Hand-Picked Daily GUN DEALS, and Exclusive Coupons Codes >>>

Best Tactical Helmets [Hands-On]: Bump & Ballistic

Looking to protect your noggin? We cover how to choose the perfect tactical helmet for your needs, from bump to ballistic and affordable to top-of-the-line.

In recent years, tactical (and often tacti-cool) type gear has become increasingly popular among civilians.

Helmets (L to R), Team Wendy, HHV Gen 2, HHV Gen 1
Helmets (L to R), Team Wendy, HHV Gen 2, HHV Gen 1

For some people, there’s a certain appeal to owning the same thing as (or at least something similar to) what actual soldiers are using. Some veterans enjoy owning tactical items because it connects them to their time in service.

And some people just enjoy the practical aspect of tactical items, like durable protection and lots of pockets.

Team Wendy Bump Helmet with Accessories
Hard Head Veterans Helmet with Accessories

Regardless of which of these groups you fit in, the tactical helmet is an awesome and practical piece of tactical equipment to add to your collection.

Summary of Our Top Picks

  1. Editor's Pick

    Hard Head Veterans ATE Gen II Helmet

    Best bang-for-the-buck in comfort and protection.

  2. Industry Leader

    Crye AirFrame

    Ballistically rated, lightweight, and designed for night vision.

  3. Affordable Bump Helmet

    Lancer Tactical Bump Helmet

    Affordable protection from bumps and bruises.

  4. Higher-End Bump Helmet

    Team Wendy LTP EXFIL

    Perfect for protecting your head and enhancing your capabilities.

  5. Lightest Bump Helmet

    Team Wendy EXFIL Carbon

    Everything a bump helmet does while weighing substantially less.

Table of Contents


Best Tactical and Ballistic Helmets

Now that we’ve covered what and where to look for a tac helmet, let’s move on to some recommendations.

1. Hard Head Veterans ATE Gen 2

You can rest assured that Hard Head Veterans knows their stuff because tac helmets are all they do.

HHV Gen 1 vs Gen 2, Front
(L to R): HHV Gen 1 vs Gen 2, Front

They are veteran-owned and operated and their entire team is connected to military or law enforcement in some way.

On top of that, they perform rigorous safety testing on all of the tac helmets that they sell and offer an incredible warranty.

We’ve used their Gen 1 helmet (above) in our Best Night Vision Goggles article and we recently reviewed their Gen 2 with Micro Lattice Pads.

Their Gen 2 version is completely redesigned too…from the front adapter to the side rail adapters.

Hard Head Veterans Helmet Gen 2, Black Multicam
Hard Head Veterans Helmet Gen 2, Black Multicam

The ATE is Kevlar and HHV also sells a tactical bag for your tactical helmet, helmet covers, and pads to customize your helmet’s fit and comfort.

HHV Gen 1 vs Gen 2, Rails
(L to R): HHV Gen 1 vs Gen 2, Rails

We also really like the addition of the Micro Lattice Pads which keep your head nice and cool — even on hot days.

Use code “PEWPEWTACTICAL” for $15 off your order!

And check out our full review.

at Hard Head Veterans

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

What’s your take on HHV?

Readers' Ratings

4.96/5 (993)

Your Rating?

2. Crye Precision AirFrame

If you’re looking at Crye Precision, make sure you bring your biggest wallet.

Crye Precision AirFrame
Crye Precision AirFrame

Anything made by Crye is top of the line, amazing quality, designed for combat, and priced accordingly.

The AirFrame is no exception – clocking in at a cool $1,100, it is a no-frills design that is an industry leader in protection.

Ballistically rated, lightweight, and designed to be compatible with the most comment NVGs and hearing protection on the market the AirFrame also sports the ability to be reconfigured based on the mission at hand.

Add-ons include AirFrame Chops, Ears, and rails.

AirFrame Chops
AirFrame Chops

If you need the best and can afford the cost – it’s hard to argue with Crye Precision.

Industry Leader
at Crye Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

3. Lancer Tactical Bump Helmet

First off – no, this is not the same Lancer famous for their AR-15 magazines.

This is a bump helmet, so it won’t offer ballistic protection. Of course, most of us aren’t often in situations where getting shot in the head is a big concern.

Affordable Bump Helmet
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Ballistic helmets are often several times more expensive than bump helmets, a lot of extra money to spend on something that’s not a high priority.

If you’re more concerned with protecting your head from bumps and bruises rather than gunfire and you want the ability to mount accessories, the Lancer Tactical provides that at a cheap price point.

The helmet features dovetail accessory rails on each side and a front mount for a camera or optics. It also has bungee strips for attaching lightweight hook-sided devices like battery packs and lights.

