We talk a lot about disasters on this site and preparing for them effectively.
Some of the potential SHTF situations we discuss include hostile takeovers, homeland invasion, and chemical warfare.
We don’t know what the future holds, and it would be irresponsible to just shrug it off and say “That could never happen here”.
World relations are constantly changing, and with the political turmoil in the United States reaching an all-time high, it’s important to be prepared for anything.
Will a military surplus gas mask actually be a worthwhile purchase, or should you spend that money on something else that’s more applicable to a wide variety of disasters?
It’s time to find out!
What is Military Surplus Gear?
Surplus on its own means an amount of an item, commodity, or good that’s left over when requirements have been met.
In many situations, you see surplus in food service where more food is ordered than expected, which acts as a buffer in the event of more guests arriving than previously anticipated.
With military gear, it gets a bit complicated. The military contracts out work to third-party companies and produces very little to no gear on their own.
They order gear with anticipation in mind for recruiting results. Recruitment centers tend to have an average when they bring in new soldiers and officers.
The military orders gear with a buffer in mind, always intentionally overbuying by a small percentage over their actual needs.
This helps ensure that everyone is equipped as needed no matter what, and then the United States military sells the remaining goods to surplus outlets (which are privately-owned businesses not directly affiliated with the government or military).
These stores are able to stay open because the military is constantly overbuying to ensure they’re never without gear for new recruits and existing operations. These stores have a reliable influx of military surplus, though it can differ as time goes on.
Why is the Military Getting Rid of it?
Overbuying is one reason, as I stated before. Another is technological advancements. Placing an order takes time when you consider the magnitude of a military order, all the manufacturing time, and invoicing/accounting that happens.
In that time, let’s say six months, new gear could arise that outplays what the military already placed an order for. It’s the United States military – they have a blank check, figuratively speaking, and wouldn’t want to burn bridges with suppliers by cancelling an order that’s already in production.
They bite the bullet, sell the stock to surplus stores all across the country, and then pull back in a certain amount of money that cushions the blow of the initial purchase. The remaining money (albeit less than when they started) gets recycled into more purchases for the future.
This keeps the money machine that is the United States military constantly buying new gear and selling old gear, keeping us on top as one of the major military superpowers of the world.
Generally speaking, the military may not even physically hold or test the gear. It may simply be rerouted from the manufacturer before it ever touches a military base, and then dropped off to third-party vendors who unpackage it there.
For this reason, there’s no telling if the gear has been military-approved beyond their initial decision to purchase it in the first place.
Should You Buy Surplus Gas Masks?
It’s a gambit. You could land a seriously powerful gas mask for a low price, equip your entire family with them, and be safe in the event of a chemical attack. Or you could end up with garbage.
Military surplus store owners are typically pretty into this stuff. They need to be able to explain what they’re selling, and they’ll go on and on about model numbers, manufacturing years, companies, and so on.
That’s a good thing. While I have bought military surplus gear online before, that’s only after being experienced in knowing what to look for over the years.
It’s unlikely that you’ll get a dud, but there’s still a chance. There’s no real way to know if they’re going to work before you buy them. Instead, you can test them after your purchase with a few tricks.
Keep in mind these are not foolproof, but unless you intentionally put yourself in a harmful situation, you can’t be 100% with any mask, new or from surplus.
- Seal Check: All gas masks are different, but all of them have a seal. You’ll be able to spot it on the inside when you inspect your gas mask. Make sure it’s in there, and cover up the inlet port. If you put the mask on and suck air in, nothing should come through unless that inlet port is left open. If air comes through anyway, it’s a dud.
- Filter Check: Does the filter actually match the gas mask? Filters and seals are different, and if the filter doesn’t fit, you need to get a new one. This isn’t a death sentence since the mask itself is intact, you just need a new filter. It’s recommended to get a new filter when you buy a mask anyway since you can’t be sure when those filters were manufactured.
- Banana Test: In a gas mask, you shouldn’t be able to smell anything. Get something stong to test it, like banana oil, and wave it around underneath the mask while you’re wearing it (tightly secure it to make the test count). If you can’t smell anything, your mask is good to go.
How Long do the Gask Masks and Filters Last?
When active and filtering NBC (nuclear, biological, or chemical) and other chemicals, the average filter will last for about eight hours before the air quality is low and filters outlive their purpose.
There are filters specifically designed for chemicals, which will last for about eighteen hours depending on the brand and quality.
Now, in terms of storage, filters usually have a five-year lifespan on them.
Even if they are marked with a later expiration date, you should buy brand new ones when you get your gas mask and keep it in any packaging it comes in. Use the old filter to practice emplacing filters and checking the seal until you get good at this.
Keeping those filters in their respective packaging is the best way to ensure their integrity. You should always have multiple replacement filters in the event that you’re in a compromised area.
What Do Military Gas Masks Protect Against?
Military-grade gas masks are designed to protect against NBC agents, but their primary use comes down to riot control. You’ll notice that any time there’s a riot and subsequent tear gassing to calm it down, because it also protects against airborne gasses such as mustard gas and chlorina gas.
Additionally, a quality gas mask will also filter out biological agents through air particles. In the event of a “dirty bomb” situations, gas masks are deployed to ensure the wearer doesn’t encounter any of those agents through their respiratory system.
However, touching a gas mask to remove it does put your skin in contact with those chemicals.
Gas masks are not supposed to be used a second time after actually being applied to a chemical situation, regardless of the severity of said situation. Gas masks are designed to protect the respiratory system, while also preventing chemical contact with your skin, eyes, and ears.
Are They Good for Prepping?
Prepping is about being prepared if, and hoping it never comes down to when.
Statistically, most preppers do not need a gas mask… but those who seek to do us harm have become more depraved over the years, and in the event of chemical warfare (which, remember, is never off the table), it’s good to have one.
I would say that this should be lower on your list of priorities once you have energy, food, and water preparations made, but not to shut this out completely.
Military surplus gas masks can be expensive, so while they may not be the most viable purchase for you right now, they’re still something that you should pick up. It’s the better safe than sorry mentality when it comes to gas masks.
An Excellent Addition to the Home Armory
Military surplus gas masks are definitely useful, but do not take the first priority on your preparations list. At this point in time, unless you live in the heart of a major city or POI that could be under siege in the near future, a gas attack is unlikely to happen or affect you if it does.
Gas masks need to be maintained, filters need to be swapped out, and you need to have emergency cleaning supplies in place regardless of how many masks you have. Keep them clean, keep harmful chemicals away, and you’ll do just fine.