Level-headed ballistic protection

Modern helmets are more comfortable and used more regularly for day-to-day officer protection against today's better-armed criminals

     "Comfort, performance and price; these are the three legs of the triangle agencies make decisions on."

     Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer based in Long Beach, California.

Manufacturers emphasize fit and features

     Max Pro Police & Armor, Mountain Green, Utah.

     A variety of PASGT and MICH-style helmets are available from this manufacturer. They offer a complete line of helmets — from bike to ballistic — for law enforcement, security and military use.

     The company's ballistic helmets are constructed from a glass and aramid fabric composite, says Randy Smith, and are pressed and formed by a special thermoplastic process. The result is a lightweight, comfortable, yet strong helmet, Smith says. Its BA-3AC PASGT helmet weighs 2.5 pounds; the MICH weighs 2.3. Both test to NIJ Level IIIA.

     "This [standard tests to] a 124-grain, 9-mm bullet, going approximately 1,400 feet per second, and also a 240-grain, 44 Magnum going at the same speed," Smith explains.

     The BA-3AC helmet comes with the Comfort System, which consists of removable, washable pads inside the helmet. Smith describes this as a universal fit system, working for all head sizes, whether male or female.

     A new retention system for the ACH MICH helmet offers seven individually adjustable pads constructed of space-age memory foam that conforms to the wearer's head, explains Smith. Both retention systems are designed to absorb or mitigate shock from blows to the head.

     Mine Safety Appliances Co. (MSA), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

     The MSA ForceField Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) for law enforcement is a commercial version of its military ACH MICH-style helmet, says John Raimondi.

     "This profile allows for more flexibility," says Raimondi. "For example, it can accommodate different shooting and operating positions with minimal interference from the helmet."

     The NIJ Level IIIA-rated helmet — made from woven Kevlar fabric and weighing just over 3 pounds — has a stable suspension and retention system, Raimondi says. It uses a four-point chin strap and incorporates an MSA-exclusive pad system. The pads are designed not to harden at extreme cold temperatures.

     "The pads also provide impact attenuation," he explains. "And because they're movable, they allow for the accommodation of other things, like communication headgear."

     MSA has recently launched a new product — the ACH Accessory Rail Connector — that provides accessory direct-mount for ACH-style ballistic helmets. Tough, fiber-reinforced rails bolt directly to the helmet and hold a slide-and-lock Picatinny adaptor for the mounting of compatible accessories.

     "Right now some folks are taping things like flashlights or cameras to their helmets to free up their hands. Unfortunately, sometimes on a limited basis, your head becomes a load-bearing platform so we thought, let's make this more comfortable and efficient," says Raimondi.

     Oregon Aero, Scappoose, Oregon.

     This company makes shock mitigation pads, harnesses and straps that will fit any ballistic helmet, says Anthony Erickson. They offer a variety of padding systems, three of which are compatible with approximately 95 percent of the ballistic helmets used by law enforcement.

     The systems include: the BLSS Kit Model 45, designed for most helmets other than the PASGT; the BLSS Kit for the PASGT helmet; and the BLU Kit for the MICH helmet. The first two kits include a chin strap harness and integrated nape pad harness system, along with seven removable liner pads. The BLU kit contains the seven liner pads.

     As Erickson explains, a padding system offers benefits such as greater protection from blunt impact, higher level of comfort, greater stability and improved acoustics for better sound location over the old suspension systems.

     However, correct pad thickness is essential or these benefits can be compromised, cautions Linda Miller, technical librarian and customer service rep for the company. She works closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure they end up with the right product for their helmet.

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