Released in early 2022, the XR is one of the latest iterations in the FAST series of Ops-Core protective helmets. Intended to address the specific threats faced by overseas service members, the XR is tested extensively to defeat threats up NIJ IIIA profiles and 7.62×39 lead core ammunition. Made in a two-stage, non-split design, the XR has a 0.290” outer shell that incorporates a proprietary blend of carbon (for the ceramic protection), unidirectional polyethylene (a type of plastic formed in a specific pattern for distributing load), and Aramid (short for aromatic polyamide the material is a type of synthetic nylon known for its strength and overall resistance to heat).
On the exterior, the XR incorporates a high-cut approach that utilizes the skeletonized Arc rail system for accessory mounting. This rail also integrates with Ops-Core’s other headborne solutions (sold separately) that expand on the functionality of the helmet to include other protective systems.
The XR shell dimensions extend protection to the rear occipital lobe (i.e. the back of your skull) without interfering in full range of motion, or contacting the end-user’s neck.
A modular bungee shroud at the front of the helmet is made from polymer, and provides an anchoring point and shock cord retention for various night vision devices. Set inside is a strengthened, CNC-machined, aluminum frame that is removable to account for different night vision mounting solutions without necessitating removal of the overall shroud.
Six hook-and-loop panels are positioned around the crown and rear of the XR for attaching various accessories with supportive mounting material.
The interior of the XR uses Ops-Core’s Lux Liner with low-profile OCC dial-adjustment framework for sizing. As the OCC dial turns, the suspension system either draws in or extends to the desired head circumference. This suspension system includes 10, ½” thick, open-cell foam pads throughout the interior for maximum protection. Each pad is held in place by hook-and-loop material. Included with the XR are two sets of pads (one for ¼” thickness, and another for ¾” thickness) for the end-user to adjust the interior’s comfort.
Included in the design of the interior shell is a channel that runs across the midsection of the helmet and (with the removal of three associated pad sections) accommodates for headbands while wearing hearing protection under the helmet.
The harness system of the XR features a four-point Head-Loc chinstrap with slide-adjustment buckles, and a leather-lined chin cup.
During development, the XR was tested at Chesapeake Testing (a division of NTS located in Belcamp, MD) to meet NIJ 0101.06 standards for IIIA ballistic threats in body armor. The XR was also developed to meet the threat profile most likely to be experienced overseas. Included in this protective value, the XR was also found to defeat associated blunt force and fragmentary impacts. Using Ops Core performance data for the XR (via the Ballistic Limit (BL) test specifically for helmets—which in turn is a continuation on the previous NIJ Standard 0106.01), and the velocity data of the rounds identified (blue – NIJ IIIA test caliber; red – overseas test caliber), the XR shows the following:
|Projectile||Minimum V50* BL(P) at 0°(±5°) Obliquity (ft/s)||Projectile** Max. Velocity at Bore (ft/s)||Projectile** Max. Velocity at 50yd (ft/s)||Projectile **Max. Velocity at 100yd (ft/s)|
|9mm FMJ RN, 124gr||1400||1200||1095||1018|
|9mm x 18mm SJLC, 105 gr||1017||1048||913||846|
|.44 Mag SWCGC, 240gr||1430||1455||1312||1178|
|.44 Mag JHP, 240 gr||1430||1210||1102||1024|
|7.62mm x 25mm SJLC, 86gr||1475||1450||/||/|
|7.62mm x 39mm LC, 123gr||2400||2349||2175||2008|
|.40S&W GDHP, 180 gr||1025||1025||988||928|
** Velocity data varies per manufacturer, and by variance of components (i.e. gunpowder) which all yield different performance. The data represented is the highest velocity data identified in research, for that specific standard caliber, but not in a magnum or high-pressure load.
The FAST XR is available in 499 Tan (featured), Ranger Green, Urban Grey, Black and Multicam. It is also available in sizes between Medium and 2XL.
