Military goggles: The undercover job – not!

Military goggles usually bring to mind covert operations in the dead of night against a cunning but unsuspecting enemy. While this may be true in real life as much as in reel life, eyewear used by the military need not necessarily be of the night vision kind. There are several types of goggles used by the armed forces, two of which are night vision goggles and tactical goggles.

NVGs: The power of darknessMilitary Goggles

Night vision goggles are a class of their own. Because of their unique internal design components, they're more like binoculars with head attachments rather than goggles in the true sense of the word. The multiple lens and filter set up inside a pair of these are required to be housed in tubed superstructures that need to protect the sensitive parts inside. They can also be very expensive, starting at a base price of about $270 and going all the way up to $3000 or more, depending on the additional features as well as the basic system used for seeing in the dark – image enhancement versus thermal imaging, the latter being the more advanced and expensive of the two technologies. Military goggles will fall in the higher price band, and have a greater range than normal night vision goggles that are used for the neighborhood watch, for example. Usually, in total darkness it has a recognition distance of 225 meters, or 246 yards – or little more than the length of 2 football fields with the end zones included. Now that's good night vision! Also, they typically run on AA batteries that can last a maximum of 20 hours straight. With features coming out their ears, it's no wonder that military goggles for night vision are so expensive. And restricted - you can't buy a pair of standard issue ATN PSV7 outside the United States, and even taking one out of the U.S. requires all sorts of permits.

Tacticals: Protection par excellence

The other type of military goggles – tactical goggles – is the more down-to-earth kind that the general public is used to. But even here, the rating for these goggles surpasses anything that you'll ever see on the market. Because the eyewear that the military uses has to go through severe conditions continually, they have to be of the highest quality possible. They have to withstand sandstorms, snowstorms, strong wind, intense heat, pouring rain, falling hail, flying debris and shrapnel, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink (and when the soldiers get home, sometimes even that). These military goggles are further divided by their specific functions: Ground Ops, Flight Deck, Vehicle Ops and Ballistic, among others. Each of these is designed with a specific use in mind. For example, the ESS Vehicle Ops goggle was designed to protect the wearer against airborne debris while traveling at high speeds – that means high-impact lenses and an additional anti-reflective sleeve for stealth. Similarly, ballistic lenses focus on impact protection as well as high visibility, so they have powerful anti-fogging properties such as ventilation and lens coating. Tactical military goggles are nearly as expensive as night vision goggles; most are available in the range of between $100 and $150, with some as low as $25 to $40.

You can have some too!

While military goggles might sound like they belong with the "troops", civilians are more than welcome to own a pair. Websites like offer a wide range of night vision as well as tactical goggles that are certified to the highest standards of safety and functionality. However, as mentioned, you can't buy them or use them outside of the United States. Exceptions are defense exports to other nations that buy these from America. You can export them as well, but you'd need licenses and permits that allow you to do that legally.