SOTR-Lite: Keep the Lungs Clear In Any Environment

In training enclosures, or on an objective, the air quality can often contain high concentrates of lead, carbon, chemicals, and other particulates. Without proper precautions, these can prove harmful if inhaled and a tactical respirator like the SOTR from Ops-Core can prove an invaluable resource.

Released in mid-2019, the Special Operations Tactical Respirator (SOTR) comes in two variants; SOTR with options for compatibility with voice communications, 2 head harnesses and 2 filters, and one without communications compatibility, one harness and one filter (dubbed the SOTR Lite). Made from a combination of full-face, medical grade silicone, nylon support bands, and a central respiratory filter.

The SOTR and SOTR Lite harnessing system consists of a continuous two-point head band that anchors to the respirator’s alThe SOTR and SOTR Lite head-harnessing system consists of a continuous two-point head band that anchors to the respirator’s polymer yolk via four snaps . As the lower support band is adjusted, the upper is tightened or loosened. Overall length for the head band is adjusted via hook-and-loop on the lower support band at the back of the harness.

The facepiece of the SOTR features a half-mask, contoured layer of medical grade silicone that is pleated to fit around the mouth, nose, and chin during dynamic movement, while still maintaining a low enough profile to accommodate eyewear or night vision goggles. There is even sufficient material to accommodate a proper seal with facial hair. Both sides of the frame feature exhalation valves that ensure solid seal and moisture mitigation.

At the front is a quick-disconnect fitting that connects to the principal air filter. The main intent for the filter is to prevent the inhalation of aerosolized lead from discharged ammunition or explosive residue. The P100 filter itself is made from a material that is oil-proof and effective at stopping up to 99.97% of particles. The P100 filter also protects against mold, dust, asbestos, bacteria, aerosolized lubricants, and the inhalation of fentanyl. Editor’s Note: It is important to note to the reader, the SOTR filter is not currently tested to filter out the COVID-19 virus, which is 0.125 microns, but the P100 filter still offers greater protection than the N95 mask (95% effective) or other face masks recommended by the CDC.

Below the filter fitting is a removable microphone (SOTR models only) that is compatible with various Invisio® headsets for microphone integration and other team communications using a standard.

The SOTR is available only in black, and is  one size fits most. For this evaluation a SOTR Lite was utilized given similarities in almost all design factors.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Average (3/5): With a list price of $300 MSRP for the SOTR, and $230 for the SOTR Lite, the OpsCore tactical respirators involve an air filtration system that provides freedom of airflow, and inhalation safety to those in training or operating in enclosed areas. While the focus of the SOTR (with its built-in microphone) is for those in a tactical or professional setting, the SOTR Lite product also has equal applicability to civilians training on indoor ranges amid the COVID era. The only market alternative to the SOTR/SOTR Lite would be the Tactical Respirator 2 ($225) by O2 Tactical with its cross-compatibility for comms. Thus, from a price point; and for its overall functional design, the SOTR  is at a fair value for its functionality, while the SOTR Lite (featured in this review) is slightly more affordable and at an appropriate (or average) price point.
  • Comfort – Good (4/5): It was easy to appropriately balanced cinching the SOTR/SOTR Lite’s hook-and-loop harness system and aligning its facepiece properly so as to also maintain a good seal, and be comfortable while worn. The adjustable hook-and-loop nape strap did provide a solid adjustment to the overall length of the harness from crown to chin without any accidental slippage during dynamic movements. The silicone of the SOTR’s facepiece had a comfortable contour around the nose, mouth, and chin, and felt stable with the jaw/mouth closed. But when maximum range of motion was applied (i.e. fully opening the jaw or mouth to talk), the mask would lose a small portion of its seal. It is recommended to Ops-Core to address this in subsequent future designs so that the chin and mask maintains its seal for all range of motion. Airflow through the filter was very easy and uninterrupted, even when conducting dynamic movements (sprints) and respiration was increased.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): From a durability aspect, the main material in the SOTR/SOTR Lite was the medical grade silicone to the facepiece, which was both flexible and resistant to abrasion. This is the same material that is in military NBC masks and known for its resistance to oil, solvents, corrosion, and puncture. And similarly, the silicone material in the SOTR heavily attracted lint and other particulates, but that didn’t affect fit or seal. The filter lifespan was dependent on the atmosphere involved, with dust and larger particulates obviously clogging the filter material quicker than finer ones. There was some question to the durability of the soft, outer material of the exhalation valve should it make incidental contact with gear or equipment—but these components are replaceable and it is suggested perhaps Ops-Core consider including at least one field replacement with the SOTR should it become necessary.
  • Functionality – Good (4/5): Functionally, the SOTR provided a very good flow of oxygen to the user, despite the intake passing through a filter and with an enclosed seal. Some minimal beading of moisture on the interior of the unit, and around the exhalation flapper was noted after an hour of continual and dynamic wear (sprints), but was to be expected and common with this type of device due to moisture in the breath. One positive design aspect of the SOTR was the internal flapper seals kept moisture inside the face piece and did not allow that moisture to pass into the filter itself. Removal and replacement of the clip-on filter at the face of the respirator was easy to do with a simple 80-degree twist, and matching it to the notched filter port on the facepiece was intuitive despite being out of the field of vision. The somewhat bulkier forward profile of the mask did allow for comfortable wear of eyewear without fogging, as well as shouldering a rifle on either side, all while maintaining a proper seal. Ops-Core does offer an alternative helmet harness/mount to allot for quick attach/detach to hook-and-loop panels of a helmet—but those are sold separately with the SOTR Lite (they come with the SOTR model). As is, in its current design the SOTR/SOTR Lite can only be worn under a helmet or headwear, and can only be removed by first removing said headgear. One aspect of functional improvement for Ops-Core to consider would be the inclusion of a MOLLE-compatible or similar attaching pouch as the SOTR/SOTR Lite does not come with any pouch or means of carrying/storage.
  • Weight – Good (4/5): With an overall weight of 5.4 ounces (Mask: 3.4 ounces, Harness: 1.5 ounces, Filter: 1.5 ounces) the evaluated SOTR Lite felt very lightweight and did not detract from the front of the face, nor pull excessively on the neck or head muscles over time. Indeed, properly fitted the SOTR Lite hung effortlessly. In contrast, the SOTR (approximately 8 ounces) has slightly more weight due to the integrated communications device. The only available alternative to the SOTR would be the TR 2 (5.1 ounces) and illustrate the SOTR/SOTR Lite has a good level of overall light weight for the consumer and within the market.

Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)

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I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, 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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