What Does Ballistic Rated Mean?

Understanding the term “Ballistics”

Ballistics is a discipline of science concerned with the motion and behavior of projectiles. In the world of safety and protection, the term “ballistic” is meant to demonstrate a higher testing standard and protection against projectiles and fragments encountered in a combat situation

Why Ballistic Rated

There is a distinct difference between military and civilian testing standards. I will get into the specifics in a moment. For now, let’s focus on the gun range.

Lets face it, when you step up to the line at the range you are putting yourself in an environment where projectiles are being forcibly launched at high speed down-range. Even if you a safe and experienced shooter, you still rely on everyone else on that firing line to keep you safe. An accident, misfire, or ricochet can and does happen.

The protection we wear in these environments needs to be up to the same standard.

Civilian Safety Ratings: Basic Impact vs. High-velocity impact

I will first discuss the civilian standards. They come in 2 level: standard and high impact.

It is important to note that even though OSHA and ANSI rely on this standard they do not certify manufacturers or glasses. ANSI only provides the testing procedures as a means of standardization.

ANSI Z87.1 Basic Impact Standard

This is the basic standard for glasses to be considered “safety glasses” and is the most widely used in the United States.

Testing Procedure:

  • 1” Steel ball dropped from 50”

As you can see from the test, this standard is not a great measure of how tough your glasses are. This is why safety managers are increasingly requiring high impact rated glasses for use on jobsites.

How to identify: Glasses and lenses are marked with “ANSI Z87.1” or simply “Z87”

ANSI Z87.1+ High Impact

The high impact standard is a much more through testing procedure. Always so look for the “+” marking on your safety glasses.

Testing Procedure:

  • High Impact Test: ¼” steel balls shot at 6 different locations on the lenses at 150FPS (100mph)
  • High Mass Test: 500g (18oz) steel “missile” dropped from 50”
  • Penetration Test: Weighted needle dropped form 50”

This testing is more through than the standard Z87 testing and simulates a blunt impact, a pointed hit, and a sharp poke. Given all the hazards you might come across at the range or jobsite a minimum of ANSI high impact rating is a must.

How to identify: Glasses and lenses are marked with “ANSI Z87.1+”,  “Z87+” or manufactures marking followed by a “+” on the lens or glasses arm

Military Impact Standards

MIL-PRF-32432 (Ballistic Resistant/ U.S. Mil Spec/ Ballistic Rated)

On the military testing side, the MIL-PRF-32432 testing standard is broken out into 2 separate categories. One for goggles and one for spectacles. In this article we will be focusing on the glasses (spectacles) testing because that is what is seen most often.

Testing Procedure:

  • Ballistic Fragmentation Test: 0.15 Caliber, 5.8 grain, T37 (chisel-tip) projectile shot at 640fps (440mph). The lenses must not crack, or puncture and the frames must retain the lenses

Bottom line is, your shooting glasses should be tested to the worst-case scenario in the environment you are operating. The ANSI High Impact testing simulates some of the hazards you might encounter on a job-site. Such as a shovel poke, tool drop, or debris. On the range, we are in an environment with high speed projectiles and need the best protection available.

How to Identify: Unfortunately, there are no standardized markings for ballistic rated glasses. Look for any of the following markings on your glasses or in the manufacturer’s literature calling out the glasses have passed ballistic testing

  • MIL-PRF-32432
  • MIL-PRF-31013 (Previous standard. Equivalent to MIL-PRF-32432)
  • Ballistic Resistance
  • U.S. Mil Spec
  • Ballistic Rated
  • APEL (Authorized Protective Eyewear List)

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