I live in West Texas. Our environment is known for lots of sun, wind, and extreme temperatures. Protecting your eyes is as big a part of survival as protecting the rest of your body and your equipment. Ballistic protection is essential, but protection from UV light, blowing dust, and weather factors are just as critical. Today I am looking at the best tactical sunglasses for survival.
There are hundreds of good sunglasses on the market, but not all of them have the features needed for a survival situation. Understanding what your sunglasses must do in a survival situation is critical to making good choices. Essentially, your survival sunglasses should
- Provide ballistic protection
- Protect your eyes from all sides
- Have polarized lenses
- Include high contrast lenses
There are a few other considerations when choosing tactical sunglasses that most people overlook and I will discuss those issues later in the article. If you are in a hurry, here are my top picks:
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Best Tactical Sunglasses: Top Picks
Outlaw Fugitive TAC by Outlaw Eyewear
Outlaw Eyewear’s Fugitive TAC ballistic sunglasses make our list for several points. The principal reason we choose to include the Outlaw Eyewear Fugitive TAC sunglasses is the all-metal construction of the frames. From the point of durability and strength, this feature alone is notable.
From a design standpoint, The Outlaw Fugitive TAC sunglasses meet almost all the requirements of any ballistic sunglasses that we consider. The feature list from Outlaw Eyewear emphasizes the overall quality of these ballistic sunglasses
- Black tactical aluminum frames provide maximum durability and comfort.
- Designed to fit under comm systems or helmets
- Adjustable frames for the best possible fit
- Edge to edge wind, dust, and projectile protection
- Full UV protection
- Upgradeable to prescription lenses that meet ANSI high-velocity impact certifications
- Dual-spring replaceable hinges
- ANSI Z87.1-2015 Impact certification
- 2-year performance plan warranty
The wrap-around style fits snuggly against the face and the wide lens shape allows full peripheral vision while maintaining optimum protection. With custom ground prescription lenses, clarity and focus remain constant at all angles of view.
The only checkbox left unmarked on our list of features we would like to see is a MIL-PRF certification. However, the ANSI 87.1 certification meets the requirements of most civilian shooters. For durability and strength, the aluminum-framed Outlaw Eyewear Fugitive TAC makes my list.
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GatorZ Magnum MilSpec Ballistic
Not to be outdone, GatorZ Eyewear brings the GatorZ Milspec Ballistic Magnum series to our list. These American made all aluminum sunglasses are MIL-PRF marked on the frames, making them acceptable for military use in high hazard or combat environments.
The Ballistic Magnum sunglasses design takes from the suggestions of combat veterans who understand the conditions that extreme use sunglasses must endure and the needs that these types of sunglasses must meet. The features list bears out the role these sunglasses need to fill.
- Made in the USA
- Military-grade aluminum frames
- Fully adjustable frames and nosepiece
- ANSI Z87.1 certified lens
- Mil-PRF 32423A rating
- Lifetime warranty
- Free shipping in the US
- Tru-ray optics
- Polycarbonate lenses
- Hydrophobic coatings
- Oleophobic coating (dirt and grease resistant)
- 100 percent UV protection
- Anti-Scratch coatings
- Anti-fog coatings
- Custom prescription lenses available for an extra charge
The GatorZ Ballistic Magnum glasses are wrap-around style frames with wide and tall lens openings. The Wide temple and hinge mounts provide extra protection and seal tightly against the face to inhibit dirt, wind, and fragments from getting to your eye.
Every checkbox on our wanted feature list gets a checkmark by GatorZ on the Magnum Milspec Ballistic sunglasses. For top of the line performance and styling, the GatorZ Magnum sunglasses rank at the top of our list.
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ESS Crossbow Kit
I have been wearing a pair of ESS Crossbow ballistic eye shields for the last ten years. I got my first pair surplus from a vet returning from overseas. He had an extra pair of military issue ESS Crossbow sunglasses complete with the extra lenses and accessories. I fell in love with these sunglasses.
I had to replace the original set of frames when my new puppy decided to adjust them. I am still wearing the second set of frames. I like these sunglasses for several reasons, not the least of which is the price. You can find ESS Crossbow eye shields for under $50. Not a bad price for a pair of sunglasses that meet all the safety certifications on our list.
