The first thing that many survivalists buy is often a gas mask, but they seldom ask themselves why. “NBC” stands for nuclear, biological and chemical, so the answer is obviously “well duh, that. Hello!” But what do those scenarios look like on the ground if/when they happen, and what help will a gas mask be if they do? Also, what’s the budget? You can find gas masks with NBC filters on Ebay for $10 up to $700 sometimes. Which ones work? Can you get away with the cheap models? I heard Russian filters have asbestos? And what about kids? Are there any gas masks for traveling with children?
I started my gas mask quest back in the early 00’s after 911. The fear porn with the anthrax and stuff was overwhelming, and one of the things I checked off my list quick was a couple of Scott $150 gas masks. I had guns of course, so I figured that at the very least, I should have a couple of good “fighting masks” and plenty of filters. That is when I started to break down what each of those NBC scenarios would entail, and I realized that I had put my financial resources into the wrong stuff. Though I kept and still have the Scott masks, I ended up buying Russian GP-7 masks for myself and my family, because they are way better.
I expect this article to get long so I will give you the basics of what you can go buy now very cheap if you want. The only probable need for a gas mask in a genuine survival world is in the event of nuclear war, or if one or more nuclear reactors melt down, so the need for bug out masks for the family is real. Masks are only a short term solution, but if they are needed, to move outside from a radiation hot location to one that isn’t reading so high on your meters, there is no effective replacement. Cheap Russian GP-5 gas masks and filters work fine, and sell for as little as $15 each with filters. Expensive masks are not better. For children, the Russian PDF and PDF-2 masks are cheap, and they are in the same price range and take the same filters. I’ll get to the details below.
NBC Scenarios on the Ground – An Overview
Back to the subject at hand, why do we need NBC gas masks? Start with the fact that “Saddam had chemical weapons.” Assad has chemical weapons. The North Koreans have chemical weapons. And of course Russia and China are stockpiling chemical weapons for a possible Red Dawn scenario, which is why they have to invade our neighborhoods with military spies for Jade Helm this summer.
Chemical weapons are the ultimate evil for the bogeymen of Fox News fear porn. We have all seen the pictures of people frozen and decomposing from a miserable death from mustard gas, and yes, it is horrifying. But chemical weapons, and gas masks to stop chemical weapons, aren’t all that relevant in suburbia. Mustard gas is a weapon of war, and a very localized weapon usually delivered by artillery shells, as are most chemical dispersants. Boom, an artillery shell explodes and the gas envelopes a circle of 100 yards or more. Every one of those shells that make one circle each have to be carried to the battlefield and shot from a piece of heavy equipment. Nobody, no matter how ruthless the bogeyman, is going to expend those resources to kill a handful of people in suburbia, or in a survival bunker, unless it is a single event for media publicity. Chemical weapons themselves are considered a fear weapon even on the battlefield, forcing the enemy to don chemical suits to fight. They just aren’t that effective as a weapon of war, and just a gas mask isn’t going to protect you anyway because many chemical agents are designed to burn through clothing. I personally do have a full fighting MOP suit, but I don’t think I would take it with me if I had to bug out. Who knows if the next chemical agent will be designed to burn through gas masks and MOP suits? It isn’t like getting them to test your new snazzy chemical against is difficult.
Biological agents are not an entirely different story, especially when you consider anthrax, which we know has been weaponized by both the Eastern and Western military forces. A small amount of airborne anthrax can infect a lot of people, but what most people don’t know is that anthrax spores are over 1 micron in size, as are most other bacteria. A regular old $2 N95 mask from the hardware store with the nose pinch will filter anthrax. If you want to be extra careful, a NIOSH respirator with an N95 filter is pretty much foolproof, despite what you may read on the internet. You don’t need a full face mask for anthrax, and that goes mostly for potential viral epidemics as well. Most viruses, like the Variola virus that causes smallpox, are over .3 microns, or 300 nanometers. A virus cannot live alone without a host, so it is always attached to other stuff, like blood, or snot, or at the very least a water molecule. That brings it well outside of the .3-.5 microns covered by the any N95 mask. If someone with smallpox sneezes right into your face and you are wearing an N95 mask, there is little chance that you’ll contract the virus. Therefore it is just plain stupid to bug out carrying a big gas mask and filters rather than more food, when you consider just chemical and biological threats.
