What Does Ballistic Rated Eyewear Mean?

Posted by Bridget Reed on

Feeling confused about what you need in terms of safety eyewear for the range? That’s understandable. Marketing misinformation can lead you to believe there’s a civilian standard for ballistic eyewear. (Hint: there isn’t). 

Searching for ballistics, recreational shooting, and eyewear certifications can lead you down a never-ending rabbit hole of large, thick goggles and glasses that may or may not suit your particular needs. How can you tell if your eyewear meets the safety standards for shooting?

At Stoggles, we understand it’s tough to sift through all the information about personal protective equipment, especially regarding eyewear standards.

We did the work for you and put together this handy-dandy guide to understand ballistic-rated eyewear and safety eyewear that protects you when you’re at the range.

Plus, we cover the other safety eyewear you need in your life — mowing the lawn on the weekends might not remind you of Call of Duty, but someone needs to keep your Homeowner’s Association happy.

What Does “Ballistics” Mean?

Ballistics — it sounds intimidating and high-tech, and to some degree, it is. Ballistics is the study of projectiles. Firearms, explosives, missiles, and rockets. Anything that explodes, fires, or travels at high speeds is considered ballistics material

What Is Ballistics Rated Eyewear?

So, following our logic chain, we can surmise that ballistics-rated eyewear is eyewear that can withstand (virtually) any type of ballistics attack. We’re talking about military-grade, warzone-level protection, like bullets, explosives, and high-speed impact from numerous projectiles: these are all must-haves for ballistic-rated eyewear. 

Specifically, ballistics-rated eyewear is only certified as “ballistic rated” by the U.S. military. A ballistics rating ensures the eyewear has been tested to withstand high-speed impact and fragmentation standards specified by the military and law enforcement personnel.

Civilian standards for impact testing are different, and there is no civilian ballistic standard or type of civilian ballistic testing. If you see a pair of safety glasses or goggles rated “civilian ballistic certified,” it’s simply a sneaky marketing ploy. Although civilian tested glasses are the standard used on civilian shooting ranges, they are not typically ballistic rated.

What Is the Civilian Standard for Impact Resistance?

Let’s talk about an organization that makes a big impact (yes, pun intended) — ANSI.

The American National Standards Institute governs civilian impact resistance. ANSI develops standards for safety that are implemented by government agencies, like OSHA, to keep the workplace safe. Even if you select safety glasses for your home, getting ANSI-certified glasses is always a bright idea.

ANSI develops the testing methods used to classify glasses as OSHA compliant by certifying them as safe. There are different methods of ANSI testing, but high-quality safety glasses usually have the ANSI Z87.1-2020 certification.

Since “certified awesome” isn’t an actual standard, we’ll have to settle for ANSI-rated specs. 

What Is ANSI Z87.1-2020 Certification?

The ANSI impact resistance standard is regularly updated to reflect new information, changes, and safety features.

Last updated in 2020, it has two critical impact tests for safety eyewear: 

  • High Mass Impact Test. During this test, a pair of safety glasses or goggles are placed on a headform. A weighted ball bearing is dropped onto the lenses from a specified height. For the glasses or goggles to pass the test, they must not shatter or break from the impact. 
  • High-Velocity Impact Test. This test involves firing a ball bearing at a pair of glasses or goggles on a headform at 150 feet per second. To pass the test, the glasses must not crack or break. 

There are other requirements for the Z87.1-2020 certification, like requirements for anti-fog lenses, durability against exposure to certain types of radiation and chemicals, flames, and other corrosives. Basically, everything that can ruin your day (besides stepping on Legos, which no eyewear on Earth can protect you from).

How Can You Tell If Your Glasses Are ANSI Certified?

Determining whether your glasses are ANSI certified is easy. You’ll find an ANSI imprint somewhere on the body of your glasses, usually on the arm (like a super cool tattoo).

Normally, you’ll see Z87.1+ or ANSI Z87.1+ on the body of the glasses, letting you know the eyewear has passed the 2020 standard.

FAQ: What Is the Military Ballistic Standard?

The military standard for ballistic-rated eyewear is much different than the ANSI standard. The testing is more vigorous, involved, and thorough. There are even specifications for the color and comfort level of the eyewear, like no distracting emblems or bright colors. Sadly, neon pink camo does not make the cut. 

Military Ballistic Tests: Ballistic Protection Detection

Let’s talk about the “drop and give me 20 push-ups” version of testing eyewear:

The military uses several tests to rate ballistic eyewear. The testing requirements are outlined under the Military Ballistics Standard 662 in a subsection called MIL-PRF-31013. This subsection addresses the testing and standards for safety glasses. Section MIL-DTL-43511D governs the testing and standard requirements for ballistic goggles.

Additionally, section MIL-PRF-32432 covers ballistic fragmentation testing requirements and helps ensure that safety eyewear doesn’t fragment into microscopic pieces when struck or tested.

Get out your Number 2 pencils and some scratch paper because we’re about to review a whole bunch of numbers.

The testing standards for goggles are generally more strict than the testing standards for ballistic safety glasses. To pass a military ballistics test, the eyewear must resist cracking, breaking, shattering, or fragmentation when struck with a 0.15 caliber, 5.8 grain, T37 shaped projectile at a velocity of 640 to 660 feet per second.

