M50 Gas Mask Review
Well, this review has some age on it at this point, and we’ve looked at some fantastic gear since then. For a more up-to-date take, check out The Best Gas Mask for Tear Gas, Viruses, and Nuclear Fallout.
- Full face CBRN protective mask
- Single lens for wide field of view
- Material: Chlorobutyl rubber silicone
- Worn Mask Weight: 30 oz
- Total Weight: 3.6 lbs
- 6 point adjustable harness
- Ballistic polycarbonate outer lens
- Nylon mildew-resistant carrier bag
- Twin M61 twist-lock filters
- Filter Weight: 10 oz
What They Got Right on the M50 Gas Mask
The M50 gas mask is one of the best protective masks on the market for chemical, biological, and radiological personal defense. The lens was designed with almost every military task in mind, which give it a great field of vision. The chlorobutyl rubber silicone mask is one of the best protective skins used on gas masks to date. The head harness is very adjustable, using velcro straps which makes the fit versatile but sturdy. No more adjusting the mask each and every time you put it on.
The dual filters are one of the best features of this mask. Putting filters on both sides of the mask made the mask easier to breathe through. It also reduces the profile of the filters which is much better for tasks close to your face, such as sighting a rifle. Having a filter on each side of the mask balances the weight, and makes it much less likely to have the mask unseal from your face from being hit or jostled. The filters also contain a white tab that turns blue when the filter is contaminated or expired.
The M50 is compatible with a wide range of accessories, from canteens to Camelbaks. A voice emitter can also be attached to the front of the mask to be able to project your voice more easily. You can clean the mask using warm soapy water, but only after removing the filters. Don’t use bleach or alcohol wipes since they can yellow the lens and break down the mask itself over time.
What They Got Wrong on the M50 Gas Mask
The M50, while a great mask, still has its vulnerabilities and issues. It is still not a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), so you need to be aware that it does not provide oxygen in oxygen-depleted environments. Some HAZMAT chemicals, such as chlorine, can make the filter not last quite as long too. Knowing your limitations with the mask is important since masks can provide a false sense of security if you are dealing with unknown chemicals or substances.
Our Experience With the M50 Gas Mask
I have owned an M50 protective mask for eight years now. I have worn it for up to 12 hours at a time. I wore it weekly for about a two-year span, teaching classes while exposed to tear gas in a gas chamber. I have worn it while exposed to live Vx nerve agent and other deadly chemical weapons. I’m still here, able to type up this review, so that is pretty good proof that this mask is a workhorse of a protective mask.
One of the best features I always liked was how easy it is to wear. The balanced filters are great. They also tweaked the lens on it to not distort anything, so everything appears as it would normally. This is important when using a firearm, and it made firing both the pistol and rifle much easier. The M50 is the best mask I have worn, and I can compare it to the MCU-2P, M45, M40, M17, Russian GP-5, Israeli FM12, 3M 6700, and more.
Where to Buy the M50:
You may be able to find the M50 at a military surplus store, but they will not be common since they are still in service. Finding one online is hit-and-miss, but I would not suggest spending more than $200 on one. Be sure you are getting one from a reputable dealer so you don’t get a used mask that is no longer serviceable. Here are some reputable online dealers for the M50 and accessories:
The Final Word
The M50 is one of the best masks you can get. While some of the Avon and 3M full-face respirators offer similar performance, the M50 is the only option that is rugged enough to withstand a survival situation with ease. The thick chlorobutyl rubber silicone will keep you protected but is still lightweight enough to be tolerable for long periods. If you are in the market for a protective mask, you should definitely consider picking up an M50.
You can check out our comprehensive gas mask guide to see more of our thoughts on the best gas masks and any more information about gas masks that you may want to know.
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22 thoughts on “M50 Gas Mask Review”
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Former US Marine here. I am trained in many types of warfare, including NBC. I recently purchased 6 M-50s. My question is; Are the Primary Filters for NBC protection or just for training?
