Tactical Helmets Guide 2023
This blog post is about one of the most important armor pieces – the helmet. If you are reading this in 2023, you should know about new models and technical innovations in tactical helmets that can potential save your life or at least prevent some extremely serious injuries. But before we dive into detailed review of several new models of tactical helmets, let’s dot all the i's and define what a tactical helmet is in the first place.
What is a tactical helmet
A tactical helmet as the name suggests is a helmet designed to protect your head in a combat. Unlike other protective head gear, tactical helmets are specifically intended to stop bullet threats, that is – they are explicitly rated for gunfire. In addition, they do provide protection against other physical damages, and also such tactical helmets are usually equipped with certain accessories to increase efficiency of the wearer in the combat. For instance, a tactical helmet may provide mounts for night vision, flashlight, or radio set.
One should distinguish tactical helmets and bump helmets. The latter are designed to protect your head against shock damage, but they do not have any protection rating against bullets, even though such bump helmets often look very much like tactical ones.
Although, tactical helmets are not the same. Did you know that there are several types of helmets? And you really should pick the right one, so let’s see what these types are.
Types of tactical helmets
Currently, five types of helmets are known and sold on the market. Not all of them are really worth buying, so read carefully the next section.
PASGT stands for Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops. The acronym refers to both a helmet and a body armor. PASGT helmets have the NIJ rating of Level IIIA (see below) and thus can only protect your head against pistol shot and ricochets. Leaving the historical overview alone, we only tell you that this type of a helmet was designed and introduced back in 80’s, so you definitely should not rely on it too much in 2023.
As soon as newer and more lightweight materials became available, PASGT was replaced by MICH – Modular Integrated Communications Helmet. There are both tactical and bump variations of MICH (say, for sports or strike ball). These helmets are more lightweight and have integrated mounting brackets for various devices including night vision. MICH helmets are more comfortable for wearing, but still this is a 2001 design, which is superseded now by other helmet types.
Advanced Combat Helmet is what are protectors currently wear. This ballistic helmet type is a further enhancement of the MICH helmet, but otherwise they are very similar. Both are based on Kevlar or Twaron fibers, both provide pistol protection, and even the shape of these helmets is practically identical.
Enhanced Combat Helmet was introduced in 2012. The main feature of this type is reduced weight and increased protection due to the use of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE). This synthetic material offers 35% better stopping power and prevents even higher speed bullets from penetrating the helmet. This helmet type is currently in the inventory of the U.S. Army. Note that this type of helmets can be hard to purchase by civilians, and the legality of such a purchase would be questionable.
FAST stands for Future Assault Shell Technology. This is the ultimate helmet type used by Special Forces and Army not only in the U.S. but in other countries too. The reason is the extreme efficiency of the helmet in providing head protection and delivering maximum safety of the wearer without stressing his or her neck too much. FAST helmets are lightweight, comfortable, and provide NIJ Threat Level IIIA protection easily.
What helmet type should you choose?
In terms of the available budget, you should probably select from PASGT helmets. They are rather affordable albeit limited in terms of equipment you would be able to attach to them. Also, there are weightier than contemporary helmet types.
If you need to attach some communication gear on the helmet, you can take a look at MICH helmets. MICH provides 8% less coverage than PASGT, but is lighter. Also, MICH is a good choice if you need superior field of view and unobscured vision.
Another option in case you need both high protection of the helmet and all the necessary equipment mounts to attach NV, light, or communications, is ACH.
FAST helmets have literally no drawbacks, so this is the ultimate solution applicable to almost any tactical mission, save for the price. FAST helmets are pricey, yes. But in the end you get a very lightweight Level IIIA helmet, and can mount any equipment on it.
About helmet protection levels
The current NIJ 0106.01 standard for bullet-resistant helmets is dated 1981. Yes, this is not a typo. Apparently, the standard cannot be used to test helmet protection capabilities against modern bullet threats. That is why manufacturers test their tactical helmets using the newer NIJ standard for bullet-resistant vests instead.
So when you see, say, an “NIJ Level IIIA” label in the specification of a helmet, you should understand that the helmet was NOT certified as NIJ Level IIIA. There is even no NIJ Level IIIA for helmets! What this label really means is that the helmet was tested by the manufacturer using the NIJ 0101.06 standard for body armor (not to confuse with NIJ 0106.01) and can withstand the threats associated with the corresponding threat level.
Do you really need to invest in a helmet?
Even simple bump helmets can save your life or protect your head from potential injuries. Almost any kind of active sports put you at risk of a potential head trauma. Hence, wearing a helmet is vital there. Also, a helmet is worth purchasing to prevent bumping with your head while cutting trees, trimming branches, doing construction works etc.
Even more important is wearing a tactical helmet. You see, when it comes to casual activities, you often can assess risks beforehand, and even in an unexpected situation you may have time to prepare and tuck yourself up to minimize damage. But with bullet threats this is not so. Bullet projectiles are fast, unforeseeable, and potentially lethal. Hence, a reliable head protection is a must. This is why you need to invest into your tactical helmet as much as you can afford. And may be a bit more.
