Words and pics: upp3rz_d0wn3rz (DEVTSIX Silver Team – SK04)

Let me start by saying that it’s so cool to be back on The Reptile House Blog!

I read all the articles and it’s great to hear about the teams and people around the world who enjoy this community as much as I do.

In my previous feature I wrote about my CAG inspired HK416D.

This time I’m writing about my other favorite source of inspiration: DEVGRU.  Specifically, I’m writing to share the background story on the process of building my DEVGRU inspired brainbucket, and the long journey from its initial setup to its current setup; which was paved with lots of fun, lots of mistakes, and most notably, lots of help from great friends in the community.

Hopefully this piece will inspire people who are just beginning to build their helmet and help avoid the costly mistakes I’ve made. Well then, let’s get started!

In the beginning

Before I tell you about my current DEVGRU helmet setup, I want to take you back to the beginning when I first got this helmet.

This helmet started out as a tan FMA maritime, size L/XL, with no accessories whatsoever aside from the replica VAS shroud and the replica ARC rails.  The Velcro was very cheap and patches would barely attach to the loop. The inside had the original cheap padding and styrofoam with an extremely uncomfortable Occ-Dial style tensioner.  Before buying this helmet I would usually play airsoft in a baseball hat.

So, when I finally got an FMA helmet, I thought it looked operator as fuck.  I thought I was milsim as fuck.  “Check out my new helmet, bro” is something I recall saying a few times.  But after about two months, I started to notice other players with helmets that looked way more awesome than my helmet. I was growing especially fond of these AOR1 helmets that I saw only occasionally back then.

I’m pretty sure this was the point where things started to get weird – it was the point when my inner gearwhore began to take control of my mind to make me do dumb things. On that point, some of my teammates on Devtsix Silver Team are painfully aware that I have a bad habit of attempting to make homemade customized gear (instead of just buying the real version of whatever I’m trying to make). For example, last year I converted some new gen Salomon Quest 4D GTX hiking boots into the old gen version by using paint, markers, other materials.  They end result was a set of boots that looked amazingly close to the real old gen Salomons, but in the end I just ended up buying the real thing anyways.

I don’t know why I do that.

Now back to my helmet – so after seeing these cool AOR1 helmets, I figured I’d just paint my helmet in AOR1 myself.  “It’s going to be epic” I remember thinking.

That is not at all what happened.  After several attempts at painting my own AOR1 patterns, I went on a tangent and decided I might as well try making my own camo patterns.  My creativity then spiraled completely out of control, and the next thing I knew I was repainting my helmet in all sorts of different colors with very bizarre patterns – and the only thing they had in common was that they all consistently looked like puke.

“What the hell am I doing?” I recall thinking.  All I wanted was an AOR1 helmet and instead I was sitting there making homemade barf buckets. However, it was a bit of fun and looking back I have no regrets about experimenting with different paint jobs.

But now it was time to get real, real AOR1 that is.

Things start to get serious… seriously awesome!

I started to ask around the community.

I started reading the brainbucket posts on the Devtsix forum. I learned that there were cheap desert digital helmets which to the untrained eye looked similar to AOR1, and initially that sounded like a possible solution since I wasn’t planning on spending a lot of money on my helmet.

But then some friends told me about hydrodipping, and about a company here in the US called Identity Custom Imaging (ICI) that would hydrodip your helmet in AOR1 pattern for about $85. I thought to myself “hmm, should I (A) spend $65 on a crappy desert digital repro helmet and possibly face further disappointment, or (B) should I pay $85 to have ICI hydrodip my formerly-tan-but-now-pukey-painted FMA maritime?” I went with option B and contacted ICI.

I wanted an AOR1 helmet because I wanted to eventually build a DEVGRU kit from the 2011-2012 time period. I asked ICI if it was a problem if my helmet was spray painted in about 10 layers of different yet consistently horrible paintjobs.  They said “no problem just leave it how it is and we’ll take care of it.”  I was glad because honestly there was so much paint on my helmet that it might take hours to remove it all myself. So in less than 2 weeks a mailcall arrived back from ICI, and I finally had an AOR1 helmet!

