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Thread: Gas masks

  1. #1

    Gas masks

    Gas mask check and clear-

    A skill necessary for all survivalists to master is the proper function testing of a gas mask.

    This is especially important when looking at a mask that was not brand new and sealed in the wrap when purchased.

    I go through a few procedures when evaluating masks that you may find helpful. This can be helpful in evaluating the condition and usefulness of your mask, or one you are planning to purchase.

    First I look at the general condition and age of the mask. Age is a major factor here but not the only factor. I've found 20 year old masks that gave a better seal than "new" masks.

    Is there any cracking, discoloration or perforations to the rubber? In my book, any of these constitutes a problem.

    Are the straps rubber or cloth? What condition are they in? Pull and stretch them. Note the pliability and color of the straps.

    Is the eyehole(s) clear and free of major scratches? Do you have outsert lenses for the mask (if they are available for that model)? Outsert lenses go over the normal lense (typically you put them on over the hood) and they are designed to protect the inner lense from damage from flying debris (not projectiles). It would suck to be bugging out in full MOPP gear and have a rock break the lense on your mask allowing nerve agent in wouldn't it?

    The single most important parts of a gas mask are the valves. Your inlet valve is a one way valve designed to open ONLY when you breathe in to the mask. This will be located where your filter screws in. Without a filter in the mask, gently stick your finger up there and feel the valve. Use a flashlight to visibly inspect the valve for cracking, etc. Now put your mouth over the hole where the inlet valve is located. Blow air in forcibly. Now quickly change to SUCKING air back in (still with your mouth over the hole where the valve is). You should hear and feel the valve opening when you blow in and closing when you suck air.

    Next locate your exhale valve. This is usually located under a cover on the chin area of the mask. If your having trouble finding it, put your mask on and seal it (see below), then put your hand near the exhale valve (but do not cover it). Blow out very hard, you should feel where the air is exiting the mask. Take the mask back off. Test the function of the exhale valve by covering it with your mouth and trying to blow IN to the valve. The valve should close. Now suck air and you should feel and hear the valve open. Check the condition and pliability of all valves.

    It's worth noting that minimum repair parts to stock for masks include at least one new set of exhale and inlet valves as well as straps.

    When you are satisfied with the general condition of the mask it's time to put it on to do some more quick tests. If you purchased a used mask it is probably wise to thoroughly clean the mask inside and out prior to donning it. Warm soapy water can be used for most areas of the mask not including the voicemitter (if so equipped) and filter. I would be hesitant to use soapy water near the valves also.

    You will need to obtain some Banana oil ampules. These can be found on Ebay as well as industrial and safety supply houses.

    Time to check your seal and proper fit of the mask. Put the mask on. It's important to note that the tendency is to OVERTIGHTEN straps. You will notice a slight headache developing within 20-30 minutes when this occurs. Spend at least an hour in your mask getting familiar with it's operation.

    There is differing schools of thought on the use of straps. I have been taught that once you have your straps set (and comfortable) and your mask seals properly (checked with Banana oil ampules), that essentially you should leave your straps alone. This means sticking your thumb under your chin and breaking the contact of the mask to your face and pulling the mask up and over your head without untightening straps every time you put the mask on. The thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to loosen your straps every time you take the mask off, the fit and seal of the mask could change every time you put it back on.

    Here's how your going to check for proper fit and seal-
    With your mask on and straps comfortably tight-

    First cover the exhale valve (this may require two hands depending on the mask type) and breathe out sharply. You should feel the air blow out the sides of the mask. This is also called "clearing the mask" and is the first thing you should do after donning the mask every time.

    Next hold your hand over the inlet valve (or hole on the filter if you have a filter installed on the mask) and breathe in sharply. The mask should suck up tightly to your face.

    Breathe normally. Crack open one of your Banana oil ampules and move it slowly over where the edges of the mask makes contact with your face, to include your forehead and hair. You should not smell the Banana oil while you are doing this. It may be necessary for you to familiarize yourself with the smell of the oil before putting your mask on.

    The filter is the heart of the mask and determines the capabilities of the mask. If you purchased a surplus mask the filter is likely well out of date. Obviously we want the newest filters we can afford.

    A note on filters. In the last six years a lot of new companies selling protective gear have cropped up. Many use scare tactics to get you to purchase overpriced gear. Telling you in effect that "without OUR gear, you are going to die." These same companies spend a lot of time and bandwidth ripping apart other products. Common sense and a little research is in order here to cut through the sales hype.

    For example- if you are preparing just for nuclear war, why do you "have" to have the most current filters? Let's ***ume that you are way out in the boonies, radioactive gas from the blast isn't a problem, your concerned principally about fallout.

    Most gas mask filters are comprised of two elements. One is a screening type element designed to filter out biological spores and fallout particles. The other element is a block of chemicals, usually something like charcoal, carbon, etc. to neutralize gases.

    Hence the "screening element" part of the filter doesn't go bad as the chemicals tend to do over time. So don't throw out your "old" gas mask filters, keep them for training and for fallout screening.

    Hope this helps- RH

  2. #2
    How would recommend storing them? Is oil (a litle coat) appropriate to keep the rubber parts from cracking (dring out) prematurely? I have been just putting them back in the original heavy plastic packaging, am i messing up?

  3. #3
    2015 Silver Site supporter Rmplstlskn's Avatar
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    Jul 2010
    Charlottesville, VA
    IMO, I would never use any oil of any kind on or in a gas mask... It would collect dust, dirt and be a slippery mess, and possibly hinder your vision if it gets on the lenses. We all know gas mask don't last forever, but they last far longer than some alarmist vendors (approvedgasmasks comes to mind) try to say, so store them like the military does, properly and not in extreme environments. Check them periodically...

    More of a concern is keeping fresh filters available. Buy some every few years and relegate the old ones down the line of priority use... But even old filters will work fine for most things less than chemical and some biologicals, so also don't believe the "these filters will kill you" hype...


  4. #4
    Sportsmans Guide has Israeli M15 gas masks with filter for $39.97 Can anyone tell me if these masks are any good? Thank you.

  5. #5
    JRH Enterprises has M15's for $39.95 and they pay for this forum Might want to check them out. Link at the bottom of the page.

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