That’s about 500 feet per second faster than the ANSI standard and approximately seven times more powerful. Ballistic-rated eyewear must pass these tests to be supportive enough for people on active duty who might see combat situations. 

Other Requirements for Military Ballistics Rated Specs

In addition to the strict standards for impact eyewear, there are also military standards the eyewear must meet for optical clarity, chemical resistance, temperature variance, UV protection, and mildew resistance.

Fun fact: eyewear that gets a ballistic rating must also be capable of being disinfected. 

How Can You Tell if Your Glasses Are Ballistic Rated? 

Unfortunately, there’s no special emblem or marking on any glasses to let you know they’ve been ballistic rated by the military. The only way to know for sure is to verify them with the military’s own database (what a cool sentence!).

This database lists the eyewear that has met the testing standards of military ballistic rated eyewear and is considered a part of the APEL, authorized protective eyewear list. This list is designed specifically for people serving in the Army to shop for protective eyewear that they can use on the job.

What Are the Differences Between ANSI and APEL Certifications?

While most APEL eyewear will also meet ANSI certifications (though it may not be ANSI certified), most ANSI-certified eyewear doesn’t meet APEL certifications, and it doesn’t need to. 

The amount of testing the military requires for ballistic grade eyewear isn’t really necessary for most jobs, home projects, and pastimes. Unless your job involves ballistic operations, you probably don’t need this level of high-intensity protection. 

Even shooting enthusiasts don’t need ballistic grade eyewear to enjoy the range. ANSI high-impact certification is adequate for most environments when eye safety is threatened.

Safety Eyewear: Specs You Need

All safety eyewear should meet some basic certifications and standards. At Stoggles, we make it our mission to create extremely safe safety eyewear, ANSI certified and completely protective (that actually looks and feels good). 

We also strive to solve another problem: non-compliance with safety eyewear requirements. If your safety eyewear is uncomfortable or unsightly, you’re less likely to wear it. Stoggles make it easy (and we’d argue fun) to protect your eyes all the time. 

Side and Top Shields

Your regular sunglasses and eyeglasses won’t cut the mustard for eye safety. They leave your eyes vulnerable in several places. The area above the eye near the eyebrow and the sides of your face near your temples are in danger… but you can save them: no cool action montage needed. 

Side and top shields attached to every pair of Stoggles ensure your protection against spills, splatters, and debris entering your eye area in those places. 

Impact Resistance

Why bother making safety eyewear if you aren’t going to test them to ANSI Z87.1-2020 standards? All Stoggles are tested to this standard and clearly marked. That way, you know you can depend on the durability and impact resistance of each pair. Impact protection makes a big impact — on your life but also… on your style

UV Blocking

Ultraviolet rays can damage your vision, even if you aren’t a habitual sunbather. Play it safe with UV blocking eyewear. Stoggles are crafted from lightweight, comfortable polycarbonate lens material, which is naturally UV blocking. 

Anti-Fog Lenses

Fogging glasses are incredibly dangerous, so dangerous that new ANSI standards require lenses to be treated with an anti-fogging chemical to prevent fogging in the first place. Better than anti-fog wipes, which only prevent fogging short-term, anti-fog lenses are a permanent solution.

Fogging glasses present two problems. First, they take you off task or out of the game, affecting productivity, sidelining you during your favorite pastime, or just frustrating your efforts to finish a little yard work. 

Second, they present a safety hazard. When you remove your glasses to wipe them down, you immediately place your eyes at risk. Keeping your glasses firmly affixed to your face at all times is the best way to keep them safe. 

Blue Light Blocking

Blue light is emitted by the sun and from devices like LED televisions, computers, and smartphones. The more we know about blue light, the more we understand that its ability to reach our retinas could permanently impact our eye health or, at the very least, disrupt our already fragile sleep schedule. 

Blue light can lead to eye strain, fatigue, and even blurry vision and headaches. Glasses infused with blue light blocking technology, like every pair of Stoggles, keep blue light away from your eyes, keeping them safe and feeling refreshed. 


Ballistic-rated eyewear is important, but mostly for military personnel. Most of us don’t need that level of protection, even if we’re spending a day on the range. For most eye hazards, ANSI Z87.1-2020 certification is the gold standard of eye protection. 

In addition to being some of the safest and highly certified protective eyewear opinions available, Stoggles also offer a unique feature virtually no other safety eyewear company does: aesthetically appealing style — vibe, meet science. 

Stoggles are available in several different lens shapes and numerous different colors. You can create a pair of Stoggles for work, home, or both. You’ll always get a great fit, with the ability to choose between two different sizes. 

Need corrective lenses? Don’t stuff your eyeglasses under uncomfortable goggles. Stoggles handles your prescription lens request in-house, saving you time and money. 

When you need reliable eyewear you can trust, Stoggles is the safety solution you need and also the style solution you need. Who says that PPE can’t be fashion?



ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020: Current Standard for Safety Glasses | ANSI

MIL-PRF/MIL-PRF-31013 | EverySpec.com

Wrong safety eyewear leading to eye strain, poor compliance | TheSafetyMag.com

Ballistic Material - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

authorized protective eyewear list (apel) | Military Times

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