Where do we start? From the early days of combat operations to where we are now...The leather triangle hats that good ole George Washington and his boys wore when they put boot to ass to win our freedom; or the wool covers worn by both union and rebel sons of our civil war. A very staunch difference than what warfighters put on their heads today. Much has gone into the implementation of what makes the "best" helmet.
Operators will tell you that looking cool is half of the battle...okay not really, but to some, looks do play a part in the gear and kit we choose. I will not dare to go down the psyche rabbit hole as to why we as gun people are so enthralled in looks...instead, I am dancing a little jig over the top by saying that we just do.
Helmets cut above the ear, low nape, color, two piece, one piece...we can go on for days. When it comes to a head-borne gear, only the most practical of applications should be taken into consideration when choosing. OpsCore, Team Wendy, Crye, MSA and as of the last couple years Hard Head Veterans have infused some of the most effective and bad ass helmets the market has ever seen. A far cry from the helmets of early to mid-2000's.
A Thing of The Past
Rails, shrouds, fancy worm dials and state of the art padding have not always been the standard in ballistic helmets, as bulky covers, cumbersome padding and virtually worthless chin straps were. Fitting and suspension were not commonly thought of when we stood in line being issued gear. Could that be part of [clear majority] traumatic brain injury in combat operations of wars and conflicts past? Yes, technological advance is arguably the leading cause of more innovation and manufacture in one way or another; as learning from mistakes and improving upon products is the other half of the equation.
We broke down the V50 testing procedures and showed how standards continue to increase as war fighters return home, or law enforcement officers suffer TBI from battles fought right here in the USA. The difference of how ballistic products are tested now versus ten years ago are staunch, and as natural progression would have it, so are the helmets. We took a few of the more conventional helmets from the GWOT and stacked them up...This is not a full review of each, but a depiction of where we were and how far we have come!
PASGT - Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops: Arguably one of the most uncomfortable helmets ever made...yes...it was and still would be better than nothing, and assumedly responsible for saving lives since 1985 at its inception into the US Military. Commonly referred to as the "K-pot" the 3-4lb helmet was level IIIA MIL-STD rated which is no different from the sleek, and comfortable helmets of today. The guts on the other hand, might as well have been nonexistent as keeping the helmet in place while running, in the Prone position or only just sitting still were inefficient and felt like hair was being pulled from your head, with a regular Cro-Magnon hot spot on your brow. Unlike the helmets of today where evenly dispersed pressure of the worm dial of OpsCor, Camfit of TEAM WENDY or the new suspension system that HHV will be outfitting their lids with very soon are a major plus for operators.
MICH - Modular Integrated Communications Helmet: As usual, someone in the Special Operations community recognized the need for a more conducive helmet to fit the changing OPTEMPO (operations tempo...aka how often boots are put to ass) and mission profiles. The thought of integrating communications equipment, surveillance kits, or hearing protection with the PASGT was a joke. SOCOM put pen to paper and solicited for plans to make a helmet that was lighter, lower profile and came from the factory with all of the mounts installed. In 1993, after the battle of Mogadishu CQB (Close Quarters Battle) quickly became the focus of modern combat operations, to be conducive for CQB operations, the idea and plans for the MICH helmet were born.
Though the MICH offered about 8% less coverage than its more cumbersome PASGT predecessor, the comfort provided by the placement of the high-density pads and 4 point retention system quickly made up for the coverage disparity. As speed, surprise and violence of action being the fundamentals of CQB, the growing need of NVDs (Night Vision Devices) were at the forefront of SOCOM. MICH helmets either come pre-drilled to mount hardware to easily accommodate the AN-PVS 14 (monocular) or the AN-PVS 15 (dual tube binocular) that inevitably causes less strain on the operators head and neck while in use.
ATE - Above The Ear (HHV): Comes "out of the box" ready for tactical operations. Mount, NVG bungee straps, padding, and suspension system in place, the ATE is the most affordable quality helmet on the market. Evaluating Cost to Value, the ATE is hands down, the best out there. Equipped with the three hole WARCOM Shroud, side rails, dialed suspension system and bungee NVG cords. Each ATE is tested and certified NIJ Level IIIA the HHV ATE will stand up to pistol caliber rounds, extreme heat, and offers crush protection against car wrecks, or blunt objects.
FAST - (Opscore): One of the first "modern" of the cool guy lids. The FAST helmet burst onto the scenes about seven years ago which caught the eye of consumers. They outfitted their helmets with the WARCOM 3 hole NVG [VAS] shroud, side rails, padding and worm dial suspension system that proved to be the most comfortable helmet at the time. Fully tested and certified NIJ level IIIA the FAST offers the same ballistic protection as the MICH or PASGT. As for the Cost to Value analysis; OpsCore product is quality, so inevitably, you will pay for it.
EXFIL - (Team WENDY): Is made from a composite hybrid resin that optimizes geometry and overall fit. The CamFit suspension system is one of the most comfortable fitting 4 point retention systems that we have tested. The CamFit system is designed to integrate high tensile coated wire to snug the helmet to the end users head with minimal plastic and other rigid materials. Team WENDY Exfil helmets are NIJ level IIIA to meet all DoD and Law Enforcement standards. Team WENDY caught a lot of political "guff" within the tactical community. Being outspoken Hillary Clinton supporters, much borderline boycotted their products (including me) but, if you can look past politics, the Exfil helmets cost to value is about even on both. The Exfil is about $200 less expensive than the FAST by OpsCore and $600 more expensive than the HHV ATE.
Make The Call
Regardless of your application, make sure that you choose a helmet is practical. Ballistics, quality, and coverage should be the three nonnegotiables. Regardless of which company you decide, I would not venture too far off from the HHV, OpsCore or Wendy helmets. There are hundreds of knock-offs out there, and you will, in fact, get what you pay for.