Side note: nowadays there are several companies that do very good AOR1 hydrodips, such as KWT.  ICI is a great deal for the price. If you’re willing to spend twice as much, KWT is the way to go. With either company you’ll be happy with what you get.

Playing the game of whack-a-mole

So now that I finally had an AOR1 helmet, you can guess that it was happily ever after… WRONG.

Within 2 or 3 weeks of getting my AOR1 hydrodipped helmet, my inner gearwhore took control again and soon I had this feeling that something about my helmet just wasn’t right.

I figured out what was happening: the shell of my helmet was fully pimped out which was creating the undesirable effect of making everything else on my helmet look crappy. This is the same kind of thing that happens at my house. I go out and buy some expensive as fuck furniture, and then all of a sudden, the rest of the house needs to be upgraded. Same thing was happening with my helmet.

Once again I started studying pictures on the Devtsix forum to get a better understanding of how real helmet accessories look. I was focused on building an accurate DEVGRU kit and my helmet was part of that effort. I noticed my replica Ops-Core maritime ARC rails weren’t the right color of tan, and of course they were missing that cool “O” logo.  And without even thinking I was back at it with the rattle can!

I tried painting my replica ARC rails with several different colors of tan and brown, but none of them looked right. The result was either too glossy, or too flat, or too dark.  Despite my best efforts to make my replica ARC rails look legit, they just didn’t. It was time to face the music: I had to buy real Ops-Core ARC rails. They would cost me as much as I spent on the rest of my entire helmet!

With some hesitation (but not too much), I hopped onto Ops-Core’s website and picked myself up a pair of legit rails. The real deal. No more replica rails!  But wait, what about that crappy Velcro I mentioned earlier?  That had to go too.  So I added a set of tan Ops-Core Velcro (the maritime style) to my basket and pulled the trigger.  The rails and Velcro cost the same as my original helmet and the ICI hydrodip combined.

But it had to be done… by this time it was becoming quite apparent to me that my inner gearwhore was firmly in control of my life. So, that’s when I called it quits with the whole gear thing – I figured I’d quit while I was ahead, just like you’re supposed to do at the casino.

Psych!!! I was just getting started!

Fine tuning the details

Around the same time that I purchased my Ops-Core ARC rails and Ops-Core Velcro, I had also picked up an inexpensive replica “manta” strobe light, and a set of replica S&S Precision V-Lites (one blue and one red). They were supposed to make my lid look more like a 2011 DEVGRU lid, but sadly they were quite bad replicas and didn’t look very good, and unfortunately they both stopped working within just a few weeks.

On the front of my helmet, I was still using the replica VAS shroud, which at the time served no purpose other than to make my helmet look cool.  Inside the helmet was still the original FMA retention setup with an occ-dial adjuster and incredibly uncomfortable Styrofoam and padding. By now it was falling apart and quite disgusting.  However, I left it that way for some time under the logic that generally people aren’t going to see the inside of your helmet and thus upgrading the inside is not imperative.

So I decided to upgrade the outside components next. I purchased a real S&S Precision Manta Strobe light (with green and IR lighting strobe) and two real S&S Precision V-Lites (the red light kind since at MILSIM events red lights are used at night to designate dead players and for safety). I also picked up a replica tan Wilcox L4G32 shroud/mount combo.

With all these new purchases, my helmet was starting to look pretty epic and I was getting closer and closer to having a good DEVGRU loadout.

My lid was lookin’ legit as fuck and I was really enjoying it… until I wasn’t. I still needed more stuff.

A dummy with dummy nods

Like many others long before me, I bought some of those fancy Spartan Deluxe Dummy GPNVG-18’s, the kind with the green LED lighting, which I intended to use for taking awesome kit pics. I was even more focused on my 2011 DEVGRU kit. Up until that point I had never worn real night vision, so I had no idea that the green LED’s on these fake nods were about 10 times brighter than the backsplash from real nods. Not knowing the difference, I posted tons of pics of me getting my eyes melted by those lovely green LEDs. I was having fun and these were good times.

