Paintball Goggles

Paintball goggles need special straps for proper retention in the event of severe impacts.

ARE CHIN STRAPS REALLY NECESSARY for PAINTBALL GOGGLES?

This tournament player did not have a chinstrap, and his goggles flew off when he impacted the ground on a bunker dive. I thank my old friend Doc Nickel for providing this superb documentation of a controversial issue.

There is a common misconception that the paintball goggle chin strap was designed to keep the goggles from being displaced, or from coming off the head. The ASTM goggle standard neither states nor requires a functional goggle retention performance for chin straps. Safety records and industry experience do not indicate effective retention performance for chin straps. Moreover, straightforward testing and simple demonstrations clearly refute allegations that a properly tightened chin strap will keep the goggle system from coming off. Chin straps cannot and do not keep goggles in place during paintball games. That is the function of the main head strap, which is designed for that purpose and does a good job in recreational paintball games.

WHERE DID THE CHIN STRAP REQUIREMENT COME FROM?

The ASTM F1776 paintball goggle standard was not developed within the ASTM F08.24 Paintball Subcommittee. Instead, it was developed within the ASTM F08.57 Eye Safety for Sports subcommittee, where most of the ophthalmologist, sports optics, and A2LA accredited testing laboratory expertise resided. There was also a pesky detail that, in 1994, paintball did not yet have a home in ASTM. A few paintballers, including myself, had originally joined the ASTM in hopes of starting a paintball subcommittee. Early on, we worked thru the existing ASTM F08.57 subcommittee to develop a paintball goggle standard. We were still in the process of forming the original F08.24 paintball subcommittee.

In the early 90’s I was a voting member of that ASTM F08.57 subcommittee standards development group, although I only had experience with paintball goggles at the time. The majority of voting members in the Eye Safety for Sports development subcommittee came from many different sports categories, which had previously developed many types of helmets and eye protection devices, some of which required useful chin straps for their functionality. Many of these straps were designed as the sole means to keep a helmet in place. Bicycle helmets, football helmets, ballistic protective helmets, hockey helmets… chin straps can be effective on all rigid- frame helmets, but chin straps are not as effective on flexible paintball goggle systems. Most of the ASTM members in the F08 main committee were not familiar with paintball, and many of the ASTM main committee membership accepted the draft standards as presented from specialty subcommittees, for main committee final approval.

The operative word in most arguments about chin straps is “helmet”. Helmets are rigid, but paintball goggle systems are flexible. Chin straps do not work the same on paintball goggles as they do on football helmets, and even NFL helmets sometimes come off during rough play. Today, ballistic helmets are designed to protect players from concussive impacts that are becoming more important in some hard action sports. However, today’s paintball goggle designs have no consideration for ballistic protection, and no need for flimsy chin straps or full head “protection”. EHPD protectors may protect from harsh stinging paintball hits and bruising, but there has never been a helmet mandated for safe paintball games.

I proposed the first update to the 1997 goggle standard in 1999. I had recognized some specialized circumstances where paintball EPDs (goggles) could be “walked to the side” (rotated) by a series of paintball impacts, potentially exposing a player’s eyes to incoming paintballs. This led in 2001 to passage of my proposed update (revision) to the original ASTM Paintball Goggle standard. My proposed revision added section 7.3 “EPD System Retention Test” in ASTM 1776-2001, which entailed a series of impacts against the side of the goggle frame to determine if the goggles could be displaced sideways by repeated impacts. Improved head straps pretty much eliminated the issue of potential goggle rotation. This was eight years before the chin strap and ear/face protection requirements were added to the goggle standard. I never intended the F1776-01 retention test specification for evaluating chin strap functionality, and it is not appropriate for such testing.

Coming soon… see more about the history of paintball goggles at:https://PaintballSafety.org