Frequently asked questions
On this page, I will address questions often asked regarding German helmets
This section is divided into three categories. Scroll down the page to the appropriate category:
Questions regarding restored helmets offered by “German Helmets inc”
Questions regarding WW2 German helmets in general.
Questions regarding WW1 German helmets in general.
First, I must give my disclaimer: I am no genius. I have no college degree in “Helmet science”. I am a man of normal intelligence with a normal amount of common sense. There is a world of things that I know nothing about. But I know German helmets. I have collected, bought/sold, played with, studied, and fondled German helmets for more than 35 years. I have learned a few things. My information is based on practical assumptions and observations of the 1000s of helmets that have passed through my hands. Take any information you may get from me however you want.
Question: Could you please send me an e-mail to let me know when you get new helmets to sell or if you have a specific helmet that I am looking for?
Answer: I have to ask whether you think you are the first person who has asked that. Sorry but the answer to that is no. I am deluged with e-mails from people asking for “first dibs” on helmets as I get them. In the first place, I would never be able to keep track of all the “want lists”. In the second place, it simply would not be fair to the many people who check into my site every day looking for new offerings. It doesn’t matter if you remind me that you are a repeat customer or a “good” customer…I have many of these and wish to be fair with all of them. Helmets are posted onto the site as they become available.
Regarding restored helmets offered by “German Helmets inc”
Question: I need to paint my WW2 German helmet shell. Where can I find the correct paint?
Answer: As far as I know, There is no commercially available paint that comes close to the right color. I explored this issue for years and found no answer. I mix my own helmet color paints. I use oil-based enamel paint and match the colors from mint original examples. There is no formula that I can provide. I mix this paint by eye each time I need to make a new batch. Texture also plays an important part in the appearance of the helmet.
Question: I need my helmet to be painted in “SS grey-green”. Do you offer this color?
Answer: During WW2, the Germans made no distinction in the color of Waffen SS helmets or Standard Wehrmacht helmets. Both helmets used the same color. There is a lot of confusion over what this color is called. It depends on what book one reads. Field-green, Field grey, Field grey-green, feld-grau….. These are all words meant to describe the same color. There is no such thing as “SS grey-green”, “SS field-green” or “SS any color”. Every original SS helmet I have ever seen is the same grey-green color as found on Wehrmacht helmets. The term “SS Grey-green” (or SS-whatever) was coined by re-enactors and by un-informed collectors who want to make a distinction in order to make the SS helmet in their collection seem more “SS-ish” (Yes. “SS-ish” is a real word…look it up)
Question: Can I buy paint from “German Helmets inc?
Answer: No. It is illegal to ship paint in the mail without a HAZMAT license. The Government considers paint to be a hazardous material. (however; if you buy a license from them; suddenly it’s no longer hazardous?)
Question: How much does it cost for postage to mail a helmet?
Answer: $20.00 within the USA. For international buyers, Please see the info on the “terms of sale” page
Regarding original WW2 German helmets
Question: What is the difference between an M35, M40 and M42 helmet?
Answer: An M35 helmet has a rolled rim around the edge of it. The air-vents are actually pressed-in grommet inserts. The M40 helmet substituted stamped air-vents for the pressed grommet air-vents but retained the rolled rim. The M42 has an unrolled rim to further cut time and machinery needs in helmet production. (See illustrations below) The M35 was produced until mid-1940 when the helmet manufacturers switched their tooling to produce the M40 version. During 1942 the specifications for a rolled rim were eliminated and manufacturers began switching to the M42 version.
Inserted air vent of an M35 helmet Rolled edge of M35 and M40 models
Stamped air vent of M40 and m42 helmets Raw (un-rolled) edge of an M42 helmet
Question: How can I tell if the decal(s) on my helmet is original?
Answer: This is a very tough question. Difficult to answer without visual aids. All I can say is that the reproductions are getting better and better. Especially in the case of SS decals which are more highly desirable. learning the difference between the real article and the increasingly improving quality fakes is only something that can be learned through much observation. I can offer no ‘cut and dried’ answer here.
Question: How can I tell if the paint on my helmet is original?
Answer: That is a very good question for which, I am afraid no ready answer is available. First, it should be of the correct color/texture with correct patina that can only be caused by age. The paint should be very hard (resistance to scratches) and not smell like paint. New paint can retain a smell for several months. It is difficult to put into words, the qualities that I look for in determining the originality of the paint. It has become second nature for me and my judgment is based on a wide variety of factors. In most cases, I would have to see a picture of the specific helmet to be able to tell you if the paint is original. Sometimes, that is not even enough as some re-painted helmets are done very well. Sometimes it would require that I see it in person to be able to tell you.
Question: Can you tell me if my helmet (or any helmet) is a “Normandy camo”?
Answer: This is a long answer. It begins in 1941 when the Germans firststarted sending guys to Africa. Until then, there was no real practice of painting helmets to make them blend in with the terrain. Well; they produced tan and light green cotton clothing for tropical use; and since the terrain was substantially different from all other areas in Europe; it wasn’t too far a reach to decide to apply tan colored paint to their helmets. The next step in the “history of camouflage helmets” came when gradually the allies achieved air superiority and finally air mastery in the skies over Europe. This afforded them better observation of German troops and their positions. Therefore it became the practice to start camouflaging vehicles and equipment. In 1943 three coors were introduced to vehicle field maintenance shops and units; “Ordinance” Tan, green and oxide red.
