American Survival Guide - - LAUNCH FAMILY -

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...

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...

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...

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