Everything You Need to Know About Marine Corps Helmets

September 16, 2021

When it comes to ballistic helmets, there’s a lot of options on the market. If you’re going to make an informed decision, then you’re probably looking at what the professionals use. You might be asking yourself, what is the official marine corps helmet? Or, what style of helmet does the USMC issue right now? We’re going to answer those questions for you in this article.

You’re going to learn about what types of helmets the USMC has currently being issued to troops. What those helmets are primarily made to do and, you’ll learn a little bit about how you can replicate their kit using HHV accessories.

Let’s get into it.

Low-Cut Ballistic Helmets for Marines

Enhance Combat Helmet USMC

Photo Courtesy the United States Marine Corps and Gunnery Sergeant Melissa Marnell

The primary issued helmet combat Marines receive is the Enhanced Combat Helmet, or ECH for short. Prior to 2014, the ECH was issued on a by-deployment basis, meaning only Marines heading down-range or supporting a Marine Expeditionary Unit were issued the ECH. At the time, Marines who were stationed CONUS would have a USMC Lightweight Helmet, otherwise known as the LWH, which was similar in design to the older PASGT systems the Marine Corps started the Global War on Terror with.

After 2014 however, Gentex Corporation was awarded a contract for $51 million to replace all LWH and PASGT systems for every Marine, effectively retiring the PASGT and LWH systems across the entire Corps.  As a result, only lesser-funded reserve units and recruits at recruit training are still using the LWH systems. The PASGT system has been fully retired. Both previous Marine Corps’ helmets are easily found through third party sellers today, and for the most part, they are still ballistically sound. They just aren’t the most comfortable to wear for long periods of time due to their archaic helmet pads and chin-strap systems.

With the ECH now being the primary low-cut ballistic helmet for the USMC, you might wonder what some of the advantages and differences are between it and its predecessors.

Geometrically speaking, the ECH has a similar profile to the Army’s older ACH platform. The PASGT and LWH systems both had an extended lip above the forehead, and this lip could cause some Marines to have less peripheral vision when they were in the prone position. This is not present with the ECH.

From a material standpoint there is a large difference with the new Marine Corps helmet. The ECH is primarily made from Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene which provides 35% better protection against fragmentation and small-arms fire than the Kevlar on the older helmets.

High-Cut Ballistic Helmets for Marines

 New Marine Corps Helmet

Photo Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps and Corporal Isaac Cantrell

Currently, the only Marines being issued maritime high-cut ballistic helmets are Marines that are part of the USMC’s special operations community. Most of these Marines fall directly under the command of USSOCOM, but the Marines in most Reconnaissance Battalions are also already being issued this style of high-cut ballistic helmet as well. This, however, may change soon.

In June of 2019, the USMC started the pursuit to acquire an integrated helmet system, or IHS for short, that will be issued to every single infantry or infantry-like Marine. If a company is awarded this contract, the regular Marine helmet will still be the low-cut ECH system we talked about earlier. Marines from the ground-combat element however will most likely be moving towards a high-cut ballistic helmet system which will enable them to integrate more of their communications equipment directly into this new Marine combat helmet. While it is still unclear which company will win this contract, it is rumored that Gentex, the primary supplier of the ECH, is gunning to slide their Ops-Core helmet line into the spot.

On top of being able to integrate better with their communications systems, the IHS platform will also allow for a more effective Marine Corps combat helmet. Marines are amphibious by nature, and originally, high-cut ballistic helmets were meant for maritime operations. The profile of a high-cut ballistic helmet allows for the operator to put a wider variety of accessories directly onto their helmet. This means, things that would previously require the operator to expend a hand, such as holding a flashlight, can now be directly mounted onto the helmet’s rail system, and can be actuated at the push of a button, leaving the operator’s hands free.

Bump Helmets for Marines

 USMC Bump Helmet

The USMC bump helmet has been around for ages. Ever since the first recruit went down a rappel tower at Paris Island, the Marine Corps has been using bump helmets. There is a myriad of reasons why Marines would need to use a bump helmet, but let’s look at some of the most common reasons you might see one sporting a slick helmet with no ballistic properties.

First and foremost, Marines do a lot of practice. In a learning or training environment, it is not always best to use your ballistic helmet. Training causes wear and tear on your gear, especially when you’re doing assault climbing schools, helicopter rope suspension technique mastery courses, and an endless number of other training programs where a Marine could easily compromise the ballistic integrity of their rather expensive helmet.

For the Marine Corps, budget and safety is everything. There are a ton of day-to-day activities that Marines do that could require the use of a helmet to protect their head. If you can prevent one Marine from ruining their skull or issued combat helmet by giving them a less expensive bump helmet, then you have saved money. It’s for that reason you’ll see Marines sporting a bump helmet.

Do Marines use Helmet Accessories?

 USMC Helmet

Photo Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps and Corporal Isaac Cantrell

The average USMC helmet has had accessories attached to it since the dawn of night vision devices. If you want to get broader, we could probably even go back as far as Vietnam to see Marine machine gunners stuffing bottles of CLP in their helmet’s cat eyes to keep their M60s functioning. The short answer to this question is yes, Marines do in fact attach or affix things to their helmets for easy access, and it’s not at all a bad practice.

Modern helmets are made with the operator in mind, and the operator needs tools to assist him in the execution of the mission. Regardless of if the tool they need is a semi-ballistic face shield meant to protect him from a riotous environment, a headset that provides them with inner-squad communications anywhere in the patrol while protecting their hearing, or a simple flashlight they can actuate with the push of a button.

