NBC is short for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical. CBRN is short for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear. The newer class of CBRN ratings were introduced to include protection from radiological waste (different to nuclear radiation from a bomb). These classifications are drawn up by authority bodies (NIOSH) to ensure that gas masks, manufactured to withstand these environments, can actually do that. The highest rating a mask can have is a CBRN rating, this means it has passed inspection and testing by authority bodies for the purposes of being able to withstand the effects of a CBRN situation.
The difference between what are referred to as household gas masks (respirators), filter masks and CBRN gas masks is that the latter are made to withstand a much higher degree of extreme exposure during a nuclear fallout, radiation, biological infection scenario, and to withstand any chemical substances that may damage the mask itself upon exposure and cause harm to the wearer. Usually, these types of masks are used by military, law enforcement, first responders, emergency workers, preppers and survivalists for the purpose that they offer protection against worst-case scenarios.
Normal air filtering masks, otherwise known as respirators, are made with very different purposes in mind, and cater for protection against more employment-specific hazards such as working in construction, agriculture, laboratories or household projects where chemicals and vapors may be present.
|IMAGE||NAME||OUR RANK||RATING||FILTER||OUR REVIEW|
|Avon M50||CBRN||M50 |
|Drager 4500||CBRN||40mm |
|SGE 400/3 BB||CBRN||40mm |
|SGE 400/3||NBC||40mm |
|IDF Gas Mask||NBC||40mm |
Avon Protection has been providing respirators to NATO allies and the UK Ministry of Defense the 1920’s and is the primary supplier of CBRN respiratory equipment to all United States Department of Defense Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Special Operations Groups. With that type of history, it is no doubt their CBRN gas mask, the Avon M50, is one of the most relied upon CBRN gas masks in the world.
The M50 sets the benchmark for what a gas mask should be. It is worn with extreme comfort, which is important for the possibility of having to wear the mask for long unbroken periods, and it is easy to move around in while wearing it with no limitation to breathing or vision. It is these specifics that make it the best face mask for a nuclear fallout, the best chemical gas mask, and the best military-grade gas mask.
The M50 comes with a drinking straw assembly that connects through to an in-service water bottle. Some masks choose not to include this functionality, which only shows that the M50 has been thought out to be used in a practical environment. This mask has a lot more optional accessories when compared against many other masks, this would be due to it being a gas mask with a strong military background, meaning it has had practical modifications made by high-field use suggestions. The only downside to the mask is that it uses its own type of filter and does not fit the threading of a standard NATO 40mm filter that a majority of other masks use. Due to the mask’s popularity in the civilian world, Avon have also produced an alternative version to the M50 that does use 40mm canisters. While many of the specifications are quite similar, buyers that are concerned about the issue of the 40mm threading can consider the Avon C50.
For a more comprehensive review on the M50, with specifications and details on its components, head on over to our M50 gas mask page.
Draeger is a German-based medical and safety technology provider that has been running high-quality products for the past 120 years. They pioneer in safety technology for mine rescue, air specialists, first responders and life support systems. Their CBRN gas mask, the Draeger 4500, is a quality gas mask that runs with a NATO 40mm threating for gas filters.
There are a number of considerations that make the Draeger 4500 a premium emergency CBRN mask. The visor and visible range on the mask is extremely wide. With this vision, you are easily able to see in an almost unhindered range of visibility. This means the mask is great for those working in first response situations such as firefighters that might use then when entering areas with thick toxic smoke, or for those that might be near a protest or public riot areas and need to have a more clear vision.
The Draeger 4500 is a very comfortable fit with a sizing system that adjusts to various size faces. For others that have sizing issues the Draeger works on a universal sizing with one size covering male and female faces and fitting children faces as well. Although some have said this might not fit anyone under 12-years-old. The mask has also been designed to be used in conjunction with precision shooting. Draeger has the advantage of free cheek space so that when you go to take a well-aimed shot, you can still aim down the barrel very effectively without any limitation whatsoever.
