Many of us carry a gun for protection, either on our person or in our vehicle, but how many of us carry things to keep us safe from threats we can’t stop with a gun? What do you have on hand for say, a wildfire, collapsed building, or WMD-related terrorist attack? Do you have a gas mask/respirator for those situations?
I’m going to be completely honest with you, I didn’t until a few years ago. It wasn’t something I thought about. I carried a gun, first aid kit, and a tourniquet, and that was about it as far as my disaster-preparedness went.
And then my wife, who studies natural disasters and terrorist attacks for a living, pointed something out to me: a gun and a first aid kit aren’t going to save anyone from a the radio-isotopes of a dirty bomb, the lethal smoke of a wildfire, or the toxic cloud from a collapsed building. The right gas mask or respirator very well could.
So that got me looking into gas masks and other CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) protection equipment, and it’s something I still keep up with.
This is one of the most popular CBRN Gas Mask/filter combos on the market, and it is used by a number of police, military, and first responder units, as well as civilian contractors. It’s also one of the most popular among regular ole civilians interested in disaster preparedness, and really one of very few true CBRN masks available to the public.
That popularity is a good sign, but of course, we had to find out for ourselves if this thing is really all it’s cracked up to be.
Here’s what we learned.
Why the MIRA CM-7M Gas Mask?
MIRA Safety is an Austin, TX-based company that’s relatively new, but don’t let that fool you. The folks in charge all have extensive military and civilian training with hazardous environments and bring a practical mindset to disaster preparedness.
They have two main respirator products that are used by NATO forces and others around the world, the full-view CM-6M which is not designed for use with optics and isn’t really optimized for use with rifles, and the CM-7M gas mask which is designed with more tactical usage in mind. We like guns around here, and we assume you do too, so we wanted to look at the one that facilitates the usage of a firearm.
Features of the MIRA CM-7M
The CM-7M, just like the 6M, is a full-face respirator/gas mask that uses standard NATO filter cartridges of varying levels of protection. The mask itself is made of a bromobutyl rubber that is highly resistant to pretty much every kind of contaminant there is, including every known chemical warfare agent, as well as industrial chemicals and radiological/nuclear fallout. It also offers substantial resistance to biological contaminants, including commonly weaponized forms of airborne viruses.
Not too shabby, but there are plenty of CBRN masks from people like 3M, North, and others that do more or less the same thing. What makes the MIRA version a little bit different, and in my opinion preferable to a lot of the other offerings, is the extra design work that has gone into making the mask not only more useable but more comfortable as well.
First, anyone who has ever worn extensive PPE (personal protective equipment) will tell you that putting it on and taking it off is a pain in the ass. Don’t believe me? Ask your local 11b about “MOPP 4” exercises. See what they say about it. I bet it includes some swearing.
The MIRA masks aren’t fun to put on, no full-face gas mask is ever going to be, but it does make donning the mask easy, and adjustment is quick and intuitive. It’s much, much, much more comfortable than those Russian surplus (or even NATO surplus) masks you see on the internet on prepper sites and the like. Taking it off is also quick and easy, which is great.
The mask has two inhalation chambers where you can attach filters, one on either side of the lower jaw area, and both are threaded to NATO Rd 40×1/7” thread spec, so you can use any NATO-compatible filter with this thing, and you can put the filter on your non-dominant side so you can still shoulder a rifle effectively.
The filter that’s recommended is obviously MIRA’s NBC-77 filter, which is rated for protection against toxic industrial agents, as well as all currently known CBRN agents. Here’s the full list of things it will protect you from.
If your eyes started to glaze over from all the big science words, here’s what you need to know: if you can be protected from it, it’ll protect you. All known methods of chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological attacks are covered, from dirty bombs to weaponized viruses and bacteria, as well as riot-control substances like tear gas and OC sprays. Even nerve gases like VX (and it’s terrible, but less-well-known cousins VR, VE, and VG) are covered.
Moving beyond terrorist attacks and the like, it’ll also protect you from airborne hazards associated with all types of industrial manufacturing and processing, including acid fumes. Basically, anything that can come out of a collapsed building, wildfire, or industrial fire is covered as well, so long as you keep the gas mask and filter away from anything that’s over 160°F.
In short, if it can hurt you by getting into your mouth/lungs, this mask will protect you from it.
But none of that matters if you can’t actually use the thing, right?
