Well this is awkward… I purchased this NBC mask before the EBOLA panic just for this article. Well then…
So you are looking for some protection from nuclear, biological, and chemical agents? The surplus mask market is littered with surplus masks. Some of these masks are old, outdated designs with very few places to obtain new filter elements. You want a mask with easily obtainable filters, and one that has a few features in place to make your time in the mask a little bit less… confined.
Gas Masks and NBC filters:
Surplus gas masks are items with no guarantee of safety, and choosing 40 year old designs without the ability to obtain new filters is a bad idea. What you want to look for is a 40mm NATO threaded mask so that you can find *new* NBC canisters without difficulty. Look for masks that accept a straw and buy the straw. These offer you a sealed hydration source which is important if you had to put the mask on for a long period of time. Inside my Isreali mask, there is a bite valve that I can use to sip water; this is quite a nice feature. Speaking of features, how easy is it to use a gun?
That depends on the mask configuration.
You want to choose a gas mask with a filter dead center or one that is adaptable for right or left side filter placement. Even with a proper gas mask, it is difficult to get proper cheek wield. The canister bumps your rifle and it a slow process to acquire the sights.
A red dot sight would be the preferred optic for pairing with a gas mask. A full size RDS would be the perfect choice for shooting with a mask, as the window has far more real-estate to allow you to acquire the dot.
If you don’t have the money for a good red dot, or prefer another dedicated optic on top of your rifle, obtain a visible laser. This is the cheapest option and shouldn’t be overlooked. Otherwise, you might find it necessary to use a pistol while donning a mask.
I cant see!
Gas masks are not always glasses friendly. My Isreali model is not spectacle friendly. If I had to wear this mask, my visibility of a threat would be limited to indoor spaces. If you can afford some face hugging, rubber strap prescription eye-wear, good for you! Non-surplus gas masks are sold with lens adapters to install spectacles, and this would further ad to the price of an already expensive mask.
My next step is to take the mask with me to the range. Right now I am lacking a large window red dot sight, so I will have to experiment with iron sights and my ACOG. It appears that a 45 degree offset will allow decent shot placement out to 100 yards in theory. Now its time to practice!