Buying a ballistic mask can be confusing if you’re new to airsoft and/or similarly aligned sports because it’s hard to tell whether you need one or not. So, let’s clarify that part first: No, you don’t need a ballistic mask if the only thing you plan to use it for is airsoft.
While airsoft masks and ballistic masks tend to look alike, the tactical masks you see used in paintball matches are really just functional replicas made to look like ballistic masks so you can feel like you’re in a real fight.
Outside of that, though, there’s little in common between a real ballistic mask and a tactical mask.
If it’s a ballistic mask you’re after, the Atomic Defense Ballistic mask is one of the most popular masks in recent years. Here, we’ll take a look at the mask’s features, pros, and cons. We’ll also be going into what ballistic mask grades are and what they mean so you can reference this in case you want to check out other options.
What’s Are Ballistic Masks and What Are They For?
Ballistic masks are one of the protective headgear worn by law enforcement to protect themselves from enemy fire. They are typically made of Kevlar or other bulletproof materials like, and this may come as a surprise, ceramics. Some masks may use a combination of materials, but generally speaking if it’s high-density, high-tensile, or a composite ceramic, there’s a chance you can find it in a ballistic mask.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as “bullet proof” gear because even the strongest ballistic masks will let a bullet through if it’s being shot from something as powerful as, say, an AK-47. Not to mention, they can be very uncomfortable and can limit visibility. That’s why you typically won’t see soldiers wearing these masks.
Ballistic masks that are designed to take blunt force find use in law enforcement as part of riot gear. Even in these situations, they aren’t primarily protecting the wearer from bullets but from objects being thrown or swung by civilians.
Ballistic Mask Grades and What They Mean
Having said all that, these masks still serve a purpose and do a great job of protecting the user from lower power rounds.
The National Institute of Justice sets the standards for ballistic masks and other protective gear. However, the standards that it sets aren’t always followed since meeting the criteria for the NIJ’s protective levels is completely voluntary for manufacturers.
That said, the levels set by the NIJ serve as benchmarks for manufacturers, so knowing what they mean lets you know what to expect from a ballistic mask.
Manufacturers claim that their ballistic helmets and masks fall under NIJ Level IIIA which means they can protect you from 9 mm rounds fired at speeds of up to 1,400 ft./s or .44 magnum rounds. Anything above that and you can expect to take the hit.
It just so happens that the Atomic Defense Ballistic Mask is also an NIJ Level IIIA ballistic mask.
Is the Atomic Defense Ballistic Mask Any Good?
Here’s a quick look at the Atomic Defense Ballistic Mask’s features:
- Made to stop 9mm, 45 ACP, .44 Mag, .22, .380, .38, 10mm, 12 gauge, 12 gauge buckshot, etc.
- PEAD (Polyethylene) fabric-lined interior.
- Long-lasting elastic straps.
- Stab proof up to “certain levels” as per PEAD IIIA+ standards.
- Breathable design that lets out heat and doesn’t fog up.
Doesn’t sound too bad, right? The mask weighs a fairly light 2 lbs and is molded to fit most faces so as long as you have close to average proportions, you can count on this mask to fit well.
Atomic Defense claims that the mask is meant for close-combat situations such as riots and home invasions. While it can keep you safe from many rounds, the mask is also made to be stab-proof. There’s no mention of whether it can take a baseball bat to the face, but since it can stop a 12 gauge buckshot from going through your skull, it likely can.
Of course, protective features aren’t the only thing to look for in a ballistic mask. There’s also the matter of comfort. When a mask is stuffy, it can be more dangerous than just leaving your face exposed since fog can take away visibility, leaving you vulnerable.
This mask features a special padding design that keeps air circulating throughout the mask and prevents moisture from building up on the interior portion of the mask. It also has shock-absorbent padding on the forehead, temples, cheekbones, and cheeks to shield your face from impact.
Unfortunately, the mask doesn’t have a built-in lens so good luck with keeping shrapnel and smoke from getting in your eyes.
Final Thoughts on the Atomic Defense Ballistic Mask
The Atomic Defense Ballistic Mask is a solid ballistic mask at a fairly reasonable price point. While there are definitely some extra features, like lenses, that would be great for it to have, it costs far less than most masks that have those extra bells and whistles.
It looks good, it’s comfortable, it’s reasonably priced, and it does the job. There’s little else to ask for.
But if you’re on the market for airsoft helmets, these airsoft helmets are the ones worth checking out.