions I recommend contacting the manufacturer and request they produce a certificate verifying their eyewear has passed the Military Ballistic Standards test. Without a certificate you should consider looking for another product.

Where can I find Ballistic Rated Eyewear?

To make things a little easier, we’ve created a Ballistic Eyewear Section on our website that allows you to sort all of our ballistic rated eyewear by name or price.

Here’s a list of popular brands that offer ballistic rated styles: