What Are Rubber Bullets?
Rubber Bullets are projectiles coated in rubber fired from a standard firearm or specially constructed riot guns. Rubber bullets are often used in animal control or riot control. They are intended to be a less-lethal alternative to traditional ammunition to keep someone at bay without seriously injuring them. However, rubber bullets can still cause pain and injury. Common injuries from rubber bullets include welts, bruises, abrasions, and contusions. However, if misused, they may cause bone fractures, injuries to internal organs, or even death. In addition, your eyes are incredibly susceptible to damage when a projectile is involved and requires protection.
What Types Of Injuries Do Rubber Bullets Cause?
St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem conducted a study in 2003 to determine the type and severity of eye injuries caused by rubber bullets. They treated various injuries and found that orbital fractures are prevalent, meaning one or more bones around the eyeball can fracture or break. The tissues of the orbit are easily penetrated or torn, causing a range of damage, including retinal damage. In cases where the eye itself is hit, recovery is rare. More than half of the patients studied required surgery, and of those patients, 53% did not fully recover their vision. Rubber bullets can be and have caused severe eye injury to those unprotected.
Will Safety Glasses Stop Rubber Bullets?
Yes, safety glasses & goggles can stop a rubber bullet, provided the correct type of safety eyewear is used. While industrial-rated safety eyewear is ideal for protecting your eyes from work hazards. Ballistic-rated eyewear is designed and tested to protect your eyes from higher-velocity projectiles and debris typically found in combat environments.
What Eyewear Is Right For Me?
We highly recommend ballistic-rated safety glasses and goggles if you are concerned about protecting yourself from rubber bullets. While they typically have a slower velocity (200-500 fps) than standard ammunition, rubber bullets have more mass/weight. Therefore, they are at high risk for eye injury if they are not adequately protected. In addition, in the case of rubber bullets, you will likely come into contact with other dangers such as teargas, water cannons, flying debris, and even other people.
So what kind of protection do you need?
- Ballistic-rated safety glasses or goggles are your best bet for protecting your eyes from high-speed projectiles, including rubber bullets. A ballistic-rated lens is tested using stringent military standards and is designed to stop projectiles moving at higher velocities than industrial-rated lenses. The U.S. military standard requires (at a minimum) that ballistic eyewear can always withstand a 0.15 caliber, 5.8 grain, T37-shaped projectile at a velocity of 640 to 660 feet per second.
- An anti-fog coating on your glasses is an absolute must! It will help minimize and prevent your eyewear from fogging during strenuous activity or certain weather conditions.
- An airtight seal is something to seriously consider. If you are concerned about rubber bullets, it is likely you may come into contact with other risks such as teargas. An airtight seal will better protect you and your eyes against additional threats such as tear gas, dust, water cannons, etc. *Remember that ballistic-rated eyewear is not a substitute for a full-face gas mask. Many foam-padded goggles and safety glasses still allow air to flow through the lens or body of the eyewear. This means your eyes are still susceptible to teargas.
- A retaining strap will help keep your eyewear in place. A strap may also maintain comfort, especially if you wear other headwear such as hats, helmets, and/or gas masks.
Is Ballistic-Rated Eyewear Expensive?
Yes and no. Fortunately, ballistic-rated eyewear is available in all price ranges. You can find expensive models loaded with features from high-end brands such as Oakley SI, ESS, Smith Elite, Wiley X, and others. And, you can find more affordable styles from some popular brands well known for industrial eye protection.
The Pyramex I-Force Safety Glasses/Goggles is a good choice for all-encompassing and affordable eyewear. This eyewear comes in various anti-fog lens and strap options is military ballistic-rated, and is affordable.
What If I Wear Prescription Glasses?
Prescription eyeglass wearers should look for eye protection that fits over their glasses or can accommodate prescription inserts or lens carriers. Unfortunately, the vast majority of regular prescription eyewear is NOT safety rated, let alone capable of protecting one’s eyes against rubber bullets. An impact with a rubber bullet would be disastrous!
Wearing contact lenses in a protest environment is also highly discouraged, especially if teargas is probable. Contact lenses can trap chemicals and dust against your eye, increasing the likelihood of infection or corneal damage.
The Pyramex Capstone Ballistic Safety Goggle is an affordable fit-over goggle option. These goggles are ballistic-rated and can fit over prescription eyewear.
The Pyramex Cappture OTG Safety Glasses are a non-goggle option that fits over your prescription eyewear. These OTG safety glasses are ANSI Z87.1-2015 rated but not ballistic-rated. However, they offer optional anti-fog coatings, a unique temple arm that reduces interference with your Rx frames, and a rubber gasket for an improved facial seal.
Ballistic-rated OTG safety glasses such as the Elvex OVR-Spec II and Edge OSSA OTG are economical options for Rx wearers.
If you want safety eyewear that supports prescription inserts, there are several brands/models from Oakley SI, ESS, Smith Elite, and Wiley X in our Military & Tactical Goggle section.
Why Can’t I Wear Regular Safety Glasses?
Rubber bullets are potentially dangerous to any part of your body, especially your eyes and face. In the case of rubber bullets, you will likely come into contact with other potential dangers to your eyes, such as tear gas, dust, etc. This is why we recommend a ballistic-rated safety goggle, as they are typically best fitted for impact resistance, comfort, and versatility in strenuous activity. While certified to protect your eyes against industrial hazards, regular safety glasses are not ballistic-rated. Therefore, they may not fully protect you against the impact of a heavier, faster-moving projectile like a rubber bullet.
It’s essential to be prepared for the unexpected. While rubber bullets are intended to be a nonlethal alternative for crowd control, they can still be dangerous and have caused severe injuries to the unexpecting. Always be aware of the situation and the potential risks to your wellbeing, especially regarding eye safety. If you expect to be coming into contact with rubber bullets, you will likely be exposed to other threats. Be prepared by checking out our ballistic-rated safety glasses or goggles, the best protection against rubber bullets and common risks associated with crowd control.
Questions & Comments
Do you have questions or comments about this article? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
So would ANSI rated goggles offer adequate protection against rubber bullets, or do they also need to be ballistics rated?
Thank you for your question, Jacob. ANSI-rated industrial safety goggles are not exposed/tested to the higher velocities (650 fps) ballistic-rated goggles are subjected to. So, there is no way to be sure they can survive an impact from a projectile moving faster than 150 fps. If you expect to be in an environment with projectiles moving faster than 150 fps, I highly recommend wearing ballistic-rated eyewear vs standard industrial safety eyewear.