Over the past few years the helmet issued to British troops has undergone a number of changes to bring us out of the dark ages although in my personal opinion we still are not quite there. In the civilian market there are lots of helmets that CP workers/walts can get their hands on as they are not bound to the issued kit rule. One of the retailers of ballistic protection in the UK at the moment is INTELLIGENT ARMOUR which is based down in Gloucestershire and sells all sorts of ballistic protection as well as all sorts of other stuff for the discerning kit pest! They sell a range of MACH (military advanced combat) helmets; they are all different designs to suit the end users requirements.
The one Im going to review is the MACH 1 with ops core mount (I will talk more about the mount later on); this is the most generalist helmet in the range and in looks is nearly identical to the US ACH helmet. I got a chance to have a good look at whilst down at the Counter Terror Expo last month and also got the chance to ask Alex (IAs main man) some questions about it. The MACH 1 is ballistic rated up to NIJ IIIA which is from Im lead to believe is the highest level of protection a helmet of this type offers, to prove this I saw a demo helmet that had been shot by several wpns of different calibres and none had penetrated the helmet. The MACH 1 comes in 3 colours green, tan or black although with a helmet cover on this is not really an issue. They come in all the normal sizes you would expect however depending on the sort of harness/pad system you get you may find the size you actually need changing, IA offer 2 types of pad system with their helmets. The first type is very similar to the one found in the MK6A/7 helmet as in it has leather pad on the front and a nylon covered pad on the back. It also has mesh piece that sits on the top of the head to allow air to circulate and aid the protection from blunt shock trauma. The other pad system they offer is the same as the one in the US issue helmets, the inside of the helmet has Velcro patches on that you can then fit a number of pads to depending on what and where the user wants padding. I have used the 2nd type of pad system and can vouch for its comfort and this would probably be the system that I would go for.
The harness is of the 4 point variety (meaning that it is attached to the helmet at 4 different points). This means the helmet is very stable on the head unlike the MK6 variety of helmet (3 point harness) which moved around everywhere. The harness on the MACH 1 has 6 different points of adjustment to allow you to get a comfortable fit, I had a quick fiddle with the one I tried and managed to get a very snug fit with. The only tiny downside of this harness is the plastic cup that you get on the chin which is not really my cup of tea, but this is easy enough to change if you ever needed to. The MACH 1 weighs in at a very reasonable 1090g compared to the MK6A which weighs 1600g although it is slightly heavier than the Mk 7 which is 1020g. The cut/shape of the MACH 1 allows you to fire in the prone position without the front being pushed over the users eyes and the flared earpieces allow the user the wear comms headsets/ear defenders comfortably to.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review the nice people at IA have added the OPS CORE accessories to the MACH range, this means you get a VAS (Visual Augmentation System) Shroud and 2 x rail mounts. The VAS shroud is designed to eliminate the need of having to fit a different NVG mount depending on what system you are using. The OPS CORE one allows you to fit any NVG swing arm on the mount and since the bracket is bolted to the helmet it provides a very sturdy fit, the VAS shroud matches the helmet colour and can be taken off if the user wishes to. This is a lot better than the current in service mount and something that I believe our equipment procurement people should be looking in to. The rail system fits on either side of the helmet and attaches using the bolts that harness is attached to, the rails are low profile so wont snag onto things and allow the user to fit anything that has a picatinny mount to be attached to the helmet (although they are primarily designed to attach torches/headcams to ). You also get 2 small bungees on either side that can be used in conjunction with the VAS shroud to connect to any NVGs that you may have attached.
Overall I think the MACH 1 and in fact the whole MACH range are a well designed and manufactured product and would be ideal to anyone in the CP world. Whilst I was at the IA stand at the Counter Terror Expo there were a small group of THEM enquiring about this very helmet range so obviously there is something very appealing about them. The OPS CORE accessories are a very nice extra to have especially the VAS shroud which really impressed me. £468 it is a very expensive item but you are getting what you pay for and when your life is on the line its a small price to pay, although I would recommend a trip to the IA shop to try one on before you buy so you can decide what pad system and size you need.