My old pair of aviators broke the other day. (I sat on them for the 10th time and they finally cracked).
So I decided to treat myself. And get a pair of tactical sunglasses. I wanted something that I could wear anywhere:
- Out on the beach
- At the gun range
- While mountain biking
In other words -
My mission was to find one pair of tactical sunglasses to RULE them all. I was looking for the best damn pair of tactical sunglasses on the market.
And whether you need these for:
- Extreme sports
- Military & Law Enforcement
Today you're going to find out which sunglasses really perform... and which ones just look "tactical".
Because if you do the research right, you'll only have to buy these glasses once. And they'll last.
Unlike some other reviews on the internet (khm, khm, every other site in your Google results)... I'm not going to give you a random list of 10 sunglasses... and send you off to Amazon to buy some Chinese piece of plastic.
That's not how I operate.
My mission today is to find a pair of tactical sunglasses that are objectively better than their competition. Here's what I'm going to share with you today:
- 3 things to look at when choosing:
- 12 Best Tactical Sunglasses on the market today:
- What's the absolute best pair out there?
- 4-5 affordable alternatives that still perform
- The budget option - and is it any good?
- Finally, some popular tactical sunglasses that you should not buy
3 Things To Know Before Choosing Tactical Sunglasses
What makes "tactical" sunglasses different from normal sunglasses?
I'm glad you asked.
- Normal sunglasses will protect your eyes from the UV rays only.
- Tactical Sunglasses will protect your eyes... from everything. They're also called eye shields for that reason.
The protection includes:
- Small particles in the air
Let's take a closer look.
Construction & Impact Protection
The #1 thing separating the good tactical sunglasses from the rest is their impact resistance certification. There are 2 impact protection certifications you need to know:
Here's the difference:
- ANSI certified sunglasses will withstand a .25 steel ball traveling at 150fps.
- MIL-PRF certified sunglasses will stop a .22 steel ball traveling 550fps.
(For comparison - a shotgun pellet travels at about 1000fps.)
If possible, go for MIL-PRF-Certified sunglasses. They'll give your eyes the best protection. And if you're going to use your sunglasses in tactical situations... the MIL-PRF certification is a MUST.
With that being said, there's nothing wrong with ANSI-certified sunglasses either. They're tough enough and work well for handling everyday situations.
Finally, construction also determines the durability of your sunglasses. And durability determines whether your pair's gonna break in 3 months or 3 years. My experience with tactical sunglasses is that you get what you pay for.
Most sunglass lenses come with one or more of the following coatings:
- Anti-glare (polarized)
And those are enough for most situations. In fact, I wouldn't even consider tactical sunglasses without anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings on them. On high-end models you can also find:
- Hydrophobic coating (anti-water)
- Oleophobic coating (anti-grease)
But you won't find these unless you're willing to shell out a couple of hundred bucks.
ALL sunglasses have UV protection. Even the cheapest $5 pair from Walmart will have it. You'd probably have to go to China to find sunglasses without it.
All of the tactical sunglasses I've included here on this list have UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C protection. That covers the entire range of bad UV stuff from the sun. Bottom line is - don't worry about the UV stuff - it's covered.
Most lens colors will work for general use. So I wouldn't worry about it too much. Just get a normal dark-grey color and you'll be fine.
Still, some colors work better than others in the night etc. Here's a lengthy article (admittedly a bit hard to read) that explains which colors work best in different conditions.
Note: Some pairs ship with 2 or 3 pairs of lenses - check the reviews for more info.
Should You Get Polarized Lenses?
You can get polarized lenses with most tactical sunglasses out there.
But should you?
Polarized lenses cost more than normal lenses. But let you see in bright light conditions. They block out the glare. For that reason, they're popular among fishermen, bikers, and skiers.
Side note: You know how the sunlight reflects from the surface of the water? That's the kind of glare that polarized lenses will protect you against.
Polarized lenses have their downsides:
- They can make slippery surfaces harder to see
- It's difficult to see LCD screens with them
- They can alter your depth perception
So should you get them? It depends. The good thing is - you can always get an extra pair of polarized lenses with most sunglasses and swap them out as needed.
Wearing glasses? Good news.
