TFB Review by Richard L.
By now even those living under a rock have been woken up by a Karen yelling at them to wear a mask. With a global pandemic, masks have taken the world by storm. However, few are sporting a mask like the Ops-Core Special Operations Tactical Respirator or SOTR for short. While it definitely checks the box for Bane cosplayers, what roles does the SOTR mask fill? – Photo credit @Marlisphotos
The CDC recommends cloth face coverings and N95 masks to fight the spread of COVID transmission. The N95 filter is designed to filter out 95% of particles .3 micron or larger and is not oil resistant. The filters used in the SOTR mask are P100 filters, boasting a 99.97% filter rating. This includes lead, asbestos, lubricant mist, and explosive gunfire residue. The P signifies that the filter is oil-proof, unlike the N95 masks. While the intended purpose of the mask was not for protection against COVID, the filter does exceed CDC suggested filter ratings. Photo credit @Marlisphotos
One of the main reasons the SOTR was developed, was to reduce the amount of lead poisoning shooters were experiencing. Those shooting indoors, high round counts and suppressed have a greater susceptibility to experiencing lead poisoning. The design of the mask was intended to inhibit shooters as little as possible. Unlike pro masks that often are right- or left-handed in design due to the placement of a filter on one side, the inline filter setup on the SOTR works well and provided no issues when shooting during my testing. Photo credit @Marlisphotos
While I have not had the opportunity to test the SOTR in smoke-filled environments, SOTRs have been seen in use by people out west affected by the smoke in wildfires. As 90% of wood smoke particulates are 1 micron, the filter rating adds a layer of protection for those in areas with wildfires.
Police and Breachers
The SOTR was also designed to protect against Fentanyl. With the increasing risk of officers being exposed, the SOTR doubles up as protection from COVID threats and Fentanyl.
Breaching provides many additional issues to problem solve. Whether you are using a torch, quickie saw or tossing a flashbang, having good protection against the particulate generated by breaching older houses is a reasonable concern. Photo credit: @alliancepolicetraining
With the added weight from heavy breaching tools in a dynamic environment, the ease of breathing through the SOTR was realized quickly at a recent breaching class at Alliance Police Training.
Photo credit: @alliancepolicetraining
The SOTR comes in two versions. The mask is definitely not cheap, coming in at $300 MSRP for the base mask or SOTR Lite. However, there is the option of upgrading the mask to have a built-in mic for comms support. This upgrade is $65, but having the option gives users the ability to fit the mask to their intended purpose and reduce the cost for some users. The microphone can be linked to the Ops-Core Amp headset for easy communication integration. The plug placement for the mic made for easy ambidextrous use. Photo credit: @marlisphotos
Other accessories are also available for the SOTR masks. Replacement filters are available and easily replaced. Simply twist off the old filter and twist on a new filter as needed. An 02 Strap Harness is also available to connect to Ops-Core SF helmets or other helmets with Ops-Core ARC rails. Photo credit: @marlisphotos
Swapping between helmet mounted and the standard straps is simple. There are two snaps at the end of both of the Y harnesses. Simply snap the new harness in place using the 2 snaps and you can quickly transition mounting options. The standard harness can also be worn under a helmet if needed. Photo credit: @marlisphotos
I had expectations when I received this mask that it would greatly inhibit my ability to breathe. Having two exhalation valves aids in breathability and makes the mask very usable. Even in more physically demanding activities this mask allowed for good breathability and maintained a decent seal despite perspiration. The range of accessories makes the mask integration easy with other Ops-Core products.
As with any mask, there is a reduction in the volume and clarity when communicating through the mask. Photo credit: @marlisphotos
The microphone does a good job despite being so close to your mouth, but talking through the mask has its challenges. That being said, it is still easier to speak through the SOTR than a pro mask such as an Avon C50. If you speak up and enunciate properly, communication is still very doable.
This mask was well designed, made from durable parts and with the end-user in mind. Having a mask is always a hassle, but half-masks have their place and are less intrusive than full pro masks. Photo credit: @marlisphotos
The size and design integrated well with other support gear. Even when using with a rifle, night vision and eye protection, the SOTR was compact and integrated well. Despite all the equipment being used, the SOTR did not hinder my ability to move and manipulate my other tools as needed. Photo credit: @marlisphotos
In the end, it primarily comes down to price. If you feel you need the added protection from lead particulates while shooting, COVID 19, smoke from wildfires, Fentanyl, particulate from breaching old houses, or a host of other things you don’t want to breathe in, then the price starts to make sense. For a simple trip to Walmart, you might forgo the mask and avoid the strange stairs and expected Bane jokes.Photo credit: @marlisphotos