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Shooting Glasses Lens Color Guide

Shooting Glasses Lens Color Guide

Posted by on Feb 12th 2020

Shooting glasses provide protection first and a good picture second. It’s always a good practice to wear protective glasses at the range, lest you wind up with a trip to the ER over a ricochet. The lenses you choose for your glasses play a huge role in determining how well you can see your irons, optics, targets, and environment. Which lens protection rating is best, and what color should you choose? Let’s start with protection ratings and why they’re so important.

Shooting Glass Ratings Explained

All shooting glasses must adhere to at least one of two protection ratings: military(MIL-PRF 32432 Ballistic Fragmentation) or ANSI(American National Standards Institute). If you’re shopping for glasses and you see a Z87 rating, then the glasses in question have been certified by ANSI. Let’s review this first.

Z87 Ballistic Eyewear (ANSI, Civilian)

ANSI Z87.1-2015 is the latest official testing and safety standard that determines the design, performance, and visible markings of nearly all civilian-safety eye protection. That includes more than just ballistic glasses—face shields, welder’s masks, and goggles meant for industrial use also fall under this rating standard. The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) oversees ANSI. There are different levels of protection and specific acronyms and numbers that further detail a particular lens’s ability to provide protection to the shooter.

M&P Harrier Shooting Glasses, Z87.1-Rated

Z87.1 / Z87+ Impact-rated Lenses

Z87.1, commonly marked Z87+, means the lenses and the frame have been tested for high-mass and high-velocity impact protection. Lenses with this certification must also measure at least 2 millimeters thick. To obtain this specific rating, three tests are performed:

  • Drop ball impact resistance.A 25.4-millimeter steel ball is dropped from a height of 50 inches.
  • High-mass impact test.A pointed projectile weighing 17.6 ounces is dropped from a height of 50 inches.
  • High-velocity impact test.A 6.35-millimeter steel ball is fired at the lenses at 102 miles per hour from a distance of 150 feet.

To pass all three tests, the lenses and the frame must remain intact, protecting the shooter’s eyes and face. All three tests are highly applicable for the average shooter: Z87.1-rated shooting glasses will effectively protect against blunt impacts, such as a scope impact from excessive recoil or short length of pull, debris flying at a high rate of speed from a bullet’s point of impact, and potential ricochets.

Important: ANSI testing also allows for a “basic impact protection” rating, denoted by a simple Z87 marking. These lenses are not adequate for providing ballistic protection. Invest only in shooting glasses displaying the Z87.1 or "Z87+ identifier."

Z87-2+ Lenses (Prescription)

Z87-2 does not denote a higher ballistic or impact protection rating. The -2 simply denotes that the lenses are prescription. This identifier can be applied to both standard (Z87) and high-impact (Z87.1) lenses, so it’s important to confirm you’re getting the right protection when shopping for prescription shooting glasses. Prescription lenses with the right protection will often be marked as Z87-2+.

Additional ANSI Lens Protection Ratings

D Ratings Indicate Protection against Chemicals and Dust

  • D3denotes splash and droplet protection.
  • D4denotes dust protection.
  • D5denotes fine dust protection.

Optional Radiation Ratings Protect against Light Sources

  • Udenotes UV light filtration on a scale of 2 to 6.
  • Rdenotes infrared filtration on a scale of 1.3 to 10.
  • Ldenotes glare filtration on a scale of 1.3 to 10.
  • Vdenotes variable tint.

For a practice example, shooting glasses with an ANSI rating marked Z87+L9U5D4 indicate high-velocity ballistic protection, high glare filtration, high UV filtration, and protection against dust particles.

Military Ballistic Eyewear (MIL-PRF-32432)

Military ballistic eyewear uses testing and certification processes similar to those used in Z87.1. However, the requirements for receiving certification are higher, as the impact standards are more rigorous. All ballistic eyewear approved for military use is added to a list called the Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL).

The Wiley-X Sabers are military-issued and ballistic impact-rated.

Military Testing versus Z87.1

Ballistic certification for mil-spec lenses is separated by eyewear type: MIL-PRF-31013 testing applies to spectacles and regular glasses, while MIL-DTL-43511D testing applies to goggles. Both fall under the -32432 testing standards and documentation. Since we’re not talking about goggles, we’re interested in the first of the two.

  • ANSI Z87+ glasses are shot with a large and slow steel ball at 1.1 joules.
  • MIL-PRF-32432 glasses are shot with a small and fast steel penetrator at 7.4 joules.

