About Ballistic Helmets
Dec 20, 2021
Protecting your head is paramount, so we'll help take the guesswork out of it.
In this post, we'll introduce you to the different types of ballistic and bump helmets, their pros and cons, and our top picks.
Keep reading to learn more about everything you need to know about ballistic helmets!
WHAT IS A BALLISTIC HELMET?
Ballistic helmet is a tactical helmet designed to protect the wearer's head from threats such as ballistic impact (bullets), blunt impact, and blast debris. It is typically worn in conjunction with ballistic-resistant body armor to provide full coverage and protection.
Traditionally, members of the military wear the ballistic helmet for combat, and it is also a common piece of gear for law enforcement in tactical situations, but even civilians just looking for extra ballistic protection when working with firearms can make good use of them.
It has to be mentioned that no protective material currently on the market can technically be guaranteed "bulletproof." Readily available tactical equipment might be certified bullet resistant against a certain range of weapons, but that's more than adequate for most use cases.
Bear this in mind before you move on to purchase a new ballistic helmet. They won't stop every bullet coming at you, but that doesn't mean they won't still save your life.
Let's look at how bulletproof helmets have evolved over the years.
I. A BRIEF HISTORY OF MODERN BALLISTIC HELMETS
In the early days of warfare, soldiers protected their heads with cloth or leather to protect themselves. For most of the 20th century, combat helmets were essentially bowl-shaped steel shells that fit into a hard-hat type liner.
The bulletproof helmet as we know it today first saw widespread adoption with World War I. Known as the M1917 helmet, the U.S. variation on the British Brodie helmet, did little more than keep soldiers' heads safe from explosion-propelled rocks in the trenches.
The U.S. government first utilized Kevlar in the manufacturing process for the M1 helmet liner making it one of the first Kevlar helmets. Used by the U.S. military from World War II to 1985, the M1 offered a moderate increase in protection from flying pieces of steel shrapnel, but it still wasn't bulletproof. They've come a long way since then.
II. FROM STEEL BOWLS TO SLEEK HEADGEAR RESISTANT TO MODERN WEAPONS OF WAR
In 1960, a new material called aramid, supplied by DuPont, was developed. Aramid is a durable fiber that is resistant to high temperatures. Known as "Kevlar," this new material was five times stronger than steel and revolutionized the design and production of bulletproof vests.
In the 1970s, another powerful synthetic fiber of the aramid family, Twaron, emerged.
In fact, both Kevlar and Twaron are five times stronger than steel, yet flexible enough to be incorporated into a variety of products that require strength and extreme durability, such as bulletproof protective gear.
The main differences between these two materials are their manufacturers and the timeline of their use. DuPont provided us with Kevlar, which came into commercial use in the 1970s. Teijin gave us Twaron, which was first used commercially in 1986.
Clearly, ballistic helmets have been evolving to meet the needs of today's military and law enforcement officials. They have undergone major developments in shape, weight and materials, becoming stronger, lighter, sleeker and providing good visibility without sacrificing performance.
The M1 helmet was eventually replaced by the Personnel Armor System for Ground Forces (PASGT). In turn, the PASGT was replaced by the Modular Integrated Communications Helmet (MICH), designed and developed by the U.S. Special Operations Command. in 2002, the U.S. Army adopted the MICH and renamed it the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH).
Today's ballistic helmets serve a dual purpose, not only protecting the head area from bullets, blunt objects and debris, but also serving as a mount for additional equipment. With advances in combat technology, many modern helmets, especially those used by the military, must be able to support communications equipment and a variety of gear and accessories such as NVG shields (night vision goggles).
