Choosing A Gas Mask

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!

All of the Gas Masks (on Amazon)

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  1. What a great thread! I will add my two cents. I have experience with the Finnish Gas Mask and I will say that it is by far the best one that I have had. It is very easy to wear and how it’s designed makes it very easy to sea. The eyes on the finnish model are close together and very wide so it blocks almost none of your view! Check it out, you might like it, thanks for the thread! I think that a gas mask is a mandatory for any of us, not just preppers. With all the uncertainty in Japan I think that every family should have them for every person in the house. They are cheap and invaluable!

  2. Absoluteley! I do have “preps” for my family and my self but yes thats a great point, a chem suit is a must have! The down side…is this, if it ever gets to that point where we are having to wear our gas masks and chem suits it is only prolonging the inevitable. Which is quite a sad thought, and the fact that most of the GM filters are around $10-$20 EACH! YIKES! The “normal” duration for a filter is aprox 8 hours. So figure how many you would need for, oh, lets say a week.You would need about 21 filters for a week of wear, so thats somewhere between $200-$450! Insane but factual. Anywase, good looking out!

  3. Well, all NBC protective gear is for one purpose only – to cross (or to evac) the contaminated area. it is not designed for “living in”. so if one gets into that kind of situation, then put on NBC gear and plan your speedy evac from affected area.
    btw, 8 hours is for “highly contaminated indoor environment” for the most filters. it is seldom that Nuclear or Biological environment would be contaminated to that extent. I count for my filters (in NB environment) for 24 hours at least.
    P3 filters have even a longer life length if you won’t be going through 9/11 kind of dust cloud. if air is contaminated by pathogens or very fine radioactive dust, you can easily use those P3 graded filters for 24 or even more hours. most manufacturers even provide with weight tables – if said P3 filter weights more than what is shown on the table then it should be treated as “degraded”. and that will take some time. humid environments (think Florida) will degrade these filters much much faster.
    there are tons and tons of things that one must consider when thinking about NBC scenario. and in the end it is most probable that civilian human being will be in the position of “die now or die later”. truly huge NBS Schumer event would be survivable only with a hermetically sealed (or positively pressurized) shelter equipped with good filtration, decontamination systems . and it should be able to support people in it for:
    Nuclear – up to 6 month (nuclear war) or indefinitely (multiple nuclear meltdowns) count on indefinitely because those meltdowns will still occur in the event of Nuclear war
    Biological – up to 1 year or more depending on the many factors of pandemic/bioweapon….
    Chemical – up to 3 month from the last use of chemweapon (VX decomposition time in cold weather) but that may mean 6, 12 or more months….
    sure thing one would do best to pray that God spares us the encounter with NBC…

  4. Ken, could the 3M Mask be used in any of these events, as they seem to have a vast selection of filters available. I have looked into masks here in Aust and we’re completely on the back foot as such. Even the 3M masks are hard to get and extremely expensive!

    Any ideas???

  5. um… I don’t even rightly know how to respond… when we were doing our NBC training there were no problems. but this can be attributed to the fact that we used Forsheda equipment. Our training officer told me that US gasmasks were more sophisticated and needed more skill to use… can that be the cause, I wonder? sure going in NBC suit and gasmask is no candy, but doable for 24 hours at least! of course I’m talking about Lithuanian/Swedish climate, as I’ve never been to humid, hot areas with that stuff on me…
    otherwise, yes, it is always better to have NBC proof shelter, but let’s be honest – how many of us low tier preppers have the funds to do it? for me, first signs of NBC, mask up suit up, evaluate NBC situation and evac ASAP…

  6. Actually – the GP-5’s are used by the civilian population – distributed by the government. “G” being the initial to the “CIVILIAN” character (Like a big small letter “R”) and the “P” being the initial to the “GASMASK” (Like the big small letter “N”)

    -personal experience with the mask: They are abit uncomfortable because it gets hot and it’s got a very very tight fit, but these masks aren’t useless all the way. Infact – these masks are just perfect in what I do most of the days! I have been fit testing the masks and they are a-ok! I have ordered many units of these masks, and not even a single one failed my buddies. (YES I ORDERED THEM FROM RUSSIA – Handling chemicals isn’t really the best job ever, but rewarding! :D) Also, the masks that I have are the original ones – not the “Evirstar Defense Products” repros.

    All gas masks are hard to breathe in – especially when the filters are being used for more than an hour or two. :)

  7. Is The PBF Gas Mask and Filters NBC Rated? I don’t know if this is True but I read some where that the are made of and contain the same matericals in the filters as NBC Filters, But I don’t know if it’s True.
    And if it’s not NBC would it provide ‘any’ Protection at all against Nuclear Biological Chemicals for short period of time?

  8. Most effective fabrics to be cotton, natural silk and chiffon; synthetic silk and satin did not provide as much protection. Hybrid combinations, such as high thread cotton, along with silk, chiffon or flannel also supplied broad filtration coverage.

    “Fabric with tight weaves and low porosity, such as those found in cotton sheets with high thread count, are preferable. For instance, a 600 TPI (thread per inch) cotton performed better than an 80 TPI cotton. Fabrics that are porous should be avoided

    Despite silk and chiffon’s sheerness, the two fabrics were amazingly effective, particularly four layers of silk, such as a folded scarf.

    A new study conducted by University of Chicago professor Supratik Guha and colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont looked at more than 15 common household fabrics to see which were best for protecting against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

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