Unfortunately that isn’t true for nuclear. And as I’ve explained a few times in this series, if there is a “most likely to be like the Armageddon movies” scenario, it will be some sort of nuclear event. Here in the US we have a first strike option in our battle plans, and don’t forget that the US is the only country to use nukes against civilians, in Japan. We maybe still feel justified for doing that, but around the world, the general consensus is that we deserve some payback. And after the devastation that Western Central Banks have done to the small countries of the world, not to mention our incessant wars, few tears would be shed for the US if Russia and/or China decided to nuke our butts.
That doesn’t even include the “terrorist” threat, which if you read my columns you already know that I think that means old white men in suits, not Arabs and Persians. My feelingsare irrelevant of course because I don’t have any inside information, but I think the next big false flag event will be nuclear, and in an American city I am sad to say. You may think that an isolated nuke popping in a city will only effect the immediate blast zone (an airburst nuke can only be deployed with a missile), but even one lone nuke will produce radiation clouds that will travel all over the earth.
An even bigger threat, and one that doesn’t require my opinion as to what the cabal is going to pull next, are all of those nuclear plants across the US. Many claim that they don’t require grid power or infrastructure to operate, but I don’t believe it. And regardless, any nuke plant requires that people show up to work, and those people have food to eat so they don’t die in the building. In any collapse scenario, how long do you think that will last? FEMA doesn’t doesn’t buy all of that radiation detection gear for nothing. Once the nuke plants melt down, if you don’t have an underground bunker or well shielded above ground shelter, everyone is going to be on the move to find places where the radiation is less. Add to that recent evidence that earthquakes are showing up all around the frack wells where earthquakes never existed before. How many nuke plants are near those frack wells? It’s scary stuff.
That brings us back to gas masks and why you would justify bugging out with one. Gamma radiation, the “waves” that most people think of when they consider radiation, can only be blocked by heavy materials, not gas masks, and the blocking effect is directly proportional to the weight of the materials. 200 lbs. of lead will protect you the same amount as putting 200 lbs. of wood, dirt, or even water between you and the radiation. Gamma radiation cannot make water or food “radioactive,” nor can it be breathed in, because air molecules themselves also cannot become radioactive. Gamma radiation has nothing to do with gas masks.
Nuclear radioactive particles, however, which are ejected by any nuclear explosion or meltdown, have everything to to do with both air and water filtration. Airborne radionuclides in fallout after an event can be found in water, food, and they can be breathed in as dust. These particles will make it through an N95 mask, and because they are not adhered to a water or blood molecule like a virus, they can get through the sides of the mask that are not sealed. Most of those radioactive particles will no longer be dangerous within about 48 hours after the event, but a nuke plant meltdown can continue to eject particles as it burns.
For the first two weeks the most dangerous particle is Iodine-131. But I would hope at this point that any prepper worth their salt would have some Potassium Iodide (KI) on hand, which will fill up your thyroid gland during the active lifecycle of the isotope so that the radioactive 131 is not absorbed. The state of Pennsylvania just agreed to replace the original KI tablets that were supplied to all residents within 10 miles of their nuke plants because the old ones expired. And you probably don’t know this, but all USPS employees are issued KI.
The other isotopes that don’t burn out with short half-lives, like Cesium-137 and Strontium-90, are extremely dangerous long term if you eat them or breath them in any quantity. As a class these particles are called either Alpha or Beta particles, and the good news is that they don’t penetrate like Gamma radiation does. Alpha particles can be stopped by a sheet of paper, and Beta particles generally won’t penetrate a couple layers of clothing, or even bare skin all the way through. So you don’t need a MOP suit, but you do need an NBC gas mask and at the very least one filter.
