Are shooting glasses the same as safety glasses?

What's the Difference Between Safety Glasses and Shooting Glasses?

So you just got done planning a day of clay pigeon shooting with your buddies. Right on! You’ve got all your favorite gear ready to go, and you can’t wait. However, you’re missing one thing, quality protective eyewear.

But that’s no big deal, right? You can simply pop on your everyday pair of shades and be fine. NO! Protective eyewear is a CRUCIAL and absolutely necessary aspect of shooting so what is the difference between Shooting Glasses and regular old Safety glasses.

Your eyes are precious, and it’s important that you properly protect them. As such, selecting appropriate safety/shooting glasses is a must. It can be a tad confusing picking out the right pair though. In fact, a lot of shooters often confuse safety glasses with shooting glasses.

So what is the difference between safety glasses and shooting glasses? Are shooting glasses the same as safety glasses? How are they different? To understand, we need to first cover the different safety ratings involved.

Making Sense of Safety Ratings

So when it comes to safety/shooting glasses, there are three main eye protection ratings. They are:




Whoa! That’s a jumbled mess of letters and numbers! Let’s break them down to find out what each of them means, and how they can affect our choice of eyewear.

Understanding ANSI-Z87.1

So first up is ANSI-Z87.1. To make it less confusing, let’s break down each aspect of the name. First, ANSI is an acronym that stands for the American National Standards Institute. They’re a nonprofit that creates safety standards for all sorts of equipment.

Next, the Z87.1 refers to a specific clause of a greater document. That clause references specific safety standards that the glasses meet.

The testing process involves a 1″ steel ball being dropped from a height of 50″

This standard includes a set of hazards that the glasses are resistant to. In specific, ANSI-Z87.1 protects against:

-Basic blunt impact

-Non-ionizing radiation (UV also known as Ultra Violet)



-Fine dust particles

Think of ANSI like this, they create industrial safety standards. MIL-PRF, on the other hand, are military standards for active combat.

Finally, ANSI-certified glasses are mainly considered safety glasses. They’re ideal for using power tools and general shop or job-site conditions

You may have noticed that ballistic or projectile resistance wasn’t on the list of protected hazards. That’s because ANSI-Z87.1 glasses are only tested to resist against basic impact. While some shooters use these glasses, you’re much better off with glasses tested to a much higher level of impact. These are still good safety glasses great for outside work involving low-velocity impact.

How to identify: You can easily identify glasses that meet the ANSI-Z87.1 standard. They will have a product marking of “Z87” either on the frame, lens, or temple arms.

z87 stamp-min

Understanding ANSI-Z87.1+

So what is this ANSI-Z87.1+ that you speak of? Well, it’s pretty simple. It meets all the ANSI-Z87.1 standards, except it’s effective against high-velocity impact. Hence, the plus symbol. It’s Z87.1, but stronger!

That means these glasses will offer extra protection from tougher impacts. Not bad! Yet, while they’re tested for high-velocity impact, they’re still not ballistic resistant. We’ll get to that in a second!

The testing process involves: 

  • a 1/4″ steel ball shot at 100mph
  • a 500 gram weighted “missile” dropped from 50″
  • a weighted needle dropped on the glasses

In addition, there are also other product markings related to ANSI certifications. Here are a few examples:

Welding: If you see a ‘W’, it indicates the glasses or shield are sufficiently tinted to block the intense UV light created by a welding arc. There will also be a shade number.

Prescription lenses: If you’re using prescription lenses, you will see Z87-2 or Z87-2+.

Fine dust resistance: D5 stands for protection from fine particles of dust/dirt.

There are many other product markings, but we won’t go into them all. Let’s look at an example of a product marking:


Based on the information above, we can understand what this lens protects against. The Z87-2 means they’re prescription lenses. Next, the ‘+’ sign indicates they’re high-velocity impact tested. Lastly, The D5 indicates protection against fine dust particles.