Accessories are tools, and Marines use them every day in combat. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have these same tools available to you, regardless of if you are a civilian out on the flat-range, or a law enforcement officer who might be expected to conduct high-risk engagements with the public.

Why Choose HHV’s Marine Helmets and Accessories

Marine Corps Combat Helmet

Photo Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps and Corporal Isaac Cantrell

Hard Head Veteran’s is a veteran owned and operated ballistic helmet production company. Our products are highly rated, and we publish the testing data right where everyone can see it. On top of our ballistic helmets, we also have a large line-up of helmet mounted accessories, and systems that make your helmet more comfortable and versatile.

It’s our mission to utilize our own unique experiences in combat to design tactical helmets and helmet accessories that excel in safety, comfort, and durability. We also don’t think that it should cost everyone who wants a helmet an arm and a leg to own one. That’s why we do everything in our power to keep the cost of our products as fair as possible.

We’ve got you covered with our selection.

Helmet Accessories that Make Your Helmet More Comfortable

 Comfort Helmet Accessories

Comfort is important when you’re wearing your lid for hours at a time. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a helmet knows that after a while, they can really start to put a strain on your neck, and the hot-spots caused by standard-issue helmet pads are strenuous and obnoxious. That strain is especially present when you’re operating under the cover of night with your night vision devices turned on.

If you’re the type of person who is going to be wearing your helmet for a long period of time, then we recommend checking out the HHV comfort plus military helmet pads. These helmet pads will work in any FAST, MICH, ACH, or ECH system. They utilize a two-layer system designed for added blunt-trauma protection and impact resistance, while also having a layer of memory foam specifically designed to defeat fatigue and hot spots.

On top of this, we also have a ballistic helmet counterweight pouch which is designed to off-set front-heavy night vision devices. It comes with five 70g removable counterweights that are inside of elastic bands. Elastic bands that are not holding counterweights can double as a place to store extra CR123, AA, and AAA batteries as backup for your night vision device.

At the end of the day however, not everything is always about comfort. Let’s talk about function.

Functional Helmet Accessories

Functional Helmet Accessories

Comfort is important, but function is king. If you’ve already got a ballistic helmet, regardless of if it’s an enhanced combat helmet from the USMC, or one of our ATE systems, you’ll probably be wanting to add some functional accessories to your helmet, and we have a host of them.

One of our favorite functional accessories is probably not something you would initially think you need. That’s the combat helmet bag. If you’ve ever done the seabag drag, then you already know why something like our combat helmet bag might be useful to you. It accommodates helmets of various sizes, has an interior zipper compartment for NVGs and headsets, and it features multiple carry options.

If you’re not a Marine, we also offer a wide variety of helmet covers for our products. We have the HHV ATE Ballistic Helmet Cover, and the HHV ATE Ballistic Helmet Mesh Covers. Both have different looks and are easy to put on or remove from your lid in the event you need to change the camouflage pattern you are using at any given time.

Last is our little friend the rotatable m-lok picatinny rail. This is an adaptor system that allows the user to further adjust the positioning of a picatinny rail onto a standard m-lok mount. It works with all m-lok mounting options and allows you to use anything you would normally attach to the 1913 picatinny spec rail system.

Helmet Accessories That Add Extra Protection

Marine Corps Helmet Accessories

If you need extra protection on your helmet, we also have accessories for that. Marines find themselves in a bunch of different situations, it’s part of their job description as the Nation’s force in readiness. One day they could be training to conduct less-lethal operations or reinforcing an embassy, the next they could be the quick-reaction force for a special operations team deep behind enemy lines in Africa.

When you need to be prepared for less-lethal riot control duty, we have the HHV Tactical Face Shield. This piece of equipment protects the operator’s face from blunt impact, and provides them with ballistic protection up to a 17 grain FSP .22-cal.  Did we mention it exceeds optical clarity and anti-fog requirements and only weighs 9.9 oz?

If you’re in the latter situation however, and you find yourself needing additional protection, we also have an up-armor system that attaches to the front of your helmet. The rifle rated ballistic helmet up-armor system that we offer defeats up to 7.62x39mm rounds at full velocity with minimal back-face deformation.

Tactical Headsets and You

US Marine Helmet Tactical Headset

Finally, let’s talk about tactical headsets and you. There’s a lot of things that could go into this section, but luckily enough we’ve written about this topic at length before. If you want a complete guide to figuring out which tactical headset is best for you, give that article a look. It covers down on some of the top brands in the market today and breaks down just about everything you need to know about them.

The last accessory we’re going to talk about here today is our Rail Adapter Kit. Our RAK is compatible with the 3M Peltor line, as well as most Howard Leight earmuffs, MSA Sordins (requires these adapters) and also a majority of the Safariland Liberator models. It’s one of the most diverse rail adaptor kits you’ll find on the market today, and our goal when designing it was to create a headset adapter system that minimized the overall profile of the entire headset system.

Final Rounds on US Marine Corps Helmets

If you’ve made it this far into the article, then congratulations. You now know just about everything there is to know about the US Marine helmet systems. There was a lot of information stuffed into this article, but we should have answered just about every single question you could have had about combat helmets and the United States Marine Corps.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram or Facebook. We love to hear from the readers, and our customers, and we’d be more than happy to help lend you a hand.




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