According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) an estimated 1000 eye injuries occur in American workplaces every day. Most of these injuries are preventable. A survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of minor eye injuries found that nearly three out of four injured workers were not wearing eye protection. Approximately 40% of injured workers who were wearing eye protection were wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job.
The BLS survey showed that 94% of the injuries to workers wearing eye protection resulted from objects or chemicals going around or under the eye protection. Nearly 70% of the injuries were the result of flying particles, with nearly three-fifths of the objects smaller than a pinhead.
OSHA standards require that employers provide workers with suitable eye protection for the job. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets the requirements to design, construct, test, and use eye-protection devices. The ANSI Z87.1 standard is the minimum requirement for safety glasses, goggles and eye shields used by employees under OSHA certification. The ANSI Z87.1 standards include standards for impact protection, optical clarity, and flammability resistance.
Goggles generally offer the best protection for the eyes. The BLS survey found that only 6% of the workers that were injured while wearing eye protection were wearing goggles. Most modern goggles made for public-safety personnel are certified to meet all ANSI Z87.1 standards, which includes the requirements that the lens will withstand the impact of a quarter-inch steel ball traveling at 150 fps. Some go well beyond the ANSI Z87.1 ballistic standards and meet the requirements of the .22 caliber US military ballistic test (MIL-V-43511C).
Today's tactical goggles are far removed from the archaic World War II-era military sun, wind, and dust (SWD) goggle. The growth of the sports-goggle market has led to profound advancements in goggle design, including more effective anti-fog designs, improved comfort, anatomical fit, rapid strap adjustment, optical-quality lenses, wider field of view, and accommodation of eyeglasses or prescription lens inserts. Today's impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses are 20 times stronger than glass and six times lighter.
Many of the advancements in design have been in features designed to prevent or reduce the number one nemesis of goggles: fogging. As anyone who has worn goggles knows, fogging can be a big problem. All fogging in goggles is caused by a difference in temperature and humidity. To overcome this problem, goggle designers have incorporated such features as double lenses, anti-fog coatings, and ventilation ports. That said, no goggle is 100% fog free, given the right set of circumstances, although some of today's better goggles are nearly so. Also keep in mind that, unfortunately, there are no ANSI standards when it comes to fogging.
Many goggles feature double lenses that act as a thermal barrier. Air sealed between the inner and outer lenses helps equalize the temperatures between the two surfaces, reducing the potential for fogging. With double lens goggles, care must be taken to avoid breaking the seal between the two lenses. If any moisture gets between the two lenses, it will cause fogging.
Factory-applied anti-fog coatings are also employed to prevent or reduce fogging by minimizing condensation. An uncoated lens is far more susceptible to fogging than a coated lens. There are several types of anti-fog coatings, varying in effectiveness. An easy way to tell if a lens is anti-fog coated is to exhale on it. If it fogs up, it's uncoated.
Vents are another way that goggle designers reduce fogging. Moving air will dissipate humidity, reducing or eliminating fogging. The more airflow, the less fogging potential. The most fog-resistant goggles are those with the largest ventilation zones. Many goggles feature fully-filtered vents to eliminate any chance of fine airborne particles entering the goggle, although the design and location of the venting on some goggles reduces the chances of this occurring. Filtering does have an impact on airflow, with the degree of impact depending on the design, location and size of the vents.
While on the subject of fogging, it should be noted that fogging is especially a problem for eyeglass wearers. Not only can eyeglasses affect the fit of goggles, eyeglasses introduce another lens into the equation for fogging. Operators who wear eyeglasses should be certain to purchase goggles that are designed to fit over eyeglasses.
Eyeglasses with nylon frames and polycarbonate lenses will minimize the opportunity for fogging. Application of a commercial anti-fog solution to the eyeglass lenses will be helpful. Also, putting the goggles on before going into a cold environment will be helpful since it will prevent the eyeglasses from getting cold.
Ultraviolet (UV) protection is another consideration when selecting goggles. Long-term exposure to UV has been linked to serious eye damage. There are three types of UV radiation UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA is the most damaging to the eyes, although UVB has also been linked to eye damage. Most, if not all, tactical goggles now provide UV protection; some even provide infrared (IR) protection. Optional laser protective lenses are available for some goggles.