- Anti-fog lenses
- ANSI rated polarized lenses
- Adaptable for hearing protection
- TriTech Fit frames with no pressure points
- ClearZone Flowcoat lens coatings
- Distortion-free ESSOptics
- Deadbolt lens lock for a secure lens to frame attachments
- OSHA compliant
- ANZI Z87.1-2015 certified
- CE EN 166 Certified
- MIL=PRF 32332A certified
You can’t go wrong selecting ESS optics and especially the Crossbow eye shields as your tactical survival sunglasses. I especially like the lens design, which does not have a lower frame. The lenses fit snuggly against my face around to the temples giving me unimpeded views.
The other feature that keeps me ordering from ESS is the prescription lens insert. A replacement nosepiece allows a frame insert attachment behind the lenses. Most local eyeglass stores can grind lenses to fit the frames meaning you don’t have to go back to the manufacturer of your sunglasses for replacement lenses.
The insert option is more economical in my mind. At my age, my bifocal prescription changes with almost every visit to my eye doctor. The ability to have lenses ground locally and to move the insert frame from one pair of ESS eye shields to another is a huge benefit.
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Revision Military Sawfly
Another favorite on my list is the Revision Military Sawfly eye shield kit. Like the ESS Crossbow, the Sawfly utilizes a single top frame to carry the lenses. The single top frame eliminates side frames and lower frames, allowing unrestricted fields of view. The wrap-around style lenses provide excellent protection and seal well against the face.
The Revision Military Sawfly sunglasses meet our check-offs without a miss. The features list is rich as well and can be customized to fit your needs. Revision offers the frames in three sizes to ensure a proper fit and offers a three-year limited warranty on the frames
- Comms compatible frame design
- Photochromic lens available
- Overmounted temple arms for long term comfort
- Distortion-free lens design and manufacturing
- Durable high-strength frame materials
- Three frame sizes for a perfect fit
- Easy Interchange lenses
- Compatible with Viper, Cobra and RX helmets
- Meets or exceeds MIL-PRF 32432 specifications
- ANSI Z87.1-202 rated
- CE Certified with EN 166, EN 170, and EN 172
The Sawfly Eyewear Polarized Deluxe Kit come with the following:
- Frame with adjustable arms
- Clear lens with clear nosepiece
- Polarized smoke lens with black nosepiece
- Yellow high contrast lens with black nosepiece
- Head strap
- Microfiber pouch
- Case with belt clip
- Reusable anti-fog lens cloth
The only box that the Revision Military Sawfly sunglasses fail to check is the prescription lens availability. Revision does not offer a prescription lens option or insert for the Sawfly line of sunglasses.
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Oakley Industrial M-Frame 2.0
No list would be complete without a pair of Oakley sunglasses. Oakley is synonymous with style, durability, and protection and the Oakley M-Frame 2.0 sunglasses don’t fail in any of these categories.
Long time favorites with law enforcement, Oakley sunglasses are seen in almost every corner of the world. A quick look through the features offered by Oakley makes it clear why they remain favorites for anyone in a high hazard or extreme condition situation.
- Oakley HDD Optics with Polaric Ellipsoid Technology
- Permanent anti-fog protection
- 100% UV protection
- Meets or exceeds ANSI Z87.1-2003/2010 standards
- Meets or exceeds MIL-PRF 31013 requirements
- Hydrophilic nose pads for secure wear even under wet conditions
- Thin Stem technology on the frames comms system compatibility
- Ultra-lightweight at only 1.05 ounces
- Fully compatible with helmets and helmet-mounted NV
- Compatible with O-Matter, ACH, CVD, PASGT, and Crye helmets
Oakley offers full-service prescription lenses for all the sunglass models, including the Industrial M-Frame 2.0. If style is a concern for you, Oakley may be the best choice. Always known for being cutting edge in both style and technology, Oakley is a standout.
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What do I Look for in a Pair of Tactical Sunglasses?
Good sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation in sunlight and help kill glare and other reflections. Tactical eye shields also provide ballistic protection to keep your eyes and vision safe from
- Particulate matter in the air, which means they must fit close around your face. Fit is a critical issue when selecting tactical eyewear
- Larger particles that may be tossed into the air by car wheels, strong winds, or bullet impacts close to you
- Environmental conditions that can threaten your vision. Environmental conditions can include windborne rain and snow or just wind that can impact your ability to see properly.
