Setting up a tactical helmet is similar to any other tactical gear in the sense that it will always be use and user-specific. In this guide, we will be going over common set-ups for police from the patrol officer to SWAT.
Choosing the right helmet
Starting off with the correct helmet for your application, and a quality one is key. The two most common types will be the ATE (Above the Ear) featuring a high cut, up above the ears. The other primary option is the BTE (below the ear) which extends typically mid to below the ear.
For in-depth info on the various types of helmets, check out this page https://www.hardheadveterans.com/blogs/reviews/ballistic-military-helmets-and-which-one-is-right-for-you.
Other important considerations are the protection levels offered, comfort, and of course quality.
As most customers have come to prefer an ATE type tactical helmet, we will be focusing on that for this guide. If you are looking for a quick comparison between various high cut helmets on the market, check out this best ballistic helmet page. https://www.hardheadveterans.com/pages/best-ballistic-helmet
Initial Ballistic Helmet Setup
Now before you start loading a tactical helmet up with accessories, you need to ensure the basic set-up is taken care of. The main items here to consider are the suspension system/chin-strap adjustments and pad adjustments.
- Fully understand the type of pads are included with your helmet and how they are supposed to work. More info here-(https://www.hardheadveterans.com/pages/best-tactical-helmet-pads)
- If running aftermarket pads ensure to install them correctly per the manufacturer's instructions.
- Most importantly, don't be afraid to play with various pad configurations to get a solid fit.
Here is a quick video on how the pad system on our ATE GEN2 Ballistic Helmet works.
- Fully understand how your chin-strap and suspension system works. This may be a 4-point, dial or ratchet type system, X-nape or H-nape.
- Use the various adjustments via sliders, buckles, rivets, and other hardware to achieve a solid fit.
Patrol Officer & SWAT/SRT Helmet Setup
With the basic tactical helmet setup out of the way, we can now focus on the various accessories that you should consider, be it for the patrol officer, SWAT or both. In this situation, the helmet is most likely only going to be used in high threat scenarios such as an active shooter or serving active warrants. Things to consider if you are the patrol officer is how fast you can get the helmet on, and to ensure you have the initial setup already completed. For the SWAT officer, other important considerations might be specific light needs and commo gear.
While the shroud is most commonly used for night vision devices on tactical helmets, it can serve as an attachment point for a number of other accessories.
- Shroud mounted headlamps are a great option for a hands-free light source directly on your forehead. Some companies will even include an NVG adapter plate with their headlamps like https://princetontec.com/. You can also find cheaper options on Amazon, but we have not tested these fully.
- Face shields or eye pro is another option that may work with your shroud/NVG mount. Companies like Revision make specific to their helmets eye and face shields that only work with the shroud and their helmets.
- Cameras are another option to place on the shroud. We have an in-depth review of helmet camera's and options here- https://www.hardheadveterans.com/blogs/reviews/best-tactical-helmet-cameras-military-helmet-cam-review.
The majority of high-cut or ATE tactical helmets come with some type of rail system to mount just about any accessory needed. For the patrol officer, we suggest keeping the accessories as minimal as possible for your specific needs.
- Lights are going to be the most common item found on helmet rails. As a patrol officer, the need to be covert and use IR or red light with low lumens isn't typically applicable. Bright overt white light with high lumens is going to be most beneficial. The SWAT/SRT officer may need both options. There is a staggering number of options available, with lots more info on it here - https://www.hardheadveterans.com/blogs/reviews/ballistic-helmet-lights
- Headset adapters for hearing protection or communications. This option will be very specific to the patrol officer and depends heavily on the type of radio they use. Remember, even if you do have a compatible set up with your day to day radio, it may take precious seconds to switch it over to a headset. Many patrol officers choose to forgo a headset. While the majority of SWAT/SRT teams will run a very specific communications set up that includes integrated comms headsets such as 3M Peltors or MSA Sordins.
- Face and Riot shields are also an option from most tactical helmet manufactures.
Most tactical helmets come with various velcro panels already adhered to the shell. Though you can always add more if needed. This makes it easy to mount other items you may or may not need.
- Strobes are one that most patrol and SWAT officers might not initially consider but can be used for a variety of identifying needs. One of our favorites is the HEL-STAR 6 LE Tactical (https://coresurvival.com/hel-star-6-le-tactical/) It can be used to identify admin, downed personnel, and even IR identification by overhead helicopter cameras.
- Patches may seem simple but can make a world of difference. Think blood types, police identifiers that reflect, and call signs.
- Counter-weight pouches are typically used to off-set the weight of NVG's, but many make for great storage of batteries, chem lights, and other small necessities. The rear of the helmet also makes for a good place to velcro in a tourniquet.
- Up-Armor solutions are few and far between but may provide additional protection for things like rifle threats at the cost of a little extra weight.
Like we mentioned earlier, the tactical helmet setup should always be specific to yourself and your team. You may not need any of the above-mentioned accessories and that's just fine. Just because there is an attachment point for something doesn't mean something has to go there. Everything you add means extra weight, extra weight can mean extra fatigue. We have put together a quick helmet weight calculator with accessories if you are curious what some basic helmet load-outs might weigh!
We will continue to update this guide and always appreciate your comments and feedback below!