Most tactical sunglasses worth their salt are available with prescription lenses. Check the individual reviews for more details.
Most sunglasses will fit most people. Otherwise they'd be out of business.
If you have a smaller or a bigger head, you should go for adjustable sunglasses. Or the ones that have multiple sizes.
Still some frames will run smaller and others will run bigger. I've noted this down in the individual reviews.
If you're going to wear anything over your glasses (hearing protection, helmet, etc.) make sure you get a pair that is built with that in mind. Yes, there are tactical sunglasses out there that are made to be used with helmets and hearing protection. Take advantage of that (and save yourself some headache).
Generally, well-known brands with a strong track record are:
- Wiley X
- Revision Military
- Smith Elite
Most people swear by Oakley (they also come with a huge price tag), but you'll see... that Oakley ain't all that good when it comes to real tactical sunglasses. You'll go with them for the brand or the looks... but not for performance.
12 Best Tactical Military Sunglasses - Tested & Reviewed
1. Gatorz Magnum
What's Special About Them
Everything is special about Gatorz.
Side note: No really, I couldn't find a single downside on these sunglasses - except for the price.
Gatorz makes the absolute best tactical/military sunglasses on the market. These glasses are the top of the top when it comes to quality, durability, ruggedness, and performance. They have it ALL.
These are popular with the US Navy SEALs, SWAT team and elite military special forces units.
You're getting an aircraft-grade aluminum frame. With extra-strong stainless steel dual 5-barrel hinges. The nose piece is made out of rubber-covered stainless steel.
With ANSI Z87+ and Mil-PRF certifications, these glasses are about as tough as it gets. They will withstand projectiles moving up to 250 feet per second. It's proper ballistic eyewear.
Finally, the glasses are made in America and come with a lifetime warranty.
Here comes my favorite part.
These sunglasses are fully adjustable. You can bend the frame and the nose piece to fit you face. They are the only sunglasses on my list that will get you a perfect fit. No matter what the shape of your head and face is. (The instructions for bending the frame are included in the manual.)
The glasses are helmet-compatible - for mountain biking etc. They won't fatigue your face of ears. You just forget that you're wearing them.
The laser-cut lens itself is PACKED with features and has 3-4 layers of coatings on it. Here's what you're getting:
- Tru-ray Optics
- 100% UV protection
- Anti-scratch (Gatorz lenses are 5 times more scratch resistant than other glasses).
- Polarized lenses available
- Transition lenses are available (they darken with sunlight exposure)
- Lots of color choices for both frame and lens
You can also get the lenses with a prescription if you don't have perfect vision.
The lenses are real thick with all the coatings, but that doesn't make the glasses too heavy.
Side note: If you scratch up a pair of lenses after a few years, you can just send them back to Gatorz. They'll charge you for a new pair and they send the glasses right back to you. It ain't free, but sure beats buying a new pair of sunglasses every few years.
If you're looking for the absolute best tactical/military sunglasses on the market, go with Gatorz.
The price tag is a bit crazy on these. For me they're worth it, and I'm going to get myself a pair as soon as I can. But you can find decent glasses for much less money (keep on reading).
The customer service is great and a part of Gatorz proceeds goes to a charity of your choosing. Usually veterans.
P.S. I don't know about you, but I think these look sick. It's one of my favorite pairs by far when it comes to looks. Click here to see more pictures and check the price on Amazon.
Side note: But I wasn't going to shell out that much cash for them. So I ended up going for the #2 pick....
2. Crossbow Suppressor One
With Crossbows, you're getting incredible value for your money.
This is the pair of glasses that I ended up going with. It's got everything that you need... for less than $50.
Here's what I'm talking about.
Crossbow Suppressor One is a proper pair of rugged, MIL-SPEC glasses. You're getting top of the line protection - they can withstand a steel ball traveling at 250 FPS just like the Gatorz Magnum above. These have all the possible certifications:
- U.S. MIL-PRF-31013
- ANSI Z87.1+
- U.S. Federal OSHA
- CE EN 166
With that being said, the frame is made of plastic. The hinges are pretty thin. I wouldn't beat these up too much.
The thinner hinges on Crossbow Ones are specially designed to be worn with earmuffs. My old pair of sunglasses gave me headaches when I wore them with hearing protection. With these, the headaches are gone.
