What type of eye protection should you wear when shooting a firearm? This is a critical topic to discuss if you’re interested in hunting, doing a bit of target practice to relieve some stress, or starting a position in security or the military.
The human eye is one of the most fragile organs in the human body. It’s important to wear proper safety gear when using dangerous tools and equipment. In this guide, we’ll discuss the right type of eye protection to wear when you’re using weapons.
Why Do You Need Eye Protection for Gun Ranges?
Eye injuries are pretty uncommon on shooting ranges. However, safety shooting glasses can:
- Protect your eyes from projected objects like shrapnel
- Provide protection from dust and other particles
- Offer sun and wind protection
- Keep eyewear and contact lenses in better condition
In addition to these protective benefits, your eyewear can also improve your shooting performance, because it can allow you to see clearer in limited or bright light conditions.
What Type of Eye Protection Should You Wear When Shooting a Firearm?
Any type of glasses, even prescription glasses, will offer more protection for your eyes compared to no eyewear at all. Sunglasses can also be a better option compared to average spectacles, because this type of eyewear tends to cover a larger portion of the eye and will also protect your eyes from UV damage.
For optimal protection, it is always best to wear something that’s specifically designed to shield your eyes from debris, hot gasses or steam, and harmful UV rays. Here’s a quick look at the main types of safety glasses you should consider to protect your eyes.
Shooting glasses or safety glasses are specially designed to allow air to circulate around the eyewear so your field of vision doesn’t fog. These glasses are usually made from a type of clear toughened plastic or safety glass, a type of toughened or laminated glass that won’t splinter when broken.
This type of eyewear is great for protecting your eyes from projected elements like gunpowder or shrapnel but it probably won’t block out any dust, pollen, or gasses because of the open frame.
Shooting glasses can be sufficient for target shooting and light conditions but usually are not efficient for tactical and combat fields.
Goggles fit tightly around the face, and offer better protection from dust, chemicals, residue, and gunpowder because these elements won’t be able to reach your eyes from the side. Goggles can be designed with many features and tend to be the ultimate solution. They allow you to breathe and move with ease and they stay in place even as you move around on tactical fields.
The only downside to safety goggles is they can restrict your field of vision since you won’t be able to see through the frame.
Face shields are also referred to as facial warmers and are designed to protect your entire face from projected objects, liquids, and gasses. This type of eyewear can be used on target ranges and in extreme combat situations.
This type of eyewear protection tends to accommodate your prescription eyewear much better, since they don’t fit directly over the ears. A bit bulky, they can restrict your breathing a little and tend to become fogged from moisture in your breath.
What Are the Most Important Features for Quality Shooting Eyewear Protection?
Protective eyewear can come with a huge variety of features, and there are different standards for various lines of work or disciplines. Here’s a quick look at the most important features to look for if you want maximum protection for your eyes.
The lens material is one of the most important features of safety glasses because it can affect the impact resistance of the glasses. Most modern shooting glasses are made from polycarbonate, a material used for making bullet-resistant glass.
The impact resistance of safety glasses is usually manufactured to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards and can give weapons owners a good idea of the level of impact protection glasses will offer. If glasses have an 87.1 standard, they’re likely not a good option, because they may not include shatterproof lenses or won’t offer the required level of resistance.
You can also acquire shooting glasses designed to meet U.S. military standards. These types of shooting glasses undergo MIL-PRF-31013 testing and should be able to stop a .15 bullet fired directly into the lens. U.S. military standard safety glasses offer proper eye protection under extreme conditions and are the best safety wear to use on shooting ranges.
Side protection refers to the level of protection your shooting glasses or goggles will offer from the side. As mentioned before, goggles tend to offer more protection from the side because they form a tight seal around your eyes.
Shooting glasses or goggles are usually designed according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, and should meet a minimum standard for impact resistance and side protection.
Protection from UV rays can make a world of difference in your performance when you’re doing target practice in an open field or when you go hunting.
Shooting or hunting glasses can be designed with different types of coatings, and might offer different types of protection from UV radiation, including the following:
- UVA protection – This type of lens will protect you from sun-related drug reactions like sunburn or eye damage.
- UVB protection – This is the most common and important form of lens layer used in safety glasses. UVB glasses will protect your eyes from sunburn and prolonged eye damage caused by UV rays.
Protective eyewear can offer different levels of UV protection, but it is always better to focus on glasses that can block 99 – 100% of UV rays. This is essential so you can stay comfortable and protected when you’re out on the field.
Safety glasses tend to come in a wide range of interesting lens colors. Some manufacturers even design their tinted lenses with rainbow coatings that reflect different colors at different angles. For some, the lens color doesn’t make much difference in the view, but it’s possible you may see better with certain tints.
You can also look for safety glasses with interchangeable lenses. With these types of goggles, you can switch between different lens colors to accommodate locations and lighting conditions.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular shooting lens colors.
Grey, Smokey, or Grey-Green
These are ideal for outdoor environments because they’ll block out the glare but won’t alter your color perception. They’re also suitable for hunters who need to order prescription shooting glasses since the tones suit a wider range of shooting environments.
Amber, Brown, or Tan
These colors can be more effective for cloudy conditions because they tend to block out more diffused light. These lens colors also enhance the color and depth of your surroundings.
Orange or yellow lenses are some of the most common safety glass colors because they block out diffused light very well and can give you a brighter view in limited or low-light conditions. On the other hand, these lens colors can alter your color perception.
Purple or vermillion lenses are great for reducing glare and are good for target practice. Most do, however, feel that it’s best not to use these for hunting or tactical purposes, because they’ll slightly alter your color perception.
So, what type of eye protection should you wear when shooting a firearm? Many different types of high-impact lenses can be great for protecting your eyes when you’re handling dangerous weapons.
For light shooting conditions or target practice, ANSI-rated glasses should be sufficient, and it is best to focus on purple lenses.
For military or tactical shooting and hunting, it is better to focus on U.S. military standard goggles that have interchangeable lenses. These allow you to see clearly in different lighting conditions and receive all the needed protection.
If you want to learn more about what type of eye protection you should wear when shooting a firearm or want to learn more about weapons, then look at some of our other guides on Gun Cleaning HQ. With these guides, you can find all the latest and best gear and shooting accessories.