Why Military Sunglasses Aren’t Just A Fashion Show; The 3 Best Military Sunglasses 2019
The best military sunglasses are protective equipment first, and fashion items last... or never. We know you're looking for serious products that will protect your eyes from UV radiation, projectiles, sand, dirt and whatever extreme conditions come your way.
The Bottom Line
This article will take you through 3 of the best military sunglasses reviews, each with a specific strength (and weakness). I’ll tell you what’s great about each of them, what is lacking, and which is best for which occasion. In my Buyer’s Guide I’ll give you five major categories to look out for when buying, and then I’ll serve up my top choices in the form of heavily researched reviews.
Let’s leave the best for first:
How We Picked?
This guide compares our top picks divided into 3 price-ranges for easy browsing (Here is the full list of the 27 products we tested). You can jump between price ranges using the menu below. Finally, there’s a useful buyer’s guide at the bottom of the page that helps explain what to look for when buying military sunglasses.
Choose Your Budget
WATER RESISTANT DEPTH
Wiley X Men’s Valor Sunglasses
J+S Classic Military Aviator Style Sunglasses
BEST TROOP WATCH
Wiley X Saber Advanced
Wiley X Men’s Valor Sunglasses Review
Passing all ballistic and occupational safety tests, the Men’s Valor sunglasses from Wiley X are a serious product. Shatterproof polycarbonate lens, interchangeable design with varying Visible Light Transmission Ratings and a clean black composite frame design. There are plenty of things to look forward to in my Overall Choice winner.
Who Should Buy
Ideal for most outdoor situations, ranging from serious battlefield scenarios to casual use and law enforcement.
Full Wiley X Men’s Valor Sunglasses Review:
The Wiley X Valor is my favorite pair on this list, checking all the boxes and looking good while doing so. Functionally, these surpass all the tests and do so in flying colours. Not only meeting the old-school MIL-PRF-31013 ballistic protection standards, these glasses meet the latest military GL-PD 10-12 MCEP standard. This makes them a serious protective tool fit to survive fragmentation, projectiles and other hazards in the battlefield.
Made from Shatterproof Sellenite, the Wiley X Valor is durable, lightweight and held together by a tough composite frame. The lenses are layered with a T-Shell coating for anti-scratch and extreme condition resistance, as well as a being 100% UV resistant.
The Smoke Grey lens provides maximum glare reduction without distorting colors (and ranking 15% on Visible Light Transmission), with clear and rust lenses also included in the product package. This gives you great flexibility for taking on different light conditions and environments, and the simple fitting interchangeable design makes it relatively hassle-free to do so.
The only complaint I’ve found on this model is that it can fog up under serious conditions. Whether this is due to fitting the glasses too tightly to the face, or some defect in manufacturing isn’t specified--though it’s always worth bringing user complaints to surface before recommending a purchase. That being said, the consensus on the Wiley X Valors is in and it is ragingly positive.
Ballistic Standards: GL-PD 10-12 MCEP, (Higher than military standards)
Interchangeable lenses: Smoke/Clear/Rust lenses included
Frame Material: Composite Frame
Special Features: T-Shell Lens for Anti-scratching
J+S Classic Military Aviator Style Sunglasses Review
The classic aviator style will never die, but it’s still worth buying from a quality brand instead of wasting five dollars on an imitation. These aviators from J+S come with 400UV rating, polarized lenses and a strong metallic alloy frame.
Who Should Buy
Perfect for the casual outdoors person. Fishing, hiking, boating, skiing is encouraged with these sunglasses, while more intense activities will not be suited to the aviator design.
Full SNE Sports Digital Watch Review:
I’ve talked a lot about function, protective and ballistic standards (in more detail in my Buyer’s Guide), but maybe I’ve ignored one real aspect of the buyer experience: style. The military style was made famous by the aviator, and with good reason--it’s a sharp, timeless design that suits almost any occasion. So if you consider yourself a more casual outdoorsman, without the need for serious military grade protection, this classic aviator style model from J+S is a great start.
