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Paintball Safety Goggles

or "Why you can't wear shop goggles to play paintball."

Shop goggle with hole in it

By : Rob "Tyger" Rubin
1997 Panther Free Press, All Rights Reserved

When you ask an experienced paintball player the most important things in the game of paintball, they will tell you "Goggles, Barrel Plugs." Why is that? Well, the only parts of your body that can be harmed by a paintball permanently are your eyes. Goggles protect you on the field. Barrel plugs protect you off the field.

A lot of new players assume that any old goggles will work. They would rather play with shop goggles, or ski goggles, or tank goggles, or safety glasses, or whatever. However, this is not safe. Paintball goggles are constructed specifically for the game of paintball.

What does this mean? In May of 1997 I was doing research for another article on paintball goggles. And I got in touch with a manufacturer (Leader) who told me about the ASTM. The American Society of Testing Materials has made some rules that all lenses constructed for paintball must adhere to. For example, all lenses must be Lexan, and of a certain thickness or better.

Then there are the shooting tests. The first tests if the lens comes apart from frame. The lens is shot from a distance of 1.5 meters or below at 300 FPS. The second test finds if the lens cracks or breaks under heavy stresses. The lens is shot at 400 FPS at a distance of 1.5 meters and below. The lens is shot with 4 paintballs at 3 second intervals in 4 places on the lens. As of now, all mainstream goggles fall within parameters.

Even with this, a lot of people don't see why they would need to buy special goggles to play this game. I thought of using a scare tactic (pointing out that a paintball at 300 FPS is moving at roughly 204 MPH), I thought of using a style point (that paintball goggles look REALLY cool), I thought of using a parental answer ("you just gotta wear 'em. That's why!")

But I settled on an old idea, but a good one. This experiment has been repeated on paintball fields all around the world in all conditions with all brands of paint and styles of goggles. So, as a scientific survey, it's sound.

Setting up
the expirementWe started from scratch, as a new player may do. We went to K-Mart and bought a Talon (Brass Eagle, $50). We also bought a set of shop goggles. (Generic, $2.95) On my first trip to my local K-Mart back in March, I was directed to the shop goggles as eye protection for paintball. (This was before they got the Leaders in stock, and they have been instructed to proper paintball safety.)

Also, we chose the Talon for it's availability. Several stores sell out of paintguns before they sell out of goggles. So we wanted to show you what could happen.

Our test site was the back porch, facing into a hill. Our paint was fresh Pro Ball Platinum pink. We chronographed our Talon at 248 FPS. Extremely lower than the ASTM standards. To give some benefit to the goggles, we went a little further than the 1.5 Meters for ASTM.

We secured the goggles to a post. (Oh, and there were no birds in the bird feeder either. We just wanted to mention that.) And shot one ball into the largest part of the lens.

*poof*crash*It shattered. You can see clearly in the image we took at impact the large shard flying out the back of the goggle post between the gaps. Had someone been wearing the goggles, that piece would have gashed them severely. The paintball broke on the post, not on the lens (that residual paint you see is on the INSIDE of the lens!) Had someone been wearing them, they would have been surely blinded in that eye.

After taking a picture, we tried to complete the ASTM tests, but after two more shots the lens had completely shattered and fallen out of the frame. We picked up a few pieces and tried to place them back into the frame with limited success.

What was
left of the lensThis test could be (and has been) replicated with motocross goggles, ski goggles, tank goggles, motorcycle goggles, and any other style of non-paintball goggles and the result will be the same. The lens will catastrophically fail. The reason is simple. They aren't MADE for paintball! They do a fine job at what they are built for, but not for paintball!

People argue that you could use safety glasses, or racquetball goggles, or UVEX safety goggles. And they may be right, the lens may hold up to a paintball strike. However, they have flaws. Safety glasses are not secured to the head with a strap, and will fly free of your face when impacted. Both safety glasses and racquetball style eye protection do not have a full seal around the eyes to prevent paint splash and paint shell from entering the eye and abrasing it.

As far as "Uvex" goggles go, we used to use them all the time. But in 1991 or so the UVEX company sent letters out to the major publications saying that UVEX goggles were no not approved for paintball "War Games". This threw players everywhere into a panic, seeing as that was what we used. Luckily, JT Racing had introduced Paintball Specific goggles at that time.

You may be thinking "So What?" Well, let's go over a little medicine. The eye is a complex piece of machinery. Damage done to one's eye is usually not anything that can be easily fixed. If it takes a lot of blunt trauma (like a paintball strike) it will probably be destroyed in the impact. We can't replace an eye just yet.

Paintball is a very safe sport because of the safety measures we take. It's worth every penny that you spend on goggles to protect your vision. Because what you spend now is less than rehabilitation, surgery, and all doctors fees for a paintball blast to your eyes.

Moral : always, ALWAYS wear paintball approved safety goggles and a full face mask when you play the game of paintball. And always use your barrel plugs when you're not playing the game of paintball.

-Filed by Tyger-

Author: Tyger Email: <>
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 16, 1997

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