I’m not terribly old. In fact, I feel, at best middle aged. But I am old enough to remember a time when SWAT teams did not always use Ballistic Helmets. In fact, when I first joined a SWAT team, we did not use ballistic helmets. Bean counters felt they were too expensive and many of the operators did not want to trade what they thought was situational awareness for the security of bullet proof headgear. It was shortly after I joined as a newer operator that some of the more seasoned and knowledgeable guys began to lobby for ballistic helmets. Back then it took considerable lobbying. Ballistic Helmets were a new concept, and the only thing in much use were the Kevlar helmets used by the military to protect against shrapnel and indirect fire. I still remember the administrator who approved the purchase of our first ballistic helmets. He seemed smug about the whole matter and seemed to feel like using such protection was a sign of weakness.
In prior days, many SWAT Teams used either helmets intermittently for debris or impact protection, or they used nothing at all. In retrospect, this seems as foolish as suggesting a helmet for motorcycling racing is a poor investment. However, like much lifesaving gear, the need is infrequent but the payoff of use is incomparable. You only really need the security of a ballistic helmet once, to make the purchase worthwhile. And that was the argument used to turn my agency around, and convince them it was a worthwhile piece of gear. Well, that and the proof that they worked.
So how well do ballistic helmets work?
Turns out, they work very well. Take, for example, bulletproof helmets which will stop anything from indirect fire and shrapnel, like the PASGT Helmet or rifle rounds, such as the Armorsource AS-600. Currently Security Pro offers several ballistic helmets that are rated by the National Institute of Justice to stop handgun rounds up to and including the .44 magnum. Some of these include the aforementioned helmets as well as the SecPro Special Operations ARCH Ballistic Helmet, and the SecPro MICH ACH Advanced Combat Ballistic Helmet. That’s a very impressive feat considering the power and energy that the .44 magnum round carries. The current helmet models that mirror the Advanced Combat Helmet design, have been known to stop AK-47 rounds during combat. Just ask Iowa National Guard member Tom Alberts. Alberts is living proof (literally) that ballistic helmets work, and work well. Alberts was shot in the head by an AK-47 and his helmet stopped the round and saved his life. What this means is these helmets are designed and tested to stop common, small arms fire, including rifle rounds. So, it is possible for the operator to have a helmet that will provide the security of an armored vest with rifle plates. Your head gear and body armor will have similar levels of protection. Which makes sense. Both the head and chest are equally vulnerable to gunfire.
Levels of Ballistic Protection
Modern ballistic helmets provide different levels of protection. The levels are generally tested in accordance with the National Institute of Justice. The NIJ rates ballistic protection based on what rounds the item proved capable of stopping during rigorous testing. Levels III and IV will stop common rifle rounds. Levels I through IIIA are rated to stop various handgun rounds, with level IIIA having stopped handgun rounds including the .44 magnum. While other rounds are not always tested, there is a presumption that a ballistic helmet that will stop a .44 magnum round, will also protect against a .25 auto or some other lessor powered ammunition.
Anything Else Besides the Ballistic Protection?
Of course, there are other reasons to wear a ballistic helmet besides stopping bullets. Ballistic helmets provide safety from impact. For most soldiers and service members deployed overseas, this is not a grave concern. For Law Enforcement and Security personnel, this is very important. Cops and Security Forces are just as likely, or more likely to encounter impact weapons, thrown projectiles and other head strike hazards as they are likely to encounter gunfire. Having the safety and security of a bullet proof helmet, that will also provide impact protection is critical.
Today’s ballistic helmet is an essential part of the modern police of security force safety gear. They are not just for military use. The ballistic helmet is suitable for any organization that might need impact protection and will benefit from ballistic protection as well. For example, not just SWAT teams, but riot control forces and even patrol officers who might respond to active shooters should have the security of a ballistic helmet.
In the past, frequent arguments against ballistic helmets included the weight and comfort level. The modern helmets have very advanced suspension systems that not only make the helmet all day wearable, but also are part of the impact protection package, helping minimize the forces that come in contact with the head. Another common argument was the notion that ballistic helmets would impair peripheral vision of adversely impact ambient noise perception. Both these ideas have been thoroughly debunked. A properly fitted helmet does not interfere with vision at all and they allow for normal hearing. Many ballistic helmets are also designed to allow for hearing protection such as electronic ear muffs. These can actually increase safety by amplifying speaking and other normal noises while shutting out high decibel noises such as gun fire.
It is hard to imagine a modern Law Enforcement agency, or a Security Agency that does not use or allow use of ballistic helmets. It would be like curtailing the use of body armor. Ballistic Helmets are well developed in the stream of commerce. Security Pro offers a comprehensive selection of helmets for every budget and need, as well as ballistic face shields for the ultimate in head protection. If you use a bulletproof vest, you should also consider having a ballistic helmet as part of your protection package. It just makes sense to protect your head like you protect your body.
About the writer
Military and Law Enforcement Veteran
FBI certified firearm instructor
MP5 and Sub Machine gun instructor
Defensive tactics instructor
Police Academy instructor