This is also the only polarized lens on my list, which does in fact make it higher on the UV protective ranking than the other choices. The frame is composed of a strong metallic alloy, which will hold up to its fair share of bumps and knocks without necessarily needing to cross the desert. 400UV protection and blocking 99.96% of glare, these aviators from J+S really are a high quality find in this incredibly saturated aviator market.
My cons need to be mentioned though. While these are a quality pair of aviators, the design itself will always leave you more exposed to the elements than a serious set of military glasses. For more casual outdoor activities like fishing and boating, these will have you covered. However, for shooting or serious work on the ground, you’ll need to find something that meets the protective standards outlined in my Buyer’s Guide.
Ballistic Standards: M/A
Interchangeable Lenses: N/A
Frame Material: Metallic Alloy
Special Features: Classic Aviator Design
Wiley X Saber Advanced Review
Passing the major ballistic standards tests and shaped to protect your eyes from all angles, these Wiley X Saber Advanced military sunglasses are great to take with you on any outdoor adventure.
Who Should Buy
This is the ideal choice for shooters and hunting enthusiasts, with shooter specific features like distortion-free lens and high protective standards.
Full Wiley X Saber Advanced Review:
My Best Shooting option is also brought to you by Wiley X, at a very affordable price. Made with their Shatterproof Sellenite Polycarbonate Lenses, the Saber Advanced meets MIL-PRF-32432 Ballistic Standards, along with ANSI Z87.1-2010 High Velocity and Mass Impact Standards (which are also important for the shooting environment).
The model also boasts 100% UVA/UVB Protection and Distortion Free Clarity. This is a huge tick next to its name in terms of a high-quality shooter sunglasses, giving you full glare protection on low-cloud and sunny days, while also maintaining a crisp view of your target. Wiley X’s Saber Advanced model also follows a pocket-size tactical low-profile design--this makes them easy to carry around, and compatible with other tactical gear (like wearing them beneath night-vision goggles when needed).
Wiley X’s adjustable nose piece is certainly a plus in my mind, but it does take some getting used to. User reviews have noted this, mentioning that at first the nose piece pinched and was slightly uncomfortable. However, one thing is clear throughout--the wide lens design does a great job at keeping out all sun, wind and dirt from your eyes while shooting.
Ballistic Standards: MIL-PRF-32432
Interchangeable lenses: Smoke/Light Rust lenses included
Frame Material: Triloid Nylon Frame
Special Features: Adjustable Nose Piece
How to choose the best military sunglasses
If you’ve read through our post on the best military watches, you’ll know that the military have always been something of a fashion trend-setter. Unintentionally, sure, but the effect is real: people respect military folk, and to look like one of these national heroes is a worthy object.
Whether you’re out there yourself in the field or simply lead an active outdoors lifestyle that demands some protective tactical gear, I rank the best military sunglasses primarily on function. An old mentor of mine once told me that the coolest thing you can do is to win--it doesn’t matter how cool you look while you’re doing it, if you don’t get the job done, no one will look twice.
When it comes to military sunglasses, there are five major categories you’ll want to consider before purchase:
- Lens Quality and UV Rating;
- Interchangeable Lenses;
- Ballistic protection;
- Design and Comfort; and
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
#1: Lens Quality and UV Rating
Once you’ve worn the genuine article, you’ll know what it feels like to look through a crystal clear sunglasses lens. When it comes to quality ratings, there are two good indicators you can look out for:
- UV Rating; and
- Visible Light Transmission (VLT)
UV Rating describes how protective the lenses will be with regard to UV rays from direct sunlight. To be honest, most sunglasses these days will offer 100% UV protection (even some of the fake brands) as standard procedure. That being said, if your sunglasses aren’t promoting this fact then that’s a sure sign they have taken shortcuts on quality and you should definitely steer clear.