They're very comfortable to wear. I use the included headstrap to keep them on my head when I need to move around.
Keep in mind that these glasses are not adjustable. So not the best choice if you have a bigger/smaller head than average.
The lens is good. You get lots of coverage, great contrast and good coverage in low-light conditions (I've got the copper lens).
Here's a rundown on the features:
- Scratch-resistant (less than Gatorz though)
- 100% UV protection
- Different colors choices, and some are more expensive than others
There is a quick-release mechanism for changing lens quickly. Perfect for having multiple pairs. I'm planning to get clear lenses in the future, just because I like to shoot in them.
This is the pair that I ended up going with. I love bang for the buck and these are a steal for what they cost...
The downside is that they're not adjustable and might fall off if you're not wearing them with the strap. Also if you have an irregular head shape, I wouldn't go for these.
P.s. The price of these glasses makes me wonder how much all the other companies are overcharging us...
3. Revision Military Sawfly
Revision Military Sawfly was a very strong competitor to Crossbow One. Both pairs cost about the same. In the end, I felt that the Crossbows were slightly better built, so I ended up going with them.
With the MIL-PRF certification, Sawflys are about as tough as it gets for impact resistance.
Revision Military sunglasses are issued by the army and used on deployments. These glasses are strong enough for Afghanistan and Iraq - you bet that they'll be strong enough for you.
- Adjustable arms
- Removable nose piece
- 3 sizes
- Included head strap
- Thin arms are compatible with headsets, ear muffs and helmets
- Prescription inserts are available
With sizes, regular will fit most adults. If you're in doubt, that's the size that you should try first. If you're small - say ~5 feet tall, I would go for small. Large size is for heavy or round faces.
You also get a soft case with the glasses. The case can fit 2 extra pairs of lenses in addition to sunglasses, anti-fog cloth and the cleaning spray. The case itself is quite soft and won't protect the glasses. I liked the much tougher case of the ESS Crossbow.
Sawflys come with 2 pairs of lenses included. A pair of clears and you can choose between smoke, green and tan. You get a quick-swap mechanism - it's easy to take out and switch the lenses.
All bases are covered with the coatings:
- Chemical resistance (something that other sunglasses don't have)
Revision Military is a great brand - very durable glasses. They take a beating and last a long time. For less than $100 and the protection that you're getting, Revision Sawfly is hard competition to the Crossbow One. These glasses check all the boxes of what you might want to have from your tactical sunglasses.
I still prefer the ESS Crossbows, but it's pretty much a tie between those two.
4. Smith Elite Aegis Arc
Smith Elite's Aegis Arc exceeds the US-MIL-PRF-31013 standard. They don't specify by how much, though. The frame is made of plastic.
The frame is not adjustable. You get a soft rubber nose guard. The handles are also rubberized at the end. One common complaint was that the rubber at the end of the arms that doesn't hold them in place properly.
These come with a hard carrying case.
Lenses check all the boxes. You get an anti-scratch coating. There is no anti-fog coating, but you get a special anti-fog cloth with them. Just wipe the glasses with the cloth and they'll be fine for a day or two.
These have Smith's tapered lens technology - the lenses extend to the side. This makes Smith Elite Arc one of the best pairs for side vision.
Two pairs of lenses included - dark and clear. There is a quick-release mechanism and the lenses are easy to replace. Prescription lenses are available.
Smith makes great glasses. I didn't find anything negative about Aegis Arc while doing my research. If you manage to snatch these on a sale, you might just get the best value that there is on the market.
They're pretty much tied with Crossbow One and Revision Military Sawfly. They tend to vary in price, so I ranked them a bit lower. All in all, great glasses.
Oh, and these come with a lifetime warranty.
5. Wiley X Valor
Wiley X Valor gets you a Plastic semi-rimless frame with rubberized nose guard and handles. MIL-PRF and ANSI certified - these have the best impact resistance out there.
Wiley X is one of brands used by the army for their sunglasses, including deployments.
You can bend the frame slightly to fit your face. But not enough to call them adjustable. Temples and nose piece are rubber-covered.
Note: These are better suited for a larger and medium heads.
