The best ballistic helmet for the money is the one backed by rigorous testing and QC processes
Manufacturing a ballistic helmet is pretty straightforward, in theory. High-quality ballistic fibers are fused with a stiff resin to form a strong, lightweight shell that’s tested to meet protection standards.
But in reality, the process is much more complex than manufacturing most items and even other ballistic products, such as body armor. Small imperfections in materials or the manufacturing process can compromise a helmet’s integrity. And manufacturing ballistic helmets consistently at scale increases the complexity.
This is why Hard Head Veterans implements a multi-faceted process of quality control checks and batch testing. Here are the steps we take to ensure our customers receive some of the highest-quality ballistic helmets for sale in the industry.
What are ballistic helmets made of? It all starts with the raw material
Most great products rely on quality raw materials, but this maxim is especially true when it comes to ballistic head protection. The building blocks of modern helmet shells usually include some mix of:
- Aramid fibers (which include but are not limited to Dupont’s ™ name brand “Kevlar®”)
- Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fibers — also known as “UHMWPE” or just “polyethylene.” You can read more about UHMWPE and its properties in our recent blog series.
- Stiff resins that hold together the ballistic fibers, increase the shell’s stiffness, and improve its shear resistance, damage tolerance, heat resistance, and abrasion resistance.
What ballistic helmets are made of and their fiber compositions vary depending on a helmet’s goals, weight, and rated performance characteristics. For example, the shell of our HHV ATE® GEN2 helmet is comprised of durable next-generation aramid fibers. In contrast, the Ops-Core FAST® SF helmet includes a hybrid mix of carbon, unidirectional polyethylene, and woven aramid fibers. The ATE provides more protection, while the FAST is lighter.
Hard Head Veterans only trusts suppliers of ballistic fibers that carry numerous accreditations for quality. For example, they must meet the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 9001:2015, which validates a company has processes to consistently produce products meeting “customer” and “regulatory requirements.”
Raw sheets of Honeywell’s UHMWPE Spectra® fibers.
These assessments may include randomized ballistic flat-panel testing, visual and weight inspections, and chemical, viscosity, and density checks on fabrics that are pre-impregnated with resin.
Further, some suppliers, such as Honeywell, provide defect templates (shown below) that allow us to double-check if we see anything questionable once the materials get to our cutting machines.
A defect template provided by Honeywell enables us to QC batches of UHMWPE.
Only using reputable ballistic fiber suppliers with their own strict standards is our first crucial step for producing quality helmets. But the QC process certainly doesn’t end there.
How to make a ballistic helmet: the QC process in production
We implement several QC checks throughout the production process of every ballistic helmet. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Ply orientation checks and ply stack checks (thickness, counts, weight). Ballistic fibers' strength depends on their thickness and direction (how they are aligned). Stack and orientation checks assess these factors.
- Checking trimmed helmet weights and dimensions to ensure helmets meet our specs.
- Reviewing the shell translucency of UHMWPE spots imperfections that would degrade performance. Here’s a video showing a polyethylene shell transparency check:
- Resin set and adhesion checks. In addition to conferring greater strength, heat resistance, and other protective properties, a stiff resin serves as the glue that holds ballistic fibers together.
The above items are just a few examples of our QC process. Every stage of production has a unique set of checks, culminating in a final visual inspection by our shipping team.
Utilizing match-made molds during production drives consistency in our helmet shells — even at a glance. And if something is amiss, the imperfection manifests in various downstream processes, such as parts not fitting correctly or weights being off. Identifying any such issues means an affected helmet doesn’t make it out the door.
How to make a ballistic helmet: Batch testing enables consistency
Hard Head Veterans tests samples of production runs to validate material integrity and helmet performance. For example, we like to quality test the batched rolls of ballistic fibers received from our suppliers to ensure performance consistency across all the rolls used in a specific production run.
We’ll also accommodate the batch-testing specifications of our large contract customers if they differ from our in-house steps. And we always encourage our contract customers to witness these tests in-person to ensure that our QC process is up to their standards.
Further ballistic helmet performance testing
A lot goes into testing our helmets. We conduct both in-house and third-party verification tests with accredited labs, verifying that our helmets meet standards set by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
In-house testing expedites our production and R&D efforts. The ability to quickly assess the performance of a helmet is priceless during both these processes. Third-party tests by independent labs allow us to compare the results to our in-house testing and provide a non-biased verification of our helmets’ performance. Our contract customers typically require these assessments, and we always perform them for our main product lines.
In addition, we publish the results of tests so our customers can verify that they are buying a quality product.
Check out this page to learn more about Hard Head Veterans' testing and view the results. Also if you want to learn about backface deformation testing on ballistic helmets, check out the video below!
Read this blog to learn about third-party tests and protection standards: “Tactical Helmets: Testing & Ballistic Protection Levels.”
And if you have any questions about our headgear, accessories, or QC and testing procedures, contact us today.
Hard Head Veterans stays on top of helmet research and production best practices to ensure we provide the best protection possible. Read more blog posts, and be sure to check out our gear, including a selection of the best ballistic helmets for sale and essential helmet accessories.