Wearing good eye protection while shooting is critical to a good shooting experience and ensures you can come back and do it again. From powder blast to spent casings to target debris, all sorts of items are flying through the air and could get stuck in your eye or hit your eye and damage it, causing temporary or even permanent vision loss.
Beginner shooters often settle for cheap, flimsy eye protection because it’s easy to find and inexpensive. And, for some early shooting applications, they may work just fine. But, as you shoot more and advance your skills, investing in some sturdier eye protection will last and stand up to flying debris better is better for the long run.
Let’s look at five great options on the higher end of the price range, listed in alphabetical order.
Gatorz Magnum ANSI Z87.1 Mil-Spec Ballistic
Talk about slimline, the Gatorz Magnum ANSI Z87.1 Mil-Spec Ballistic eye protection looks as sleek as the gator it’s modeled after, with a wraparound frame and narrow eye slits. It’s also gator-tough, with impact testing to withstand two hits from a .15-caliber projectile between 700 to 725 fps without cracking, shattering, or dislodging. The lenses also feature anti-fog and hydro-oleophobic (oil/grease repellant) coatings and UV 400 protection and meet MIL PRF 32432A, clause 4.8.4 ballistic fragmentation protection. MSRP is $240.
Grayman & Company Keyhole KH11 Sunglasses
The Keyhole from Grayman & Company, an organization specializing in outfitting high-end protection details for the ultra-rich, is not what you might expect in eye protection. It looks nothing like the typical eye pro you’d throw into your range bag. Instead, the Keyhole is a throwback style. Think James Dean, Men in Black, and the Robert De Niro character from Heat. Why is it called Keyhole? Remember the Cold War days when the US had a series of Keyhole satellites hovering over the USSR? Back then, covert operations were all the rage. These ballistic-rated sunglasses slip covertly into everyday wear, and no one is the wiser. MRSP is, well, if you have to ask, you can’t afford them ($260).
When we think of high-end optical products in the gun world, Leupold is one of the first names that pop to mind. From long-range rifle scopes to pistol red dots to comfortable and clear eye protection, if it has a lens, Leupold makes it and makes it well. The Switchback is no exception. The lenses offer ANSI Z87.1+ ballistic protection, the signature Diamondcoat scratch resistance, Guardian hydro-phobic coating that resists chemicals and water, daylight UV protection, and a no-slip nose bridge so you won’t keep pushing your glasses back onto your nose all day. MSRP is $189.99.
Long known for its rugged and reliable firearms-related products, Magpul recently added the Helix as part of its ballistic-rated eyewear collection. The Helix is ballistic rated to Z87+ and MIL-PRF 32432 standards, and the lightweight frames are constructed of TR90NZZ for strength, flexibility, and impact protection. Each set of Helix eye pro comes with one lens of your color choice, and additional lenses that click into the frame are available separately. The anti-fog lenses are treated with an oleophobic layer that protects against chemical damage and scratches, increasing the life of the eyewear. In addition to this, the Helix is available in polarized or non-polarized versions. MSRP for both versions is $149.
Revision ShadowStrike Ballistic Sunglasses Polarized Kit
Built for the military, the Revision ShadowStrike Ballistic Sunglasses Polarized Kit comprises a low-profile frame, polarized lenses, a microfiber pouch and a hard case to protect everything. The lenses are tested up to MIL-PRF-32432A clause 18.104.22.168 Ballistic fragmentation characteristics Class 1 spectacles, ANSI Z87.1-2015 clause 6 Impact-Rated Protector Requirements (Z87+), and EN 166 clause 7.3.4 Protection against high-speed particles at extremes of temperature (FT). The frames are available in black, FDE, and gray and come with a repositionable bridge piece that adjusts to your nose, making for easier lens changes. MSRP is $126.99.