The lens have anti-scratch coating. There is no anti-fog on these, so expect them to fog up. Prescription lenses are available.
3 sets of lenses included, including a polarized pair. There is no quick-release mechanism for the lenses, so changing them takes some time.
You get the best bang for the buck if you want to have the 3 lenses. The only thing that I would complain about is the smaller size of the lenses - less protection for your face - and the lack of the anti-fog coating. Otherwise they're great.
6. Revision Military Hellfly
Revision Military Hellflys have a plastic frame, MIL-PRF compliant. These are real ballistic sunglasses that will protect you. The frame is constructed in a way that you get a really good seal between your sunglasses and your face.
Hellflys are comfortable to wear. Almost nobody complains about the fit. They're not adjustable.
You get rubberized arms and an adjustable rubberized nose piece. The glasses wrap around the face, giving you side protection as well. You won't have a lot of side vision, though.
Light weight - a little bit more than one pound in weight. You won't feel these on your face.
They come in a hard storage case with a cleaning cloth.
The lens are 2.2mm thick. The glasses are scratch-resistant and you get an anti-fog cloth with them. The cloth has about 20-30 uses. Plenty lens colors available on these, the most from all tactical sunglasses I've seen.
- One pair of lenses included
- Prescription lens compatible
- Polarized lenses available
One major complaint people had was about photochromic transition lenses. AVOID THESE. They don't work well - they don't get dark enough to block direct sunlight. So get yourself two pairs of lenses if you need clears and shades. Don't go for photochromic lenses.
Revision Military Hellfly glasses are stylish. I like the look. They don't look like shooting glasses, and you wouldn't look out of place wearing them on the street.
Great performance - on par with the glasses reviewed above. I would get these if you want sunglasses with smaller lenses. That won't stand out too much on the street.
I was surprised when I found out that for a little more than $20 you can get yourself MIL-PRF-31013 certified tactical sunglasses.
But Edge delivers. They pass the best impact certification out there.
But at this price... don't expect any quality beyond that. Plastic frame, of course.
Nothing fancy here. The glasses are available in L and XL sizes. L will fit most people and you can size up if you have a big head. Rubber nosepiece.
Side note: The design of Edge reminds me a lot of Wiley X Valor and Revision Military Hellfly. Easy to see where they got the inspiration.
- Scratch resistance
- Polarized lens
Note that these glasses come with polarized lens ONLY.
There are QC issues. People complain about the following:
- Lens scratching easily
- Lenses being of slightly different color.
- Lenses falling out
- Rubber separating from the frame
All in all, I wouldn't count on these to last you more than 1 year. You get what you pay for.
Edge glasses are best... for their price range. Which is around 2o bucks. Don't get me wrong - they get the job done. Check the video below if you want to see it yourself.
If I were you... I would pay $15-25 more and get proper sunglasses from either Revision Military or ESS. That way you won't have to worry about QC problems (lens being polarized differently). And lets face it - there is no way these glasses are going to last for more than 1 year.
8. Oakley Industrial M-Frame 2.0
These are Oakley's ballistic sunglasses. The glasses meet the military MIL-PRF and ANSI certifications. MIL-Spec. The impact resistance is as good as it gets on these. Plastic frame.
Made in America.
Great eye coverage. The lenses are big and cover your eyes up to the sides. Rubberized nose piece and handles.
These glasses use Oakley's 3-point fit system. Instead of hooking behind your ears, the handles go further around your head. A lot of people find that they stay on better that way. A very comfortable pair.
There is a slight magnification on the lenses. Great peripheral vision. Anti-scratch surfaces. Unfortunately, these don't have the anti-fog coating. I read that anti-fog lens don't play well with Oakley's cleaning solution - which might be the reason for this.
No prescription lens available with these.
Industrial M-Frame 2.0 is the best pair of tactical sunglasses that Oakley makes. And if you want Oakley, this is the right pair for you. And everything's great - except for the price. Because you can get better value for your money with the tactical brands above.
Side note: Unfortunately, they don't include a head strap with these.
9. Oakley Men's Half Jacket 2.0 Iridium
Made in America. Unfortunately, this pair from Oakley's doesn't have the MIL-Spec certification. They're only ANSI-certified.
