Gas masks and filters are the essential items for anyone looking to prepare against the risks of the modern day world. Leading the way is our favorite CBRN Mask, MIRA Safety’s CM-7M Military Gas Mask.
Sure, you might think someone is going overboard in their preparedness if they have a gas mask, but with the current threat of global war and terrorism at play, and the big stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons at the forefront of everyone’s mind, there’s no doubt the gas mask has a high priority position in an emergency supply.
When it comes down to the basics, whether it’s a plague pathogen, nuclear fallout, chemical agent, or a government defusing citizens with pepper spray or tear gas, a gas mask is going to save your life, or make it a lot easier to get to safety. It was once that only soldiers on the front line would need to carry such an item as they dealt with agents only used in war, but with the global coverage of the modern war, struggle, and societal collapse, anyone is at risk.
Before we look at why you would need a gas mask, how they work and a specific review of each of the best-selling and most reliable CBRN gas masks, here are the six top gas masks that are held to high standards of specifications to ensure that they provide the right protection you need for your safety.
Why You Need A CBRN Gas Mask
One of our writers is Venezuelan. His life was much like yours and mine, he lived in an established first-world economy which had laws, morals and good times. That was until Venezuela’s financial system collapsed overnight.
He lives in a world where every day he is exposed to government-ran paramilitary police clashing with protestors in a five-year war on the streets. A daily smell is the constant lingering of tear gas and pepper spray used by both sides. His family has emergency gas masks for this reason alone.
In another part of the world, survivalists do monthly cleans and practice drills with their gas masks and protective suits as the threat of a nuclear attack or chemical threat to their homeland increases after heated intimidations by powerful countries.
I personally have seen the sale of gas masks, filters, protective wear and even underground bunkers skyrocket in the past year to the point where many outlets have either sold out, or are on the brink of running out of stock. With the current climate of tensions between the world’s superpowers, we have rarely been in such a time where threats to “push the red button” have been so close.
And this isn’t to forget other issues at play, such as radicalist homegrown terrorism, where cell networks plot new chemical attacks every month on public sites in western countries such as US, UK, and Australia. There is also the threat of widespread contagious diseases, pathogens, and plagues that have besieged cities in viral pandemics.
Through all of those examples, it is easy to understand why CBRN gas masks are selling out, why they are a staple item in an emergency situation, and are the first thing preparedness individuals and first responders train to grab along with their emergency supplies.
Top Ten Military-Grade CBRN Gas Masks
So why did I choose these gas masks to review over any others? First, they are CBRN approved, which means that they are going to work in the environment they are made for, being a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and/or Nuclear environment. These masks are also functional, well designed, and are relatively affordable for what they are.
My other preference for these masks, over any others, is that they are all used by militaries or first responders around the world. The M50, for instance, is the current issue gas mask for the US Military. So if anything speaks as to the quality and use of these items, then that should.
These masks do differ in some aspects, which you can read on further to get a little more understanding about each one below. However, I will rank them starting with what I believe is the most reliable, best-performing CBRN mask, and then second and third, respectively.
For a true, combat-ready, military-grade gas mask at entry level prices, look no further than the MIRA Safety CM-7M CBRN gas mask / full face respirator. Produced to meet the strict demands of the Czech military and manufactured under close supervision of the Czech Ministry of Defense, these masks combine great features with superior value and true mil-spec reliability.
These masks feature many of the same features as MIRA’s CM-6M below, including integrated hydration system that’s compatible with standard Camelbak systems, speech diaphragm, dual filter ports and rugged bromobutyl construction. They’re produced to meet European quality standards in accordance with EN 136 (Class 3) and EN 148-1.
The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that this mask trades a panoramic visor for smaller individual, goggle-style viewports. This configuration retains most of the effective field of vision of the panoramic gas mask style (73% effective field of vision in this case), while providing improved depth perception and better performance with a wide range of optics including everything from rifle scopes to night vision goggles.