Medical, SCUBA and military safety provider Mestel Safety previously had the SGE 400/3 gas mask as one of the world’s competitive top selling NBC gas masks due to its wide visibility, comfort, and affordability. To comply with CBRN requirements they introduced a butyl-rubber face-seal allowing it to withstand CBRN environments.
This SGE has the benefit of coming from a long line of gas masks, which means that it has been perfected with improved functions and industry specifications over time. For instance, it has three NATO 40mm filter ports, has a mouthpiece drinking assembly, and has full vision capacity. The visor itself is made of durable polycarbonate and has been tested to resist a one-inch steel ball at 335 miles per hour without inflicting any damage on the visor. To stop the visor from fogging up, the mask has a moisture release valve to help with any situations where it may be used for extensive periods.
For a more comprehensive review on the SGE 400/3 BB, with specifications and details on its components, head on over to our SGE 400/3 BB CBRN gas mask page.
This is one of the more basic predecessors to the CBRN SGE 400/3 BB gas mask above. This is the SGE 400 version that remains NBC compliant, but not CBRN compliant, due to the silicone seal used as the face seal, which can be subject to corrosion.
While this version on display only has one 40mm NATO filter port, the SGE 400/3 uses three filter ports. This adaptation was made for military and police users that wanted to be able to use a filter on the cheek of the gas mask, so as to rest a rifle and perform precision aiming by freeing up the center filter position. The SGE 400 still remains a well-sought after gas mask as it offers full NBC protection in circumstances where there may be a nuclear bomb, chemical bomb, disease, pandemic, or plague scenario.
This Israeli Defense Force gas mask is lightweight and designed as a cost-effective way to provide NBC protection to as many people as possible. For years, these were issued to civilian populations in Israel as a standard practice by the Israeli Army United Nations in response to regular dirty bombs used in civilian areas.
The masks are made of a soft rubber material with universal 40mm NATO filters and provide protection to the face, eyes and respiratory system against various chemical and biological agents. They have large impact-resistant plexiglass eye holes for a wide field of view.
While these gas masks are great for affordability, they are akin to that of an older generation gas mask in that they are limited in vision, limited in audibility, and can be uncomfortable if worn for long periods because of the rubber texture. These were designed to be used in chemical attacks in Israel, as such, they are not meant to be worn for long extensive periods. Instead, they are a means of providing clean and safe air while the person, whether it be a child or an adult, gets to a safe decontaminated area and stays there until the effect of the nerve agent or toxin has been cleared by authorities.
For a more comprehensive review on the Israeli Gas Mask, with specifications and details on its components, head on over to our Israeli Gas Mask page.
Can be uncomfortable if worn for long periods
Rubber seal can cause sweating
Might not create a perfect seal for some face types
How a gas mask is used is completely up to the individual that wears it. You might be regularly working with paints, aerosols, around dangerous and toxic waste, or you could be a first responder that is concerned with inhaling dangerous airborne chemicals. The purpose of your gas mask will identify how you should be looking for your mask and what type you should be getting.
If you are intending on using your gas mask as a way to breathe clean air in a nuclear attack, or to keep your air supply decontaminated when you are in an area with a known epidemic such as a serious disease or plague, then you should be considering a CBRN or NBC mask, as both cover nuclear and biological events, scenarios and incidents.
Depending on the circumstance you are facing, there are these CBRN/NBC gas masks we have listed in this guide, industrial paint gas masks, chemical gas masks, gas masks suitable for disease and pandemic environments and much cheaper and easier to use masks that filter dust and pollution.
An important consideration when choosing a gas mask is to look at the factor of how long you are looking to be wearing the mask. If you are preparing for a nuclear attack, you should be considering a gas mask that you are able to wear for a long time. However, it should be remembered that a gas mask is to be used to reach a place that is safe and decontaminated, that is the priority. If the mask has to be worn for long periods, it is useful to have a gas mask that has a drinking attachment so that you can fit a drinking straw into the mask to keep your fluid intake up.
The most important part of a protective gas mask is the seal that it makes on the face. If the mask cannot make a seal then it cannot create a clean air environment for you to breathe clean uncontaminated oxygen. While this is predominantly the gas mask that is responsible for creating this seal, it is also the responsibility of the wearer to ensure that they have removed any facial hair which can stop the mask from creating a seal around the face.