You also should have a radiation detector as part of your kit as I’ve explained many times in this column, and ideally you should have both a high and low level meter. Low level meters blank out at the levels of active fallout, and high level meters don’t budge if you try to measure food or water for contamination.
Cheap Russian Masks & Filters – The GP-5 Adult and PDF Child Masks
By far the most available and cheap gas mask available in the US is the Russian GP-5. The child version is called the PDF-D, and there is a PDF-2 that you will see compared here in the pictures. Both are available from both US and Eastern European sellers on Ebay for under $20 each, shipped. Both types of masks come in sizes, and I’ll put the size charts here in the images. There are more expensive Russian masks, which I’ll get to, but if you want cheap and good, look no further than the GP-5 and PDF. For kids, breathing through the filter may be difficult for small lungs, so also see the Israeli positive pressure system below, as well as a chamber for infants under the same section.
The reason I called this article “Dumbass Internet Intel” is due to all of the bad information out there about Russian gas masks. Google “GP-5 filter asbestos” and you’ll see dozens of internet mavens claim that the cheap and available GP-5 filter is loaded with asbestos, and that it is completely useless. I’ve also read that the carbon is old and turns into a useless brick, and a number of other claims that are totally untrue.
For this article I cut open a GP-5 filter and the pictures are here. Inside is first a paper filter that is felt-like, so at some point in the history of Russian filters, this stage of the filter may have had some asbestos, but after that stage is an activated charcoal stage right before the intake, so any fibers that could theoretically be released from the asbestos in the felt would be stopped cold. And as a side point, asbestos is only really a danger when it is broken up and airborne. There is asbestos insulation in most old buildings and it isn’t dangerous. Removing it is dangerous.
The activated charcoal in the filter was also not in a brick at all. It was packed tight under its cover, but when the cover was removed, the particles were perfectly fluid. This is a very simple filter that will remove both Alpha and Beta radionuclides from the air you breath, and you should buy as many as you can afford and plan to carry with you. Extra filters from Lithuania right now are $30 for six, shipped. Each filter will give you up to 8 hours of travel time, depending on how dense the air is with particulate. But remember, regular gas masks are useless in fires, because while they will prevent smoke inhalation, they do not have their own oxygen supply.
The GP-5 comes in either a grey or black rubber, and you hook it on your chin and pull it right over your head. There are no straps, and in my experience you can go a size or two down without any real difference in fit. My head measurement is 73 centimeters, and I can easily get a size L on and wear it comfortably.
The child masks are very different, so if you have a growing child, you may want to get more than one size. Each PDF-D size 1-5 is a completely different rubber mold, with different sized eye sockets (see picture below). Smaller is better than larger with these kids masks just like the adult masks, but there is a chasm of difference in the sizes of growing kids compared to the difference in size of grown adults. The PDF-2 comes in only 3 sizes, and that mask has an inner ring, like the adult GP-7 mask, shown in the pictures, so size is less crucial, but still important. The big difference in the PDF masks besides the size of course is that the filter is held in the hand or tied to the body, because a child’s neck is not strong enough to hold the filter up.
Fighting Masks vs. Civilian Masks
For not a lot more money, from about $30 with a filter, shipped, there are a ton of adult masks that are more adjustable and more comfortable than the GP-5. Many of these are what I would call “fighting masks” that have one or two canister filters ports tight against the cheek, or one or two flat cheek pocket filters. Many of these masks also have a drinking tube that will connect to the “chem cap” version of the US Military 2 Quart Canteen, or that even sometimes come with their own canteen.