III. TYPES OF BULLETPROOF HELMETS AND THEIR USAGE
Here’s a quick table with the types of bulletproof helmets and their usage.
|PASGT (Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops)||Aramid fiber with a phenolic resin system.||3.1 lbs. to 4.2 lbs. (1420g to 1910g)||Available in a range of colors and pattern for the U.S. Army, SWAT teams, Marine Corps MARPAT, UN Peacekeeping forces.||Protects wearer from shrapnel and ballistic projectiles.|
|MICH (Modular Integrated Communications)||Made of an advanced Kevlar material.||3.0 lbs. to 3.6 lbs. (1360g to 1630g)||Available in camouflage patterns of Cyre MultiCAM, USMC MARPAT, U.S. Army UCP. Also available in complete black for SWAT terms.||Protects wearer from handgun shots.|
|ECH (Enhanced Combat Helmet)||Made of Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight polyethylene which is stronger than Kevlar.||3.2 lbs. to 3.5 lbs. (1474g to 1637g)||Colors and patterns are same as PASGT and MICH.||Provides enhanced protection from rifle rounds and fragmentation.|
|Fast/High Cut/Maritime Cut/ATE||Advanced Kevlar material.||2.2 lbs. to 3.0 lbs. (1143g to 1354g)||Available in colors such as foliage green, urban tan, MultiCAM, black, desert MARPAT, etc.||Designed for Maritime special operations.|
You can learn more about why there are so many different kinds of Ballistic Helmets in our article on the topic. Below we'll explain each type of helmet.
IV. TACTICAL HELMET TYPES
Today, there are three main types of helmets on the market: the Future Assault Shell Technology helmet (known as the FAST helmet), the Modular Integrated Communications (MICH) helmet, and the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) helmet.
Each helmet has a different history, design, and purpose.
PASGT ("K-POT," "KEVLAR HELMET")
The oldest and perhaps most influential design of the three ballistic helmets available for general purchase today, the PASGT (pronounced PAZ-get) was used by the U.S. military from 1983 to the mid 2000s as one component of a protective gear set that also included a ballistic vest.
This ballistic helmet is a tried and true model and is still in use today by the U.S. Army Reserve and the U.S. Navy for sailors on warships. It's the original gold standard when it comes to ballistic protection.
Key features of this helmet include an outer shell usually of multi-layer Kevlar, a low cut over the ears, and a lip over the brow. It is available in a range of colors and patterns for use in different branches of the armed forces and weighs 3.1 lbs. to 4.2 lbs. (1420 g. to 1910 g.).
With precise drilling into the Kevlar, the helmet can be outfitted with add-on accessories such as a mount assembly for night vision goggles and a riot control visor.
The MICH is the next generation of the PASGT. It was released in early 2001, after experiments aiming to design a ballistic helmet which was lighter and more comfortable yet still as protective as its predecessor.
When the U.S. Army adopted the MICH in 2002, the helmet was renamed the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH).
The helmet weighs 3.0 lbs. to 3.6 lbs. (1360 g. to 1630 g.) and is made of an advanced Kevlar material. It comes in a range of camouflage patterns or solid black for use by SWAT teams.
Two other main goals in the MICH's creation was that the helmet could easily be mounted with accessories and wouldn't shift forward over the eyes in certain positions when pushed by the high collar of the Interceptor (the vest component of the military body armor system).
To accomplish these aims, the brow was eliminated and the sides were raised, resulting in 8% less coverage but improved visibility, comfort, and situational awareness - a worthwhile trade-off.
Rails were also added along the sides for mounting accessories without the need to drill into the Kevlar.
The MICH is currently one of the helmets used by a number of armed forces, including the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and the U.S. Air Force Security forces.
FAST ("HIGH CUT/" "ABOVE THE EAR/" "ATE"/ "MARITIME CUT"/"COMBAT HELMET")
The manufacturing company Ops-Core unveiled the FAST ballistic helmet at the 2009 SHOT Show, and it was soon issued to U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan. Today, a number of special ops forces use different variants of the FAST.
One immediately noticeable trait of the FAST setting it apart from any other ballistic helmet is that it features high cut sides, leaving the ears exposed. The helmet then curves back down to protect the occipital bone at the back of the head.
The original purpose of this high cut ear design was for use in maritime special operations. More traditional helmet models proved hazardous to wear at sea when travelling at high speeds because water could catch in the ear cups.
The helmet's high cut and the side rail system allow for the mounting of additional combat accessories including earphones, electronic ear muffs, and a night vision goggle shroud.
Obviously, a MICH helmet supports these accessories, too, but another distinguishing feature of the FAST is its weight. It is significantly lighter than the MICH at only 2.2 lbs. to 3.0 lbs. (1143 g. to 1354 g.) as it's made of a composite of Carbon, Uni-directional Polyethylene, and Woven Aramid.
