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Shooting Glasses vs Safety Glasses: What’s The Difference?

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Shooting vs Safety Glasses

We’ve often been asked what the difference is between these two products, seeing as many people use them interchangeably. Though not completely sure, we think part of the reason is that they both have similar designs. Thus, making it difficult to immediately spot their distinctive features.

Also, they tend to be durable and relatively stronger than the typical prescription pair. Safety glasses are more appropriate in a factory setting while shooting glasses are designed to be used with a firearm.

But there’s more to it. And that’s why we thought it wise to draft this piece. We’re hoping by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll understand the difference.

Shooting Glasses Overview

Shooting Sunglasses
Image Credit: Chubykin Arkady, Shutterstock


 are meant to be worn by any firearm enthusiast looking to improve their overall skill. Even if you’re not shooting for practice or sport, it’s still important to have them on, if you’re planning to use your firearm. It’s quite easy for someone to lose an eye or even both, due to ricochets or errant bird shots. Eye burns are also a common occurrence, as there’s a high probability of the powder blowing back after discharge.

One of the prime functions of your shooting glasses is to guarantee shatterproof and impact-resistant benefits. But you’re advised to only go for leading eyewear brands while shopping because any substandard product has the potential of worsening a situation. Not to mention the hundreds of dollars that you’ll end up flushing down the drain.

ANSI Approved

If you’re a new consumer who knows absolutely nothing about the brands available, go for American products. You see, even though they all vary in quality, they are regulated by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

It’s a governing body that’s responsible for ensuring all products manufactured in this country—including shooting glasses—meet the stringent guidelines put in place to protect consumers. So if a manufacturer ends up submitting generic eyewear that’s less impact-resistant, they won’t be given the green light to introduce the product to the market.

Slipping past the hurdles undetected is virtually impossible, as the ANSI usually administers the drop-ball test as the last check for high-velocity impacts and ballistic resistance. They’ll drop a ball onto the lenses from a distance, just to gauge how strong they are. If they can withstand the force from what’s considered the standard distance, they’ll know the glasses are safe enough. But if they break or crack, they’ll be returned to the production plant.

army sunglass closeup
Image Credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A, Shutterstock

Material & Lens Color

The lenses are made of polycarbonate material to facilitate UVA and UVB protection. It’s also shatterproof, and more appropriate for users looking to maintain good vision in high-pressure situations.

The color of the lenses will depend on your personal preference and light output. You could either go for amber and yellow, or colors that are a lot darker. The difference is, dark lenses are designed to protect users from glare, while amber and yellow are meant to improve their sight. Especially if you’re shooting in an environment defined by low lighting.

If you’re out practicing target shooting, yellow lenses are the most ideal. They are known to improve visual contrast, and that’s exactly what you want to hear if you’re hoping to easily pick out targets amid obstacles. And the best part is, if you cannot see without your prescription glasses, you could request the brand to recalibrate your shooting glasses to fit your prescriptions. So, it will sort of be like purchasing a two-in-one product. 

Don’t forget to check the frames, though. They have to be titanium or plastic, if you want them to last. We’d prefer to buy shooting glasses that have adjustable frames, but they are as rare as the four-leaf clover. Getting one that doesn’t fog up is also another hassle.

  • Durable titanium frames
  • Improves visual contrast
  • ANSI approved
  • Impact-resistant
  • Doubles up as prescription glasses
  • Anti-glare
  • Offers UVA & UVB protection
  • Provides a wide variety of lens color options
  • Polycarbonate lens material
  • Shatterproof
  • Easily fogs up
  • Non-adjustable frames

Safety Glasses Overview

handyman wearing safety glasses
Image Credit: iqbalnuril, Pixabay

Safety glasses can still be used as shooting glasses, but they won’t be as effective. Mostly because they’re normally designed with features meant to cater to the needs of someone working in a setting not characterized by high-velocity impacts. They can be worn at home, in a laboratory, factory, et cetera.


If your workers are constantly complaining about eye problems, despite the fact that they always have their safety pairs on, chances are they got low-quality safety glasses. Simply covering your eyes with glass doesn’t mean that you’re fully protected against potential hazards.

Your vision can easily be damaged by debris or foreign objects. And these objects can be anything, ranging from the tiny invisible particles floating in the air to the chemicals reacting in the laboratory.

Mining, wielding, and construction work are all practices that require safety glasses. Without the right protection, the wood, dust, and dirt will easily gain access to your eyes’ sensory nerves, thereby causing irritation, and consequently, long-term damage.

