Ballistic Helmet
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Basic Information

A ballistic helmet is, crudely, a helmet designed to be resistant to contemporary small arms] fire1. Arguably this includes some of the late medieval helms that were part of proofed suits of full plate armour, but not the early helmets of the Great War, which were mainly intended as protection against shrapnel ball and other low velocity debris.

Early examples (indeed, those on issue into the 1980s) were made of steel alloys and were heavy and frequently not all that effective - stopping bullets only at long range or at oblique angles. More recent developements are made from ballistic plastics and, whilst still far from light, are both less heavy and more effective - although still best not relied upon to protect against full calibre rifle ball at close range. Like most wearable armour when confronted with modern firepower, the main benefit of a ballistic helmet is often to convert a fatal wound into a non-fatal one … although head injuries being what they are, this may not always be a good thing for the wearer. It is also worth noting that an unmodified helmet provides no face protection, and ballistic grade face protection is still emergent technology.

That said, a ballistic helmet will provide protection against falling objects, collision damage and blows from most melee weapons. Like their Great War ancestors, they will also generally resist shell splinters and other random battlefield hate.

The typical design varies in shape depending on the aesthetics and design assumptions of the producing nation, but almost all now consist of a solid shell with an adjustable harness inside to provide a tight fitting impact adsorbant to the wearer. Modern helmets usually also sport mounting points for night vision devices, communications gear, visors and the like and are designed to be compatible with their nation's NBC protection systems.

Most modern designs are pressed in a specific drab colour dependant on nationality (olive drab, field grey or earth brown are common) and then adapted for terrain with a tight fitting cloth cover, usually in a camouflage pattern and again, usually with loops to attach local foliage (or even clumps of turf) for better concealment.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Cinematic characters often fail to wear their helmets - in reality, this is a good way to get killed.
    • And the increasing amount of coms gear hanging off a helmet is likely to make it a good way to be out of contact with your unit as well.
      • This can be subverted - with a guy who has lost his helmet (and the biometric sensors in it or linked through it) being assumed to be dead.
  • The impact adsorbing capabilities of helmets are also open to interpretation: there are numerous veterans tales of men whose necks were broken by a round that was deflected from their helmet - or those whose lives were saved because an unfastened chin-strap allowed the helmet to go flying off their head.
  • Helmets have also been historically used as bowls (of various kinds) and - if swung by the chin-strap - as weapons. A plastic helmet is probably less tolerant of this kind of treatment than most of its ancestors, but can still see quite a lot of use.
  • Bear in mind that the silhouette of the enemy's combat helmet could well be a key identifying feature, especially in poor visibility - wearing an ambiguous or captured helmet could lead to friendly fire and, conversely, helmetless troops may have more of a window in which their identity is in doubt (for good or ill).
    • This has also, historically, meant the helmet makes a good decoy or bullet magnet when poked around corners or raised slowly on a stick2.
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