Thursday, February 5, 2009

Praxis Request: Gas Masks

US M40 Gas Mask with hood.

Cetmemodeloc writes:

I have been looking through most, (if not all), of the Praxis articles but haven't any mention about this, (I know it is terribly obscure but I tend to specialize in the obscure).

In none of the articles do I see any mention of personal protection equipment, (gas masks and such).

I know the need for a certain level of training and maintenance, (in a previous life I was training in their use), but has anyone even thought that they may be useful? (I have not seen any mentions on any of the equipment lists). I can think of at least a couple of scenarios where they would be. Smoke, Tear Gas, Binary agents, (You really think "they" won't use them? Think Seattle.)

Small units may not need them initially but I can see a situation where when push comes to shove the next thing after a flash bang is going to be a teargas canister. Hits are being taken? Drop smoke. Need to "clean out" a pesky group of holed up 3'pers? You get the picture. If the JBT's are training with them it seems a serious hole to ignore the possibility.

I have a USGI M40 mask (as above). It is perhaps not the best mask around, but I got a good deal on it back in the late 90s to replace an ageing M17A1. I like it because it has spin-on external NATO-standard filters, which is certainly a step up from the internal cheek-type filters of the M17 series. I inspected it the other day and the rubber is still good, the NBC-environment drinking tube is still serviceable and it has the internal-framed prescription lenses in it. I bought up-to-date filters for it a year ago (again, another deal) but the old ones, still in the cans, will be serviceable for a while.

I bought Israeli civilian masks for my family back in the 90s, but need to update them.

I must confess that I am not going to get into MOPP gear, expecting that the more likely threat I will face is CS or other riot control gases. I realise that there are other non-lethal gases available to the Feds these days, but if it gets that far, I will endeavor to make their use superfluous.

However, I would appreciate it if some other Three Percenters would use this opportunity to contribute to the general knowledge base of the Sipsey Street Irregulars by detailing what experience they have had with gas masks.


Loren said...

Problem is, most modern chemical weapons can be absorbed through the skin. If they're using much more than tear gas on you, you'll be screwed unless you have a full suit. Who wants to do a MOPP 4 FTX?

Respectabiggle said...

The MCU-2P is a great mask, if you can get it. It's rugged and has a great field of view with minimal obstructions to your peripheral vision.

Here's one.

Qi Ji Guang said...

Actually, you can be both suited AND cloaked in situations that resemble WWI in the trenches. A space blanket cloak can fit over a MOPP suit. That, although not really tactically sound, will protect you from both chemical agents and from being spotted by thermal devices. The space blanket cloak with hood MUST be an integral part of ANY irregular.

Tactical marksmen should also be issued MOPP suits in case they have to operate at ranges where unconventional weapons may be deployed by the opponent.

Johnny said...

The British Army call them "Respirators."

I have some experience of the British Army S6 Respirator, now superseded by the S10. It was certainly perfectly effective against CS Gas, either in very high concentration in a Gas Chamber or out in the field, and even with out-of-date filters.

Some people (including me) can get a bit claustrophobic wearing a Respirator. It is not pleasant. It is very difficult to shoot an L1A1 SLR using one but you can put rounds downrange in some sort of order. (Of course, if you're in an NBC suit you have rubber gloves on too.) If you're running it's extremely difficult to take in enough oxygen if you've got one on (and can lead to you having to take the Respirator off to throw up).

A friend of mine who was in the Navy reports that the S6 seals fine on a full beard, in fact better than on someone with a couple of days of stubble. (British Naval Officers were allowed a full beard, certainly into the 80s, due to some tradition or another, though I believe in a combat zone they generally get removed.)

For CS Gas however, I suspect a Respirator is over-kill. Goggles and one of the "anti-smog" masks impregnated with charcoal that cyclists wear should be perfectly adequate (though you'll probably be best advised to carry several, since they will get soaked with CS, they are less bulky than a Respirator). CS stings unpleasantly on exposed, wet, skin but not enough to incapacitate.

Further, people who have been repeatedly exposed to CS gas can develop a tolerance for it, or at least for the effects, and are not incapacitated by it in spite of excessive tearing and snot running out the nose.

During a lecture at the School of Infantry a speaker (an Australian Major who served with the Australian Special Forces in Vietnam) said the American Forces stopped using CS to clear out tunnels because it would lead to areas of the tunnels where the air had been displaced by CS and soldiers going down the tunnels ended up as dead from suffocation.

So, even with a Respirator CS, can - will - kill you if there's enough of in a confined space because you won't get enough oxygen. Out in the open air it's more of a nuisance than any kind of real hazard. (My supposition is that many of people - especially the babies and children - at Waco would have been dead by suffocation before the fire consumed the bodies, if that's any consolation.)

NBC warfare, which was a big thing in the British Army during the Cold War, is a whole study of its own. Given Chemical Weapons are classed as Weapons of Mass Destruction nowadays it would seem unlikely the American Government will deploy them against either civilians or armies because it would hand a massive propaganda victory to the opponent.

I consider it unlikely (given my knowledge of physiology thanks to my Biological Sciences Degree) that it would be plausible to develop "non-lethal" chemical agents that are significantly different in character, deployment, and effects, than CS and OC aerosols. (Although what the government might get away with characterizing as "non-lethal" is an open question that leaves significant room for debate I suppose.)