Product Evaluation Scores:
- Cost – Average (3/5): The FAST XR has an MSRP of $2,100 which makes it one of the newest and most expensive helmets on the market (second only to Ops Core’s RF1 helmet at $3,249) The FAST series of helmets are specifically designed for Special Operations and incorporate the latest materials (polyethylene and Aramid) and technology to offer protection tested to IIIA NIJ standards, as well as protection against additional rifle threats commonly faced overseas. In comparison, the EXFIL ($1205.08) by Team Wendy, and the ATE ($699) from Hard Headed Veterans are designed for law enforcement or civilian use, and use more traditional materials tested only to NIJ IIIA standards. To date, neither EXFIL or ATE are rated against rifle threats and only Ops Core offers this capability. Thus, for the everyday civilian consumer, the XR offers a fair market value for its cutting edge materials and advanced protection—however professionals or units needing it for more direct purposes may find it as a good value that addresses more advanced threats commonly found overseas and in duty. Thus as a balance for evaluation, the XR in this review is given a score between the two (average) whereby the specific end-user can determine if the cost in performance for the XR matches their mission needs.
- Comfort – Good (4/5): From the comfort perspective, the XR incorporates two design aspects that gave it a good level of comfort with minimal excess bulk or material. The first being the open-cell foam padding segments inside the liner of the XR that did a very good job at padding the interior of the helmet and giving the wearer a soft degree of comfort. The ability to swap out padded segments for thinner or thicker padding segments also meant that the wearer was able to find a customized solution that fits them best. The second element was the low-profile OCC dial that adjusted the interior retention band to find a solid hold on the head. The OCC dial itself did not have a tactile or audible click to it, but simply slid smoothly and adjusted the band as desired with no modification needed. The OCC dial was an improvement over other brands that have a ratcheting dial design and necessitates resetting the dial to loosen. Other aspects like the ventilation holes did provide some mitigation of heat (though sweating during extended wear and dynamic movement was still experienced), and the sliding buckles for the chin strap did retain a solid hold and did not slip or fail to keep its position.
- Durability – Excellent (5/5): The durability of the XR really came down to the excellent performance characteristics of the Aramid material inside the helmet. This material has been known by its more common name of Kevlar from the DuPont company, and that material has been in production for decades with a proven track record for long-term and stable durability. It also gives the overall helmet a high degree of heat resistance and the obvious ballistic characteristics. Throughout evaluation and dynamic movements, the helmet’s seams/edges/stress points showed zero signs of wear, nor did the suspension/retention system show any signs of fraying or slippage. The exterior of the XR shell was sprayed in a textured matte paint to maintain its low visibility and negate any reflective aspect of light off the helmet itself. Some minimal surface marring on the exterior was noted from contact to the ground and other hard surfaces, but nothing that penetrated to the underlying material and well within the expected level of wear.
- Functionality – Good (4/5): Functionally, the FAST XR was a helmet that did what was intended, it provided the head with sufficient surface area to protect the end-user. But the XR had a padding and suspension system that also provided a good level of flexibility for the wearer to find a comfortable and tailored level of retention and wear. Additionally, the integrated channel inside the Lux Liner was appropriately sized for most common over-the-head hearing protection, such as the AMP, and allowed the wearer to comfortably wear hearing protection without the assistance of rail mounts. The other aspect that set the XR above other helmets was its added protection value for 7.62×39 threats and other calibers commonly threatening service members overseas. These threats are not part of the official NIJ IIIA profile, nor has the XR been tested against ballistic threats found domestically (such as the 5.56 or .223 with a velocity of between 3,200 ft/s (at bore) to 2,800 ft/s at 100 yards), but Ops Core has conducted testing on those overseas ballistic characteristics and passed DoD testing against them. Lastly, while the hook-and-loop panels on the exterior are smaller than other helmet brands, the greater number of them around the crown gave the end-user more options for locations on which to attach accessories and other items. It should be noted that in its description of the XR, at the time of this review, Ops Core has a typo in its listed ballistic profile for the XR whereby it states the helmet has been tested against 7.62×23 (an exceedingly rare caliber) and 7.62×39, when in fact this ballistic chart should read like other FAST helmets tested to the 7.62×25 and 7.62×39 caliber projectiles.
- Weight – Average (3/5): Weighing in between 2.68 pounds (Medium) and 3.11 pounds (2XL), the evaluated XR was a size Large and weighed in at 2.81 pounds. This weight accounted for both the ballistic exterior shell, the shock absorbing liner, and the comfort padding with chin strap on the interior. In contrast, the Team Wendy EXFIL (size large at 2.6 pounds), and the ATE (size large at 3.0 pounds) by HHV demonstrate that while various companies differ in materials and design, the XR has a difference in terms of ounces to the market and has an appropriate (or of average) weight. It should be noted that, as before, while the XR is able to keep its weight within an appropriate range to its competitors—it does offer an increased threat protection profile that, as of this review, others do not.
Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)
I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via High Ground Media, LLC, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.
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