Should you get a non-armored (bump) helmet or an armored (ballistic) helmet? This is a constant source of debate in the firearms community, and there are arguments to be made for each side. Ballistic helmets can protect your head from incoming bullets, shrapnel from explosives, and flying fragments of debris from the surrounding environment; this is essential in a battlefield setting, because even a minor head injury can take a combatant out of the fight and lead to a lifetime of medical complications.
Naturally, this protection comes with some compromises — most importantly, ballistic helmets are heavier than bump helmets and generally much more expensive. The weight aspect is unavoidable, since layered Kevlar is heavier than thin polymer, but a new product from Night Vision Network (NVN) has shown that the cost gap may not be as substantial as you think.
Night Vision Network offers a ballistic helmet called the PGD ARCH Gen 3 at a reasonable price point of $549. For context, that’s only $187 more than the Team Wendy bump helmet mentioned earlier in this article, but with the added benefit of ballistic protection. And at just under 3 pounds complete, it’s only 6 ounces heavier than a comparable Team Wendy ballistic helmet (which costs more than $1,300).
Unlike many of its affordably priced competitors, the ARCH Gen 3 is not sourced from or manufactured in China. This high-cut helmet uses genuine DuPont Kevlar Aramid material that’s pressed into shape in Bulgaria and assembled in Denmark (both allies of the United States). NVN imports these helmets from the manufacturer, Protection Group Denmark (PGD), to the U.S. These helmets are tested to NIJ standards in an internationally recognized facility that’s certified by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The specifics of armor performance and testing are a very deep rabbit hole, so we’ll give you the high-level details. The ARCH Gen 3 is approved for NIJ 0106.01 Level IIIA standards and is rated to stop rounds up to .44 Magnum. Additionally, it has been tested for and shown to withstand 17-grain fragments of shrapnel traveling at 700 meters per second, according to the STANAG2920 test procedure (NATO’s standard for testing ballistic protection). Deformation depth has also been carefully studied; average deformation against a 9mm bullet impact was 11.2mm.
The ARCH Gen 3 is currently available in two sizes (M/L and L/XL) as well as three colors (black, FDE, and OD green). Each includes a front shroud that’s compatible with the Wilcox G24 night vision mount, as well as side rails that accept all the common aftermarket components — Peltor and Ops-Core AMP ear pro mounts, Picatinny rail sections, lights, and so on.
No helmet would be complete without pads and a chin strap, so NVN includes a package of super cushy memory foam pads and a finely adjustable BOA suspension system. Both of those components are common aftermarket upgrades for other helmets on the market, so it’s great to see they’re included here. Stick-on Velcro sections are included to allow attachment of infrared strobes, helmet cameras, and other accessories.
We originally got our hands on the ARCH helmet during RECOIL’s CANCON Arizona range event. Night Vision Network set up a special after-dark shoot for VIP ticket holders and outfitted each attendee with an ARCH helmet equipped with night vision to try out on the range. Under guidance from instructors, attendees strapped on their helmets, flipped down their NVN night vision tubes, and stepped up to the firing line.
They practiced active aiming with infrared lasers, as well as passive aiming through a variety of weapon optics. This was an impactful and fun experience since many of them had never worn a ballistic helmet or used night vision before. More than a few walked away grinning and saying, “I’ve got to get a setup like that!”
If you need ballistic protection and are looking for a quality helmet that won’t break the bank (or your scale), the ARCH Gen 3 is worth checking out. And as a leading supplier of night vision systems, NVN can also get you set up with NODs, mounts, ear pro, and other helmet accessories.
Night Vision Network