Train Yard Blues – FMA Lvl IIIA Aramid Fibre Ops Core
If I recall, around 2012, maybe 2013 I jumped aboard the populist craze, for Ops Core helmets. I opted at the time for the then regarded best replica. Dragon Red’s ‘Premium Variant’ Ballistic cut Ops Core.
As it stood, it’s solid 1/1 scale, coarse textured outer shell, replete with interior foam pads, felt lined liner and functional size adjusting dial on the rear of the head band gave an assured value for money.
It’s weight, and functionality subsequently with the addition of NVG’s, gave it an incredible fit and form, assisting with eye relief.
It’s shroud being solid and rugged enough to securely hold a variety of NVG arm’s with any undue fear. So to, its rails easily securing any number of real world accessories such as adapters for my Comtac’s and MPLS.
Further testament to its incredible quality, the outer shell, correctly placed no less is the most genuine and generously luxurious hook and pile I’ve seen this side of any real steel variant.
Only grumble I ever had was it’s natural coloration, was an off soft sand color as opposed to its real world counterpart which boast a more clay colored sandy grey color way, neither did it have that grain.
Still, some disassembly later, spraying its interior matt black, giving it a little more depth. Spraying its exterior black and dark brown, sprinkling with a pinch of fine sand whilst wet, then building up with khaki Krylon took it to its more aesthetically otherworldly form.
So, after nearly four years of hard Knocks, where hard abuse has given it a patina that only furthers its appearance – aside from a recent resurrection from the graves of my gear locker, having been eschewed for Dragon Reds CP style Airframe, it’s still going strong today.
Admittedly, having been neglected it need a thorough sanitization, laundering the mould off the chin strap, soft soap pads and other furnishings and a little rust off of a few screws, arguably this added to its ‘salty’ authenticity and it was back.
So, rewind – not long after purchasing this, and whilst very, very pleased with it – FMA stepped into the arena and absolutely shattered my then love affair. As has been observed over the last three or so years, the murky world of clones, copies and their litigious audacity has seen them bravely produce no end of functional oddities. Copyright, copy right ?
FMA entered with a truly 1/1 scale, correctly ‘sandy clay’ colored gray Maritime variant, again with an exterior finish, furniture and more of that luxurious hook and pile that left me glancing admirably across the street.
But they didn’t stop there, this possibly a first, and perhaps causing some consternation amongst the uninitiated in the real steel world, not conversant with the stitch counting obsessiveness of gear whores like I …
Why, it boasted the monicker Level IIIA Aramid Fibre. Yup, it was made from material similar or identical too as that of the real thing. It’s important to stress, this has no ballistic capability and will not provide any protection from munitions, shrapnel or fragmentation in the slightest.
The front impact block is now cushioned, and again sealed in stitched moisture wicking suede closer. This is replete and finished with the standardized foam blocks which the cushion pads, which are far more softer and generous in fit and more importantly absorption. Whilst this, offers no rated protection, it certainly affords for a more comfortable wear.
So, why ?
Well, it’s an admission of any gear enthusiast that the authenticity, feel weight and durability of kit and gears is a sought after aesthetic. Regardless wether real steel or not, if any provider can offer this, and here FMA have delivered no end, it makes for a reasonable affordable compromise.
Once seated, it allows for easy application of head born communication systems, either worn underneath or attached to the rails via adapters. This is important, as incorrect wear will impede on not only direct line of sight but peripheral vision too. It’s also worthwhile acknowledging that correct fit prevents discomfort.
It should be here observed, this is the Maritime cut, offering a slightly higher ride height as it’s cut slightly more aggressively and not as deep as the Ballistic variant. This gives an admittedly odd appearance, but is quickly forgotten with the installation of communications.
Intriguingly, this also assists with the eye relief and comfortably easy use of Night Vision. I’ve no academic knowledge to support that this or its real steel counterpart was designed hand in hand with the direct application of Night Vision optics, but, this model closer to its real world big brother in weight ably distributes the forward weight of deployed optics. The angle and graduation also puts the optics directly in front of line of sight, leaving only moderate adjustment of the FOV and diopter to gain best clarity. Aside from adjust the ride height of your respective mounting arm and angle you are good to go. It’s easy to see why this has grabbed Special Forces and Law Enforcement units attention, and rapidly replaced MICH/ACH style helmets.
The retention cam dial, is despite previous reports positive in its lock, and need only moderately adjusted to give a secure fit without discomfort or the chin strap fastened.
FMA have truly delivered a stunningly replica, exquisitely detailed, yet for the purposes of ‘Plastic Deth‘ and even the rigors of MilSim robustly startling authentic product. Special mention must be given to Italy’s Emperion Store. Their prompt communication, friendly advice and fastest shipping (two days) make them a firm favorite. The fit finish, sturdy construction here is highly impressive. Recommended – S23