There was a time not long ago when duty sunglasses were pretty much just that, shades. They may have been able to shield your eyes from sun rays and flying sand or dirt, but that was the limit of the protection they offered. They were even packaged with warnings cautioning wearers against impact.

Then sports eyewear companies started using polycarbonate materials to make their lenses. That innovation led to stylish protective shades for shooters, skateboarders, and other sports where high-velocity impact is likely. And that led the military to take interest. Today, protective eyewear is a must have for both law enforcement and military personnel, and you have a lot of makes and styles to choose from.

That's even true if you wear prescription lenses. And, man, is that a change. There was a time not long ago when the visually challenged had a choice between cheap flip-ups or clunky optometrist office frames. Now many of the companies below sell prescription inserts that fit some of their most popular and stylish models. Unfortunately, you still have to pay for a prescription, but that's life.

Let's take a look at some of the latest duty eyewear.

5.11 Tactical

Last year 5.11 Tactical teamed up with Wiley X to launch its eyewear line. The line includes two styles: the Shear and the Climb. Both sunglasses have lightweight gloss frames, distortion-free lenses crafted from Selenite polycarbonate, and meet ANZI Z87.1.

Visit 5.11 Tactical Online

Bobster

Founded in 1996, Bobster made its name in the sport eyewear market. Today the company produces a broad line of glasses, convertibles, and even anti-fogging eyewear, anti-fatigue models that meet military standards for ballistic performance. Bobster's Ballistic Tactical line includes goggles, glasses, and shooting glasses.

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Eye Safety Systems (ESS)

ESS's Crossbow comes as a two-frame, two-lens (day and night) kit in a zippered hard case, with a head strap and microfiber lens cloth. Lenses are secured to the frame by the Ded Bolt locking system, which makes them secure once in place but still easy to remove. ESS Eyepro's Tri-Tech Fit helps the Crossbow protect the operator's eyes while staying comfortable.

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Gatorz

This California-based company is marketing its Magnum and Octane models to law enforcement. Both models offer a wide variety of frame colors and lens tints. Polarizing and photochromic lenses are available in addition to types of basic lenses. Frames are carved from billet aircraft aluminum. The lenses are cut from polycarbonate material and offer 100-percent UV protection without distortion.

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Oakley

Like other sports eyewear makers, Oakley produces a diverse line of law enforcement and military models. The company's products range from standard sunglasses, to convertibles, to goggles. Some even offer ballistic protection; all meet ANSI standards for impact. Various colors, frame materials, and tints are available.

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Revision

Vermont-based Revision Eyewear is one of the largest suppliers of military-approved eyewear in the nation. The company's Hellfly and Sawfly models are a favorite of our troops. The Sawfly is a convertible wrap-style set that offers ballistic protection that exceeds ANSI standard as well as fog resistance. The basic Sawfly set includes two lenses. A traditional sunglass design, the Hellfly also offers ballistic protection.

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Rudy Project USA

Italy's Rudy Project is a favorite in competitive shooting circles, and its Rydon model is popular with many officers. The Rydon offers multiple lenses in each kit so that you have tint options. All Rydon lenses meet the ANSI impact standard. Better yet the lenses have a lifetime replacement guarantee.

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Wiley X

At this year's SHOT Show leading law enforcement manufacturer Wiley X launched its Black Ops line. These six new stylish, lightweight models were designed specifically for law enforcement and military shooters, and they offer a lot of great features such as climate control and ANSI standard impact protection.

Visit Wiley X Online

Tell us which protective eyewear you use in the comment box below.

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