What do you guys think about ballistic helmets? I have a plate carrier with steel plates and in total it was about $400, maybe $500 with accessories added so I wonder about a helmet but they aren't cheap.
The cheapest ballistic helmets seem to start about $300 then go all the way over $1,000 for the nice ones. Some cover a bit of the ears, some don't. Then there is weight too.
The worst part is they all seem to have a 5 year shelf life.
AR500.com was working on a steel ballistic helmet for about $300 with a long (20 year?) shelf life, comparable weight, and actually much smaller than your regular helmets. It is delayed though with an unknown delivery date.
What a rabbit hole this is.
Steel plates are bad (IMO). They can generally take more hits, but the spawl is often detrimental, even with an “anti-spawl” coating which doesn’t do much aside from add a little resistance to the plate. What lessens spawl is the curvature and hardness of the plate, to absorb or deflect some of the impact. Inherently, steel will spawl more than ceramic / poly / hybrid. Some plates may be heavier, some may be lighter; totally depends on the materials, thickness, and NIJ rating because generally speaking, higher level plates are heavier or thicker. Not always the case. (Ex: DFNDR Armor vs. RMA Armament) You get what you pay for. If you ever intend to actually use the plates for anything besides donning at the range, I would STRONGLY suggest you change your plates to another material. I digress.
As well as helmets, if it’s ~$300, it is either a cheap knock-off, a bump helmet (not ballistic - often used for climbing/ rescue operations), or you found someone who needs the money. Keep in mind that ballistic helmets are to mitigate damage/ impact/ back face deformation from pistol caliber rounds or defeat them, not rifle rounds. Again, not always the case (rating vs actual NIJ testing). Do not buy non-NIJ certified
armor or helmets if you are serious about having them for protection, because testing is not the same as having official certification.
The style or “cut” of the helmet is dependent upon usage (as in high cuts with comms/ headsets/ and other equipment on the head. Most USGI helmets are “mid cut” unless Unit SOP require issue of something else
It is essential that NIJ-certification be had by a company for any kind of serious threat elimination. I’m not *the* expert, but my background in the infantry/ combat arms and training experiences give me some amount of credibility; take this how you will.
As for companies, stay away from anything made out of America or “assembled with American materials”… HHV is one that claims their Kevlar is American, but the helmets are made in China (except newer Gen helmets specifically made in Texas). Very good brands to consider are Team Wendy; Armour Source, LLC (USMIL contracts); Gentex; Avon, etc. You truly do get what you pay for. And never, NEVER expect to be able to reuse plates after multiple hits regardless of materials. Some may last longer, some may not.
Lastly, the 5 year “warranty” or “shelf life” is simply the legally required verbiage that the US Govt mandates companies add in their products’ info because nothing can be guaranteed for certain. If armor is damaged from ballistics usage before the warranty period ends, it is generally replaced by the company (often only with an accompanying police report). However it is definitely advisable to search for armor with a longer warranty period as Flapp mentioned. Many excellent companies warranty their armor at ~10 years. DO NOT skip out on quality due to price unless you’re only testing/ trying armors. That is a big no-no for those who are serious about armor. BUY ONCE, CRY ONCE. But if you’re just looking, this is all suggestive. Take it from someone who has years of experience wearing and training in armor and plate carriers professionally. This is purely friendly and constructive advice. Get whatever armor you can afford, that is designed to be used the Way you need or intend to us it. There’s a major reason why steel armor is not used as issued armor whether in training, combat, or in the field. Never wanna a fellow person screwed over by bad composition, marketing, or misinformation.