Equipping for the Unknown: A Comprehensive Guide to Police Ballistic Helmets

Police Helmet

Police Helmets

Members of law enforcement work hard day after day to protect and serve this nation. They also regularly put their safety on the line for this cause. Police officers deserve the very best protection we can give them to minimize the risk of bodily harm. In addition to standard personal protective equipment officers currently wear, they should consider adding a new police helmet to protect one of the most vulnerable and targeted places on their body.

While ballistic helmets for police officers in the past have been extremely limited, many police departments have become proactive in getting officers quality ballistic helmet protection.

How Many Officers Die From Head Injuries?

Every year, a large number of law enforcement officers tragically die from head wounds. 

police without ballistic helmets fatalities

In the 2018 Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report, we see the same trend where 11 officers died from front, rear and side head firearm wounds, compared to three who died from chest wounds, two from neck/throat injuries and 10 not reported. 

police deaths without tactical helmets

We don't have to look much further than the horrific Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016 to see that a tactical ballistic helmet can mean the difference between an officer losing their life or walking away with a slight bruise. SWAT officer Michael Napolitano's helmet saved him after a bullet struck him in the head. Without the protection of a ballistic helmet, the result would have been fatal.  

Police officers with ballistic helmet

Can You Wear a Ballistic Helmet as a Police Officer?

It is currently up to individual police departments to make policies regarding ballistic helmets. However, officers should consider requesting ballistic helmets from their superiors if they don't usually wear one. 

Police officers experience many risks in the line of duty that can lead to severe injuries or fatalities. The majority of felonious police officer fatalities are due to firearm assaults, according to the National Institute of JusticeSince the introduction of bulletproof vests decades ago, body armor has saved thousands of police officers' lives. 

While vests can save police officers from some gunshot wounds, the FBI's Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted data shows that over the period between 2010 and 2019, more fatal firearm wounds were to the head than any other part of the body. Despite this fact, ballistic helmets are not standard issue for police officers. For some departments, it comes down to budgeting constraints, while some have concerns that these helmets might indicate police militarization

Of course, this militarization concern is irrelevant for military police helmets, but it also shouldn't be an issue surrounding local law enforcement officers. Police officers deserve to be safe regardless of associations people may or may not have with the gear they require for protection. And many professions rely on helmets for protection — not only military personnel. 

Why Doesn't Every Police Officer Wear a Ballistic Helmet?

Fortunately, full tactical helmets are gaining traction with many officers. With the success of bulletproof vests and the number of officers dying each year from gunshot wounds to the head, some police departments and officers are becoming increasingly interested in adding ballistic helmets to their PPE to stay safe. Officers should especially consider wearing a helmet when going into active shooter situations or whenever their heads may be vulnerable to violent assaults or natural hazards.

Police departments and the officers that serve in them know the threats they face every day. We also have data to prove the danger is genuine and that it's possible to mitigate.

Now, you might be wondering why every officer doesn't have a ballistic helmet. The answer is multifaceted.


Historically, the cost of ballistic helmets has been prohibitively expensive for most departments. Helmets that meet all the same testing specs as the ones issued to our military can run upward of $1,500 each. When you add up the total expense of outfitting an entire department with these helmets, it's easy to see why departments traditionally haven't provided them, or only issued them to SWAT/SRT. At Hard Head Veterans, we make quality tactical helmets affordable, so cost isn't a barrier that keeps officers from getting the protection they need. We proudly offer ballistic helmets that exceed testing standards without costing $1,500 apiece

Even if you or your department still cannot afford to purchase tactical helmets, there are still options via grants or donations from foundations such as the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation

Image and Reputation Concerns

Many have questioned the supposed militarization of our police forces. Based on this profession's safety data and injury statistics, we propose the counterargument that ballistic helmets are sufficient protection for the job. 

According to OSHA guidelines"The employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects." 

Well, what about when there is potential for head injuries from thrown rocks and bricks during a riot, or from bullets fired by criminals or terrorists? We are firm believers that police departments should provide the proper PPE against the potential threats each officer faces every day they wear the uniform. 


Band-Aid Solutions: The Pitfalls of Surplus Military Helmets for Police Protection

In a quest to safeguard their officers, many police departments have resorted to acquiring surplus military helmets. While any additional protection is undoubtedly preferable to none, the majority of these helmets are surplus for a reason. Manufacturers typically provide performance warranties for their helmets, and once that warranty expires, it's time for a replacement. Almost every surplus helmet sourced from the military will have surpassed its warranty period. These helmets typically lag behind in terms of weight, ergonomics, modularity, comfort, and even the level of protection they offer. While having some protection is better than none, surplus helmets are not the optimal solution for providing police officers with the protection they deserve.

 Surplus ballistic helmet for police

Why Try to Get Tactical Helmets for Every Officer?

It's impractical for officers to wear ballistic helmets every second they are on duty. If a police officer has their helmet tucked away in their gear when a critical moment arises, it's more likely to be in their trunk than on their head.

So why even try to get every officer outfitted with tactical helmets? 

Because communities are always calling upon law enforcement officials to respond quickly to threats on their own. In the case of an active shooter, a tactically sound choice for the officer would be to get kitted up with hard plates, a rifle and a helmet instead of rushing in with nothing more than a pistol and soft armor. That ballistic helmet or hard armor might mean the difference between the police officer staying in the fight and eliminating the threat or becoming another casualty themselves. 

law enforcement ballistic helmet in trunk of car.

Photo courtesy of officer.com


Types of Police Tactical Helmets

Modern police helmets come in a few different styles, each of which offers distinct advantages. If you want a police bulletproof helmet, there are two basic styles to choose from — low-cut and high-cut. You can also get a bump helmet, which is not rated for ballistic threats but can protect against other hazards.

1. Low-Cut Ballistic Helmets for Police Officers

Low-cut helmets provide the most coverage since they come down over at least part of the ears. With more material comes a heavier weight, but the BTE® Ballistic Helmet from Hard Head Veterans has a DuPont™ Kevlar® shell that makes it comfortably lightweight. These helmets are not the best choice if you need to wear a headset, since they cover the ears. When coverage is essential for safety, this advanced police helmet is the perfect choice.

We make our Modular Integrated Communications Helmets with a low-cut design to protect wearers against blunt forces and ballistic threats. The helmet's modular design makes it adjustable for maximum comfort. The memory foam padding adds even more to the comfort and keeps the helmet firmly in place. 

2. High-Cut Ballistic Helmets for Police Officers

HHV ATE GEN2 Ballistic Helmet for Police Officers

High-cut style helmets are another great option to consider for law enforcement officers. These helmets protect an officer's head from ballistic threats. However, the high-cut design means these helmets do not cover the wearer's ears. We indicate our high-cut designs with the abbreviation ATE for "above the ear." 

These helmets still come down low in the back, but the open space on the sides makes it easier for officers to wear headsets or other accessories. They are also lighter weight, making them a more practical option for sustained wear. These helmets come with rail mounting systems so you can add accessories like lights and cameras. The HHV ATE® GEN2 Ballistic Helmet is a versatile and comfortable choice for police officers.

3. Black Bump Helmets for Police Officers

Bump helmets are another useful piece of PPE for police officers, but they do not protect against ballistic threats. They can shield the wearer's head from hazards like falling debris or thrown rocks, making them useful in specific contexts. For example, officers may want this layer of protection when going on search-and-rescue missions in the wilderness or when monitoring a protest that might become violent.

The Tactical Helmet ATE® Bump is exceptionally lightweight compared to ballistic helmets due to the simplified construction and polycarbonate blend. When ballistic helmets aren't necessary, bump helmets offer the head protection officers need.

Choosing a Ballistic Helmet for Police Officers

Helmets come in numerous variations and capabilities these days, and it may be confusing at first to determine what would best suit you or your police department. Here are your three primary options:

Police ballistic helmet options


PASGT and BTE-style helmets provide the most ballistic coverage for police officers. They typically go down over the ear or are at mid-ear on the sides. The drawback here is the extra weight, and if the law enforcement officer is using any kind of headsetit tends to get squished into the ears uncomfortably. 

High-cut-style helmets or a tactical bump helmet are lighter weight and normally come with various rail systems for mounting additional accessories such as lights, cameras and headset adapters. The high cut makes it easy to run communications headsets with the helmet itself. We have a comprehensive Above-the-Ear Helmet Comparison Guide for you as well if you are looking for the best ballistic helmet!

Helmet Accessories for Police Officers

You can get even more functionality out of police helmets by combining them with accessories. Hard Head Veterans offers various useful accessories, including the following.

  • Helmet pads: You can make many helmet styles more comfortable by adding helmet pads. These pads also add an extra layer of protection for your head.
  • Adapters: Rail adapter kits can help you seamlessly integrate headsets, either for hearing protection or communications, directly onto your helmet. You can also slide on some Sordin/Liberator adapters
  • Bag: When you're not using your helmet and other accessories, you can keep them safely tucked away in a padded bag designed specifically for your combat helmet.
  • Covers: Covers can help you protect the finish on the outside of your helmet and add camouflage if needed. Choose from covers made of solid fabric and mesh covers.
  • Counterweight pouch: When you have a night vision device or other accessory pulling on one side of the helmet, a counterweight pouch can help balance the weight.
  • Rifle-rated up-armor: Whereas standard ballistic helmets can protect against handguns, you can add protection against common rifle rounds with up-armor plates.
  • Tactical face shield: A police helmet with a face shield can lend more protection to an officer's whole head. The HHV Tactical Face Shield comes with a full-length riot face shield and a shorter face shield to provide eye protection while allowing the user to shoulder a firearm properly. 

A Vital Warning About Testing Specifications

The current standard for ballistic helmets is NIJ IIIA, which is essentially a resistance to penetration up to .44 magnum. Unfortunately, there is currently no NIJ helmet certification like you can find for soft and hard armor vests or plates. That means it's each seller's responsibility to fully test their helmets. However, you should be aware that some companies do not thoroughly test their helmets. They may do a single resistance-to-penetration test before putting their products on the market. Police officers and their departments must request comprehensive testing documentation before purchasing any tactical helmet.

Major Test Data You Need to Review

  1. V50 ballistic limit
  2. Backface deformation
  3. Blunt impact
  4. Resistance to penetration 

    These tests are the "meat and potatoes" of how a helmet performs, and any reputable company should be able to produce this data for you. In addition, trustworthy companies go above and beyond by conducting environmental, hot, cold, wet, salt or ballistic helmet compression tests.

    We like to be transparent, so we publish our data directly to our website. You can find it on our testing and warranty page! 

    How Hard Head Veterans Helps Law Enforcement 

    Here at Hard Head Veterans, we know what goes into this dangerous career. That's why we create effective, well-tested and affordable ballistic helmets and bump helmets for police officers. Comfort is a significant part of these helmets, too, as is compatibility with the various accessories you might use on the job. Our helmets go through rigorous testing, and we offer a 10-year warranty for a helmet you can trust.

    We carry helmets in all styles, so you can find the right one for the job. Our long list of accessories also makes it easy to outfit your helmets with whatever you need. From tactical face shields to headlamps and counterweights, you can equip yourself with the right tools without sacrificing safety.

    Remember, helmets are our specialty. As a veteran-owned and -operated small business, we have firsthand experience with what goes into making this gear and why it's so crucial to your work. That experience is part of what makes us a trusted source for some of the most cost-effective, durable ballistic helmets for police.

    Modern Police Helmets for Today's Law Enforcement

    Law enforcement deserves the very best protection that modern body armor technology can offer, including the strongest ballistic helmets for police. At Hard Head Veterans, we understand and respect the sacrifices officers make day in and day out to serve this country. Every one of our team members shares a connection to law enforcement or the military. We're passionate about keeping our law enforcement officers protected with the best tactical ballistic helmets on the market. 

    Not too long ago, many shunned bulletproof vests for law enforcement officers, but they have become the norm for our police officers. We hope ballistic helmets for law enforcement become the norm as well. Stay safe andas always, a huge thank you for your dedication from the team here at Hard Head Veterans. 

    Find police helmets for sale in our online store, along with all the accessories you need to customize helmets for your needs.