UV protection is covered by ANSI Z80.3 standards, which also includes elements such as light transmittance (including being able to distinguish between green and yellow light in average daylight), optical-cosmetic quality (eliminating bubbles in the plastic), and durability tests (including flame resistance). It should be noted that ANSI compliance is voluntary. Also, the standards don't include a labeling requirement. As such, the lack of an ANSI label doesn't necessarily mean a lack of protection. If in doubt, ask the manufacturer.
When selecting goggles, fit, comfort, and field of view are also essential to consider. The inner goggle should create a uniform seal around the face without the straps having to be over tightened. Straps should permit rapid adjustment to insure a proper fit.
The goggles should provide a wide field of view with ample peripheral vision, while permitting a proper check weld with shoulder weapons. The lenses should be of optical quality and free of distortion. The availability of protective lens "tear-offs" for muddy or abrasive environmental conditions is also a consideration, as is the availability of interchangeable or replacement lenses.
In general, with goggles, you get what you pay for in terms of features. When purchasing eye protection, price should not be a concern. Also, since needs (and faces) differ, it's always a good idea to try before you buy, whenever possible.
Now, having got over the basics, let's take a look at some of the latest tactical goggle offerings from the major manufacturers (listed in alphabetical order). Keep in mind that this is but a small sampling of the various models that are available from each of the manufacturers. Some of the manufacturers offer a quite an array of models, differing considerably in design, features, and, of course, price.
Each manufacturer was asked to provide one of their new tactical models for inclusion in the article. All of the goggles reviewed have optically correct lenses. They meet or exceed ANSI Z87.1 specifications for impact protection and ANSI Z80.3 specifications for UV transmittance. As would be expected from any goggle designed for tactical use, they're all helmet compatible. None of the goggles exhibited any problems with fogging during my testing when properly worn and adjusted. Of course, this isn't to say that any of the goggles cannot fog given the right set of circumstances.
BlackHawk Products Group
BlackHawk Products Group (formerly BlackHawk Industries) presently offers one model of goggle, the new HellStorm™ Special Operations tactical goggle. According to BlackHawk, the HellStorm SpecOps goggle was designed for extreme flexibility in hot or cold weather tactical operations.
The HellStorm SpecOps goggle features a dual-lens design to reduce the potential for fogging. The outer lens is constructed of shatterproof polycarbonate. The inner lens in constructed of acetate and is impregnated an anti-fog compound. Clear, yellow and orange lenses are available. The lenses are easily replaced or changed.
The outer frame of the HellStorm SpecOps goggle is made of soft matte black polyurethane. Polyurethane stays flexible in extremely cold conditions. The interior of the goggle has soft hypoallergenic foam, referred to by BlackHawk as "micro-cellular foam," that's designed for a comfortable face seal.
BlackHawk states that the HellStorm SpecOps goggle will not fog up. In addition to the dual-lens thermal barrier and interior anti-fog coating, the goggles also feature an innovative upper and lower ventilation system. The goggle vents are fully filtered to prevent dust and particulates from entering.
The HellStorm SpecOps goggle has an adjustable black elastic nylon strap. The goggle is exceptionally flexible, which adds to its comfort. The goggle can be squeezed in half without breakage. The HellStorm SpecOps goggle comes with a fabric protective pouch with drawstring closure.
Bollé provided its T800R tactical ballistic goggle for review. Bollé states that T800R goggle was designed for long-term wear and helmet compatibility. The T800R goggle is presently in use by many SWAT teams and military SpecOps units around the world, including the Navy SEALS and Army Rangers. The goggle is lightweight (approximately 86 grams) and provides excellent peripheral vision.
The T800R goggle features a bi-material construction to provide a comfortable fit without the use of foam. The exterior goggle frame is constructed of matte black Zytel® for impact resistance. The interior frame is constructed of a synthetic elastomer rubber.
The T800R goggle features a single lens design with a 2.2 mm high-impact polycarbonate lens. The exterior of the lens has an anti-scratch coating. The interior of the lens has an anti-fog coating. A clear lens is standard. Gray/smoke and yellow lenses are available. The design of the T800R goggle allows lenses to be easily changed. A prescription insert is available. Die-cut .004"-thick polyester protective tear-offs are available from Bollé for extra lens protection.