Visible Light Transmission, on the other hand, rates how much light from the visible spectrum is actually getting through your lenses. This figure will also tell you how dark the lenses are, and for which situations they are most suited to. There are five categories of VLT:
Let's start with a simple outline before diving into the details:
Category 0 – Clear lens
Category 1 – Light yellow & pale orange
Category 2 – Orange, rose, red, amber & light brown
Category 3 – ‘Standard’ grey & brown sunglass lenses
Category 4 – Dark grey & brown sunglass lense
Here is further detail on each category.
0 - Very light tint or clear lenses, used for safety activities when you need to be able to see what you’re doing. For use during nighttime. VLT 80 - 100%.
1 - For casual use, as a comfort filter. For Weak levels of sunlight, VLT 43 - 80%.
2 - Most common for general use, providing good UV protection and some protection from visible light.
3 - Dark Tint: Suitable for strong sunlight. VLT 8 - 18%.
4 - Very Dark Tint: Suitable for strong sunlight. VLT 3 - 18%.
#2: Interchangeable Lenses
Unlike your average everyday use sunglasses, the best military sunglasses should come with easily interchangeable lenses. Out in the field, you’ll come up against a variety of different settings, environments and lightings, and it’s important to be able to choose the right lens for each scenario. For cloudy weather, you want to be able to wear clear lenses, while a harsh summer’s day will require the full UV protection of a dark lens.
The added perk of interchangeable lenses is that you’ll always have a couple of back-up lenses if one ever gets scratched on-the-go. You’ll still need to replace them (since the point is that you have one of each lens for different scenarios), but it’s good to have a replacement handy--especially if you’re just at the beginning of a week or month-long task.
#3: Ballistic Protection
Ray-Ban and Oakley may produce high quality UV Protection lens and popular designs, but they don’t come close to a good pair of military sunglasses for ballistic protection. Ballistic protection is the term used to describe a product’s ability to shield you from dirt, sand, shrapnel and unwanted debris, and it’s incredibly important so that you are able to do your job without injury or distraction.
The best military sunglasses should meet two basic standards for safety eye and face products: the U.S. civilian standard (ANSI Z87.1) and the U.S. military standard (MIL-PRF-31013). Generally speaking, if your sunglasses pass the military standards, they’ll most likely pass the civilian standards. Military grade testing places products under 7 times more stress than civilian testing. (https://safetyequipment.org/isea-standards/ansiisea-z87-accredited-standards-committee/ansiisea-z87-1-2015-standard/)
If you’re a member of the United States Armed Forces, you’ll need to find a pair of sunglasses listed on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL).
#4: Design and Comfort
While I have spoken a lot about function and practicality, you’ll also want to find a design that you’re happy with. You’ll be wearing them a lot, and any time you purchase something that will be on your face for long periods of time, it’s worth taking a moment to choose wisely.
For function, military sunglasses should follow a U-shaped design which wraps around your head for all-around coverage. The lens should be long and wide, which will give you full UV protection and some added ballistic protection from projectiles and dirt.
Lastly, unlike casual knock-off Ray-Bans that don’t see much action beyond walking by the pool, you can’t really afford to buy fake brand military sunglasses. This is because cheap materials aren’t just more likely to break, but they can be a potential hazard if they do. Particularly cheap plastic lenses and frames--when these snap awkwardly out on the field, the resulting snapped material can be sharp, jagged and another hazard to you or your team in action.
For signs of durability, look for shatterproof lenses, composite frames and military standard ballistic proofing will also be a good indicator for a durable set of sunglasses.
When it comes to the best military sunglasses, the priority shifts from fashion to function. The more you can start to think of military sunglasses as protective equipment, the better you’ll be able to focus your search on the components and factors that matter most. Ballistic protection, military grade durability and interchangeability are three key things that separate military sunglasses from the rest, so at the very least keep an eye out for these in your search.
I hope you find a pair on this list that suits your needs perfectly. If not, check out our full section of gear reviews here. Also, leave us a comment on anything you found valuable or would like to hear more about in future posts!