March 14, 2018 5 min read
Ballistic helmets require unique chinstraps and retention systems to allow the user to comfortably wear a helmet. Even more important is keeping the helmet in place with added accessories such as night vision optics. Chinstraps and retention play a vital role in this. We are going to discuss some of the best ballistic helmet chinstrap and retention systems that are available on the market today and how they originated.
Chinstraps of Old
Some of the earliest chinstraps used in "modern" day ballistic helmets can be seen on WW1 helmets like this M1917 helmet in the photo below. They consisted of a simple leather strap that fits under the chin with adjustments for tightness. Most of these helmets did have a type of liner, typically made out of leather that would help keep the helmet in place. Though as you can see from these photos they didn't stay situated on the head.
*Note how none of these helmets sit straight*
Fast-forwarding around 75 years troops saw the introduction of the ACH and MICH helmets and with them came what we refer to as the H-Harness. This chinstrap system attached at 4 points, with a chin cup, and H shape around the nape of the neck with multiple adjustment points.
While this is a significant upgrade from a single leather strap going under the chin. This modern era also brought in the need to attach numerous accessories to the helmets themselves. The largest being night vision devices. The leverage created by the extra weight of these devices would have a tendency to pull the helmet down in the front. Causing the ballistic helmets to not only be uncomfortable but required constant re-adjustment. The H-Harness simply did not have enough adjustment at times, or due to design limitations was not able to keep an ACH or MICH ballistic helmet in place on the users head.
H-Nape & X-Nape
It didn't take long for OPS-CORE, now Gentex. To offer a great solution to this problem with their H-Nape and X-Nape chinstrap aftermarket harness systems.
Essentially the changes made from the original H-Harness were minimal and hardly noticeable on these newer chinstraps until the user actually dons the helmet. It's then, especially when wearing NVG's that you can tell the difference in the stability that the user has gained.
We still suggest this setup vs the dial and ratchet type systems we will be discussing shortly when wearing NVGs for long periods of time. Especially heavier units. Once adjusted properly, the H-Nape and X-Nape's ability to keep a helmet with NVG's in place on the users head performs just as well if not better than some of the newer options. It also keeps the helmet interior simple, allowing for additional pads and comfort.
Dial Type Systems
Dial liner systems, while not a new idea have recently become another very standard option with any ballistic helmet. Based originally off of construction hardhats or helmets. They feature a ratchet type system that adjusts around the circumference of the head to help keep a helmet in place.
Team Wendy's BOA style or CAM Fit retention system is going to be one of the best we have tested. Allowing for micro adjustment, while taking up minimal room inside the helmet itself. It works with the majority of helmets and is a common upgrade for standard MICH and ACH helmets. The only downside we have found with this system is that depending on head-shape and where your ears are the tightening circumference strap (in this case two wires with a padded covering) will rub on the top of the ears or side of the head and require attention to ensure the padding stays over the wire.
Another great option and one that will get by even the most stringent Jump Master Inspection is the OPS-CORE worm dial system. Instead of a round ratchet, the system uses a turnable dial to tighten the suspension system around your head. We have a great user review here, if you want to check it out. These are on the Army approved jumplist along with the H-and X napes.
Finally and the most common today are going to be the round dial type systems found in most ballistic helmets and offered by most ballistic helmet manufacturers. As noted before they will take up extra room that we personally are not fans of. It also adds complexity to a system that should be simple with more parts that may fail.
Revision Cobra P2 Modular Suspension System
PROTECH/Safariland R2S System
OPS-CORE Occ- Dial Liner System
These dial type systems all work well in keeping a helmet stable and in place. The one glaring disadvantage though is the amount of space most of these do take up inside the ballistic helmet. This reduces the ability for extra padding and may increase the actual shell size for users who are in the larger head sizes.
The majority of helmets will use what's called a side squeeze, 2 or 3 prong buckle. They work great for most load applications, but are sometimes difficult to work with gloved hands, especially smaller ones found on a chin-strap. They also require both hands to connect. Here at Hard Head Veterans for our GEN2 ballistic and bump helmets we opted to use a magnetic type buckle that allows for easy one handed gloved operation.
Helmets are meant to be sized to the individual, and not a one size fits all solution. Unfortunately many departments that are on a budget have adopted this line of thinking with the idea that the dial system offers a one size fits all solution. We would strongly caution against this, as a proper fitting helmet is paramount to how well it performs during ballistic and blunt impacts.
Each ballistic helmet suspension and chinstrap style has it's own pro's and con's and we all suggest the user try as many as they can to find what works best for them. Heads are uniquely shaped, and no one system will be perfect for everyone.
Report Shows Why Bullet-Proof Helmets Used by Army and Marines Won't Stop Bullets. (2016, August 18). Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://tribunist.com/military/report-shows-why-bullet-proof-helmets-used-by-army-and-marines-wont-stop-bullets/