WHAT IS A BUMP HELMET?
Some tactical helmets are ballistic resistant while others are not.
Bump helmets, as non-ballistic helmets are called, are not rated for gunfire of any kind, but they are designed to protect against other impacts one might encounter in a combat situation, like shrapnel or falling debris.
A bump helmet can also be a good piece of protective gear during natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes.
They are significantly lower in price than ballistic helmets and very lightweight, making them good for tactical training scenarios as well.
I. IS A BUMP HELMET WORTH IT?
Definitely, as long as there isn't a threat of bullets during your tactical work. (Otherwise, you'd need a ballistic helmet.)
In fact, a number of Special Operations Forces make use of bump helmets for mounting equipment such as night-vision goggles.
II. BUMP HELMET PRODUCTION MATERIALS?
Bump helmets are usually constructed out of polymer plastic or carbon fiber. This makes the helmet very lightweight, at roughly 1.4 lbs. (635 g.)
WHAT'S IN A BALLISTIC HELMET?
Most of the companies today are incorporating their patented padding and suspension systems to come up with the best ballistic helmets.
Today's ballistic helmets are composed of an outer shell of bullet-resistant material such as Kevlar, a retention system including a chin strap, and a suspension system consisting of shock-absorbing pads.
Some of the latest features that can be found in bulletproof helmets include:
- Velcro attachments for the modularity of end-users.
- Proper padding to perfectly fit the human head.
- Moisture-absorbing material to reduce bacterial growth.
I. IS A BALLISTIC HELMET WORTH IT?
For those exposed to military combat, the use of helmets can reduce ballistic impact casualties by 19 percent, while wearing helmeted body armor can reduce them by half.
Research from the National Library of Medicine shows that "although the head is involved in only 9% of the body area exposed in combat, it still takes more than 20% of all 'hits'."
So the answer is yes!
Ballistic helmets are designed to protect the wearer from a variety of combat-based threats, such as debris, gunfire, shrapnel, explosions, etc. However, gunfire in combat is not always within the normal range. For example, a bulletproof helmet is unlikely to protect you from sniper fire.
However, in the case of a short-range bomb blast, a bulletproof helmet can protect your skull from being crushed into pieces and your brain from being damaged.
II. CAN YOU USE A BALLISTIC HELMET IF YOU ATE NOT IN THE MILITARY?
It depends on the situation.
Law enforcement, security, corrections and related similar occupations are more likely to be threatened by impact weapons and thrown objects than by bullets.
Are ballistic helmets useful for people facing the threat of blunt impact?
These helmets also provide blunt impact protection.
A rock hitting the wrong side of the head can be just as deadly as a bullet, and in this case the blunt impact properties of a ballistic helmet can be a real lifesaver.
III. WHAT ARE THE BEST BULLETPROOF HELMETS?
If you’re looking for the best ballistic helmets on the market, you can check out our selection for some of the most compelling ballistic helmets. The best helmet for you depends on your needs, comfort, and budget.
Based on extensive market research and reviews from satisfied customers, here are two of the best-rated ballistic helmets for you:
Multicam--Aramid Military ballistic special forces bullet proof army combat helmet
- Ballistic Performance： US NIJ IIIA level
- Weight: About 2.97-3.63 lbc
- Certificate: ISO 9001:2015
- Feature: Bulletproof 9mm/.44
PROTECTION GROUP DENMARK ARCH LEVEL IIIA BULLET PROOF HELMET
- Super High Cut Skeleton Rails offer a lower profile with a 30% weight reduction from FAST MT Super High Cut Rails.
- Features a lightweight Modular Bungee Shroud (MBS) which reduces snag hazards and interference. Carabiner clips improve NVG retention and stability.
IV. WHEN DO I NEED A BALLISTIC HELMET?
Those who wish to add a tactical helmet to their kit should consider what they expect to encounter.
If you expect to be in a combat situation, then a ballistic helmet is a no-brainer. However, if you only expect to be in a dangerous environment without enemy combatants, then a crash helmet may be sufficient.