While ANSI Z87.1/Z87+ glasses are rated to stop a 0.25-inch steel ball at 150 feet per second (102 miles per hour), military ballistic eyewear must stop a 0.15-inch steel projectile traveling up to 660 feet per second (450 miles per hour). For a practical example, military-rated shooting glasses are capable of stopping a .22 Short (29-grain) bullet traveling at 710 feet per second. This is representative of the energy produced by a fragmented ricochet.

"Should I bother with Z87.1? Why not Mil-Spec?"

Although military-rated ballistic glasses are obviously subjected to more rigorous testing, numerous field tests and real-world examples illustrate that Z87.1-rated glasses are quite capable of protecting a shooter from ricochets and high-velocity impacts. In this visual comparison below (courtesy of Lucky Gunner), we see a MIL-PRF-rated lens and a Z87.1-rated lens subjected to 12-gauge number 8 lead shot and a direct hit from a .22 LR at 25 feet.

Both lenses effectively stopped any lead shot from penetrating. The MIL-PRF lens was able to stop the .22 LR from penetrating, while the Z87.1 lens suffered a pinhole penetration, though it prevented the round from passing through the lens entirely. It’s important to remember this is an extreme scenario involving a direct hit, and neither lens is rated for this level of protection (the speed of the .22 LR was approximately 1,070 feet per second). Now that we’ve established the testing criteria and safety provided by ballistic lenses, let’s take a look at lens color types and what’s best for your shooting environment.

Shooting Glasses Lens Color Guide

For the sake of accuracy and sight awareness, please note that lens color is just as important as your glasses’ safety certification. Picking the wrong lens color can increase your response time, reduce the clarity of your target and surroundings, hinder your depth perception, and, in the worst-case scenario, obscure target lines and markings.


Yellow lenses (like those found on the M&P Harriers) are among the most popular lens color choices. Yellow promotes high contrast between orange targets, primary colors, and backgrounds. The brighter the yellow, the better the contrast and clarity in low-contrast and dark conditions. Average light transmitted is 80 percent to 90 percent.

Shooting Applications

  • Best for indoor ranges
  • Low-light/night shooting
  • Highlights orange targets
  • Excellent for clay shooting


Orange lenses are the other most popular choice among most shooters. The primary differences between orange and yellow lenses are color filtering and light transmission: orange lenses work best in bright light, filtering blue light and reducing glare outdoors. Orange lenses also enhance orange targets and shooting clays better than any other lens does. Average light transmission is 70 percent to 80 percent.

Shooting Applications

  • Best for outdoor ranges
  • High-light/day shooting
  • Highlights orange target
  • Excellent for clay shooting

Light/Dark Purple

Light purple lenses work best in bright-green environments. Dark purple promotes contrast and clarity in bright-blue and snowy environments. If you’re clay/target shooting at a state game land range, in a green wooded area, or on a grassy plain against a deep-blue sky, purple is the perfect hue. Average light transmission is 30 percent to 65 percent (dark to light).

Shooting Applications

  • Best for green environments
  • Dampens blue light and sky
  • Promotes orange/clay contrast


Vermillion, rose-red, and amber lenses are great for achieving high contrast on cloudy and dreary days or when shooting in environments with fog or haze. Red-hued lenses muffle green and blue backgrounds and enhance orange and red targets against gray hues and neutral colors. These lenses can assist shooters with red-green color deficiencies. Average light transmitted is 50 percent to 60 percent.

Shooting Applications

  • Best for cloudy days
  • Best for urban environments
  • High contrast in fog/haze


Blue lenses are specific to green targets, promoting very high contrast. Blue lenses are not recommended for bright conditions. Average light transmission is 45 percent to 55 percent.

Shooting Applications

  • Exclusively used for green targets
  • Best for medium- to low-light conditions


Gray lenses provide a moderate tint and glare reduction in bright conditions. They do not promote contrast or additional clarity, but they are useful on sunny days or for shooters whose eyes are light-sensitive. Average light transmitted is 50 percent.

Shooting Applications

  • Ballistic equivalent to UV sunglasses
  • Best for bright light and sun glare reduction
  • Does not promote or hinder any color


Brown lenses provide excellent light reduction on glaring, sunny days. They’re designed for highlighting brown hues and earthy tones, making them perfect for hunting applications, especially when going for game birds against a blue or gray sky. Average light transmission is 35 percent to 45 percent.

Shooting Applications

  • Best for hunting game birds
  • Provides low light transmission
  • Great for outdoor glare and sunlight

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