But let’s now see what the best helmet brands to look at are.
Top notch helmet brands
Here are the best brands providing head protection, including ballistic helmets.
Avon (Team Wendy)
Avon Protection was founded more than 130 years ago and remained an official supplier of the UK Ministry of Defense for 100 years now. Avon ballistic helmets were known for their reliability, but today Avon helmets are manufactured by Avon’s partner, Team Wendy.
Agilite gear is well-known for unsurpassed quality and over the top protection developed by one of the most technologically sophisticated manufacturers in the world. An Agilite helmet as well as Agilite helmet cover are a pinnacle of Israeli head protection innovations.
United Shield International is a leading developer, manufacturer and supplier of body armor system and head gear. United Shield helmets are certainly worth considering if you are looking for a tough equipment to help you stay safe in any situation.
Shellback Tactical manufactures ACH ballistic helmets. They company does business since 2003 and aims to developing truly innovative armor pieces in terms of functionality, reliability and protection capabilities.
Atomic Defense is a small company based in California. But small does not mean weak. Helmets manufactured by Atomic Defense are among the best ballistic helmets, and the government repeatedly procures them for law enforcement and military needs.
Galvion was founded in 2002. The company manufactures best-in-class protective gear including ballistic helmets. The company focuses on using innovative materials and technologies to deliver advanced and lightweight Level IIIA helmet systems.
Hard Head Veterans
HHV is founded by a group of veterans who knew exactly about all the problems arising on the battlefield due to an inconvenient or poorly designed helmet. The company now offers a growing list of premium protective products such as ballistic helmets.
Gentex Ops-Core ballistic helmet systems provide the highest levels of protection achievable thanks to the use of innovative polyethylene materials and a range of solutions. Together, they allow integrating communications, optics, and even breathing systems right into the ballistic helmet.
Crye Precision is a U.S. manufacturer of protective systems. Crye Precision manufactures superior lightweight ACH and FAST helmets, all time winners of ballistic tests by independent firearm enthusiasts.
New tactical helmets in 2023
Ok, let’s look at some new 2023 helmet models you want to pay attention to.
With this budget you can buy an excellent tactical bump helmet, or an affordable but good PASGT. Here are some helmets to consider:
Shellback Tactical Level IIIA PASGT helmet
A typical cut and affordable Kevlar fibers have met to produce an excellent PASGT helmet for as low as $300.
Team Wendy LTP EXFIL
Don’t let the stylish look of this non-ballistic bump helmet to fool you. This is a great product for the price, provided you need some superior bump protection for your head during your sports and tactical activities.
With this amount in your pocket, you can afford a range of excellent ballistic helmets.
This super-lightweight ballistic helmet is a popular choice for a reason. Based on Kevlar it demonstrates great performance with rated ballistic threats. The helmet uses a higher cut that leaves your ears open, and features M-LOK rails and A3S shroud. A great investment of your $600.
Avon Protection MICH
This high-cut MICH helmet does not offer ways to mount NV, but otherwise is extremely reliable with its Level IIIA ballistic protection and clear view.
Helmets made for really superior protection and comfort. Let’s see what we’ve got here.
HHV ATE LITE Ballistic Helmet
Ultra-lightweight, extremely comfortable, and a proven Level IIIA ballistic protection. The helmet uses a blend of UHMWPE and Aramid fibers. Plus, its inner pads are extremely comfortable thanks to specific design that conforms naturally to your head.
Ops-Core FAST SF Super High Cut Carbon Composite Helmet
This bump helmet is designed to withstand damages and protect your head against almost any non-ballistic threats. It weights as little as 1.5 lbs, and since its FAST it also offers the mounts for all the accessories you may need.
Crye Precision AirFrame Ballistic Helmet
Ok, this U.S.-manufactured ballistic helmet has a lot to offer for your $1100 or so. 100% compatibility with most night vision goggles and ear protection. It is modular, so you can adjust it to any specific mission. Finally, it is tested to overcome the requirements of the Level IIIA ballistic standard.
Team Wendy EXFIL Ballistic Helmet
If we’re asked to describe this ballistic helmet in one word, we would answer: comfort. Team Wendy did a great job to make this unit feel extremely natural on your head with its 16 adjustable pads. As for its protection level, the helmet was tested against NIJ Level IIIA threats.
Do you really need a ballistic helmet? Probably not. May be you don’t even need a bump helmet. But would it not be better to have one and never need it, than need it while not having one? And for law enforcement officers, policemen, guards, hunters, and firearms enthusiasts, a tactical ballistic helmet is a must.
In this article, we reviewed a range of good helmets, so you now have something to choose from. And if you need any assistance or have questions about choosing a helmet, please feel free to contact BattleSteel at any time.