- Shrapnel from ricochets or bullet rebounds from targets. Certification for impacts is a must in tactical sunglasses.
Certifications – How to Know You are Getting the Best Protection
There are two certifications I always look for on tactical ballistic sunglasses and eye shields. These are:
- ANSI Z87.1 Certification – This is a civilian impact resistance certification. For more information about the ANSI Z87.1 Certification, visit this link.
- U.S. Military MIL-PRF 31013 ballistic eyewear certifications. This certification is standard for any eyewear issue to U.S. Military personal entering any combat or hazard zone. More information on the MIL-PRF standard is available here.
The ANSI Standard primarily measures the impact resistance of the lenses. The Mil-PRF standard also considers the level of UV protection, chemical resistance, optical clarity, and environmental stability. Typically, eyewear that carries a MIL-PRF certification meets or exceeds ANSI 87.1 requirements.
Some tactical sunglasses may not have an ANSI certification but if the eyewear is MIL-PRF certified, you can expect the highest level of eye and vision protection.
The Lenses – What Are the Options?
Virtually all sunglasses have some level of UV protection for your eyes. Even the cheapest gas station pair of sunglasses offer at least minimal protection. It is the level of protection that you must focus on when selecting tactical survival eyewear. UV protection ratings break down as:
Without going into a lot of discussion on each kind of UV radiation, it is simpler to say that all the sunglasses on our list protect all three types of UV radiation.
Materials and Coatings
If the lenses meet the MIL-PRF standard, there is no need to worry about the lens materials. Suffice it to say that the material will provide the protection you need. On the other hand, the lenses should also be protected from normal wear and tear with lens coatings. These lens coatings protect from
Higher-end lenses can also feature coatings that will help shed water and oils. You can expect to pay more for lenses with these later. Most civilian shooters will never encounter situations where these types of coatings are essential.
Lens Colors – Light and Intensity
- Gray Lenses – Under most circumstances, a light to medium-dark grey colored lenses is my choice. A gray lens seems to over me the best compromise in comfort and visibility for everyday wear. However, certain circumstances and situations may call for a different color lens
- Yellow Lenses – Low-light situations may call for a lens tinted yellow. Yellow lenses don’t darken your field of view. They work to brighten the field of view to create more detail when the ambient light intensity is low. Dawn or dusk operations are typically when yellow lenses are selected.
- No Light or Night Vision Use – Operations at night when NV systems may be in use call for unrestricted light transmittal with no distortion. However, your eyes and vision still need protection. Most tactical sunglasses with changeable lenses include a clear lens for this situation.
Most tactical survival sunglass kits come with interchangeable lenses. Most civilian shooters will rarely change the lens. However, should the need arise, it is a handy option.
Other Considerations – Head-fit and Helmets
Fit is a critical issue when selecting tactical survival eyewear. Head shapes and sizes vary, so you must have the option to try the fit of any sunglasses you are considering. Put them on and wear them for a while, if possible. Remember, situations may arise where you are wearing these glasses for hours, perhaps even days.
Military combat operators and law enforcement have the added challenge of finding tactical survival ballistic sunglasses that will fit and work with ballistic helmets. Again, the only way to know if a pair of sunglasses will fit and work with a helmet is to try them with the helmet.
What about vision correction?
If you are like me and wear glasses all the time, finding a pair of suitable ballistic tactical sunglasses can be a challenge. Most of the MIL-PRF certified sunglasses are available with replaceable lenses ground to your prescription. Some sunglasses require the lenses to be fitted by the factory, while others require inserts that sit behind the actual lens of the eyewear.
Seeing Through the Clutter
No matter if you are just in the outdoors for a recreational hunt or hike or amid a combat zone, what you can see can sometimes mean life or death.
Protecting your vision while affording yourself the best in visual acuity should be your goal in selecting a pair of tactical survival sunglasses. I hope that this article gives you some insight into selecting the best tactical survival sunglasses for your needs and situation. If you have any thoughts, ideas, discussions, or comments, please use the comment section below to reach out. Your experience and knowledge are always welcome.