I’ll cut right to the chase… Guest reviews on the blog are certainly the exception rather than the norm, but this is one of those rare occasions where we’re looking at an item that didn’t even appear on my radar until approached by the reviewer, but one that could serve a multitude of uses to airsofters.
Although I dabble in certain aspects of the impression scene, it’s not my main area of interest. However when a reader of the blog, Martin (who is a member of the rapidly growing Armed Police Impressions community) contacted me about a mask that’s been seen in use with certain Armed Police units in the U.K. and that might also offer us airsofters a degree of protection whilst not appearing outside the realms of possibility in a real world scenario.
It piqued my interest enough that I thought it might serve as useful information to pass on, so without further introduction, I’ll hand over to Martin for the review.
Eye pro? Check. Ear pro? Check. Lung pro? Erm…
In 2012 our eyes were graced with the epitome of badass: BANE.
And since Garand Thumb featured a video on respirators to help prevent lead poisoning, I’ve been fascinated on the idea and how such equipment can translate into airsoft.
Having viewed recent Instagram exposure and a certain Ross Kemp documentary (In the line of fire) I noticed some UK CTSFO/SFO officers using filtration respirators instead of the typical mesh face mask or S10/GSR.
Upon hours of further research, I discovered the Stealth P3 (R) half mask respirator. This very niche piece of kit is primarily used during training exercises using simunition rounds and pyrotechnics but has been spotted in the wild on the faces of door kickers during raids, especially those involving EMOE (Explosive Method of Entry) and flashbangs.
It’s my belief that airsofters and larpers alike will also benefit from masks like these, those who are regular users of pyro know the struggle of camping the cloud of smoke for too long and developing a 20-year smokers cough within 30 seconds.
However, you must also be aware of the harmful airborne particles given off by smoke’s, banger’s and even GBBR’s. Much like eyes and ears, you MUST look after your lungs from carcinogenic matter out on the field.
A piece of equipment like this could also be viewed as a tactical advantage, the enemy team throws up a smoke screen thinking they’re sheltered from that angle. But along comes you, charging through their toxic, visual barricade looking like a mil-spec paint sprayer.
Those who remember Skirmish Airsoft CQB R.A.F Newton (Nottingham) will not forget the trauma of trying to push though those corridors filled with smoke and no ventilation, it makes my chest tighten just thinking about it.
Back to the Stealth half mask, there are many UK distributors, but detail driven impressionists should probably choose black with green straps and price wise I’ve yet to find anywhere as cheap as www.engweld.co.uk.
I’m yet to find the elusive grey bodied masks as yet, only the black ones seem to pop up. The Half Mask pricing starts at around £23 going up to £30 for larger sizes and upgraded anti-nuisance odour filters. It does NOT block farts by the way (I’ve tried), so not suitable for dealing with smelly people sadly.
The packaging is simple with the Half Mask coming already assembled and including a foldedmanual with safety instructions in microscopic font. An interesting feature I noticed on the side of the box is the list of suitable industries in which the Half Mask can be deployed, one of which is “Police Firearms” confirming its place among other tactical respirators such as the OpsCore SOTR.
When first getting hands on the Stealth Half Mask, the materials used are of a fair quality. It certainly doesn’t feel cheap. The polymer outer shell has a nice, slightly glossy finish. Whilst the rubber mask body are smooth and flexible for a secure seal. The mask body is made from medial grade TPE which is latex and silicone free.
There is a two-piece elastic strap system at the rear with the lower strap bearing a quick release buckle. This system is fast and easy to take on and off however, I’ve found that the plastic buckles could have a nicer finish. There are a few minor sharp edges, but these cause irritation on the back of my bare neck.
Another concern is at the front of the mask with the outer shell. The outer shell wraps around the mask body to keep it pressed securely on the wearers face. Around the front centre exhalation valve the outer shell has a single small, thin plastic tab each side. For me this is the weak point and if either were to fail the mask would be rendered unwearable.
The Stealth Half Mask has a great fit and provides a firm, comfortable seal to my face. I’m a welder by day and wore the mask for most of my ten-hour shift without discomfort. Breathing is surprisingly easy when wearing the Half Mask, I encountered very little resistance to the airflow even when exercising.
The HEPAC filter and pre-filter come as one piece and are enclosed within the outer shell, this enclosed design makes it great for wet rainy conditions as a wet filter is a big no no if you actually enjoy breathing.
Weapon manipulation is mostly unaffected due to the enclosed filters and sleek design although slings can get caught and rip the mask off your face with some masks, this isn’t the case here. A solid cheek weld onto a stock is achievable and I was able to get a good sight picture through my medium eye relief scope and also the offset RMR red dot, however a raised optic mount like the Unity Tactical FAST mount would help produce a more consistent and faster sight alignment.
When it comes to eyewear, most glasses and goggles will work in tandem with the Half Mask providing the nose pads aren’t too large. If there is interference the mask can be worn slightly lower to accommodate.
So to summarise, if the quality of the air you breathe during your skirmish is a concern to you, I would highly recommend this bit of apparatus. If you’re an impressionist (specifically SFO/CTSFO) for whom accuracy in the equipment and kit they use is important to them, I would also recommend the Stealth P3 (R) Half Mask to you. It does have a few issues which can be put down to design and QC, but for the price it’s definitely worth it for the health benefits alone.