BRAIN BUCKET: PROTECT YOUR HEAD
One facet of body armor that is often overlooked, especially in movies and video games, is any form of appropriate head protection. Soldiers wear helmets in combat, because a head injury of any kind can be an instant “game-over” situation.
Helmets have been worn on the battlefield since antiquity. There have been arguments that combat helmets only really returned to the front lines during World War I.
An often-repeated story tells of a French general who watched as a soldier’s life was saved because the soldier tucked a soup bowl under his kepi. That story is almost certainly pure fiction—not just because even the French wouldn’t have soup bowls or soup at the front lines, but rather because head injuries were such a concern that a skull cap was introduced to provide some protection.
As expected, the skull cap was uncomfortable and actually did little to protect wearers, even from low-velocity (i.e., artillery) impacts. Soon, more-robust helmets were introduced, including the British MKI “Tommy” helmet and the now somewhat infamous German Model 1916. Steel helmets evolved after the war, but by the 1980s, steel gave way to modern ballistic materials such as Kevlar.
Surplus helmets from the U.S. military, as well as helmets from practically every other nation (even Russia and China), can be bought online. A helmet is something that is probably far easier to buy as a surplus item than to try to make.
As has been noted in the recent studies of concussions and other head trauma, a helmet has to do more than stop a blow to the head—it needs to disperse any kinetic energy to reduce the chances of serious brain injury. It is called a “brain bucket” for good reason!
As with athletic helmets, those designed for combat should be considered “single-damage” items, meaning that if the helmet does take a serious blow, its structural integrity could be compromised.
The other thing to keep in mind is that in many cases, military helmets have been designed to be worn for extended periods of time with minimal discomfort. A helmet that isn’t comfortable is taken off … and then, it does no good!
While the weaving of cloth is now as much a lost art as blacksmithing, homemade armor can also have its advantages. There are also options for crafting armor by using similar techniques to those that have worked throughout the ages.
Today, there are many choices for “costume”
Above: A Russian K6 assault bulletproof helmet with face shield for counterterror troops. This helmet can reportedly stop small-arms fire from handguns and even submachine guns—but it weighs about 15 pounds and is thus uncomfortable. It can’t be worn for extended periods. (Photo: Peter Suciu)
Above: The Russian “Sphere1” helmet was an attempt to make a truly “bulletproof” helmet. It consists of plates of titanium that are supported within a cloth outer shell, which also serves as a liner. It is effective against most small arms, but due to the weight, it can only be worn for short periods of time. (Photo: Peter Suciu)
Above: This French “skull cap” was introduced in 1915 as a stopgap means to reduce head injuries during World War I until a new combat helmet could be developed. It was worn under the infantryman’s kepi and proved to be ineffective. It was too thin to provide much protection and was extremely uncomfortable. This is one of only a handful of known examples. It resides in the collection of the Imperial War Museum in London. (Photo: Peter Suciu)