Like other MIRA masks, these use a NATO-standard 40mm filter. With it, I was able to work from a unified pool of filters instead of having to stock up on different types for each mask (as you would for the Avon M-50 below).
They’ve truly thought of all the details with this mask—like how you can mount a filter in your offhand port so that it doesn’t interfere with shouldering a rifle. Or how you can use the integrated hydration system with a Camelbak for enhanced comfort and protection. It’s the little things that most of us never think about, where producers like MIRA go the extra mile, that could potentially make life a lot easier for any of us in a disaster scenario.
Whatever this mask may compromise in field of view when compared to the CM-6M, I truly believe it’s worthwhile for the tactical viability of a military-designed and -produced mask that’s built for battlefield use. That means it’s a mask you can train with, a mask you can use as necessary, and still trust for years to come. With an impressive 20-year shelf life and rugged construction, this is exactly the kind of mask you’re looking for if you want peace of mind at a price that can’t be beat.
- Allows drinking from the included canteen without removing mask
- Has an integrated sweat drainage system
- Features a specially designed speech diaphragm
- A bit more expensive than other models
- Doesn’t form a great seal for users with beards
The MIRA Safety CM-6M military-grade gas mask is arguably the best value on the market today. It’s packed with all the modern features you’d want for maximum comfort and safety with a gas mask, along with a proven pedigree and a price tag that’s tough to beat—making it the best entry-level gas mask for a vast majority of new buyers.
First off, you’ve got desirable features like a panoramic, anti-fogging visor for maximum visibility in disaster scenarios. I also noticed its integrated speech diaphragm quite helpful for easy communication, along with an included canteen and hydration system (that’s compatible with Camelbak connectors).
From butyl rubber construction to dual filtration points and a hypoallergenic inner mask, the CM offers full CBRN protection and maximum comfort at an impressive price. In terms of value for money, no other mask on the market can compare. It’s even got a slot for the insertion of dioptic spectacles for those who have vision issues.
MIRA masks come with a serious pedigree, trusted by law enforcement professionals, enlisted military, and special forces members from around the globe. These masks (and previous designs) have proven themselves through decades of hard use in even the most extreme conditions.
MIRA Safety masks use the same basic NATO-standard 40mm canister as almost every other popular mask on the market today. So they’ll work with your existing supply of filters while offering a 20-year shelf life on their own.
The only possible downside I’ve noticed with these MIRA CM-6M gas masks is that the wide, panoramic lens makes it easy to stay aware of your surroundings—but it’s not perfect for shouldering a rifle. Nor is it ideal for use with night vision goggles (NVG). Even if it’s not necessary, you might want to ability to shoulder a rifle, which would make the CM-7M above a better choice for you. But it’s still easy to use with a pistol, and it provides maximum field of view, so it’s still great for most members of your party.
- Features a speech diaphragm
- Has a hypoallergenic inner mask
- Has an impact-resistant visor
- Helmet compatible
- Doesn’t come with the adapter for Camelbak
- Filter caps are easy to lose
This PD-101 Full Face Respirator Mask is designed to protect against chemicals, pesticides and other substances. It’s designed to be durable that it can even protect you from flying debris. Yes, it’s impact resistant.
In fact, it’s comfortable to use all day. Weighing just around 2 pounds (even with the filters attached), you won’t have problems wearing it on the job. It also has a 200° field of view which is actually good. With a dual-convex design, it offers excellent visibility and spatial awareness.
- Fits larger and wider faces
- Comes with an anti-fog treatment
- Has a large voice diaphragm that allows for better and more effective communication
- Filters aren’t NIOSH compliant
Designed to provide protection from inhaling 95% of particles in the air, this mask is quite similar to the previous one. This means that it’s easy to use and durable. It has a really excellent seal that you can wear it even if you have facial hair.
Now, how are they different?
The only difference between the two is their type of filter connector. Unlike PD-101 which is compatible with other companies’ filters, this mask only uses a proprietary filter connector.