Ultraviolet Filter

According to ophthalmologists, exposing your eyes to a high-intensity light is also dangerous. Even if it’s just for a short period of time. You’ll be subjecting your retina to torture, and eventually, grapple with retinopathy—sometimes referred to as the disease of the retina.

Safety glasses can also be worn while you’re working on your computer. So protection doesn’t just stop at the factory or in the laboratories. The light emanating from those digital screens has the potential to cause eye fatigue and permanent vision loss.

Man with safety glasses
Image By: voltamax, Pixabay

Chemical Resistance

Protecting yourself from pesticides and chemicals is the other reason why you should be wearing safety glasses. If they inadvertently get in your eyes, they won’t just burn, but cause inflammation. Your eyes will slowly swell, and your vision will be blurred.

Most people dislike wearing safety glasses while working because they loathe the way they fog up easily, how restrictive they feel, how uncomfortable they are, and their unattractiveness. We also recently learned that manufacturers in this market use the one-size-fits-all approach. They never think about the different applications, face shapes, or work settings.

As a safety manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your workers wear the appropriate safety eyewear. Top considerations to take into account include performance, comfortability, fit, and style.

Comfort & Scratch Resistance

The glasses should not exert pressure behind the worker’s ears, or on their nose’s bridge.  They have to always stay in place, and fit the face without leaving gaps. Their lenses should be wraparound, scratch-resistant, anti-fog, and wide-angled. This will ensure they don’t experience headaches after prolonged use or eye fatigue.

  • Peripheral vision is not an issue
  • Filters out ultraviolet light
  • Offers scratch resistance
  • Anti-fog
  • Dustproof & chemical-resistant
  • Easy to maintain
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Stylish
  • Not so resistant to high-velocity impact

Shooting Glasses vs Safety glasses: Which Is Better?

This will depend on who you’re asking. If you pose the question to a firearm enthusiast, they’ll say it’s obviously the shooting glasses. But if the same question is directed to construction workers, miners, laboratory technicians, or anyone working in a setting that’s relatively similar, they’ll likely go for the safety glasses.

All we can say is, if the level of protection being offered is your prime concern, go for the shooting glasses. They might fog every so often, but at least you won’t have to risk your safety by working with a pair that offers little to no resistance to high-velocity impact—the fog can be wiped off.

Shooting safety googles
Image By: Tkachev Dmitry, Shutterstock

The Z87 Build Quality Rating

Z87 is a rating provided by the American National Standards Institute. And it’s a good rating, seeing as it’s only given to products that have been tested and found to be resistant to corrosion, flammables, pesticides, chemicals, radiation, and high-velocity impacts. So the answer to your question is, yes, these glasses are safer to wear if you’re planning to go out shooting.

It’s important to note that the Z87 rating is a minimum requirement in the industry. Using such safety glasses for shooting is okay, but not recommended. We’re often advised to only work with military-grade standards when it comes to shooting. Therefore, the ideal standard rating should be the US MIL-PRF rating. 

construction worker glass
Image By: es_Gorodenkoff, Shutterstock

Factors To Consider Before Making a Purchase

The construction material should be at the top of your list. And not just the material used on the frames but also that used to construct the lenses. Polycarbonate lenses are our preferred choice because they are lightweight and offer high-impact resistance. The frames can be titanium, plastic, or aluminum. We don’t really have a preference in that department since all of them guarantee an optimum shooting performance by facilitating comfortability.

Then move on to the color of the lenses. You’ll want to go for a color that protects your eyes from glare while enhancing visual contrast. It’s imperative to also think about the lighting situation, as darker shades don’t work well in low lighting.

Last but not least, we have the prescriptions. But this doesn’t apply to every shooter—just those who rely on prescription glasses to go about their daily business. If your eyesight is weak, invest in a brand that offers prescription shooting glasses.

Comparison Table

Shooting Glasses Safety Glasses
Offers military eyewear protection standards Offers occupational eyewear protection standards
Are ANSI Z87 approved Not all meet the ANSI Z87 rating
Guarantees high-impact resistance Not ideal for high-impact resistance

Final Thoughts

Shooting glasses can be used as safety glasses, and the converse is true. However, if we had to choose between the two, there’s no doubt in our minds that the former wins by a mile. Even though they both guarantee durability and impact resistance, shooting glasses are superior in almost all departments.

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.