Guest post: by Giurza
This is in no way a comprehensive guide to choosing a gas mask. For one such, you’d have to look for a man who wore all or at least most of modern gas masks. With my limited experience of gas masks, I will try to provide you with some guidelines and personal insights concerning the gas masks.
My personal experience in gas mask world include:
1. GP5, soviet gas mask used by CD (civil defense) and military alike.
2. PBF, soviet gas mask used by border troops.
3. Forsheda F2/Skydsmask 90 Swedish military mask.
Soviet masks of the cold war era are clumsy, heavy, hard to breath through, of limited protection value and very, very uncomfortable. GP5 while being one of the most numerously produced is also one the most useless and uncomfortable.
PBF is a better one; it uses pouch filters instead of heavy container filters. However, PBF has one major disadvantage over every other imaginable gas mask – its visor field is very narrow.
F2 on the other hand is all what you’d want from a modern gas mask – light, comfortable, broad vision, drinking arrangement, filters attachable from both left and right side, NATO threaded (40mm) and very easy to use.
Having said that, I must explain why I bought both F2 and PBF. (I have F2 with extra filters for myself and my wife, PBF I bought for myself.)
When considering NBC protection one has to ask the main question – what are the risks? Since I am certified (by Swedish army) NBC instructor I went through analysis part very carefully and these are my conclusions: of all NBC parts, chemical is the least likely.
Terrorists (when they are allowed to operate) are most likely to take Nuclear or Biological action. Mainly because of one reason – it is easier to protect yourself from N&B weapons while producing them.
Similar applies for WW3 scenario. Military mind functions primarily in the terms of “the most efficient way”. And in terms of efficiency, chemical comes last of all. One can expect that bio-agents would be employed (if ever) prior to any premeditated major conflict in order to weaken adversary, and it would be introduced by saboteurs. After bio-agent (or multiple agents) have established then it is time for big guns. Yes you guessed it right – nukes.
Chemical weapon is inefficient in the case of WW3 because of the following factors:
1. unpredictability of the “area of effect”;
2. functions only as first-strike weapon;
3. limited employment scale;
4. weapon that affects civilians more than military;
5. limited effect on military personnel.
Thus we come to the above mentioned conclusion that it is Nuclear and Biological part that we should worry most about.
For both those problems one has to have the gas mask that protects from very small particles, bacteria and viruses. All that is provided by any gas mask filter that has a P3 rating (it is marked by white color on filter casing). You can find other markings and ratings and how filters are divided according to their protection on Wikipedia.
And that is that. For any Nuclear or Biological threat encompassing inhalation one has to have airtight gas mask and a good fitting filter designated P3 (marked white). That is where soviet PBF gas mask comes in. It is cheap, I bought it for less than 2$, and I can use it without fear of using up my more expensive F2 and its rather expensive filters. I can use my cheap substitute while foraging in a low nuclear/biological environment and save my expensive modern gas mask for the real SHTF of sarin, soman, tabun, phosgene and other.
However, since no one can exclude the possibility of chemical agents being used, one should also buy a good modern gas mask. And here are the guidelines of how to choose one:
1. Choose only those gas masks that are used currently by modern military, preferably by NATO countries (it ensures quality, standards and filter interchangeability)
2. Never take outdated surplus gas masks (e.g. never take M9 US gas mask when you can get M17 US gas mask)
3. Always check the size, if it fits you
4. Always check the airtightness of the merchandise (put on gas mask, check the fit, unscrew filter, cover the filter hole on the gas mask with your palm, inhale, if air is coming in – discard the gas mask).
5. Check for any mechanical faults on the gas mask. If it is scratched, torn, or has any cracks in the goggles – don’t take it.
6. Ensure that gas mask has drinking cord and that its fitting is airtight (put on gas mask, pinch the end of drinking cord and try to suck)
7. Check the valves; they are the most important part of any gas mask. They must be elastic, clean and have no cracks or tears. Ensure that gas mask you are buying has spare valves!
8. Get the specialized flask for that drinking cord, test it!
9. Get spare filters, make sure they protect from military chemical-agents, also if there is threat from industrial complex to the place you live in, you might want to get one protecting from industrial chemicals too – ammonia, chlorine etc.
10. All filters (main and spare ones) to your gas mask have to be vacuum packed. Make sure the seals are not broken. Any filter that is taken out of their original packaging is to be considered for training purposes only!
11. The ease of breathing in modern gas masks are primarily influenced by the construction of filters.
That’s it folks! As I said before – this is in no way a comprehensive guide. First – I used only 3 models of gas mask, but I wore them extensively and under field conditions. Second – I am poor, inexperienced writer, and I may have missed stuff that should have been included – I beg your forgiveness for that. Otherwise, as with all writings on Internet – use your COMMON SENSE!