The mask feels comfortable and sturdy. It features a gasket made of multi-layered silicone which conforms nicely to the shape of your head.
I’ve noticed that the straps and buckles aren’t flimsy as well; they’re actually durable and dynamic. You can adjust each strap for a better fit.
- Can be adjusted to get the perfect fit
- Can be used with other filter brands
- Comes with a protective face shield that allows a wide range of vision
- Filters aren’t NIOSH-approved
This particular mask features designs suitable for first responders. With its silicone material, I didn’t have a hard time getting an excellent fit without sacrificing comfort.
It also has an optional butyl rubber second skin which works well in lowering decontamination costs while increasing respirator life.
The mask is easy to wear. And once it’s on, it provides excellent protection against different chemical agents.
- NIOSH approved
- Comes with two speaking diaphragm
- Offers excellent permeation protection
- A bit expensive when compared with other models that offer the same features
The Sperian Opti-fit Cbrn Gas Mask Lg 779000 Hat Size is on the expensive side, but it’s features make it worth every cent you spend on it. It’s durable and chemical resistant which are two things you’d need in an effective mask.
It offers excellent field of vision with its anti-scratch coated polycarbonate lens. I didn’t experience obstruction or distortion which is important when you’re in critical situations. It also has a standard nose-cup which I think helps reduce lens fogging.
It comes with a 3-position canister mounting which can accommodate different applications. Plus, it has a hydration drink tube which you can use for quick hydration.
- Comes with an optional hydration drink tube
- Offers superior field of vision
- Polycarbonate lens are anti-scratch coated
Honeywell North 7600 Full-Facepiece Silicone Respirator is suitable to use in any work environment. It has front and side mounts which can be used as Continuous Flow Supplied Air Respirator and Powered Air Purifying Respirator.
When it comes to vision, I didn’t have problems with this mask, particularly with distortion or clarity. It has an extra wide viewing field and excellent peripheral and downward sightlines.
Its lens are made of tough polycarbonate lens. It’s also been tested to meet the ANSI Z87 High Impact Standards for your safety in your workplace.
When it comes to seal, it does an excellent job in keeping contaminants away. It features a 5-point head strap option which makes putting on and adjusting easier.
Conversation is easy with this mask too. It’s designed with the Kapton Speech Diaphragm that enhances conversations.
- Minimizes distortion
- Offers superior comfort and fit
- NIOSH approved
The Forsheda A4 mask has been developed to serve as the civil version of the F2 NBC respirator which has been inservice by the Swedish Rescue Services and Swedish Armed Forces since 1997.
The mask offers excellent protection against a wide range of threats. In fact, it has even been tested to do well when used in contaminated areas for more than a full day. Yes, it’s capable of 24-hour deployment.
Wearing the mask isn’t uncomfortable. With its 6-strap harness, I didn’t find it difficult to adjust Plus, it only weighs 16 ounces.
The mask features airflow covers on both lenses. They are a huge help when it comes to preventing fogging and ensuring clarity while in use.
- Offers fantastic field of view
- Fits great
- Easy to achieve an airtight seal
- Doesn’t include filters
Among the other masks in the Honeywell Respirator Product line, this one has the most options for configurations. It’s great in giving protection against airborne particles, contamination, chemical, gas, vapors, and smoke.
The mask is designed with a silicone seal that does an excellent job creating a barrier against threats. It features a silicone nose cup to ensure comfort even if you wear it all day.
As for field of vision, this one didn’t disappoint me. With polycarbonate lens, it gives a wide field of vision. Its peripheral and downward views are excellent as well.
- Great fit
- Excellent field of vision
- Silicone nose cup ensures comfortable all-day wear
- Super wide view
- Doesn’t come with a case
- A bit difficult to find replacement parts
- Doesn’t have voice diaphragm
ST-100X Full Face Respirator Gas Mask made it to this list because it’s compact, lightweight and durable. Apart from offering protection against toxic environments, it can also withstand brute force.