More interesting as regards the whole "riot control" arena, I think, are the "non-lethal" sound, laser, and microwave, projected energy weapons that are coming into use. However, that's a whole new ball-game and likely a story for another day.

tom said...

Israeli M-15s are OK for tear gas and what not and have drinking tube provision and take NATO filters. About 20 bucks a pop with a sealed NATO filter.

Not a MCU-2P but it isn't $200 bucks either. Suppose it depends on how much gas you expect to deal with and where you prefer to spend your money on preparedness.

If I could have ALL the gear I'd like to have, I'd be looking at a pentagon sized budget...all a compromise.

Johnny said...

Also... Respirators (Gas Masks) that have been exposed to chemical agents, including CS, during training my be unserviceable due to deterioration of the plastic. This is not necessarily visible by inspection. If you want a Respirator only a new one is acceptable, IMHO. And it is worth looking at civilian items produced for use when working with various noxious chemicals.

Note, military filters may not be effective against all chemicals and biological agents - take a look at a civilian catalogue of masks and filters for industrial use.

That said, I'm sure a surplus Respirator that would be unserviceable in a Chemical Weapon environment will be effective against CS and OC. - however, as remarked passim, I suspect a Respirator is over-kill against such agents provided you've trained with exposure to CS or OC.

Dakota said...

I have 2 of the old M17s and extra replacement filters.(they are expired) I used this same mask in 1974 in basic training and found it to be reliable and therefore I have really no qualms about keeping them as my main masks. I would hate to wear one for any extended period but a flash bang/cs grenade it should neutralize handily. I would however like to know if anyone knows where the little rubber valves can be purhased or parts in general would like to add a hood to my 2nd mask and have extra parts. Maybe post it back here.

Anonymous said...

The M-95 aint bad either:

Anonymous said...

I had one time seen a rioter put a plastic bucket over a CS grenade. The look on the cop's face was worth every penny

AvgJoe said... has what you need. Three mask for twenty bucks.
My hunch is the criminals will bug us. CS and other gases I'm not worried about at all.

Anonymous said...

Seeing how the gas mask article seems to have brought about some interest so I thought I might as well add a little of my obscure knowledge to the fore.

First things first. No matter what mask you get without filters it is useless, (actually less than useless as you will THINK you are prepared when you really are not).

The pretty much strikes the M17's, (filters are all expired. You might get away with sealed filters that have never been opened but where are you going to get any and why take the chance), M9's, (predecessor to the M17 and just as obsolete. Forget about getting filters for them), and any of their copies. (The Germans made some very nice copies of the M17's but the filters are slightly different and just as expired.)

I saw a suggestion from someone to go to and get their 3 pack deal. The mask being offered is a Finnish model that uses a gigantic filter thread of 60 mm. It is supposedly an "improved" model of the American M9. There are adapters that allow you to use the newer NATO spec filters but remember that adapters have to screw in to the mask and seal correctly and then you have to screw the filter to that. Multiple points of failure. What happens if you need the filter and the adapter sticks to the filter and they BOTH unscrew. Hope you can hold your breath and you might as well prey that the adapter screws back in and seals correctly. Thanks but no thanks.

An interesting thing about the M9's and the Finnish M/61 is that they used screw on filters, (really big 60 mm thread). The M17's, in that respect and my opinion, were a step backwards when they went to cheek filters. The mask might be less bulky and easier to site with but try and change the filters when they get clogged and you are still in a hostile environment.

The M40 mask is a nice mask. Uses the common NATO filter. Can still be found if you look hard enough. But if you do get an M40 make sure you get the hood that goes with it. The M40 was made from silicone rubber that tends to deteriorate when exposed to mustard gas and other such nasties. The hood protects the mask if it were to come in contact with such materials.

The Israeli M15A1 is a nice mask modeled after the German M65/Karetta style mask. Was quite common in the US as many were imported as surplus. Uses the NATO style filter. Only problem? Most of these masks were surplused quite a few years ago. You have make sure of the integrity of the mask before you depend on it.

A good site that shows most masks from different countries is (I have no relationship with this site. I just found it a useful reference.)

A good site to see what masks are considered obsolete and probably dangerous is They also sell mask and filters. (Again. No relationship. Just a useful reference I found.)

I am partial to the M95 myself. (Only problem was getting the Camelbak adapter for the darn thing since it doesn't use a regular water port).

Warthog said...

I used a Navy ND Mk 5 all those years ago when I was in. It was real effective against anything up to CK (cyanogen chloride, it's a blood agent), but they call that stuff canister cracker for a reason and I doubt they'd go that far.

I think I still have one somewhere but I doubt I'd be able to find a set of canisters.

Anonymous said...

If you're expecting to have gas canisters launched through your windows, I'd recommend placing a metal bucket of water and a pair of tongs in every room. When the canister arrives, use the tongs to drop it in the water before it starts a fire. They don't call it the Federal Bureau of Incineration for nothing!

Anonymous said...

Canadian C4 NBC Gas Mask Operator's Manual.

English only (995 KB)

English and French (2,144 KB)


daniel said...

Gotto agree with Respectabiggle. That MCU-2P has a continuous viewing lens for both eyes, which is very important. I haven't used it, but I've used the military's older version with the separate lenses for each eye. With the seperate lenses, it is almost impossible to shoot a rifle properly.