Using the MIRA CM-7M Gas Mask and the NBC-77 Filter
This is what sets the MIRA gear apart from some of the others, and if you’re comparing gas masks and filters, this is where you need to pay attention. All CBRN-rated masks are going to offer good protection from the things listed above, so the deciding factor is going to have to be the more intangible things like what each mask does to reduce or eliminate operator fatigue, and increase usability and visibility.
So, how does the MIRA gas mask/filter setup here do?
Pretty well, honestly. The mask doesn’t work well with beards, but no mask I know of does. You just aren’t going to get a perfect seal, even with the “vaseline trick”. I don’t care what anyone says, vaseline is not going to give you a good enough seal to save you from nuclear fallout. If you have a beard, get a hood and not a mask if you’re really worried about stuff like that.
For less severe contaminants and short-term use in getting away from a disaster area though? This gas mask will do just fine, with or without slathering petroleum jelly all over your face. It also functions as well as any full-face coverage can with a rifle, and while the field of view out of the two eyeholes isn’t the best, it is better than most.
The mask uses a dual-layer system to prevent carbon dioxide buildup in the breathing space and prevent fogging of the goggles, which is fantastic, though you will probably notice a little fogging if you’re breathing hard in the mask for an extended period. Towards that end, the mask and filter also have a comparatively low resistance to breathing compared to other masks on the market, which makes getting enough air a whole lot easier.
You also have a specially designed speech diaphragm that helps to amplify and clarify your voice without any electronics, which is a huge boon when you’re trying to communicate while wearing the mask. I haven’t found any third-party tests for this, but MIRA claims a 95% minimum intelligibility when wearing the mask.
Best of all, the mask comes with a special drinking bottle to allow you to drink even in a contaminated environment, without removing the mask. It’s also compatible with CamelBak systems, which is great for the military and first responders.
Finally, while wearing a rubber mask that creates an airtight seal around your face is never going to be cool or refreshing, there is a specially designed sweat drainage area that lets sweat leave through the exhalation area, which is much better than having a pool of sweat collect in the bottom of the mask.
All of this goes a long way towards increasing operator comfort, which helps to keep the wearer sharp and focused on either their mission or on getting the hell away from whatever prompted them to put on a gas mask. This kind of thing isn’t really measurable, but for my money, I’d rather have a mask that isn’t going to make me so miserable that I’m distracted by how it fits, or how much I want a sip of water.
What about the Filter?
As far as the filter, I can’t see a good argument for using any other option currently on the market. It’s that good.
A single filter should be more than enough to get Joe Civilian out of harm’s way, and for disaster prep, that should be all you need anyway. We aren’t assuming the whole world is covered in nuclear fallout/radioactive waste here, and gas mask isn’t gonna save you from that anyway.
For all practical concerns, the gas mask works, and the filter offers you a huge amount of protection from anything you’re going to run into/away from. Best of all, both the mask and the filter are rated for a 20-year shelf life when stored properly, which is far, far beyond what most are.
The average NATO-compatible filter doesn’t protect you from as many contaminants as the MIRA filter does, nor for as long, and they only last about 5-6 years in ideal storage conditions. For about $20 more, you can get more protection, and you can rest easy knowing that the filter will still be ready when you need it. Why wouldn’t you get it at that point?
Is a Gas Mask Worth It?
If you live in an urban area, or an area at risks or wildfires, I honestly think a gas mask should be something you keep in your car right next to the jumper cables, or in the emergency kit at home. Even discounting the risk of a nuke, dirty bomb, or weaponized virus hitting a major city, natural disasters such as earthquakes and wildfires (or just plain old building fires) can stir up all kinds of things you don’t want in your lungs, and at best you’re exposing yourself to needless cancer risk.
If you aren’t in an area where an event like that is very likely, it’s your call, but I personally prefer to err on the side of caution where the safety of myself and my family is concerned. For $300 you get a mask and filter that will be there for two decades, ready to protect you from just about any airborne contaminant. For me, that’s a worthwhile investment.
The MIRA CM-7M and the accompanying NBC-77 SOF filter make for a powerful, civilian-available tool for protection against terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other incidences of airborne contamination. The filter is one of the best in the industry and in my opinion the best commonly available option for civilians.
The gas mask has been carefully and thoughtfully designed to be relatively comfortable and easy to wear and to interfere minimally with everything from running from a collapsing building to wielding a rifle in the event of a widespread breakdown of civilization.
If you have a practical view towards surviving very real threats, this mask and filter combo will go a long way towards seeing you safely to the other side. With the threats the average citizen or first responder is most likely to face, it never hurts to be prepared, and with the MIRA CM-7M mask and the MIRA NBC-77 filter, you can give yourself a potentially lifesaving edge.