There was a wild squeal as gears shifted before the ramp to the C-130J opened, my peltors clicked out for a moment blocking the sound and all at once I felt the pressure change against my skin and deep inside my ears. The loud drone of the engines filled the inside of the aircraft as our eyes adjusted to the sunlight. The late afternoon sun burned away the darkness and illuminated us clad in Crye multicams with MC-6 static line parachutes on our backs and 50 pounds rucks hanging between our legs. The ramp opened fully and I could clearly see the ground flashing by 1250 feet beneath us as the C-130J slowed to a snail’s pace of 130 knots. I held my static line firmly as the Jumpmaster gave us the stand-by signal. The light turned from no-go to green go, “GO GO GO!” he gave the first jumper a solid slap on the ass, the first jumper walked off the edge of the ramp and we all followed.
I felt the familiar rush as I dropped from the C-130J, the gusts of wind quickly faded as my parachute inflated until the only sounds I could hear were the soft rustles of my parachute in the wind against the late October sky and my ruck creaking beneath me. I quickly tested the steering on my parachute to ensure my risers were working before I turned myself towards the designated landing area. 1 minute or so later and I was at 200 feet above ground level. I looked down and grasped my ruck’s release tab and pulled up, it released with a soft whoosh of Velcro and fell then stopped as my lowering line arrested its fall. So far so good. I steered my parachute into the wind and prepared for impact. I heard my ruck hit below me which gave me little less than a second before I impacted. A sudden gust of wind caught me and I landed cross-wind. In the blur of impacts that followed my head hit a rock.
I stood up, somewhat dazed, and gave the medics a thumbs up. I then continued for the rest of my mission. When it comes to hard impacts on ballistic helmet you want to be sure your helmet can take them and still retain full ballistic integrity. I had no qualms as I was wearing the Safariland Group Protech Tactical Delta X helmet. When working in non-permissive environments you expect a lot from your helmet. It needs to be light, have the highest fragmentation protection possible, and be able to stop type IIIA handgun threats. Most ballistic helmets do the latter. Fewer do frag and IIIA threats. And it gets narrowed down to a couple when it comes to being lightweight. The Delta X shell weighs a mere 1.26 lbs, and with suspension, rails, shroud and pads it comes in at 2.2 lbs. Compare this to most other high-cut helmets which weigh in around 2.4-2.8 lbs complete. This puts it as the lightest helmet meeting the above standards on the market as of this writing.
Does this small amount of weight make a difference? It depends on what you do. I’ll tell you that I can certainly feel the difference when doing long missions wearing this helmet. That’s less weight compressing the vertebrae of my neck which equals less pain. This keeps me more alert and aware of what’s occurring around me. And if you’re used to wearing the MICH 2001 or ACH type helmets you’ll be amazed at the difference as the Delta X sports a 40% weight reduction compared to many of those systems. The Delta X helmet is a true one-size fits all affair due to the padding and suspension system which allows it to accommodate a wide variety of heads. I’ve had numerous individuals within my job try this helmet out and all were able to get it sized correctly.
After Protech designed this ultralight weight helmet shell they outfitted it with some of the best pads, shrouds and suspension systems on the market. The Delta X sports the Team Wendy Epic Air pads. I’ve used this system in the past with various different helmets and I’ve been a fan over standard pads that you can get. It allows for better air flow compared to many of the liner systems you can find. Air flow in helmet designs is an often overlooked quality. The less air flow you get the more you sweat. The more you sweat the more water you need to carry with you which increases weight. If you don’t have that water you begin to dehydrate or you have to plan your mission route around resupply or water sources. Moral of the story, have good air flow in your helmets. The Delta X has great air flow, I’ve hiked, ran, shot, jumped from planes and exercised in it and it outperforms every helmet I’ve tried in the past in regards to air flow sans the Crye AirFrame. However it out paces the Crye AirFrame in every other category.
To allow for the universal fit I spoke of above Protech went with the Team Wendy Cam-Fit retention system which utilizes a Boa closure system which basically stabilizes the weight of the helmet by applying an even pressure around the entirety of the head. What this translates to is little to no pressure spots while using it. This is my first time using the Team Wendy Cam-Fit system and I am very impressed with how comfortable it is and how well it stabilizes night vision goggles on my head. I’ve noticed no shifting or backing off once the system had been set which stands in stark comparison to a couple other systems I’ve used that need to be constantly tightened. Again, there are many cheap helmets out there. But many times they are using substandard suspension systems.
What this translates to is the helmet shifting during hard movement, IE during times you need that helmet not to shift such as bringing your weapon up and your head down to the optic, or snapping your head left or right then turning to engage. Nothing is more infuriating than bringing your head down to your optic in a CQB shoot house only to have your helmet shift forward, mash your glasses into your face and bash the top of your nose. Then while your eyes water in pain you take a burst of simunition rounds to the chest. I’ve jumped from a plane traveling at 130 knots and this helmet has never shifted on me. I have confidence in this system and that is worth way more than this helmet will ever cost.
The Delta X helmet uses the Wilcox L4 series of NVG shroud which are among the best on the market and are known for being robust and sturdy. They’re used by conventional and special operations around the world and Protec made an excellent choice going with the L4 series. One of the more forward thinking features on the Delta X is the boltless rail system used. The rail is attached via a high strength epoxy. While it seems unorthodox it has a purpose. Because no holes are drilled into the helmet there are no points on the helmet where the ballistic integrity is compromised. ArmorSource calls this system the Universal Boltless Rail System and they’ve put countless time into testing the strength and durability of an epoxy attachment system. I’ve had peltors and lights attached to these rails without any problems, I’ve seen nothing that would indicate it will ever be separating from the helmet and I’ve put this helmet through some very hard hits. With this in mind I feel very confident in this helmet’s ability to effectively stop rounds.
The Delta X is in my opinion the latest and greatest in ultralight weight helmet design. It sports the lightest shell on the market that has superb frag and type IIIA handgun protection. Protech did their homework and outfitted this helmet with the best helmet accessories available today. What you get is a premium helmet which is to date the most comfortable ballistic helmet I’ve ever worn. Words fail me when it comes to expressing how much this helmet has relieved neck pain I typically get when running long tempo ops. The features and engineering all come together to give you a robust helmet that will not fail you when your life depends on it. Money cannot buy that kind of confidence. This is my go to helmet for the foreseeable future.
Michael Jones is an Active Duty USAF SERE Specialist (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) currently residing in Eastern Washington. He spends his time teaching SERE and parachuting from anything that flies. On his off time he shoots and spends time with his family.
This post first appeared on loadoutroom.com