When choosing a respirator, whether it is for personal use or your profession, you want to ensure you’re getting the right product for your needs. Respirators can provide life-saving protection in the present and/or prevent future life-threatening illnesses. Military gas masks are your best option when looking to protect yourself or your team from dangerous airborne particulates.
Often, the best gas masks fall under the NBC mask or CRBN mask rating. NBC and CRBN certification identify the type of airborne particulates the mask filters out from your air supply. These certifications are only one element buyers should consider when looking for the right NBC mask.
To learn more about the factors you should consider before purchasing a military-grade respirator and some of the most popular options, check out the rest of this article.
What to Consider when Purchasing a top-rated Respirator in 2022:
There are three main categories to consider when picking out the right respirator in 2022. Reputability of the company that produces the mask, the sizing the mask for the user, and the types of particulates and gas rating of the mask.
- Particulates and gas type rating
- Mask style and reusability
By prioritizing these categories, a respirator buyer has a great chance of finding a mask that suites their needs.
When considering the reputability of respirator producers, often buyers want to focus on the top companies. Mira, MSA, Avon, and Honeywell offer some of the best military gas masks on the market.
Mira is proud to offer self-defense gear, including gas masks, to professionals and the general public for personal protection and comfort. They are located in Austin, Texas and have partnerships with several agencies and law enforcement groups. Mira is a widely trusted provider of protective tactical gear for public and private users.
MSA safety company is also a significant provider of protective equipment. The company was born after the 1912 Jed Mine explosion in West Virginia; over 80 miners lost their lives. Following the tragedy, mine engineer John T Ryan Sr. decided to create MSA with the help of his colleague, George H Deike. Decades later, MSA provides top rated protective equipment that can be applied to any number of dangerous situations, ranging from their roots in mining to tactical situations.
Avon is a great company to trust especially because it is the U.S. military's choice company for gas masks. The company is "an innovative capability provider specializing in the design, development, testing and manufacture of integrated protective systems". They provide full face respirators, ballistic helmets, SCBA systems, PAPR units, and more to military officials and first responders.
Lastly, we have Honeywell. This important company has a storied history reaching all the way back to 1885 when “inventor Albert Butz patented the furnace regulator and alarm”. Honeywell is a company that has a diverse range of expertise which enables the company’s ability to create multifaceted equipment.
Each of these companies brings a unique perspective and background to the world of protective respirator manufacturing.
In addition to making sure the NBC respirator you are considering was produced by a reputable company, you also want to ensure that the mask will fit the intended user’s face. If an NBC mask does not seal properly on the wearer’s face, not only will it be uncomfortable, but it will also be useless. Without airtight protection, the dangerous particles the mask is supposed to be filtering will reach the user’s airway through the gaps that form when a mask is too large.
If the intended mask wearer often has trouble finding helmets, regular N-95 masks, etc that fit, it may be a good idea to look for one that has adjustable straps. With adjustability, a military gas mask can fit properly, and it can be used for different users with different face shapes without worrying about a poor seal.
Particulates and gas type rating:
The last thing you definitely want to consider when purchasing any kind of military gas mask or NBC respirator is the particulate and gas type rating. NBC stands for nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. CBRN means chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents.
When a mask is CRBN or NBC certified, that means it can filter out airborne particulates and agents within those categories. Most masks are now solely CRBN certified but companies still have some NBC masks, so it is useful to know what that means.
When finding a respirator in 2022, you will need to make sure it matches your budget. Tactical masks have a wide price range; some are listed as low as $30 and as high as $400. Often the lower priced options simply have less features and tend to be disposable.
The masks that are listed at the higher prices come with more benefits like hydration and communications technology. Therefore, if you are looking for something simple that does not have all the bells and whistles, you can expect to save some money, but it may not be reusable.
Mask style and reusability:
There are several types of respiratory protection. There are six common types of masks: FFRs, EHMRs, elastomeric full facepiece, PAPRs, SCBAs, and combination respirators. FFRs are filtering facepiece respirators, they are often known as disposable masks used in dusty areas or as protection from viruses.
EHMRs are elastomeric half mask respirators; they are reusable and have replaceable filters but they do not cover the eyes. On the other hand, elastomeric full facepiece respirators are the same as EHMRs and they do cover the eyes, nose, and mouth.
PAPRs are powered air-purifying respirators which have a battery-powered blower that pulls air through attached filters. Similarly, SCBAs or self-contained breathing apparatus, have its own breathing air supply and can be an open or closed circuit. Lastly, there is the combination respirator; this is usually an SCBA respirator that can also be used as a PAPR so if one mechanism fails, another can take over.
To see more detail about the different types of masks, go here to view our infographic.