It’s important to remember while ANSI-Z87.1+ are stronger, they’re still safety glasses. To qualify as real shooting glasses, they need to be bullet resistant.

How to identify: Look for a “Z87+” Stamp, or the manufacturers identifying mark followed by a “+”. In the 2nd example we see “GX” followed by a “+” indicating the glasses have been tested for high impact

z87+ marking 2-min
z87+ marking 1-min
[convertkit form=1246507]

Understanding Ballistic Resistance (MIL-PRF-32432)

So now we’re at the big boy, MIL-PRF-32432. This is a safety standard created and used by the US Military. This standard is for use in active combat. Thus, these glasses feature ballistic resistance and protection from high-velocity impact.

So just how tough are these glasses? The ANSI-Z87.1+ can handle high-velocity impact, so why aren’t they ballistic resistant? Well, the testing standards for MIL-PRF-32432 are FAR higher than ANSI’s. To be precise, the testing involves impact energy that’s a whole 7 times greater than the Z87.1+ test.

Also, MIL-PRF-32432 glasses have to be durable enough to be a part of the APEL. That stands for the Authorized Protective Eyewear List. It’s a list of all accepted eyewear for use in the US Military. There are rigorous standards to be on the APEL, and many ANSI-certifications don’t make the cut!

The testing process involves

  • withstanding a 0.15 caliber, 5.8 grain, T37 (chisel tip) projectile. The projectile will hit the lenses at a velocity of roughly 640 to 660 feet per second, or 440 mph.
  • The lenses must tot crack, shatter or pop out of the frames.
  • For a more detailed look, check out our article on Ballistic Resistance

In short, these are true shooting glasses. Bear in mind that many glasses will advertise themselves as shooting glasses. The proof is in the pudding, though. If they aren’t MIL-PRF-32432-certified and ballistic resistant, they’re just cheap imitators!

MIL-PRF-32432 glasses also have to be:



-Free of distracting designs or colors

-Able to disinfect

Unfortunately, there are no official markings for MIL-PRF-32432 or APEL-certified eyewear. So how are you supposed to know? Well, there are two options.

For one, you could take a gander at the APEL. It will list all eyewear that meets their criteria! The most current APEL can be found on the PEO Soldier Website.

For two, you could read the manufacturer’s description of the glasses. Trust us, if they meet the rigorous MIL-PRF-32432 standards, they’ll be more than happy to let you know!

How to identify: Look for “MIL-PRF-32432” on the frame or glasses literature. Also, some manufactures (including GruntX) are using the “S” after the “+” to indicate a high strength product 

Ballistic rating stamp-min
z87+ marking 1-min

Breaking Down the Difference

All right, so we’ve gone over a lot of information! Now you know the difference between the three big safety ratings. However, we’re here to answer a very specific question. That is what’s the difference between safety glasses and shooting glasses?

Well, now you probably know. Safety glasses are ANSI-certified and offer basic to high-velocity impact protection. They also shield your eyes from dust, dirt, liquids, and chemical splashes.

True shooting glasses are MIL-PRF-32432 certified and offer ballistic resistance and high-velocity protection. This force is 7 times greater than the ANSI-Z87.1+ testing velocity!

Basically, if you’re going to do some serious shooting, you need ballistic resistance! It’s the best way to keep your eyes safe whether you’re hunting or target shooting. Your eyes will stay protected and locked on the target!

Putting It All Together

Now you should have an idea in mind of what you’re looking for in a pair of shooting glasses. Are shooting glasses the same as safety glasses? The answer is a big, fat NO!

If you’re after high-quality shooting glasses, look for the following qualities:

-MIL-PRF-32432 certification

-Rock-solid and durable

-Comfortable and stylish

-Flexible temple arms (for increased comfort while using hearing protection)

-Strategic lens color of your preference

By using this guide, you should have no problem finding the perfect shooting glasses for you! Have fun, stay safe, and happy shooting!

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