4. Team Wendy LTP EXFIL and EXFIL Carbon

The Cadillac of non-ballistic bump helmets, Team Wendy is huge in the search & rescue community due to their attention to detail, high quality, and innovative design.

Enter…their LTP EXFIL. We’ve been testing this one out for over a year and we love it.

Team Wendy Bump Helmet
Team Wendy LTP EXFIL Bump Helmet

Lightweight, easy to wear, lots of options for mounting NVGs, white lights, and more – Team Wendy helmets are perfect for protecting your head and enhancing your capabilities.

Team Wendy Mount
Team Wendy Mount

Plus they are comfy!

Team Wendy, Foam
Team Wendy, Foam

And that’s just their standard helmet.

Higher-End Bump Helmet
at Optics Planet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The EXFIL Carbon is where things get interesting!

EXFIL Carbon
EXFIL Carbon

Made primarily from carbon fiber and a bunch of space-age polymers, the EXFIL carbon does everything a bump helmet should do while weighing substantially less.

Less weight means less fatigue on the user, a greater degree of movement, and the ability to mount more useful stuff without making the helmet too heavy to wear.

Lightest Bump Helmet
at Opticsplanet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

What is a Tactical Helmet?

Tactical (or tac) helmets are exactly what the name suggests: helmets designed to provide protection in combat situations.

The tactical helmet, like most tactical gear, had its origins in the military and is now also used widely among law enforcement.

Leather helmets were used in combat situations starting in ancient times, but the modern tactical helmet really grew from the “steel pots” of the early twentieth century, which were designed to protect troops from shrapnel, but not from gunfire.

The M1 Helmet, standard issue to US armed forces (except paratroops) during World War II.
The M1 Helmet, standard issue to US armed forces (except paratroops) during World War II.

Modern helmets are made of lighter materials like kevlar, carbon fiber, and impact-resistant plastic, and are often designed to protect the wearer from gunfire. They have padding for comfort and fit and are shaped to be as effective and ergonomic as possible.

Tested Helmets (L to R), Team Wendy, HHV Gen 2, HHV Gen 1
Tested Helmets (L to R), Team Wendy, HHV Gen 2, HHV Gen 1

Modern tactical helmets can also be used with countless interchangeable devices, including night vision optics, cameras, lights, audio equipment and communication devices, and more.

Tac Helmet vs Ballistic Helmet vs Bump Helmet

Before we get too far, let’s talk about a couple of other terms that you may hear used to describe tactical helmets: a ballistic helmet and bump helmet.

As I said, many, but not all, tactical helmets are designed to withstand gunfire. These types of tactical helmets are referred to as ballistic helmets. However, they are normally only rated for effectively pistol caliber hits.

Hard Head Veterans Gen 1 vs Gen 2
Hard Head Veterans Gen 1 vs Gen 2 (Ballistic)

Bump helmets, on the other hand, are a type of tactical helmet designed to protect the wearer from the impact of bad things, such as falling debris, shrapnel, and other harmful stuff. They are not rated for gunfire of any kind. They also provide a convenient platform for mounting things like NVGs, hearing protection/communications, etc.

Team Wendy Bump Helmet
Team Wendy Bump Helmet

The advantages of a bump helmet are ease of use, comfort, and weight. They also make for nice training aids since they are radically cheaper than ballistic helmets. In a combat situation, these helmets are sometimes worn by paratroopers, pilots, and drivers.

Why You Might Want One

The first reason a civilian may want a tactical helmet is the same reason why a civilian may want a lot of different kinds of military gear: prepping.

If you want to be prepared for anything in an emergency situation, a ballistic helmet will provide you with the protection you need against attackers, looters, and super intelligent gun-wielding zombies.

Saving Private Ryan - remember people, keep your helmet ON!
Saving Private Ryan – remember people, keep your helmet ON!

If you’re more concerned about natural disasters, a bump helmet will keep you safe during tornadoes, hurricanes, and seismic events.

On a similar note, a tactical helmet is also a huge advantage in the event of a home invasion. A ballistic helmet will protect your head, while night vision optics will help you see what your assailant can’t.

There are also reasons to have a tactical helmet that aren’t “just in case” type situations.

Daniel Defense DDM4ISR Shoot House Night Vision

Hunters may appreciate the video from a helmet-mounted camera, whether for the scenery and wildlife or for the impressive kill shot it captured. And if night hunting is legal in your area, night vision optics in your helmet also make safely hunting and navigating the woods at night much easier.

Tactical helmets can also provide an extra layer of protection from a hunting accident or from a fall from a deer stand.

Speaking of home maintenance, a helmet is an essential safety device for ladder top home maintenance, like trimming tree branches, cleaning gutters, and replacing siding or windows. Tactical helmets have the added advantage of accessories like face shields, hearing protection, and filters.