Most gas masks have a standard filter that is essentially a one-size fits all. This is the NATO 40mm filter and is widely available. Despite the fact that most gas masks use the NATO 40mm filter, you should always check before purchasing as to the type of filter it requires. In our recommendations of gas masks, the only gas mask that does not use the NATO 40mm filter is the Avon M50 gas mask, which uses its own filters. However, as a US Military and UK Defense gas mask, these filters for the M50 are also readily available online.
Because there are a number of options for CBRN and NBC gas masks, you should be able to find one that suits your budget quite easily. In the recommended options we have in this buyer’s guide, there are high-quality CBRN military gas masks that are in the high-end budget of USD$200-$350. When it comes to gas masks, quality CBRN masks are worth more money as they are more effective, comfortable, have a better range of vision and have better-added specifications. If you are on a budget, the Israeli Defense Force NBC gas mask is great as they can be purchased for less than USD$50.
Choosing the best gas mask is a question we get faced with all of the time. The only suitable way to answer it is to say that the best gas mask is one that suits what you are after. For us, we prefer the M50 gas mask as it is a widely used service gas mask that comes with everything you need in a quality-assured breathing safety system.
Both an NBC gas mask or a CBRN gas mask will keep your air supply decontaminated from radiation that would be in the air after a nuclear attack. All of the gas masks above, fitted with an NBC gas mask filter, will filter radiation from any air that passes through the filter of the gas mask. Provided there is a tight seal around the face, no radiation will be consumed through normal breathing.
However, it must be noted that while these gas masks will help in a nuclear fallout to keep your body safe from the consumption of radiation, there must also be other NBC protective gear worn when in an area that has radiation contamination. This is because radiation can be absorbed through the skin causing radiation poisoning. When entering a decontaminated area, one must ensure that they remove any contaminated clothing and protective gear, and use a full body of while wearing the protective equipment to ensure the equipment is free of radiation contamination, and then the body, to further ensure a full decontamination process. As a safety note, do not use conditioner when washing, only use shampoo, as the conditioner will bond any possible radioactive particles to the hair.
For a more comprehensive review on the gas mask filters, their specifications and details, head on over to our comparison of the four best gas mask filters.
In the case of a chemical attack, the gas mask you need to ensure you don’t breath in any of the gas or vapor-based toxic agents is an NBC or CBRN gas mask, as both cover the basic necessity of filtering chemicals from coming in contact with the body.
Much like in a nuclear attack, when using a gas mask in a chemical attack it is not good enough just using a gas mask, as full body protection is also needed to ensure full protection. Of course, this can’t always be achieved, so in the case of a chemical attack, or dirty bomb, where the chemical is a choking or nerve agent, a gas mask should be used immediately to ensure nothing is consumed via the airways. Using the gas mask in a chemical attack is a method of keeping yourself alive while finding a safe, decontaminated area, preferably away from the scene of the chemical attack.
According to NIOSH standards, CBRN gas masks are not for use in environments where there is less than 19.5 per cent oxygen levels. Gas masks are air-purifying systems and do not supply oxygen. Instead, if an environment is void of oxygen a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) must be selected for use in those environments. Often you will see these used by firefighters as they are known to work in environments where oxygen may be limited.
No. It won’t. A CBRN gas mask only provides respiratory protection against inhalation of radiological, nuclear, biological and chemical dust particles. The respirator does not stop all forms of radiation that may be emitted by these particles or radiation released from a nuclear attack.
In the case of exposure to radiation, dosage will be a function of the type of radiation, exposure time, distance from the source and shielding (if any). Respirators will provide little to no protection from radiation in a nuclear attack, but may help reduce exposure to dust or radionuclide particles after the attack.
Choosing the best NBC gas mask is choosing the mask that does what it needs to during its intended use ultimately keeping you safe. One CBRN or NBC gas mask that may be good for one person or use will not be for another. With that in mind, the above points should help in determining and narrowing down the best gas mask for you.