When choosing a gas mask in 2022, it is also important to keep filter choice in mind. Some respirators include a filter or two with the purchase; for example, the Avon M50 comes with 2 filters. However, a user must keep in mind that the filters or cartridges used with tactical masks must be replaced.
It is suggested that you replace your filters after each individual use if that use is extended. Another good recommendation is to make a replacement once it becomes difficult to breath through the filter.
Filters usually cost around $20 and up so it is a good idea to include filter purchases in your mask buying budget. If you do not replace your filters or cartridges regularly, your once highly effective mask becomes useless.
Top masks to choose from:
Because Mira, MSA, and Honeywell are what we believe as some of the top companies in chemical respirator manufacturing, we chose a mask from each collection.
Mira Safety M CRBN
The Mira Safety M CRBN is a great option for those looking to use a CRBN mask in a tactical situation. Because it comes with features like a drinking system, speech diaphragm, and five-point harness, the need to take the mask off is minimized.
Not only can you stay hydrated and comfortable, you are also able to communicate quite effectively which is rare when using a chemical respirator. Another part of communicating during tactical situations is vision. With the Mira Safety M CRBN, there is a 180-degrees field of vision, and it is glasses compatible.
- Comes with a drinking system
- Comes with speech diaphragm
- Made with butyl rubber which protects your face from CRBN agents
- Five-point harness
- Compatible with all 40mm NATO filter cartridges
- Durable and comfortable
- 180-degrees field of vision
- Adjustable to all face sizes
- Works with glasses
- CRBN and CE certified
MSA full face ultra-elite CRBN
The MSA full face ultra-elite CRBN is also a great military gas mask option from the use of butyl rubber, rugged build, and CRBN certification. The 40-millimeter cartridges are standard fit making it easy to find replacements. Cartridge maintenance is important considering it is recommended to replace the cartridge with every mask use.
- Rugged build with 40mm cartridges
- Build is similar to MIRA
- Uses butyl rubber
- CRBN certified
- Comfortable and sturdy
Honeywell North 7600 Series
One of the unique features of Honeywell masks is the NIOSH approval. NIOSH stands for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health which is a division of the CDC. With a silicone seal for 100% protection, ANSI Z87 standards, and a polycarbonate visor, it is understandable that it has NIOSH approval.
ANSI Z87 standardization means your mask will also protect your eyes from hazards. To get the certification, the safety eyewear has to pass the ball drop test.
- NIOSH approved
- Compatible with a full range of filters, cartridges, and filter-cartridge combinations
- Polycarbonate visor=wide vision field
- Meets ANSI Z87 standards=guaranteed eye safety
- Silicone seal to prevent any toxins
- Speech diaphragm for effective communication
- Works in both PAPR and CF-SAR configurations
- 200-degree visor
- 100% protection
Honeywell North 7700 series
The Honeywell North 7700 series is one of the most affordable options when it comes to the best gas mask. It is NIOSH approved and has medical-grade silicone. Instead of being CRBN certified, it has a PAPR system, so the North 7700 is considered an air purifying respirator.
- NIOSH approved
- Medical grade silicone
- No airborne particles penetrate
- Strong support for chin area and flexible nose bridge
- Comfort for any face shape/size
- Can use with any N-series cartridge
- Air purifying respirator can convert into powered air purifying respirator (PAPR), or continuous flow supplied air respirator (CF-SAR)
- Snug fit, adjustable and comfortable
- Affordable—under $30
The Avon M50 gas mask is the choice mask for the U.S. military. To learn more about the M50 in detail, check out our other article—Gentex SOTR respirator vs Avon M50 respirator.
- Panoramic single lens visor
- Optically correct visor
- Scratch resistant
- Chlorobutyl rubber silicone blend mask
- 3 face piece sizes
- High flow fail-safe drinking device
- Front mounted exhale valve
- Electronic communication port
- Radio communications available through ECP
- Low inhalation resistance and excellent de-mist properties
- Heat build-up minimized
- Low-re-breathed carbon dioxide
- CBRN mask (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear)
- Can filter nerve agents, blister agents, blood agents, and riot control agents
Choosing a gas mask is a serious decision because it may be what helps a person live in a dangerous situation. Purchasing a military gas mask often entails understanding a lot of confusing details that aren’t accessible to the public. For instance, CRBN and NBC respirators are very similar, but NBC respirators cannot be expected to protect a user in a radiological event.
Therefore, when choosing the best gas mask for your needs it is important to consider six major factors—the reputability of the manufacturer, the flexibility of the mask size, and the particulate and gas certification of the mask, you budget, the style and reusability of the mask, and the filters. When each of these is taken into consideration when choosing from the top military gas masks, you will have higher chance of purchasing the perfect match.
We hope this article provided you with the necessary information to make this important decision.