Shooting a WWII Soviet Steel Helmet with a SKS and a Mosin–Nagant

M36clothliner

Readers of TFB wanted to see how well a Soviet WWII-era helmet would fare against weapons from around that time. They produced a video showing a soviet helmet shot at by an SKS and a Mosin-Nagant. The video is embedded below …

They concluded the helmets were worthless in WWII. I disagree with this assessment. They shot the helmet at point-blank range. At that kind of range a bayonet would not have only a couple of second behind, not long enough for the man wearing the helmet to recover his senses after that kind of shock to the head. I don’t think Soviet equipment designers were trying to prevent point-blank head shots.

The helmet did fare quite well against a point blank 7.62x39mm round. I decided to work out at what range the 7.62x54mm Russian has the same power as the 7.62x39mm does at the muzzle. I was lazy and the ballistic calculator I was using did not have a 7.62x54mm Russian programed in, so I opted to compared it with the .30-06 which is slightly more powerful than the 7.62mm Russian, but closer to the 8mm Mauser that the Soviets faced in WWII. The ballistic table I generated is below.

7.62x39 vs 30-06

 

The helmet would protect against any .30-06 bullet fired from further than 250 yards. I think this is pretty reasonable for a pre-kevlar steel helmet.


Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=529301921 Frank Martin

    Helmets were never meant to be “bullet proof” head protectors.. they were meant to help deflect shrapnel from creating head wounds.. A BIG difference

  • Jarkko K

    Helmets were not developed to protect its users from bullets only, but primarly from fragments and shrapnels of artillery rounds and other secondary projectiles on the battlefield.

    • S O

      Agreed. There were some up-armour modules to harden to front against rifle bullets, but almost all other helmets were only meant to protect against fragments. Even submachinegun bullets were an afterthought.

      AFAIK only post-2000 was the basic protection level raised to NIJ Level II in the U.S. and some later designs aimed for proofing against 7.62×39 FMJ. Most countries continue to use helmets meant against fragments only.

      Btw, the classic steel helmet was little over 1 mm thick (about than 0.04″).

      This suffices against the vast majority of fragments, which are small and weak. The thickness required to stop all fragments would be excessive.

      Related (A great book about most of the then-modern body armour and helmets, 1920):
      http://www.archive.org/stream/helmetsbodyarmor00deanuoft#page/n11/mode/thumb

      • Micki Mahoney

        That is a great book — good find!

  • The_Swede

    Also what people tend to forget is that 60% of the casualties in WW2 among the infantry came from shrapnel eg. Bombs, mortars and artillery. Maybe the helmets were supposed to offer protection against that.

    The 5,56×45 would still penetrate a standard NATO steel helmet at over 1000 meters. A helmet that could stop bullets point blank would probably do more harm than good.

    • Paul J

      Correction, 5.56×45 SS109 bullet penetrate at 600m, not at 800m nor at 1000m.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rwrivera Robert W. Rivera

    Watch the flies crawling up the right side of the dresser when the first round hits the helmet, the slow motion one is even better, LOL. The bottom fly is the funniest.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Erik-William-Healy/1000297982 Erik William Healy

      I did not notice the flies until I started doing the video. The reason the zoom looks strange on the first shot is because it’s digital zoom in editing. Both of the flies had the shock of their life. For the 7.62x54r shot I use the camera’s optical zoom to get a much tighter picture.

  • Max

    There is no such thing as 7.62×54 Russian. The R in 7.62x54R is in reference to the rimmed case.

    • Joe

      You statement is correct however some people refer to 7.62x54r as “7.62 Russian” and 7.62×39 and “7.62 Soviet.” I don’t personally use these descriptions but there is precedent for their use.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Erik-William-Healy/1000297982 Erik William Healy

    I was the one who did this test. I am very impressed with this write up. It was almost point blank range being less than 30 yards. The first round (7.62x39mm) was deflected and went out under the helmet. It did stop a .32 Auto and .38 Special but we did not get that on film and only shot it with those two rounds much later in the day. Thank you very much for doing a writeup on this and featuring the video. The main reason for this test was to dispel the myth that it would stand up to a rifle round.

    • Bbmg

      I don’t anyone believes this ‘myth’, even Hollywood in movies like “enemy at the gates” show lethal shots through helmets.