Training only filters will be labeled as such and come in a different colored vacuum seal package. They are pretty rare since most training uses CS gas to build ‘mask confidence’, and actual NBC protection is best for that. I’ve actually never seen a training filter for the M50 except in catalogs, and I have taught the mask extensively.
How long do the mask filters last on the M50 in a contaminated environment vs a training environment?
24 hours is the standard for most contaminated environments. There is not really a standard for a training environment. I worked in a tear gas chamber weekly for two years and only went through 2 sets.
For “prep” reasons, I have the filters on my mask ready to go. How long can they be on the mask that’s in its bag just in my truck? When should I change them out to make sure they’re always ready to go? Thanks Rusty.
They should be fine until the indicators on the inside of the filters turn from white to blue. Be careful of leaving them in extreme heat (130+ F) or having them get wet. Otherwise, you have one of the most durable mask and filters out there so it can take some abuse.
Can the pro mask be used when It’s raining?
Yes, most military gas masks can be used in the rain.
Can the M50 be used with only one filter to provide a better cheak weld with a rifle or is it totally usable with both filters for this?
What’s your opinion on the M50 vs the C50 regarding availability of filters in the US? The M50 wins because Mil/LEO use this model currently?
It operates fine with one filter but it isn’t really necessary to remove one to sight a rifle. On the MCU-2P and M45 you definitely had to plan around sighting your rifle and swap filter sides, if needed. If you like a strong cheek weld or want to reduce the rifle cant, you could pop your dominant side filter off quickly.
You are right on the C50 comparison: the M50 filters are widely available and should drop in price when they flood surplus stores in the future, but the 40mm NATO filters on the C50 are cheaper and even easier to access right now. If you are worried about filter cost and availability, the C50 is currently a better mask to own and operate (for now).
If I wanted to wipe down my mask regularly (lets say repeated COVID exposure), that can I use safely and that will be quick so I can don my mask on shortly after? Are alcohol wipes a no-go on the mask?
Avoid alcohol. Soap and water is best- just like for your hands. It gets the job done and won’t dry out the material. In a bind, of course, you could use alcohol wipes but they will degrade the material over time.
is there a way to run a standard 40mm filter with this M50?
I do not know of an adapter for the Avon M50 to the 40mm. They made an entire mask (C50) instead of an adapter, meant for civilian 40mm use.
There is a conversion kit. It is $130. I have researched it several times and never pull the trigger. I have a part number and as many google searches as I’ve done, there is only one place I have ever found that has it for sale, BUT it is always backordered. Avon Part Number 601949
If you choose to do that you then have to spend another $150 to convert back because there is a special tool required to remove the mount that the 40mm filters attach to. Avon Part Number 6022204
At that point you are $280 invested into a mask that will already run you > $200 and still only have a single mask.
Rather than invest the $280 into the single mask I opted for another mask entirely. The SGE 400/3 and Mira CM-6M or even the CM-7M are highly reviewed, have a 40mm cartridge, and will set you back less than the $280 to convert/revert this mask.
I’m having a hard time finding somewhere I can buy some of these masks new (not used). Any suggestions?
Even with the rush on respiratory protection these days, you can still find them out there new. They carry that new price tag ($720 @ Galls): https://www.galls.com/avon-fm50-full-face-mask-system
I wouldn’t be too worried about getting these from surplus or used. They can take a hell of a beating, misuse, and mistreatment. Just be sure to get new FILTERS.
Thanks for the advice. My only concern is that they’ll work if I need them and I wasn’t sure if I could trust used gear, especially since they have an advertised shelf life of 5 years. I worry about the degradation of the materials. But you think it’s ok anyway?
Yeah, the M50s are over-engineered, can really take a beating, and hold up over time. MCU-2Ps, M45s, and older models would see seam separation and degrade much quicker. You even need a ‘second skin’ for many chemical warfare agents on those models. Those are the masks you hear cautionary tales about getting second hand. I’ll trust my 10 year old M50 even over my new-ish 3M 6800, just because it is designed to operate in harsh environments- not worn in a lab or spray booth.