Tactical helmets are also great for sports like climbing, mountaineering, biking, base jumping, and more, especially if you’d like to film your adventures or have a hands-free lighting option.

Boston Terrior Helmet Dog
Even Fido recognizes the need for a good helmet.

Choosing the Best Tactical Helmet Type

I’ll be the first to admit that a tactical helmet can be a bit pricey, but this is not the time to sacrifice quality for the price. Your helmet is responsible for protecting your brain, after all.

With that in mind, there are a few features you’ll want to pay special attention to when choosing a tac helmet.

The first thing you’ll need to decide is what type you need.


PASGT stands for Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops and is pronounced: “pass-get.” These helmets were standard-issue for the US military from the early ‘80s to mid-2000s.

PASGT Kevlar Helmet
PASGT Kevlar Helmet

They’re made of ballistic aramid fabric and a phenolic resin system with an outer shell consisting of 19 layers of Kevlar. They provide protection from both ballistic projectiles and shrapnel.


The MICH (Modular Integrated Communications Helmet) was designed to improve upon the PASGT, and the ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) is an improved version of the MICH.

These helmets are made from advanced Kevlar, protecting the wearer from handgun shots as well as ballistic projectiles and shrapnel. An improved four-point retention system, as opposed to the PASGT’s chinstrap, provides greater comfort and improved protection from impacts.

ATE/High Cut/Maritime Cut/FAST

This style of helmet goes by many names: ATE (above the ear), high cut, and maritime cut, but no matter what you call it, it’s the cutting edge in tac helmet technology.

The ATE helmet was originally developed for maritime special ops and, as the name suggests, is cut higher on the sides to prevent water catching in the ear cups during high speeds. This higher cut also means that this helmet offers less protection, but greater visibility and easier use of communication devices.

Johns Helmet Setup (13)
Johns Helmet Setup

ATE helmets are usually made from Dyneema, a lightweight but incredibly ballistic resistant specialized composite material. Some ATE helmets are made from the same aramid Kevlar as the MICH, which offers greater protection but also greater weight.

Degree of Protection

The manufacturer of any helmet should be able to provide the detailed results of NIJ-required testing.

A few results to focus on are resistance to penetration, back-face deformation, fragment performance, and blunt impact resistance.

Ballistic Helmet with Shroud
Ballistic Helmet with Shroud

Resistance to penetration is how well your helmet stands up to gunfire. For ballistic protection, you want a helmet that’s rated NIJ Level IIIA, which means it offers protection from 9mm, .357, and .44 Magnum.

Back-face deformation occurs when a helmet is hit with a projectile and the opposite side bulges outward causing blunt trauma. 9mm (1,400fps) BFD should average less than 25mm in all locations.

Fragment performance is basically the same as resistance to penetration, but with bullet fragments instead of bullets. Your helmet should stop bullet fragments at a speed of at least 2,400fps.

What I like about Sinterfire bullets: the frangible kaboom. (Photo credit: Marcus Luttrell’s Team Never Quit)

Blunt Impact performance is exactly what it sounds like, and should average less than 150g over 14 drops.

You may also want to look at compression testing, especially for a bump helmet, and element testing to make sure your helmet won’t be weakened by the environment in which you live or use it.

Accessories & Other Features

Your helmet should be comfortable enough that you’ll actually want to wear it. That means it should fit properly, not be too heavy, and not rub uncomfortably.

Side Profile of ATN NVG
Side Profile of ATN NVG

It should also have a secure retention system that will keep it firmly in place, even against a strong impact.

You’ll want to make sure your tac helmet can be used with any accessories that you’ll need to use.

Choose a helmet of whatever color you’ll need the most. You can always spray paint the helmet or use a cover if you need to change the color.


Do you need a tactical helmet? Probably not. But better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. And at the end of the day, don’t let some asshole on the internet tell you what you need or don’t need.


Do you want a tactical helmet? Why? Once you decide on the tactical helmet for you, you’ll need some NVGs for it! Check out our hands-on review of the Best Night Vision Goggles!

The Best Gun Deals, Coupons and Finds

Subscribe to Pew Pew Tactical's sales and deals email.

13 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar

    According to the specs on the Team Wendy website, the weight of the Exfil LTP "complete system" is just a little bit lighter than the Exfil Carbon (1.59 lbs vs. 1.66 lbs, respectively). Hmm.

    August 5, 2022 8:32 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bill Rapier

    Oh great, an article on helmets written by a guy who has never been in the military and/or ever worn a helmet professionally. Please teach us how to protect ourselves mr.civillian!

    March 3, 2022 11:08 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Gat Gat Tacticool

      You're so cool. I wish you could teach us.

