by Chad Wade
The military issues helmets, so they must be legit, right?
As often as not, SOF guys (Special Operations Forces) wear bump helmets that have more in common with skateboard helmets than kevlar brain buckets.
For as little as $30, you can snag a beat-up military-issue PASGT helmet on eBay. For another $60 you can outfit it with an excellent suspension system. Another $12 will buy you a chic camo cover in the pattern of your choice. So, for just over $100, you can have a kevlar, bullet-resistant helmet that looks brand new.
If you’ve ever worn a military helmet for more than twenty minutes, you know this: it sucks. At very least, it takes a while to get used to the constant, crick-in-the-neck, three-pound bucket on your head.
Considering the weight and inconvenience, should you add it to your list of preps? Will it protect your head from a bullet?
To answer that burning question, we ganged up with Richard Ryan, inter-web-superstar-firearms guy (visit FullMag here https://www.youtube.com/user/ratedrr) to shoot some super-slo-mo footage of a PASGT helmet being shot with a handgun, rifle and a Barrett .50 cal.
Here’s what we learned.
- A rifle round, of almost any caliber at almost any angle, will punch straight through a kevlar helmet. That’s a big bummer in a post-apocalypse scenario.
- A handgun round, as long as it’s coming from an angle a bit sharper than dead-on, may well skip across the surface and deflect. So that’s good news.
- A .50 caliber round will probably shatter the helmet and kill you no matter what. No surprise there.
Here’s our risk versus reward analysis.
- A helmet may stop twenty percent of HANDGUN rounds fired at your head (the top half of your head, when striking at an angle.)
- A helmet may stop the same twenty percent of FRAG kicked up by small arms fire.
- If you have night vision goggles, you will need some form of helmet on which to mount them so you can go hands-free. So, if you’re running NVGs, you’re going to have to figure out a helmet (because the “halo” rig that comes with NVGs is NOT recommended.)
- You’re going to hate wearing a helmet and it will slow you down.
- A helmet only stops a small percentage of head shots.
- A helmet’s a dead giveaway, in a post-collapse world, that you’re a prepper.
Military personnel worry a lot more about frag since they have to contemplate threats from indirect projectiles such as grenades, bombs, flak and artillery. Those threats are minimal in a natural disaster or social collapse. It’s a different risk profile.
But frag from a firearm, such as chunks of a bullet or jacket that whiz around after a bullet hits a wall, can often be stopped by a kevlar helmet. And, the helmet provides a LOT more head cover when you hunch down, like when you’re being shot at.
Bump helmets, worn by many SOF guys, offer no ballistic protection. But, they do provide a comfortable mounting platform for night vision. Also, headlamps and friendly force indicators (such as a chem panel sometimes called IR strips or “cat eyes”) can be mounted on a bump helmet.
There are some very high quality bump helmets on the market, such as the Team Wendy. But many of the super-cheap airsoft helmets aren’t half bad, either. Same goes for skateboard helmets. They can easily serve as NVG platforms so long as the straps and suspension are tough enough. For a skateboarder helmet, you’re going to want to add a ratcheting mount (which is unfortunately, quite expensive. $120 or so.)
Adding night vision to a PASGT or other military-compatible helmet is pretty easy. It requires a bracket that mounts easily to the front of the helmet. Then, you need to find a cantilever arm to go between the bracket and your actual night vision. This arm allows you to swing the NVGs up and away. Both of these components can be found on eBay.
Bottom line: kevlar helmets may not be worth the hassle for daily wear after the SHTF unless you need a system to hold up your NVGs. Then, you’re still probably better served buying a bump helmet. But, for static jobs, like standing guard at a roadblock, holding a defensive position, manning an entry point, the kevlar’s worth it.
In the zombie apocalypse, when aerial bombing and artillery wouldn’t be a factor, it’s still not too hard to justify a kevlar helmet. I’d probably build one up before buying a third AR but after buying NVGs.
Another (Weird) Reason to Consider Helmets
There is an argument, probably valid, that a group that looks quasi-military will be left alone in TEOTWAWKI. Dressing and acting like a military force might be enough to dissuade anyone except for the actual military from messing with you. Wearing a helmet screams that you are a “hard target” if worn in conjunction with an organized group. Sub-consciously, people project organization and lethality on a military-looking force, and helmets go a long way to convincing stragglers that you are dangerous, assuming that you’re with enough, similarly-uniformed people.
Cheap Helmet Options
Tactical Crusader Airsoft Helmet, $37 (Airsoft-based)
Lancer Tactical, $63 (Airsoft-based)
Skull Crusher Ops-core, $222 (SOF-used)
Team Wendy Exfil Carbon, $600 (SOF-used)