3M's Virtua Protective Safety Glasses are For the Weekend Warrior, Not the Hardcore Wrench

If you’re in the market for a new pair of safety glasses, you may already be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options available. With prices ranging from less than $2 to more than $20 per pair and as many styles as there are car enthusiasts, trying to find the best option for your situation can be overwhelming. If a budget-friendly option is a priority and you need a pair of glasses that can take a beating, you’re in the right place.

I’ve spent a decade wrenching on everything from my own 1971 Super Beetle to $500,000 crane trucks, so safety glasses aren’t foreign to me. In most cases, I was provided a set of safety glasses that were bought in bulk, and they were a lot like the 3M glasses we’re looking at today. 

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These 3M glasses fall squarely into the “price as the priority” category since these go for about $3 apiece. But is the price what we should be focusing on when it comes to keeping our peepers safe? 

Let’s dive into the details of these safety glasses to see if they’re worth the savings.

Unboxing and Initial Impressions of the 3M Virtua Protective Safety Glasses

If you order these glasses from Northern Tool’s website as we did, there’s not much to unbox. The 3Ms come in a simple, cellophane bag. No frills, nothing fancy, it’s just a bag. It speaks to the inexpensive nature of these glasses. Because of that, however, you might believe that they’re sub-average.

The biggest realization I had upon opening the box was how similar they were to the Radians safety glasses I had received that same week, the biggest difference between them being the price. The Radians were about a dollar cheaper than the 3Ms.

Outside of the slight differences in the earpieces and the 3M embossed on the side, one pair to the other, they’re the same. After a little searching, I found multiple brands with the same design, although each had unique earpieces, making me think they’re all built by the same third-party manufacturer.

These fogged up within 30 seconds of putting them on. If I can’t see, are they doing me any good?

Using the 3M Safety Glasses

  • Good: Inexpensive and effective means to protect your eyes.
  • Bad: Fog is the enemy of safety glasses, and these were some of the worst I’ve experienced.
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I set out to test the limits of these glasses with three tests designed to be controlled applications of real-world experiences. In the first test, I aimed to break the glasses by dropping them three times from 15 feet onto a concrete shop floor. I was disappointed, not with the performance of the glasses, but because they didn’t break. Given their price as well as construction, I expected them to shatter into a million pieces — or at least in half. They held up, though, which is exactly what they’re designed to do.

Next, I turned up the heat. I clamped the glasses in a bench vise and with a 4.5-inch grinder on a piece of steel tubing, I directed a steady flow of metal shrapnel directly at the lens. This test was equally boring since the glasses only suffered a few minor scratches and the beginning stages of hazy lenses. Nothing, however, that’d impact your use or hamper their protection.

For the last test, I went all in, digging my son’s BB gun out of the closet and raining down lead furry onto the lenses from three feet away. Yet again, after multiple shots and even pushing the glasses off the table they were sitting on, the glasses did their job. 

So, as far as flying foreign objects, metal shards, and repeated 15-foot falls, 3M has you covered. The glasses beat my initial expectations.

These feature a close, wraparound fitment with the top of the lenses resting against my eyebrows.

What’s Good About the 3M Safety Glasses

For a shoestring budget, they get the job done. Protection is paramount, and these glasses have you covered from all sides. The wrap-around design ensures effective coverage while offering a full view of your work.

If you’re looking for some inexpensive protection to throw in the glovebox in your truck or in your toolbox at home, or if you need an extra pair to share with your buddy who drinks all your beer but helps you with your project car, these are a fantastic option. And if he forgets and leaves with them when he goes home for the night, they’re a lot less expensive than the six-pack he knocked out earlier in the afternoon. 

What’s Not Great About the 3M Safety Glasses

They’re inexpensive, but what are you giving up for the sake of saving a little cash? Comfort is first on the list of shortcomings for these glasses. The wraparound design is great for keeping debris out of your eyes, but it also means they don’t have much flexibility. If you are someone with a larger head, the fixed nature of the earpieces and tapered design makes for a tight fit.

Fogging comes in a close second to the lack of comfort. They sit very close to my face, riding against my eyebrows, which tends to trap the hot air from my forehead in between the glasses and my eyes. That trapped heat, coupled with the sweat that tends to pour down my face while working, causes these glasses to quickly fog up. 

If I can’t see what I’m working on, I’m going to take these glasses off. And if I take the glasses off, they no longer offer any protection for my eyes, which is the whole point of safety glasses. So, that’s a pretty big issue.

They are effective, but you’re not winning any beauty pageants with these.

Our Verdict on the 3M Safety Glasses

There are two arguments here. For the average DIYer in their garage one Saturday a month, why pay any more for something that will spend less than 20 minutes on your face? The 3M safety glasses are inexpensive, and they work. You likely won’t care that they’re super uncomfortable and tend to fog up because you won’t have them on for too long.

On the flip side, if I’m going to the trouble of buying safety glasses, I am also going to buy something with more versatility. I need a pair I can wear for longer periods of time, in different temperatures and use cases. With those glasses spending more time on my face, I’m going to invest in glasses that feel good, don’t fog up, and still offer great eye protection. 

3M’s Virtua Protective Safety Glasses get the job done, but to expect any more from them than that is expecting too much from a pair of glasses that cost less than $3. These are for the weekend warrior, not the hardcore wrench. 

These are for the weekend warrior, not the hardcore wrench.

FAQs About 3M Virtua Protective Safety Glasses

You have questions. The Drive has answers.

Q. What are the three types of eye protection?

A. Eye protection comes in three main forms: goggles, glasses, and face shields.

Q. Who should wear safety glasses?

A. Anyone who is working in an area where there is any risk of eye injury.

Q, Why is wearing safety glasses important?

A. Wearing safety glasses is the most effective defense against eye injuries.

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The Drive independently evaluates gear by putting products in the hands of subject-matter experts. The products we test may be purchased by The Drive, our staff, or provided for review by a manufacturer. No matter the source, our testing procedures, and our assessments remain free from third-party influence.

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