Do Bulletproof Masks Work?
Body armor is one of the most effective means of personal protection you can have. In fact, in 2020 alone, the sale of body armor rose 600%, and the market is expected to hit $2.5 billion dollars by 2027. Due to the recent degradation of the rule of law as of late, people are seeing the sense in legally purchasing firearms & body armor to take their safety into their own hands.
However, one area that the body armor market tends to lack in protecting is the most vital area of your body. The face. The highest quality chest plate will do nothing to protect you from a headshot. Surviving a bullet wound to the torso is rare, but possible. A bullet wound to the head is almost always a death sentence.
Where there is a need, there is a way, as a few companies have begun producing bulletproof masks to fill that need. An admirable goal, but how well do these masks hold up? We’re going to focus on a specific type of bullet proof mask; the Level IIIA Bullet Proof Mask.
We chose to review these due to the fact that they were issued to the Taiwanese Special Forces, which on paper should mean that this armor is effective enough that a military sought them out. (Keep in mind, many of us veterans will kid around that the military doesn’t always supply our troops with the best equipment, but at the very least it is usually functional). So, if the Taiwanese Special Forces wanted these masks, then they have to at least be decent, right?
Let’s start with its level of protection: IIIA. What does that mean? We have a chart to help.
Here you can see that the IIIA is rated up to a .44 Magnum. Nobody wants to be shot, but nobody certainly wants to be shot by a .44 Magnum. It’s an extremely powerful handgun, so the existence of a face mask that claims to withstand a .44 Magnum is quite the achievement if true.
So does the mask work?...yes, and no.
A fantastic demonstration of the durability of these masks was performed by Mike Jones, from the YouTube channel Garand Thumb. His video can be found here: Do bulletproof masks actually work? Ballistic test. - YouTube
The conclusion? Up to the level of ammunition the mask claims to protect against (Level IIIA), it is capable of stopping these rounds from penetrating your skull. However, there’s a few issues that come along with that.
- Eye Protection: The mask offers no protection for the wearer's eyes, which isn’t a major criticism against the manufacturers. Bullet proof eyewear is largely non-existent, and in the cases where it has been successfully created, it tends to lack practical uses. Still, there are two large holes where a bullet will be unobstructed from penetrating your skull.
You might think, “Well, those are small targets, at least the odds of firing a round into my eyes is low.” While that may be true, this brings us to the second issue.
- The Shape: Due to the design of the mask to conform to the wearer's face, (primarily the cheekbone area), it allows the bullet to deflect from its trajectory upon impact. The bullet continues its forward motion, & slides upwards into the eye holes of the mask. This inevitably results in the bullet causing damage to the wearer, if not death.
Yet still, you could still claim the odds of taking damage in those areas of the face are still lower, while the rest of your face (the larger area more likely to be hit) are protected…which brings us to the third issue.
- Back Face Deformation: If you watched the videos provided above, you will see the degree of back face deformation that the masks took. Lower caliber ammunition inflicted less damage of course, but the larger rounds inflicted serious damage to the wearer. Back Face Deformation is essentially the dent that occurs to the armor once it is impacted by a bullet. In our video about Blunt Force Trauma, we explain this in great detail, and how to protect against it. That dent acts like a painful impact to your body. The better the armor, the smaller the dent. However, with the bullet proof masks in question, some tests resulted in massive back face deformation.
It is often said that being shot while wearing body armor feels like getting hit in the chest with a sledgehammer. So, it stands to reason that being shot in the face while wearing one of these masks would similarly feel like taking a sledgehammer to the face. Only, the difference between the two is far apart.
The odds of surviving a sledgehammer to the chest is far superior to the odds of surviving a sledgehammer to the face. The impact alone from the deformation of the armor once it is hit by a bullet can crack the wearer's skull, induce severe concussions (if not brain damage), and severe neck injuries which could result in death.
Overall, can these bulletproof masks save your life? Yes, similarly to how you can survive being hit by an oncoming car while standing in the street. You could live, but likely not without serious long term health problems.
The interest for effective bullet-proof face masks is out there, but as of yet, there lacks a practical, functional solution as of yet. If you want our advice…stick to a solid, well-crafted helmet, situational awareness, and training.
In the meantime, you have a lot of other body parts to protect, & Spartan Armor Systems provides a series of quality body armor plates and plate carriers. From Level IIIA to Level IV, & NIJ Certified protection to keep you safe.