      TBOT had dones some tests on a modern Kevlar helmet with interesting results:

      http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot29.htm

      The most curious result is that the 7.62×25 pistol/smg round punches straight through the contemporary helmet, meaning that a steel helmet would offer even less protection.

      As others pointed out, artillery is king of the battlefield and while such helmets are useless against high velocity bullets, the do offer adequate protection against the larger lower velocity fragments from exploding shells.

      • Zastavnik

        Russian helmet Vs NATO helmet. Both were tested with 7.62×25 TT pistol

        • Micki Mahoney

          Considering the fact that their “TT” appeared to be an APS, and given the general tone of wild scare-mongering throughout, I wouldn’t take that video too seriously. Sounds like someone has a vested (no pun intended) interest in keeping jobs at home and doesn’t want to lose the contract to France.

          • Anonymoose

            That’s even sadder considering the NATO helmets can be pwnt by 9×18.

          • Bbmg

            Yup, definitely not an unbiased test there.

          • bsnighteye

            It’s not an APS. APS is pretty wide and bulky pistol. Pistol here is pretty slim – it’s definetly TT-33. And you can see unique slashes on sides of the pistol for the grip – one more point for TT-33.

      • schizuki

        “The most curious result is that the 7.62×25 pistol/smg round punches straight through the contemporary helmet” –

        I continue to fail to understand why, with the proliferation of body armor, this round has not been re-discovered.

        • Bbmg

          The CBJ-MS is an attempt to revive this configuration with more modern projectiles but does not seem to have garnered significant interest.

        • Anonymoose

          The Russians considered bringing it back in the 90s before they developed the 7N21 and 7N31. .357SIG and the other half-dozen bottlenecked PDW rounds if the last 40 years are similar in concept to the Tok round (which was itself an overpressure development of 7.63x25mm Mauser).

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Erik-William-Healy/1000297982 Erik William Healy

        I remember that test and I wish I still had my Kevlar helmet to give it a go with but that’s too expensive now days. I run into people from time to time that believe that a steel helmet will protect them from a direct hit from a rifle. Most of them of course have no real world experience with helmets.

  • Esh325

    Not even the least bit scientific.

    • Eric S

      My child, science is a method of investigation. To investigate a phenomena one should have empirically observable evidence and what better way than to create your own phenomena? In other words, SCIENCE!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Erik-William-Healy/1000297982 Erik William Healy

        Thank you Erik. I was going to say that because I did not have a lab coat on and a clipboard and did not measure everything from distance to rotation of the moon and sun and ambient temperature it is still science. Just amateur science. Theory is do they protect? Experiment concluded no they don’t. SCIENCE!

        • Sid

          It always gave an air of professionalism to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew…. just before he shocked Beaker.

      • Esh325

        I think you understood what I meant when I said it the first time. I’ll just leave it at that.

  • shooter

    So, what was the logic in showing the rifle with the Jim Beam?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Erik-William-Healy/1000297982 Erik William Healy

      Only photo I had of that particular mosin nagant. Wanted to show the actual rifle and not just a stock image.

  • Thatguy

    Don’t forget shrapnel and handgun bullets.

  • Lance

    Not even current helmets wont stop a direct hit from a rifle round Kevlar worship by tacticoolers is crap I got a friend who used a 55gr 5.56mm round shot right threw a newer Kevlar helmet dont get overstepped by this helmet crap.

    • Sid

      Lance,
      Are there any punctuation marks on any keys on your keyboard? Look for these symbols: ,.;’?! See them?

  • Turbokrt

    IT IS NOT!! russian helmet. Its our Czechoslovak helmet M53 (postwar) There is big difference between rusian helmet WW2 and our. Price of our helmet M53 is about 3-4€

  • Babylonandon

    Wonder how .308 win / .762 X 51 would do?

  • Secundius

    The energy released from .30-06 is 60,200psi or 415-MPa, a 7.62x54R is 52,000psi or 360MPa and 7.62×39 is 51,490psi or 355MPa. When you compare the .30-06 vs 7.62×39, there almost 17% greater kinetic energy released from the .30-06 to that of 7.62×39. It probably would have gone through the helmet and the head.