Product Review: ESS Crowbar Sunglasses

Feb. 21, 2020
Lightweight. Comfortable. and Versatile. Our product review of the ESS Eye Pro Crowbar Ballistic Sunglasses.

I received a pair of Eye Safety Systems (ESS) Crowbar Ballistic Sunglasses back in Spring 2019. After three seasons, it’s time to share my thoughts. For those that want a quick and easy answer: they work exactly like you would expect a quality wrap-around would. They darken the day (but not too much). They’re lightweight. And they fit snug enough to not fall off your face. What other features do a pair of ballistic sunglasses need to have? 

I’ve worn a pair of Crowbar Ballistic Sunglasses from ESS as needed—bright or cloudy. I even tried them on at night when I wasn’t driving. (Didn’t learn much other than I’m not as cool as Jack Nicholson.) Early on I received a piece of advice from Officer Media Group’s Editorial Director Lt. Frank Borelli. His words were a reminder that items like these are meant to fit you, not the other way around. I tried to keep that in mind.

ESS describes their Crowbar sunglasses :

“A light and balanced fit that won’t interfere with hats, helmets, hearing pro or comms gear makes the Crowbar Ballistic Sunglass possibly the most versatile ESS sunglass ever created. The military-grade polycarbonate lenses delivers crisp optics, plus a broad range of ballistic protection.”

Let’s follow that train of thought.

Lightweight and balanced

Light these are. Though we’re only talking a difference of tenths of an ounce when compared to some other glasses I had on hand. For comparison, my pair of Nemesis safety sunglasses weighed 2.6 grams (or one ounce). A pair of indeterminate aviator-style sunglasses weighed 2.4 grams. The ESS Crowbar weighed 3 grams (1.1 ounces). It’s slightly heavier, but we still have to take into account fit, balance and what functionality that extra bit provides. It’s that extra bit that makes all the difference.

I used a consumer kitchen-grade scale made by Greater Goods LLC for these measures. (Measurements were taken for comparison only and are not meant to be official.)

Fit and comfort

I have two simple qualities that I look in my eyewear. First, if it covers my entire field of vision. Second, if it doesn’t slide down my nose while working. My aviators fail this first test. While their lenses are large there is a significant amount of normal daylight breaching around the edges into my periphery. The ESS Crowbar wraparound style covers almost my full vision. You have to look far to the side to see around the edge. To me, this is evidence of a well-thought-out design.

The arms (or temples) are a solid piece. Their “wraparound” quality isn’t as aggressively curved as you might think. There is a bend, but the temple tips are straight back and the Crowbar’s arms include small ports at their end to connect a small elastic strap. There was a slight squeeze on the side of my head for the first few days of wearing the Crowbar sunglasses, but afterward, they remained lightweight and easy to wear for the months since.

I did find that they slid a tad, though not nearly as much as other consumer sunglasses I’ve lost over the years. Their strap solves this problem—even tugged the lenses even closer making the amount of sunlight through the edges even less. This small strap comes with an adjustable slide but you’ll know that you’ve pulled it too tight MUCH sooner before any chance of breaking the arms.

I don’t have access to a tactical helmet (so I can’t comment on fit there), though I wore the sunglasses with as many different hats as I could and with my over-the-ear protection muffs. They all match wonderfully with the Crowbar—better than some consumer models. The Crowbar’s arms are very thin and should tuck underneath the edge of your hat just fine. They’ve been my go-to options for yard work and outdoor activities.


The ESS Crowbar’s lenses are stamped with a Z87+ rating, which refers to the amount of protection any pair of safety glasses provide. Online, ESS reports that they are “compliant with U.S. MIL SPEC MIL-PRF-32432, ANSI Z87.1-2015, CE and U.S. Federal OSHA.” And that, “all ESS lenses provide 100% UVA/UVB protection.”

For me, where the versatility comes into play is the Lens Gate. This feature opens a hinged wing on the outside edges of the lenses to swap out one for another. My Crowbar came with Smoke Gray and clear but ESS makes additional options like Hi-Def Yellow, Hi-Def Bronze, Mirrored Copper, and Polarized Mirrored Gray. Changing these out can be done easily in seconds with an ungloved hand. By the looks of their website, ESS also includes a Lens Gate for their Rollbar model.

And don’t worry about them accidentally popping open, they hadn’t for me. To be honest, I didn’t even know about the feature for months until doing a thorough inspection of the hinges.

They’re sleek, slim, lightweight, and the Smoke Gray darkens the light to a comfortable level. My Nemesis safety glasses (which do not have swappable lenses) make a bright day look a dark brown when compared side by side with the Crowbar’s Smoke Gray. For me, this makes the Crowbar comfortable to wear as well as comfortable to see through.

About the Author

Jonathan Kozlowski

Jonathan Kozlowski was with, Law Enforcement Technology, and Law Enforcement Product News from August 2006 to 2020.

As former Managing Editor for Officer Media Group, he brought a dedicated focus to the production of the print publications and management of the online product and company directory. You can connect with Jonathan through LinkedIn.

Jonathan participated as a judge for the 2019 and 2020 FOLIO: Eddie & Ozzie Awards. In 2012, he received an APEX Award of Excellence in the Technology & Science Writing category for his article on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in police work, aptly titled "No Runway Needed".

He typically does not speak in the third person.

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