Military Surplus gasmasks... 3 things they are not good for

  • ...A mask may afford complete
  • protection under outdoor conditions and break down at once when
  • used indoors, where a gas container has burst and filled the room
  • with gas. It must also be remembered that the absorbents in the
  • Army respirator, which filter out the poisonous gas, are specially de-
  • signed for the gases used in warfare, and as a matter of fact do not
  • protect against- the more common industrial gases as, for example,
  • illuminating, natural, producer, and blast-furnace gas... (ARMY GAS MASKS UNSUITED FOR USE IN INDUSTRIES 1943)

While it is presupposed that the military surplus gas mask is adaptable and usable in most all situations, the fact of the matter is that the majority of these masks are designed to work in very specific environments only.  Therefore, you would not want to purchase a used or new military surplus gas mask for certain situations even though the common consensus is that they will work in such conditions.  Here are three things you wouldn't want to trust your life or your families lives with a military surplus gas-mask for.  

1. Protection from smoke inhalation. While these are very good at keeping mustard gas out of your lungs, they are no real defense against the threat of smoke from a fire. Understand that the usefulness of a gas-mask is dependent on the amount of oxygen in the environment as the mask separates the chemicals from the air, thus giving you life saving oxygen. They don't, however, create oxygen.

2. Protection from dust in a mine or other detritus rich environment. Understand that the gas mask works on filtering concepts, it's not magic. So if you expose your gas mask filter to a dusty environment, it is likely to clog and prevent the inhalation of oxygen. 

3. Protection from industrial or blast furnace gasses. Again, these are designed specifically for outside use in an oxygen rich environment. Anything that produces gas from some type of combustion is going to deplete the oxygen from the atmosphere and will not correspond well with a military surplus gas mask. What you want to buy in these instances are respirators which come equipped with oxygen tanks.