Slightly different, are higher quality civilian masks, the most common of which is the Israeli mask with its straight down filter that is like the Russian GP-5. Right now the Israeli masks and filters are pretty cheap. Both the adult and youth (over 8 years) Israeli masks are going for about $30 on Ebay with a filter and drink tube. I have found these masks to be very comfortable and one size fits most. The military version of that mask is the IDF’s M-15, but I haven’t owned one and I don’t know what the difference in them would be beyond the obvious different shape in the eye pieces.
My favorite civilian mask is the Russian GP-7, which right now you can get directly from Lithuania for $30 shipped with its own canteen and carry case. There are 3 sizes to that mask, but there is very little practical size difference if you have a big head like me. I have purchased these in bulk packages from a guy in Estonia who right now has them as little as $16 each with the canteens which is crazy. There is also an updated version of that mask, similar to the Israeli mask with slightly modified eyepieces, and some of them seem to be called the PMK, but besides an extra filter port that is in my mask but not in all the PMKs on Ebay, I can’t find any other differences as seen in the pictures here.
I also purchased a few other masks that there are a ton of on Ebay right now. Some are Eastern European copies of the US M-17 mask, and they have two flat M-10 cheekpiece filters instead of one large canister filter. There are also a few different masks with can filters, and all of them have come new in the package with sealed plastic bags, canvas carry bags, and many even with extra eyepieces. Don’t believe anyone that tells you that you have to buy a newly manufactured MSA or Scott gas mask. All of these masks are brand new and probably more battle ready than anything made for the US consumer market. Even the rubber on the kids mask hoses is supple and strong. These masks will outlive all of us.
40 Millimeters is 40 Millimeters…But not 60 Millimeters
The “nice” thing about gas masks is that the end of civilization has been mostly standardized to a single thread size. All of the US, European and Russian canister masks take a standard 40 millimeter filter, so no matter what your mask, those cheap Russian filters, at $5 or so each, fit. I have also found some high quality Hungarian filters for well under $10 each in bulk, and I have even found Swiss filters, which are hermetically encased in plastic containers, for as little as $6 each, though right now they are about twice that.
Cheek filter masks seem to come in a few different sizes, so if you want extra filters for your mask make sure that you can get the extra filters for them. I found found that the M-10 Eastern European filter is easy to come by, but about $10 per set. Right now the EO-19 filters for the Russian PBF “Gorilla” gas mask are also about $10 per set from Lithuania, but you’d have to ask to combine shipping if you want to stock up.
The major exception I have found to the 40 millimeter size is the Canadian C-3 M69 mask, which has a 60 millimeter thread. You can get an adapter for them so that they can take the 40 millimeter cans, but you have to buy the adapter, in addition to what is usually a pretty expensive mask. In purchasing masks for this article and some followup testing down the road, I bought some Serbian/Yugo M-1 masks, and surprise surprise, they also have the 60mm filter, which of course the seller didn’t mention.
Children & Infants – The PDF Mask Sizes & Positive Pressure Systems
After Chernobyl, thousands of people were evacuated from the surrounding areas in Ukraine wearing GP-5 gas masks, and the kids had on the PDF masks. For short periods of time even small kids can breath through a gas mask filter, but as the filter fills up with particulate the breathing gets harder, until you have to eventually replace the filter. The old and infirmed may be in the same boat for a variety of reasons. And infants of course can’t wear a gas mask. I remember back in back when I first researched gas masks that there were “baby chambers” on Ebay from Russia, but I don’t see them anymore. The only option seems to be a positive pressure fan system from Israel right now, and they also make a complete toddler hood, as well as infant chamber.
If you don’t want to start with the cost of the Israeli hoods, you can of course start with a good child mask, and the PDF-D and PDF-2 qualify. I have purchased dozens of these masks over the years and I have yet to encounter a broken or dryrotted hose, let alone any problems with the masks themselves. The canvas straps all seem to be as strong as they day that they were made as well.
You can buy the PDF-D masks either directly from Lithuania and Estonia where they are warehoused, or there are plenty of US sellers who have acquired the Evirstar packaged masks that were imported in the early 2000s. I found an interesting piece of information taken from the original getmasks.com defunct website back when the GP-5 and PDF-D masks were brought into the country.
“FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
1. Where do the gas masks come from?
– From government of Ukraine (former republic of Soviet Union). Gas masks were imported to The United States in accordance with permit #01-13251 issued by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms of Department of the Treasury of USA. After September 11, 2001.
2. When was the production date of these masks?
– All our gas masks that was imported to the United States after September 11, 2001. Was produced between the years of 1985 thru 2001. For example we know as fact the following:
· Civilian gas masks GP-5, was designed and approved for mass production in 1988.
· Children gas masks PDF, was designed and approved for mass production in 1985.
Therefore all of our gas masks no matter when there were produced cannot be any older than 17 years old. FYI presently The United States is using gas masks that were produced during the Vietnam Era.
3. Has there ever been an NBC (Nuclear Biological and Chemical) test on these gas masks?
– Test on these masks were conducted by PM – NBC Defense Systems A P G in Maryland, 2101-5424.
4. What is the effective time life of the filters?
– Gas masks filters have 8 hours of protection, which will enable a person to escape and evade any contaminated area. (These gas masks are not designed to protect anyone who remands in the contaminated zone for more than 8 hours)”
So if you want to believe this, or research it yourself, my claims that these maks are not only viable, but probably the best deal in an NBC mask match up pretty good.
The PDF-2 masks have a much less specific sizing system because they have an inner rubber ring that you don’t see on the PDF-D masks. This ring gives a solid seal across a larger bearing surface, just like the also less size finicky GP-7. I don’t see any US sellers of these masks, so you’ll have to buy them directly from Eastern European sellers, who from my experience are great.
The hood system can be used for children 2-8, and I think much older and much younger if you had that and nothing else. It is definitely an alternative to buying several sizes of the PDF masks. There is no reason that the hood couldn’t be used as an infant chamber for even a newborn, because it comes with a fan that draws air through the filter and into the chamber, creating positive pressure. That means you don’t need a perfect seal, because breath is never drawn from the edges of the mask.
I have also found just the blue version of that blower system that attaches directly to the filter sold by several sellers with the Israeli adult and youth mask. If you buy them with the adult masks, you can use that blower and filter with the PDF child mask, or any other mask with 40 millimeter threads. It takes 4 of the CR-123 battery (the Surefire battery), and the ones I bought had fresh batteries in them, and a cloth pull tab installed to keep the batteries from touching the contacts.
As I write this, those blue blowers aren’t as available as they were when I began this article. I found one guy from California selling pairs of civilian adult masks with blowers, canteens, and even some Iosat KI tablets for $90 shipped. That’s pretty good. I bought one hood system a couple months back for $50, but that deal doesn’t seem to be there anymore, though there is that same guy selling the whole infant chamber kit, with plastic case, for $65 shipped. I would grab those before they are gone if you have a baby.
The only downside to the blowers is that they take the Israeli filter exclusively. They clip directly onto it. That is rarely a cheap filter even when purchased in bulk. But I can share a deal with you that actually came up in my paid Ebay ads at the bottom of the page as I am sitting here writing this. I can’t endorse this website of course, but I ordered some of their Israeli filters for $5.99 each, and it is free shipping over $100. If you are clicking around in Ebay that ad will probably come up for you too.
A Sad Day in America
As this article crosses the tooooo long threshold I will close by asking you to notice how many countries provide gas masks for their citizens, while the US, which is the richest country on the face of the planet, does not. I have explained in previous articles that China, Russia and Switzerland all have underground bunkers big enough for all of their citizens, while again, we do not. In the 90s Clinton dismantled what Civil Defense programs we had, at this point the most any of us can maybe count on is a FEMA truck of water bottles. I don’t know if any of this will ever do any good, but you can be sure that if you aren’t looking out for yourself in these very specific and somewhat inexpensive details, nobody else will.