Safety Glasses for Airsoft
In the US, the number of hospital admissions from air guns has increased by a staggering 600% since 2010. With many of these injuries leading to long lasting vision loss, many experts have called for safety eyewear to become mandatory. With the popularity of Airsoft increasing, there are more and more people at risk of taking small plastic projectiles to the eye which can cause multiple eye injuries, leading to vision loss or blindness.
Most Airsoft players are completely unaware of the different safety standards that safety glasses fall into. Many factors including the strength of the weapon firing, the distance or angle of the shot, the material of your glasses, all could lead to a catastrophic failure of your eye protection, leading to a worse-case scenario of permanent blindness. It is therefore important that Airsoft players educate themselves on the basic safety requirements for eye protection.
What Safety Rating are my current eyewear?
If you are reading this article and already have some eye protection for Airsoft, go and grab them and have a look at their safety rating. Safety Ratings should always be printed on the legs of the glasses, or sometimes on the lenses, see if you can find some letters and numbers.
You may see ANSI or Z87 which would indicate an American safety Rating or EN 166 with a letter after it which would indicate a European Safety Rating, you want an F or a B for any EN 166.
If you dont see any marks – they could of rubbed off if you have used them frequently, however they might not be safety rated at all and be very unsafe to be used for airsoft.
What Safety Rating do I need?
For those unfamiliar with safety glasses, there are European standards (EN 166) and American standards (ANSI) that guarantee the product you receive can withstand impacts of a certain weight at a certain speed. We are based in Europe so we shall be looking at the European standards we require.
For Airsoft in Europe, you would want MINIMUM EN166 F or B, depending on the strength of weapons being fired.
EN166 S would be probably be unsuitable.
EN 166 F rating means the glasses can withstand a steel bb weighing 0.86g moving at 45m/s which equates roughly to a 0.20g plastic bb shot at 306 FPS.
EN 166 B rating means the glasses can withstand a steel bb weighing 0.86g moving at 120m/s which equates roughly to a 0.20g plastic bb shot at 816 FPS
Here is a video of an EN 166 F test
There are a number of options available to Airsoft players to protect their eyes, they range in popularity and price, each coming with different pros and cons. Below we will examine each option for their safety.
Mesh Eye Protection
- Do not fog up
- Very light
- No gaps in eye protection
- BB’s can fragment upon impact and enter the smaller holes leading to injury
- Powerful impacts can dent and therefore weaken sections of the mesh
- No standardized method of knowing the amount of impact they can withstand
Mesh eye protection is quite popular in airsoft. Often when you do not have your own equipment at a site, you may pick up a mask / eye pro combo which offers full face protection. However, you are not totally safe as some unfortunate airsofters have discovered. Fragments from BB’s can enter the small holes if they shatter upon impact leading to sharp jagged pieces of plastic embedding themselves in your eyes – not ideal. Will they stop 99.9% of BB hits? Depends upon the range and power, but probably, however who wants to risk that 1 in 100 shot?
- Increased Safety Protection
- Clear Vision
- Can be Prescription
- More expensive than Mesh
- Can fog up if no anti-fog is applied
- BB’s could potentially find entry to eye cavity at extreme angles
Far superior to Mesh, glasses have many advantages that make them a better choice for not too much money. If you don’t require prescription, the above pair of RX-1171s cost only £41.50 and are rated to EN 166F and ANSI Z87.
Not all glasses are equal, some offer higher grade protection and as such are a bit pricier. For something a little more expensive, but offering far more protection, have a look at our Wiley X Saints
These glasses provide a much higher level of safety protection, from this infographic you can see they have exceeded all the EN 166 ratings, exceeded the ANSI ratings and passed the American Military Safety Requirements, making them a truly great pair of ballistic glasses.
You can even see them being worn in the movie American Sniper, very cool.
- All round eye protection, no gaps
- Protect more of your face from being shot
- Wont slip from your face with elastic strap
- Can be made prescription with an insert
- Uninterrupted field of view
- Might fog up
- Heaviest option
- Potentially most expensive
Goggles are the safest option, provided they have required safety rating, no BB can enter your optical cavity keeping your eyes perfectly safe. The above pictured model are the ‘Smith Optics Outside The Wire Turbo Fan Goggles’ which come with inbuilt fans which according to Smith Optics exhausts 50% more air volume at a 40% lower decibel level than competitors fan goggles. Safety rated ANSI Z287.1 but more importantly exceeding U.S. military ballistic impact requirements for goggles – MIL-PRF-32432, meaning these are some top of the range goggles.
You only get one pair of eyes, so take every precaution when playing airsoft, educate yourself on the options available and make informed choices to ensure that you are protected. If you are unsure about anything, feel free to ask – [email protected]