      May 2, 2022 6:04 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Thomas Robertson

    Avoid HHV like the plague. They take forever to ship your order and will cancel it against your wishes if you dare speak out against them on social media. Waited 13 weeks and had my order cancelled cause I hurt their feelings.

    October 28, 2020 9:19 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Ordered a helmet from them Friday and I’m getting it Monday no hiccups or delays

      June 12, 2021 7:18 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Steven Macey

    I have issues with falling after being in a horrific car wreck and got a brain injury. Multiple falls later i have MRI's showing 4 more brain injuries. I need a helmet to protect my head and prevent more brain injuries. Im assuming that i need a "low-threshold energy" protection.

    Does the Lancer Tactical Bump Helmet provide that type of protection? Or is the protection i need? Or must i go up to Team Wendy?

    Working with America Epilepsy Society they advise that i use the MICH 2000 style helmet. I have been searching for weeks for a USMC LWH MICH 2000 with the side rials and front mount (color: coyote brown).

    Would these 'OneTigris', 'Atairsoft', type paintball, airsoft pellet helmets work as well in protecting my head?

    This is all new to the epilepsy society.. They say there "helmets" (no way i will wear those!) Or "real" motorcycle, football, hockey helmets. Those are all over $100. What many people dont know is the protective matterial inside gets depresed to absorb the 'shock' It does not come back so you have to toss the helmet away. These tactical helmets can take out pads and replace them. Saveing a lot of money to people like me having fall issues. If i have to wear a helmet. It better be a cool one!!!

    Sorry thing is long , wanted you to have full picture. Thanks for any help you can give me protecting my head from more brain injuries.


    March 19, 2019 10:55 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Henry Liu

    This list is god awful

    February 21, 2019 9:22 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Seriously, two ballistic helmets are from the same company, who would spend 600+ on a bump helmet, that's some serious air soft. Team Wendy and Ops Core make a bunch of different types of helmets but they are twice as much as HHV. Check out military surplus stores and eBay to get a 2nd hand ballistic helmet, some models you can replace the pads. I decided on the HHV Gen II but I am find it hard to be patient only one month in. Body Armor typically has made to order wait times regardless.

      November 1, 2020 11:42 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        I ordered from HHV and waited just like you did. I got my order in just fine. Just waiting on their helmet covers to come back into stock.

        November 5, 2020 3:26 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Great article! Thank you, this will help me in my purchase.

    January 24, 2019 8:31 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Carl Begley

    I am the coordinator for the Manistee County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and we can be tasked with performing search and rescue and/or damage assessment after a natural (or man made) disaster. When we complete Basic CERT Training, we are issued some very basic (read cheap) equipment and supplies to help us perform whatever mission we may be tasked with. The helmet we are issued is the least expensive, least comfortable, and least versatile "construction crew" looking helmet I have ever had the misfortune of putting on my head. Obviously CERT does not need ballistic protection but good bump protection and the ability to mount lights and/or cameras is ideal. Something between the Lancer and Team Wendy would be nice.

    November 16, 2018 1:57 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      Thank you for the hard work you do!

      If you have a recommendation for something between the Lancer and TW helmets, we'd love to hear about it!

      November 16, 2018 2:41 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Carl Begley

        Join the discussion...Unfortunately, I have not found anything in between them. I believe Rothco is making a helmet like the Lancer Tactical at about the same price point and Opticsplanet.com has another brand that I have never heard of but it only has a rail on one side and no front optics mount but is predrilled for one.

        November 17, 2018 9:24 am
Join the community! Log in
Please provide a valid email address.
Password is required.
Please provide a valid display name.
Please provide a valid email address.
The password should contain at least 8 characters with at least one number or special character.
Please accept in order to continue.
Trouble logging in?
Type your email address and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.
Please provide a valid email.
Type your new password and hit button below to confirm it.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We already have an account registered for email address () which is linked to your Facebook account.
To log in type your Pew Pew Meter password below.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We noticed that you have previously logged in with your Account which is linked to the same email address () - we can link both of your accounts together.
In order to link your accounts, hit button below and log in to your Account with the same email as above.

Account in Pew Pew Meter means more

Check what do you get by creating an account
Check and save your reviews!
Bookmark and compare your favorite firearms
Manage your newsletter subscription
pew pew tactical logo

new here?

Personalize your experience.
Select what level shooter you are!

pew pew tactical logo

level up your gun knowledge

Thanks! We'll send you the latest guides and training tips geared towards your level.

pew pew tactical logo


You'll now receive newsletters of our best articles on techniques, guns & gear.

$47 value

yours free!

targets targets

practice targets

printer icon printable

our 9 favorite targets and drills


practice targets

printer icon printable

enter your email to download

We'll only use the information provided according to our privacy policy.

success icon

Ready to Download

Click below to begin your download

download pdf