In recent years, advancements in helmet technology for tactical applications have shown tremendous progress. Instead of having to strap a Kevlar bucket to your head and having it flop around, putting stress on your neck, we have helmets like the Ops-Core FAST helmet or the AirFrame by Crye Precision. These helmets are lightweight, stable, and much more comfortable than the old lids that were being used to protect the heads of high-speed ninjas.
When I first upgraded from my “old school” ballistic helmet to the AirFrame, I was amazed at how much more comfortable it was. The only irritation I felt during use was from my Sordin hearing protection. Anyone who has worn hearing protection or a communication system underneath a helmet knows the obnoxious pain I am referring to.
The pressure against your temples is a hindrance during training exercises and a liability during a live operation. The last thing you want is to feel distracted by a constant ache against your brain while kicking doors in the sandbox, clearing rooms in search of a violent felon, or trying ensure your “Navy SEAL Load-Out” is completely NSW accurate on the airsoft field.
The Origin Story
Zach, the mastermind behind Iron Forged Concepts, began in the defense industry researching and developing body armor. He also spent time employed by Trijicon and was tasked with machining the housings of the popular Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight or ACOG. It was his experience in these fields that led to a fateful enrollment in an EAG Tactical class run by Pat Rogers.
Zach obtained a shiny new Crye Precision Airframe helmet and a fancy set of Sordin hearing protectors to use at the EAG class. The helmet fit fine but when coupled with the headset, Zach experienced the same discomfort I described earlier. Zach did a little research and found that there were adaptors for mounting Peltor hearing protection to the ARC rails of the helmet, but nothing yet available for Sordin headsets. Zach hand-forged a crude prototype of what would become the Sordin Arc Rail Adapters or “SARAs”.
Pat Rogers and several other students in the class were impressed by the set up and expressed fervent interest in purchasing them. Zach formed Iron Forged Concepts, LLC and began a small run of Generation 1 SARAs. The product has been received well and is currently in its third generation iteration. Below is a picture of the original prototypes mocked up by Zach.
Although I originally imagined Zach forging the SARAs with an enchanted Norse hammer, it turns out that the Gen III SARA’s are CNC cut from 6061 T6 Bar Stock Aluminum which is hard anodized for durability. The mounts require some tools to install but the procedure can be performed fairly simply. Firelance Media has put together a comprehensive video outlining the installation procedure. If you are like me though and don’t trust yourself with tools and expensive equipment, you can send your ear protection to Iron Forged Concepts and have them professionally install the adapters for you.
I sent my neckband model Sordins off to Zach for him to work his magic (note that the headband and neckband models require different adapters. So pay attention when you order!).
The kit included a pair of circular ARC rail connectors with protruding metal “legs”, and the four Sordin adapters by Iron Forged Concepts attached to my ear protection. I popped them on to the ARC rails of my helmet and tried them on. I immediately felt confident this was the solution to my headache problems. The machining was beautifully done and all surfaces were smooth and even. I appreciated the small Iron Forged Concepts “Anvil” logos etched on the adapters.
The initial “Walking Around the House in my Underwear” test proved to be promising. My Sordins mounted firmly to the helmet and felt stable and comfortable for prolonged periods. The mounts can be attached anywhere along the ARC rail. This allows you to make adjustments if you need rail space for mounting other accessories, or if you just lack head/ear symmetry. I mounted my SARAs further back and had enough space to fit my Contour camera on the rail. Then I forced my wife to model the helmet.
The cup attachments can also be rotated forward and backward. I found this feature very useful when wanting to stow the helmet in my storage bag or in my pack. Just rotate the ear cups all the way back and let them rest on the body of the helmet. This also seems to protect the metal prongs of the Arc Rail Adapters from being damaged during transport.
The ear cups snap open and away from your head to allow for easier donning and doffing. Once the helmet is on your head though, snapping the ear protectors inward ensures a firm but comfortable seal around your ears.
I took my Airframe out to the range and shoot house with the SARAs attached. I started off shooting static drills from both strong and support sides, standing, kneeling, and prone. I did not find any problems achieving a good cheek-weld. Having the Sordins connected to my helmet did not make them any more obtrusive than when worn separately.
I then began more dynamic drills which included sprinting, crouching, shoulder changes, shooting over and around cover, and alternative shooting positions. I found that even in positions like the “Roll-Over Prone” where my head is very close to the ground, I never had the seal between the Sordins and my ears break.
When my ear-protection was worn with a head-band or neck-band, I would often feel the cups move off my ears. It is worth noting that a proper seal around your ears is also dependent upon the fit of your helmet. Since the SARAs are connected to your brain bucket, your Sordins are going to move around if your helmet is flopping around during movement.
If you run a helmet and Sordin ear protection, the Iron Forged Concepts SARAs are a must-have piece of kit. They allow for secure, comfortable, and convenient attachment of Sordin headsets to ARC rails. They eliminate the discomfort of using a headset underneath your helmet so that you can focus on the task at hand. They are made right here in the USA by an innovative American who possesses the skill set and innovation to fabricate a quality product.
The only downsides to using the SARAs are that you cannot move your Sordin ear protection back to a headband or neckband mount very quickly. It can be done, but will require tools. So I have pretty much settled on just leaving my ear protection permanently mounted to my helmet. Also, it does not look like the SARAs are compatible with certain facial armor like the Crye Precision “Chops”or “Ears”. So if you are running those types of accessories, you will probably not be able to take advantage of the SARA adapters.