This makes them good enough for most of the stuff that you throw at them. They're just not as strong as military certified sunglasses.
Oakleys have always been very comfortable sunglasses to wear. This model is on the small size - both the frame and the lenses. The frames flex slightly.
Half Jacket 2.0 doesn't fit that well on larger faces. It covers less of your face than more professional military glasses above (Crossbow, Revision Military, and Smith Aegis). You might have light spots in gaps.
Oakley used to offer multiple sizes on these. But it seems they've stopped doing that. Maybe they'll bring them back, but at the time of writing this review there is only one size available.
- Anti-scratch coating
- Two colors available on these lenses - black and iridium violet
- You can change the lenses
- Prescription lenses are available
Oakley - The brand speaks for itself. I like the style, too. But personally, I wouldn't buy these because of the lower impact resistance than MIL-Spec sunglasses (no MIL-PRF certification). Plus the high price, of course.
Note: These also come with a soft case, which could be better considering that Oakley is a high end brand.
10. Wiley X AirRage
Wiley X Airrage is Mil-Spec (MIL-PRF certified). But...
As one of the users on Amazon pointed out, there is a fatal flaw with these glasses. When you put them away into the box, the ends of the stems touch the lens from the inside. Now, over time the exposed plastic at the end of the stems will leave marks on your lenses... and eventually ruin them. Basically, you can't store this pair of Wileys properly without ruining the lens. And that's a dealbreaker right there.
Finally, the inside of the glasses is covered in foam that closes the gap between your face and the glasses. You'll need to change the foam every couple of years.
These run a little small and will fit small/medium heads. The "goggle-style" lenses are not good for side vision. There is a strap and a hard case included with the glasses.
There is no rubber on the nose guard. The glasses are also heavy. Since a lot of that weight will press down on your nose, they're not that comfortable to wear. You'll have visible marks on your nose when you take them off.
All boxes checked:
- Prescription compatible
Airrage is one of the best-selling Wiley-X Models. Still, I don't recommend them because of the construction defect (handles touching lenses when stored) and the lack of a rubberized nose guard.
11. 511 Tactical Burner Half-Frame
Plastic frame. The glasses meet the Mil-Spec standard and have great impact resistance.
Lightweight glasses with a rubber nose guard and hinges. Comfortable to wear and no complaints. Heavy duty case and strap are included.
You get 3 interchangeable lenses: Smoke, orange, and clear.
But the lens are not very big. These won't protect you that well while shooting. There's a lot of space between your cheeks and the sunglasses. Enough for some debris to fly in from there. Not a whole lot of side vision coverage either.
- No anti-scratch coating
- No anti-fog coating
- You can't get prescription lenses with these.
These sunglasses ain't cheap and for what they cost... they don't really compare with the competition. The performance is not that good. You can get yourself a pair of tactical sunglasses that are better in every way for about half the price as 511 burners.
12. Under Armor Igniter
These sunglasses are not even ANSI certified. I wouldn't recommend them for eye protection. No ANSI certification alone is enough for me to say pass on these.
I don't know what to think about the "Titanium-Infused Grilamid" frame. Don't let their marketing trick you. Grilamid is just thermally-processed Polyamide, a.k.a. plastic. Checking the reviews, I found many people complaining about the quality of these glasses:
- The plastic is very light and breaks
- Paint coming off
- Logo coming off
- Lenses scratching easily
The glasses have an adjustable nosepad and seem to fit most people. No major complaints about the fit.
ONLY polarized lenses available on these. You can pick between dark gray and brown colors. There is a scratch- and water-resistant coating. NO anti-fog coating.
These sunglasses have NO impact resistance certification - they won't protect your eyes. This pair is inferior to other tactical sunglasses in every way. Especially considering that they're in the same price range.
Side note: These are popular glasses and you'll see other sites recommending them. The only reason why I included them here is so warn you about buying them.
The Final Word
Hope that this guide helped you find the best tactical sunglasses.
I don't know about you... but I'm really tempted to try out Gatorz now. Just need to save up enough money.
By the way -
If you know any brand or model that should be included in this list - please let me know in the comments. Or if I forgot to cover any features that you find important. I'll do my best to keep this article up to date.