Customizing an ACH Ballistic Helmet

The final product…

Check out the YouTube video I made on this helmet:

I recently purchased a used Armorsource AS-202 ballistic helmet, NIJ level IIIA rated. These helmets are typically able to withstand blast fragmentation, most pistol rounds, and has been proven to protect against rifle rounds in certain circumstances. I believe that for the prepared individual, body armor is one of the most valuable purchases one can make. You cannot put a price on your life, and a headache is much easier to deal with than a bullet to the skull in a dire circumstance. If you are concerned with the future of the world, are aware of the possibility of civil unrest, or simply want to build up your family’s resilience to endangering future possibilities, I would strongly recommend looking at armor.

Armorsource AS-202

The ACH helmet is one of the most common to find in surplus stores, internet storefronts, and from eBay merchants. A good quality American made helmet will run you between $150 to $250 on average, which is cheap when compared to the value of your life or the life of loved ones. The ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) replaced the PASGT (Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops) helmet in the mid 2000s and was a welcome upgrade in terms of comfort and protection. The terms MICH (Modular Integrated Communications Helmet) and ACH are essentially interchangeable, think of MICH as the system, and ACH as the helmet part of the MICH system.

The helmets come in different forms. Standard cut, mid-cut, and high-cut. These different cuts open the ear area to a differing degree allowing for communications equipment to be worn in conjunction with the helmet.

The different helmet cuts available. Credit to

There is a new model now out and in service with the US military called the ECH (Enhanced Combat Helmet) which was designed as part of a program to replace helmets using ballistic fibers with helmets made with thermoplastics. The ECH uses a material called UHMWPE, the full name being (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene.) This material is lighter than traditional ballistic fibers and offers slightly higher protection. These helmets are more expensive, but are also an excellent option for personal protection.

BE ADVISED: Do not purchase UHMWPE helmets from China, or of Chinese manufacture. They are not guaranteed to protect and you are not guaranteed that the material is actually protective, or actually real UHMWPE.

Say NO to Chinese made ballistic protection. You will put your life at risk to save a few bucks.

Customization options

For your intended usage of the helmet or your mission requirements you may want to equip it with various accessories. Some helmets come pre-drilled in the front for an NVG shroud to mount night optical devices to, some helmets come with ARC rails attached to the sides, you can also attach things like goggle strap retainers, goggle swivels, ballistic face shields, built in visors, velcro fields for attaching patches or IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) indicators among other modifications. I modified my helmet to suit my immediate environment and personal requirements.

In my helmet I wanted upgraded comfort, camouflage capability, rails to attach a light for indoor or night visibility, and to police my goggles easily with swivels that attach directly to the rails. I also wanted to paint the helmet from its standard black to a more Florida friendly color.

The first step was disassembly of the chin strap and taking the padding out, stripping the helmet down to its bare shell essentially to prepare it for painting. It will help also if you clean the surface off with a quickly evaporating cleaner, just do your research and make sure that it doesn’t react negatively to the Kevlar and resin.

Disassembly of the helmet to prepare for painting and customization.

The next step was painting which is quite easy for these helmets, grab a can of flat matte camo paint and spray away with any color you’d like. Remember, the point of camouflage is to mimic a particular environment and break up your silhouette, so keep that in mind as you spray n’ pray. Don’t forget to give it a couple of coats. Give the helmet time to get nice and dry before you begin reassembly. I purposefully gave my helmet a “splotchy” coloring – the dirtier it looks, the better for concealment. A “worn-in” look tends to give the perception of added camouflage.

You could hang the helmet to paint it in a well ventilated area, I personally just held it in one hand and sprayed with the other.

I then started to reassemble. I attached new chin strap assembly and then attached the ARC rails, as the same hardware secures both pieces. You may have to buy longer fasteners as I did, the factory screws and bushings were not long enough to mount through the thick ARC rails and the chin strap’s mounting tabs.

I then attached my flashlight mount with a Fenix LD20 light. I’ve had the light for a long time and never found a home for it, but I think it fits nicely on the helmet. I can swivel it up or down slightly to adjust where the beam falls. I can swivel it down to provide myself with light to perform tasks in low light, or swivel it up to view things at a distance. My only con here is that I wish it was red light. I may upgrade to a red light, or make a red filter for this flashlight.

Fenix LD20 flashlight attached via rail mount.

After attaching my light, I then proceeded to modify my goggles. I cut the straps, fed the straps through the goggle swivels and mounted the swivels to the ARC rail. I did a test fit and marked the position where I needed to sew the straps, and where the goggles fit the best. I took the swivels off of the helmet and did a basic (and pretty crappy) sewing job on the straps, but they survived the yank and pull tests so I am not worried about them coming loose. It’s not pretty, but it works!

Goggle swivel clip and mediocre sewing skills.

The final touch for me was adding camouflage netting to the helmet and securing it with small lengths of cord. Ideally you’d want to use paracord in a color that matches your environment. The netting really helps to break up your silhouette and as a bonus, provides you with a way to easily attach local vegetation, burlap, or other concealment materials to your helmet to further camouflage yourself. Living in Florida, I can easily grab long grass, small palmetto leaves, sticks or small limbs or other materials and conceal myself.

Using cord to attach netting to ARC rails.

I will eventually add extra netting to the front portion of the helmet, as well as upgrade the closed cell padding on the inside of the helmet to better cup my head, which will reduce the slight wiggle in fitment I currently have.

I will include here links to all of the products used to customize this particular helmet just in case you see something you may like!

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