The T800R goggle has an open ventilation zone between the lens and the top and bottom of the frame, providing one of the largest ventilation zones of any of the goggles tested. Although the venting on the T800R goggle isn't filtered, the lack of filtering is by design to further enhance airflow and minimizes condensation.
The T800R goggle is equipped with an adjustable, black elastic nylon strap. The strap allows for 160% extension. The strap attachments include posts for protective tear-offs. The goggles come with a protective cotton pouch with a drawstring.
Eye Safety Systems (ESS) provided its Profile NVG Special Forces goggle for review. According to ESS, the Profile NVG goggle was designed based on input from US Special Forces groups. The Profile NVG goggle was designed as a low-profile night-vision-compatible goggle providing a wide field of vision and impact protection. ESS is focused and dedicated to providing eye protection system specifically designed for law enforcement and military use.
The standard Profile NVG goggle is of a single lens design. Two lenses are included with the goggle - a clear lens and a neutral gray lens that provides true color rendition. The lenses are 2.8 mm thick high-impact polycarbonate with anti-scratch and anti-fog coatings. The lenses easily and quickly user interchangeable.
The Profile NVG goggle features a matte black, synthetic rubber frame that provides a comfortable anatomical fit. The frame is designed to seal around the nose without restricting breathing. The Profile NVG has a fully vented frame for maximum airflow. The vents are large and fully filtered, keeping airborne particles out while allowing humid air to escape. The Profile NVG goggle has an innovative black elastic nylon "instant fit strap" adjustment system designed for use with helmets. It allows the fit of the strap to be quickly adjusted.
The Profile NVG goggle comes with a black, cloth protective carrying case that fits on the operator's belt or TLBV by means of hook-and-loop fastened straps. The carrying case has an inside pocket for an extra lens. The lenses are easily changed or replaced by the operator.
Available accessories for the Profile NVG goggle include thermal lenses, laser-protective lenses, amber lenses, tear-off lens covers, a prescription insert (Profile NVG Rx carrier), and an anti-reflective sleeve (ESS Stealth Sleeve™). The Profile NVG Rx carrier allows corrective lenses to be easily installed in the goggle frame. The ESS Stealth Sleeve covers the goggle when it's stowed on the operator's helmet, preventing any reflection which could give away the operator's position. It also provides protection for the lenses from scratch and excess debris from entering the goggle. The sleeve is easily rolled back onto the goggle strap when the goggle is worn.
Guard Dogs provided its Purebred Combo interchangeable lens goggle for review. The Purebred Combo goggle was designed to provide a lightweight, comfortable goggle with unrestricted peripheral vision, combining the best characteristics of both protective eyeglasses and goggles.
The Purebred Combo goggle is of a single lens design with a two mm polycarbonate lens. The lens has been tested at 100 plus miles-per-hour impact. The lenses for the Purebred Combo have an anti-scratch coating. The inside of the lenses have Guard Dogs' proprietary FogStopper lens coating.
The Purebred Combo goggle features a unique, high-impact matte black polymer frame. The frame can best be described as a brow-band with eyeglass-type temples. The temples ratchet to provide optimal fit. The lenses simply snap into the brow-band.
The Purebred Combo goggle comes with two interchangeable lenses, a clear lens and a smoke lenses are standard. In addition to the clear and smoke lenses, blue amber mirror, yellow amber mirror, and golden lenses are available, either with the frame or as extra lenses. A Rx insert for the goggles is available. Guard Dogs has a wide array of prescription options available
The Purebred Combo goggle features soft hypoallergenic foam face seals on the brow-band frame and bottom on the lenses. The goggle is vented at the side and under the nose bridge (where perspiration is heavy). The nose bridge/pad is of a comfortable, soft silicone rubber elastomer type rubber and is integral with the lenses. Although the Purebred Combo goggle doesn't have filtered vents, the design of the location minimizes the potential for with dust and airborne particulates entering.