But then one day I was looking through pictures on Instagram under the #devtsix hashtag, and I saw someone comment “RIP eyes” on a picture of some dude who, like me, was melting his eyes with the green LEDs from his dummy GPNVG-18s. That was when I realized that I needed to learn more about real night vision.

But in the meantime, regardless of whether or not I looked like a nerd with my green LED backsplash, I was still having fun with my gear, and that’s all that matters.

A dummy with real nods

A few months went by and my helmet went unchanged during that time. It was after all a pretty good setup with some real parts and other upgrades.  Then one day, something happened.  Something big happened!  I woke up that day and the first words in my mind were “I want real nods.”  There was a milsim event coming up in about a month, and I wanted to have nods for the event.

This was a pivotal moment, and I reflected on how just a year prior I was perfectly happy with my tan repro FMA Maritime that cost $65, and now here I was with a decked out DEVGRU lid, about to pull the trigger on some nods worth about $10K.

I wasn’t sure what to buy, but I definitely wanted dual tube NVG’s, and I was interested in ANVIS-9s which several of my friends were running. I asked my teammates for a recommendation and they referred me to High End Armament Technology, Inc. (HEAT), a company they all trusted completely and had a good buying experience with.

The owner, Robert, was incredibly helpful and he took lots of time explaining everything about night vision and the options I had for buying different configurations. At the beginning of the conversation, I was sure I’d buy ANVIS-9s, but by the time we finished talking, I ended up deciding to get a set of AN/PVS-15s with L3 Omni VIII autogated Gen 3 tubes that had absolutely zero blems (I’m picky about blems).

Now I had real night vision, so that very same day I purchased a real NVG mount for my helmet to replace the replica L4G32. Because I was creating a 2011 DEVGRU style lid, I purchased a real gold Wilcox L4G32 mount/shroud combo. I also picked up a Princeton-Tec Charge MPLS light. Looking back, that was an absolutely great day for me, but a rather bad day for my wallet.

But… as I always say, “my immersions are priceless”.  And now that I had real NVG’s, my immersions were about to reach a whole new level.

Still livin’ that gearwhore life today

Today I am completely happy with my 2011 DEVGRU-inspired brainbucket.

It is completely real except for the shell. I’m not sure if I’ll do anything else to it. I’ve thought about replacing the shell with a real Ops-Core maritime, or an aramid fiber version hydrodipped by KWT. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I’m very happy with my DEVGRU kit and I’ll keep it how it is for now.

What I’ve realized throughout this process is that anything is possible if you want it badly enough! My helmet is an example of that, so what’s stopping you?  Go out there and do it!

Cheers and happy gearwhoring!

Parts List:

• FMA Ops-Core Maritime (Size L/XL)*

• AOR1 Hydrodip by Identity Custom Imaging

• Ops-Core ARC Rails (Urban Tan)

• Ops-Core Retention Bungees (Urban Tan)

• Ops-Core Velcro (Urban Tan, FAST Maritime Kit A Version)

• Ops-Core H-Nape Liner Kit (Urban Tan)

• S&S Precision Manta Strobe (IR and Green Light)

• S&S Precision V-Lites, x2 (Red Light)

• Princeton-Tec Charge MPLS Helmet Light (Tan with Red/Green/IR Light)

• Wilcox L4G32 NVG Mount/Shroud Combo (Gold/Tan)

• AN/PVS-15 NVG’s with L3 Omni VIII autogated Gen 3 tubes

• Ops-Core Counterweight (Urban Tan)

• Spartan Deluxe Dummy GPNVG-18 NVG’s with Battery Pack

• IR Callsign Patches (AOR1)

• IR USA Flag Patches (Black/White and AOR1)

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