The mask comes with a standard 40mm threaded adapter as well as one P-D-1 carbon activated charcoal filter. These are great for organic filtration.
Communication is easy with this mask too. It has a speaking diaphragm that allowed me to communicate even without removing the respirator.
- Features a heavy duty filtration system
- Comes with a full warranty
- No fogging of the lens
- Rubber straps and plastic mounts seem to be a bit weak
A Gas Mask Isn’t The Only Thing You Need In Toxic Situations
I covered just a few situations where people have and will wear gas masks (with the right filter attached, of course). But it’s not the only thing you need in some situations.
For instance, the family man caught in a societal collapse carries one with him on his way home from collecting food for the family, but he might also carry a bulletproof vest and a helmet, much like what you would see a war correspondent wearing.
When it comes to using the gas mask in its CBRN (chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear) or NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) environment, to have full protective coverage you need to ensure you are providing your body with a full protective seal, otherwise when you are in your decontaminated environment, your skin or clothing may be carrying traces of the dangerous substance you want to stay protected against.
Having the right protection is ensuring that your skin is protected against harmful particles that may react to your body, through your skin. This could be pathogens, radioactive particles from a fallout, lethal weaponized chemicals or protection from viral diseases and plagues.
In those situations (what is deemed as a true sh-t hit the fan situation) you would need complete protection using a hazmat suit, and effective gloves and boots. Sealing these at the joins with duct tape is the method used in military and containment units to ensure a zero contamination.
Tyvek hazmat suits are very affordable, with most high-quality brands available for less than USD$10. The best NBC suits we have used ourselves come from manufacturer DuPont. Both the TY122S Tyvek coverall suit and DuPont’s Tychem coveralls are affordable and will provide protection against contamination in any CBRN situation. These should be worn with Honeywell Butyl Gloves and Honeywell Safety Boots to provide a durable fixed footing. In the case of nuclear fallout, protective equipment should always be accompanied with a radiation detector such as the RADEX RD1503, as radiation is not visible, has no smell, and cannot be seen.
How Does a Gas Mask Work in a Toxic Situation?
Gas masks work on a similar principle to water filters, which most domestic countertops have these days. It acts as a filter catching anything carried in the air, so that what you are consuming is clean oxygen.
Obviously there’s no point using this if nothing has happened, but in the case that there is an airborne virus spread, a chemical attack has been made, or there is a strong presence of radiation in the air, the gas mask acts as a filter to remove the radiation or other compounds from the oxygen, much like the filter removes chemicals from water.
How does it do this? A military-grade rated gas mask works in two ways:
- First, it does a simple particle filter, much like a water filter would, and removes the bacteria in the inhaled oxygen. This is essentially a physical barrier, acting like a cloth being held over your mouth to stop smoke inhalation, only this one covers much finer particles.
- The next process is the adsorption and is a chemical process, unlike the first one, to remove toxic gases and molecules. This is where gas masks differ to things such as respirators, or using a wet cloth over the mouth while escaping a burning building. The respirator and damp cloth would trap particles, it would not filter toxic gases.
These two processes are done by an attachable filter to a gas mask, it’s something that needs to be replaced, so it’s a good idea to have spares. Filters run their course by using activated, or oxidized, charcoal which creates a blockade of what can be referred to as a ‘sticky fence’ which any toxins being carried by the airflow would get stuck to and prevented from moving into the gas mask.
What Is The Rating System Of A Military-Grade Gas Mask?
There are a lot of gas masks available in the market, especially in online stores and marketplaces. And while many may be at an attractively cheap price, there may be issues with the way they are made or their filtering capability to create a good decontamination space for your face and air supply.
When you actually come around to using your mask, you’re not going to want something that fails instantly or doesn’t do the right job. In that case, you may as well not bother with protective gear at all. Thankfully, to ensure you are buying something you can actually rely upon, there is a system of grading the quality of a gas mask.