A restraint leash and a carrying case, with a separate cloth lens bag for the extra lens, are included with the goggles. The carrying case, which holds both the goggle and an extra lens, is a high-denier black nylon cases with zippered lid. The case is equipped with a belt loop and a snap-on clip.
Hatch sent its B.O.S.S. 6000 goggle for review. B.O.S.S. stands for Ballistic Optical Safety System. In designing the B.O.S.S. Hatch states that they worked in direct cooperation with tactical operators to create a hybrid tactical goggle, embodying characteristics of both sunglasses and goggles. All components on the B.O.S.S. are user replaceable.
The goggles feature an anti-fog, dual-pane thermal lens for maximum anti-fog protection. It is anti-fog coated and has an anti-scratch coating on the face of the outer pane. A clear lens is standard, smoke tint and yellow tint lens are available. A prescription lens insert is available for most prescriptions.
The B.O.S.S. features what Hatch refers to as on-the-fly tear-offs. Available in clear, smoke and yellow, the tear-off are designed to allow the wearer to quickly remove debris, such as mud, or adjust for changing light conditions. The on-the-fly tear-offs feature a large side tab with a finger hole for easy removal.
The B.O.S.S. features a matte black, rigid aluminum alloy frame, with replaceable soft, hypoallergenic foam where the goggle contacts the face. It's designed to prevent the lens from flexing to provide dimensionally stable optics. A replaceable elastomer rubber nosepiece is designed to provide protection to the bridge of the nose. The B.O.S.S. is designed to prod 100% peripheral vision, while at the same time featuring an low profile design that fits virtually every helmet and allows for optimal long gun sighting, including the use of scopes and other sights in the proper proximity to the operator's eye. It has a self-centering elastic headband strap that's easily adjusted while the goggle is being worn.
The B.O.S.S. is designed to ensure ample air circulation to help control fogging and keep the operator cool. The B.O.S.S. has ventilation zones on the brow, sides, and sides of the nosepiece. Hatch has revised the foam system on the B.O.S.S. They're now using a foam cage system in place of the old adhesive foam. The foam is attached to a thin plastic gasket that is locked to the frame by the installation of the head strap. This is a running change that has just been implemented. The new foam system provides a better all-around seal without the gaps in the side that the prior version had. Each B.O.S.S. goggle comes with a hard shell carrying-case and one smoke tint tear-off.
Oakley provided its Assault A Frame goggle for evaluation. Oakley needs no introduction, having been at the forefront of modern sports goggle design. Many of the innovations we now take for granted originated with Oakley. The Assault A Frame goggle is the military/tactical version of Oakley's popular A Frame sports goggles.
According to Oakley, its A Frame is "built to withstand long-range solar attacks and short range meteorological raids," whatever that means. The Assault A Frame goggle incorporates a number of advanced features. As with all Oakley products, style hasn't been neglected either not that "stylishness" matters in a tactical goggle.
The Plutonite dual-lens of the Assault A Frame goggle is scratch-resistant and features Oakley's unique, patented Polaric Elipsoid geometry. It's optimized for a full-field peripheral clarity without distortion. The lens is available in either brown/amber tint or a lightly tinted clear color. The inside of the lens has a proprietary anti-fog coating.
The frame on the Assault A Frame goggle is constructed of flexible matte black urethane. Texturing on the inside of the goggle cuts down on glare. The goggle features "ram-air surge ports" which are designed to create a circular flow of air for fog-cutting convection. The venting ports are fully filtered. The contact surfaces of the goggle have a triple layer of foam to provide thermal shielding, comfort and eliminate moisture from the face.
The Assault A Frame goggle has a black reduced exposure (no logo) head strap. The elasticized nylon strap is easily adjusted and features with non-slip rubberized ribbing on the inside of the strap. A special helmet application strap is also available. The Assault A Frame goggle comes with a cloth, drawstring bag for protection.
Paulson Manufacturing sent it's model 510-T A-TAC Tactical Goggle for review. According to Paulson, The A-TAC-T was designed with only one purpose in mind, a protective goggle designed to specifically address the needs of a tactical operation.
