Being a soldier in WWII meant you were issued with a heavy, uncomfortable steel helmet. Because the “one-size-fits-all” M1 helmet had two-point chin straps and mesh retention systems, they tended to bang around on the head, hindering functionality and protection. Since then, vast improvements have been made in weight, retention systems, and ballistics protection.
We caught up with Dan McNeil, Safariland’s Director of Tactical Hard Armor, to ask him about some of the innovations he’s seen in helmet design in his 28 years in the hard armor business, and to find out about the evolution of the Safariland PROTECH® Tactical Delta™ line.
What improvements have been made in helmets over the years?
The M1 “steel-pot” helmet was used by the US military from 1941 in WW II, through Korea and Vietnam. As well as head protection, the helmet was also used as a hammer, to cook food and boil water for making coffee, for shaving, and to bail water from a landing craft.
In the mid-80’s and prior to Grenada, the M1 was replaced by the PASGT helmet (Personnel Armor System Ground Troops), which introduced a range of sizes from small to extra-large, and became the standard for military troops. The PASGT moved away from steel composition and was produced from ballistic aramid, providing the ability to contain and absorb fragmentation and rounds. The PASGT offered slightly upgraded retention systems, though adjusting and securing the helmets was still an issue.
Today, ballistic helmets have evolved into what’s known as the ACH/Warrior style which utilizes upgraded ballistic materials and a brimless mold to improve visibility. These improved products defeat high velocity handgun rounds and fragmentation. For example, ProTech’s Delta 4 features a V50 ≥ 2058 fps, 17 gr., while the Delta 5 offers V50 ≥ 2400 fps, 17 gr., and the Delta X has V50 ≥ 2600 fps, 17 gr. In addition, retention and suspension systems have taken on new technologies that provide comfort and fit for each individual user.
Can you tell us more about the Delta line of helmets?
The PROTECH Delta line of helmets has evolved over the years based on industry requirements and standards. Today, the line is comprised of a range of helmet models and configurations, available through our own manufacturing capabilities as well as partnerships with some of the top helmet manufacturers in the industry. We have a partnership with ArmorSource, LLC for the Delta 5 and Delta X; Team Wendy® for the latest in retention and suspension systems; and OpsCore and Wilcox for top-of-the-line exterior accessories such as rail sets and NVG shrouds.
The Delta 4 line is our top seller at a moderate price-point, with all configurations, accessories and retentions available for custom helmet setups.
The Delta 5 offers users one of the lightest products on the market with a range of retention systems at a mid-point price range.
What separates the Delta 5 from other Delta helmets?
The differentiators between the Delta 5 and other helmets are its V50 fragmentation protection standard, lightweight design, and the available configurations of various retention systems and accessories.
The ballistic helmet standard, NIJ 0106.01 only recognizes up to Type II rounds, for example .357-Magnum, 158 gr. and 9-mm, 124 gr. FMJ. However, the Delta 5 is modified to defeat NIJ Type IIIA rounds – 9-mm, 124 gr. FMJ and .44-Magnum, 240 gr. SJHP. These rounds are higher velocity handgun threats tested at 4 impacts per helmet.
Being lightweight, and with its high level of protection, operators get the best of both worlds in one helmet. It’s also available with all accessories and our top retention systems — including PROTECH R2S™ Ratchet and Team Wendy CAM Fit™ — so that users can customize their helmets for price, operational or comfort requirements.
How important is helmet fit?
Helmet fit is crucial for each individual operator. A loose, unsecure or ill-fitting helmet compromises functionality, and causes discomfort or injury. When your helmet’s bouncing up and down on your head it’s not only distracting and gets in the way of your vision, but you can end up with a broken nose if it slams down hard enough. An operator should only have to think about their helmet the moment they’re putting it on before the mission and the moment they’re taking it off after the mission.
How does the Delta 5 ratchet system work?
Ratchets are the most popular retention systems on the market, and the Delta 5 has the option of two ratchet systems: the PROTECH R2S and the Team Wendy CAM Fit. These extremely adjustable systems feature dial components at the nape of the neck. With a single hand you rotate the dial to tighten or loosen to the desired fit. The cables and mechanisms in the ratchet system headband that line the interior of the helmet ‘ratchet’ down with each rotation to create a secure, tight fit. Once set, the ratchet won’t become loose or release open until the operator purposefully pops out the dial to release.
Our R2S is one of the most economical ratchet versions, which attracts users and agencies wanting a highly adjustable and comfortable system at an affordable price.
With a low profile and sleek appearance, the Team Wendy CAM Fit ratchet system, featuring the trusted Boa® Closure mechanism, is one of the top-of-the-line ratchet systems available.
What are the improvements in rail systems?
We partner with brands such as OpsCore and ArmorSource to offer their polymer piccatinny rail kits to make it easy to accommodate a variety of rail accessories. By using rail adapters, communication and light systems such as the TCI™ Liberator II, are easily mounted at an adjustable attachment point.
Can you tell us what innovations are coming next in helmet design?
We’re moving towards boltless design in the Delta line and recently released our newest Delta 4 Boltless Helmet. We also offer the Delta 5 and Delta X in boltless configurations. The design helps to eliminate ‘weak’ points, or locations where bolts are drilled through to secure retention systems and accessories. Instead, retention systems and accessories are installed via adhesive or hook and loop which maintains the integrity of the ballistic aramid. These helmets tend to be a little lighter—since bolts and hardware are removed—but most importantly, the boltless configurations optimize protection.