To know if a gas mask is quality or not, you simply have to check whether it is NBC (Nuclear Biological, Chemical) or CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiation, Nuclear) approved. Previously, the rating only used the NBC equivalent, but now the CBRN rating is the standard to include the radiological element in case of radiological weapons where radiation poisoning may be a risk.
Having confidence to wear a gas mask in a toxic environment will only come from knowing it has been tested to be able to not only withstand, but filter that air so that you are able to operate to either find a safe decontaminated area, or assist to rescue family or others that may be caught in the dangerous situation.
NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) is the authority testing body that requires manufacturers to meet standard guidelines for the production and design of the personal protective equipment.
In order for gas masks to have a CBRN (formerly NBC) rating, they are evaluated against criteria in the Statement of Standard for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Full-Facepiece Air Purifying Respirator (APR). This was designed as a way to ensure first responders, military and civilians know that they are buying reliable and valid CBRN authorized gas masks.
The specific testing run by NIOSH is known as the Chemical Agent Permeation Resistance test and uses distilled mustard (HD) and Sarin (GB) gas as well as a thorough examination of the mask by specialists. Essentially, this is a way to ‘field test’ the gas mask by a quality assurance board.
What To Do When You Receive Your Mask
After choosing the right military-grade CBRN gas mask, make sure you also get the right filter to go with it. Remember that the 40mm NATO filter is the standard go-to filter for gas mask filters unless of course, you decide to go with the US Military option of the M50 gas mask (my favorite) which takes its own filters. The 3M CBRN mask uses 3M’s own CBRN canisters as well. Otherwise, the 40mm NATO CBRN filter will suffice for the Draeger, the SGE 3/400BB, the Millenium and the FM12.
When purchasing the filter, make sure you only choose the CBRN filters which will filter gases and chemicals as well as thicker particles. Good options for CBRN filters in the 40mm NATO range are:
- Mestel Safety CBRN filter
- Draeger CBRN Military-Grade Filter
These filters should always have their expiry checked, which will be checked on the packaging. If in doubt, you should message the seller or manufacturer to see when they were produced, and when they expire.
When you receive your gas mask, also make sure that you know how to use it straight away by putting it on, testing the adjustable straps and fitting it to your face. Doing this makes you aware of how to use it before you put it away in that emergency kit, only to pull it out in a rush and not knowing what to do.
Choosing the Right Mask is Crucial
There are a lot of respiratory options out there from DIY gas masks, to half-respirators and dust masks. Do not get them confused with a military-grade CBRN gas mask. It is a common question for first-time buyers to ask “what is the difference between a $40 mask and a $400 gas mask”, the answer is simple, cheaper masks will not be usable against harmful particles.
When it comes to woodworking, pollution and dust particles, there are various options that cater for that from half-face respirators to disposable masks. You would not use a CBRN military mask for those activities as it is not made for that. The same thing applies to nuclear fallout, CS gas, biological and chemical weapon particles – a mask designed for sawdust will not work. This is why CBRN gas masks are a vital component of any survival or emergency kit.
As I have pointed out in this post, there are various prices and various masks which are all verified to provide CBRN respiration. It should be noted though, that in a CBRN environment, a gas mask won’t be enough, and full body protection should be utilized.
6 Things To Think About Before Getting A CBRN Gas Mask
1. What is the purpose of the CBRN gas mask – 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.
2. What type of gas masks are there? 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.
3. How long will you be wearing your gas mask for? 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.
4. Getting the right seal – 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.
5. Choosing a gas mask that has accessible filters – 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.
6. Finding the best gas mask for your budget – 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.
CBRN/NBC Gas Mask Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Gas Mask for a Nuclear Fallout?
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 precaution, do not use conditioner when washing, only use shampoo, as the conditioner will bond any possible radioactive particles to the hair.
What is the Best Gas Mask for a Chemical Attack?
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.
Can I use an NBC gas mask if there is limited oxygen?
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.
Will a CBRN gas mask protect me from a dirty bomb or nuclear attack?
Short answer, Yes. But, 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.
Over to you…
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.