The A-TAC Tactical Goggle features dual-lens design, with a hard-coated outer lens and an anti-fog coated inner lens. The lens is constructed of tough Lexan polycarbonate. It should be noted that a special A-TAC "FRAG" goggles are available with a triple-layer V50 rated Lexan lenses for use in tactical operations where fragmentation may occur. Quick removal protective tear-offs are available for the A-TAC Tactical Goggle in clear, amber and smoke.
The frame on the A-TAC Tactical Goggle has a matte black hypoallergenic silicone body, with polymer alloy components. The goggle is available with or without nose protection. The A-TAC Tactical Goggle is designed to fit over most prescription eyeglasses, safety glasses, and sunglasses. The goggles feature a unique indirect top and bottom venting system. The vents are baffled for protection from chemical splashes and smoke, as well as particulates.
The A-TAC Tactical Goggle is designed to fit as a helmet accessory for all tactical helmet. Mounting clips for the PASGT helmet are included. The clips attach the A-TAC Tactical Goggle directly to the helmet straps. The goggle can be easily removed from the helmet and worn directly on the head. The black elastic nylon headband strap of the goggles features quick strap adjustment and a quick-release rear strap buckle.
Rudy Project USA sent its new Klonyx Tactics goggle for review. Designed and manufactured in Italy, the Klonyx Tactics incorporates advanced sports goggle design technology, ergonomics and styling into a tactical goggle.
The Klonyx Tactics goggle features an advanced anti-fog double-lens system. The external lens is scratch-resistant polycarbonate. The internal lens is a fog-proof acetate. The lens system incorporates a hydro-repellent filter for additional fog-resistance.
The Klonyx Tactics goggle features an interchangeable lens system to manage varying lighting conditions. The goggle comes with a versatile Kayvon Smoke tint lens. Other lens options include, Kayvon Red, Laser Bronze DL, Laser Silver DL, and Laser Sky (blue). The lenses are designed to provide a wide field of view.
The frame of the Klonyx Tactics goggle is constructed of matte black flexible polyurethane. The frame has triple elastic foam for maximum adherence to the face. The foam is hypoallergenic to prevent irritation to the skin. The frame is equipped with a unique, removable nose protector from added protection to the nose. The nose protector is vented and feature foam padding for comfort. A removable optical insert is available that can handle a wide range of prescriptions.
The Klonyx Tactics goggle has large fully filtered ventilation ports around the circumference of the frame for maximum ventilation. The front of the frame has additional filtered air holes that are designed to channel air into the goggle for a constant flow of air.
The Klonyx Tactics goggle has an easily adjusted black elastic nylon headband strap. The headband strap has a quick-release buckle that allows the strap to be instantly fastened or unfastened from the wearer's head.
Wiley-X sent its new Close Quarter Combat (CQC) goggle for review. Already standard issue to a number of US military SpecOps units, the CQC goggle was designed as low profile, NVG-compatible eye protection system for any and all types of urban and land warfare operations.
The CQC was designed for wear under tactical helmets. The goggles are lightweight and comfortable. The goggle features an extremely low profile design, which eliminates tunnel vision and allows simultaneous NVG usage. The CQC goggle has a matte black, high impact polymer frame with quick disconnect temples and adjustable tactical strap (both included).
The CQC uses Wiley-X's durable ultra foam technology for a comfortable face seal. The ultra foam is vented for air circulation. Although unfiltered by design for optimal airflow, the design of the venting minimizes the chances of particulates entering the goggle.
Two interchangeable 2.5 mm polycarbonate lenses are included with the CQC a neutral slate lens and a clear lens. The lenses are die-cut, ground, and polished to eliminate distortion. They are anti-fog treated and have a scratch-resistant coating for longer life. The lenses meet MIL-STD-662 for fragmentation.
The CQC is a versatile goggle that may be worn with the headband strap as a goggle for tactical operations and then quickly converted into ballistic sunglasses with temples for range work. Added removable side shields provide protection, which give the wearer additional peripheral protection not offered by other designs.
The CQC goggle includes a hook-and-loop closure, belt-clipped "micro fiber" soft cleaning/storage bag. A hard case is available as an optional accessory and is recommended for protection. An optional Rx frame insert is available for those operators who require corrective lenses.
Eugene Nielsen provides investigative and tactical consulting services and is a former officer. He may be reached at email@example.com.