PSA & Reminder: Wear Safety Glasses While Shooting

I’ve been there and done that. In a rush to get through a limited range session with plenty to do, I simply did not put on eye protection for a new gun with new ammo. While the worst that happened was a hang-fire, it certainly reminded me of my own idiocy.

As we get deep into the hunting and holiday seasons, make sure to wear your eye protection. Of note, sunglasses do NOT count as eye protection, only lenses that are specially rated to meet or beat the ANSI safety rating are good to go. Most sunglasses are not ANSI tested or rated and use a non-ballistic material base for the lenses. This can create a very dangerous situation for incoming shrapnel, where the glasses can add to the debris entering your eye.

With today’s fashionable, low-cost, and low-profile eyewear, there simply is no excuse to forget one’s “eyes” . Modern poly-carbonate technologies have even advanced to avoid fogging through coatings and sprays.

Fortunately, one can look outside the shooting industry for less expensive excellent eyewear. Both U-Line and Grianger, known for industrial supply, have a multitude of glasses that meet the ANSI requirements, including pairs down to just a few dollars a piece. We use these daily for manufacturing and at least once a year, they save eyesight (if only from oil squirting under high pressure)!

I’m personally a fan of ESS, which is good to go:

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Renegade

    Quality eye pro that fits well is another important aspect.

    I was using a recip saw to cut away the cat on my old Jeep. The safety glasses I was wearing were of decent quality, but there was a gap between the top of the frame and my forehead. Some metal shards managed to get around the glasses and embed themselves in my right eye. Ended up taking 2 trips to the hospital to pull everything out. I got lucky and suffered no loss of vision.

    Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I now buy much better eye pro.

    • Bill

      I come from a background where instructors mandated the wear of ball caps just to close that gap. I hate hats.

  • Cayton Jones

    Which ansi rating do the glasses need to meet/exceed?

    • Bill

      Z.81, I have to look up the mil equivalent, there is an ARPEL list from the Army that specifies exactly what models meet mil spec.

      • Precious Roy

        Z87.1 is the high impact ANSI spec.

  • flyingburgers

    Actually, the law says nonprescription and prescription glasses and sunglasses sold in the US have to meet a minimum level of impact resistance, see 21 CFR 801.410. If you want significantly better protection, you need to make sure the glasses are marked Z87+, meaning high-impact. You also need to make sure they’re 2010 version or later since those specify a minimum eye coverage area.

    I think that in general, the reason why normal glasses and sunglasses don’t meet Z87+ is that the coverage area is too small, particularly the corners, and that thin frames come apart under impact.

    I’ll also mention if you wear prescription lenses, getting a separate pair with safety frames can be big bucks, that insurance usually won’t pay for. The coverage area is too big to make into prescription lenses, so you end up with uncomfortable over-the-glasses designs or ones with inserts, which nearly as bad.

  • FarmerB

    As somebody who lost (for non-impact medical reasons) 70% of my vision in one eye this year – it was a real shock as to what that would be like permanently and/or in both eyes. Really – when it happens to you, it’s terrible. One thing that shocked me is just how close we are to having our lives completely ruined. It could have cost me my job/livelihood, my passions/sports, my enjoyment of the outdoors, my mobility (no drivers license), everything. Scary. Luckily, the eye is back to 100% vision. Really, wear it.

    • noob

      I’m glad you got through it. I’ve got blind relatives and while you can have great quality of life with low vision/no vision there are things that are just no-go without vision.

    • Jwedel1231

      Glad you got back to 100%! Everything we do is based on vision, and your story alone is enough to convince me.

  • Bill

    I don’t know what kind of range you were on, but a RSO/staffer/instructor shouldn’t have let that happen. I don’t let ANYONE on the range w/o eye pro, and keep inexpensive pairs, and earplugs. from an industrial supply place like those mentioned, to visitors or people who forget theirs.

    • James

      I’ve been to two ranges that didn’t have RSOs, One didn’t have anyone, but this article is also meant to remind people who shoot on their own property as well.

      • Bill

        Thus my disclaimer about “type of range.” I’m literally deadly serious about eye and ear protection, and the need for an easily accessible GSW kit when shooting. I own as many safety glasses as holsters, and push for cops to wear them on duty; eye pro reduced a huge number of injuries in the military, and when a prisoner spits in their face or the wind shifts while they are hosing somebody with OC or they get into a foot pursuit through the woods at night right into a berry or multiflora thicket they’ll realize that maybe it wasn’t such a silly idea after all.

    • hydepark

      I would say I told him so ( which I have – told Alex in numerous articles I thought he was a fool for skipping the eye pro) but I wouldn’t get any more of a hat tip if I did. Pretty much every video (machine guns included) is the wrong message to new / less-experienced shooters. Eyes and ears are mandatory. He’s lucky. Stupid, but lucky.

  • LT

    I have a shotgun pellet embedded in my cheek from about 10 years ago that reminds me to always wear eyepro. If that pellet had been 1″ off and I didn’t have eye protection, I would have lost that eye. Helps me emphasize the importance to others, too.

  • Precious Roy

    I have some Gargoyles sunglasses that are ANSI Z87.1 rated and milspec. I hope that any fragments flying at my eyes will be less effective than a .22. I always wear eye protection at the range but somehow forget with power tools or in the yard a lot. I’m gonna win me a Darwin Award yet.

    “The ANSI Z87.1-2003 standard includes requirements for basic impact and high impact protection. In the basic impact test, a 1 in (2.54 cm) steel ball is dropped on the lens from a height of 50 in (127 cm). In the high velocity test, a 1/4 in (6.35 mm) steel ball is shot at the lens at 150 ft/s (45.72 m/s). To pass both tests, no part of the lens may touch the eye.”

    I think I read where it’s supposed to take a .22 shot to the lens and not impact the eye not sure if that matches up right with that excerpt above.

  • Evan

    I have about 6 or 7 pairs of WileyX’s back from my Marine Corps days that I (occasionally) wear while shooting. Most of the time I don’t bother with eye pro though. I find I shoot better without it, and I’ve never had a problem with anything getting in my eyes. Ears, yeah. I always wear plugs. I’m deaf enough.

  • Joshua

    this. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in machine shops, and I’ve seen some idiotic mistakes lead to high velocity shrapnel, I’ve yet to see someone hurt by it, touch wood, but I’ve seen a piece of quarter inch round steel eight inches long cross the shop and embed itself in the wall by the eyewash stand. That is an area where you don’t expect to be slinging things around at high velocity. Course if only I’d learned the lesson on ear pro. before damaging my hearing…

  • I’m glad you mentioned the issue of oils under high pressure. I experimented using oil instead of grease on my AR15 bolt carrier group, and it sprayed oil in my face with every shot. Thankfully I was wearing safety glasses.