German helmets were camouflaged using one of two types of paints: either paint from those field ordinance shops or paints which might have been found locally (like in a hardware store in a French or Italian village)
So; what’s a “Normandy camo”? When the German sent troops to Normandy to buttress up their “Atlantic wall”, did they decide to issue out special paint to match the colors of the foliage in North-west France? NO. Beacuse there is no special shade to the colors of foliage in Northwest France. They took to Normandy those same three colors of standard vehicle and equipment paint and they put the paint on the helmets; same as they did anywhere else where the Allies had the aforementioned air superiority and observation. There is no such thing as a “Normandy” camo. The term never existed until internet forums decided that it needed to be a term. I have traveled to Europe extensively. More than you have. I’ve seen it from top to bottom; from North to south and east to west. Believe, the trees are all the same color. Generally speaking; they are even the same color as the trees in Ohio or Mississippi. You don’t believe me? check out “Google-Earth”. Unless you want to believe that whatever genus and sub-genus of plant species have noticeably changed or mutated in the last 75 years; you will come to the same conclusion.
I have had people ask me to look at their helmet and tell me whether it looks like a camo from Northern Italy? or is it from Southern Italy? I just want to choke them. Look at any camouflaged German helmet which is comprised of tans/browns/greens or any two of the three colors and make a supposition as to where this paint was applied. My answer is that you can suppose that the helmet was painted in an area where these specific colors may have been available to the soldier with a paint-brush….That could be literally ANYWHERE.
More specifically to Normandy… I know the place very well. Spent a lot of time there over the past 30 years. I have seen a lot of collections which were composed of locally found items; including camouflaged helmets. I have seen an even mixture of helmets bearing one or two or three colors; either similar to the German vehicle paints or stuff that came out of Pierre’s local hardware store in the spring of 1944. There is no “Typical” camouflage helmet among them. There are no “typical Normandy” camouflage helmets existing anywhere. Literally any camouflage helmet that you could show me would stand as much of a chance as any other of having been in Normandy in the summer of 1944. That’s it.
Question: Is there any correlation between makers of helmet shells and makers of any of the liner or chinstrap components?
Answer: I have observed very few correlations (although I have looked). One of the few that I have found is the chinstrap maker “R. Larsen, Berlin” seems to be found predominantly on Field police helmets before 1940. I have observed dates ranging from 1938-1940. Also, the chinstrap maker “G. Scheile, Loburg” seems to have produced chinstraps for Kriegsmarine helmets from the period 1937-1940.
Helmet components were sub-contracted to a variety of makers. There are at least a dozen different observed helmet liner makers and more than 20 known chinstrap makers. It would stand to reason that certain helmet makers had contracts with certain component makers but other than the aforementioned examples, a definitive list has never been attempted by me.
Question: I have an Austrian M16 style helmet size 66 shell, and am TRYING to put a size 66 M31 liner in it and it will not go in !!! Any advice???
Answer: This is often a problem with WW1 shells accepting M31 liners. The dimensions of the WW1 helmets were not as exact as the M35 and later models. Most of them are just a bit smaller. Often original transition helmets are found with a smaller liner installed. (ie: a size 62/55 installed in a size 64 shell)
Austrian helmets are even worse as their quality control never came close to the Germans.
When I install an M31 liner into the same size WW1 shell, I often have to take a pair of needle nose pliers and crimp the outer liner band just a hair, thus slightly reducing the outer diameter so that it will fit the inner diameter of the M16 helmet shell.
You could do that. Or do what the Germans often did and get a liner one shell size smaller.
Question: I want to use a leather treatment product on the leather of my chinstrap or liner. Which do you recommend?
Answer: My answer is “None”. This question is the subject of much debate. Some people say it is ok to use “Pecard”. Some swear by other products that they have found down at the shoe-store. There are even brain-dead fools that will use mink-oil to soften and protect their liners/chinstraps. All of these products, to a certain degree, leave a film, alter the color and after a while cause further damage. The fact is, there is no way to rejuvenate old leather. If your leather is dry, cracked, or rotted; nothing can be done to bring it back. Proper storage is all than can be done to arrest the damage caused by age and improper storage. If the leather is in nice condition…people, please… Leave it alone. There are many times over the years when I saw a nice condition liner that has been “mink-oiled” by some idiot who was seeking to preserve its condition and essentially fix what wasn’t broken. The end result invariably is a liner that is darkened and has the appearance and feel of a grease rag. If the leather is in nice shape, nothing need be added to it. Store it sensibly in an area of moderate temperature/humidity and it will out-last you.
Question: I want to put something on the painted finish of my helmet to protect/preserve it. What do you recommend?
Answer: I would have to ask; protect it from what? Is it raining in your house? Do you live in a swamp? Do you store your helmet in a damp basement or out in the barn? Probably not. Therefore, nothing need be added to the finish of your helmet. If you treat the helmet surface with even a light coat of oil, it will attract dust, dirt and sink into the paint causing damage to the finish. It will also give it an un-natural sheen. If your helmet is dirty and the paint seems faded, you can clean it to a degree with “fantastic” and a soft cloth. This will remove old grease and grime and bring the color(s) back out a bit. Do not scrub it too hard or you will remove patina. I know a man who uses baby-oil for this purpose with fairly good results as baby oil does not harm the finish and actually evaporates over time. If your helmet is rusty, little can be done to arrest the decomposition other than proper storage in a low-humidity environment. If you have no such place in your house, then build one. Or if there are gaping holes in the walls or ceilings that allow the weather to damage your helmets, then I say sell the helmets and use the money to fix your house.
Regarding WW1 German helmets.
Question: What is the difference between an M16, M17 and M18 helmet?
Answer: There is no distinction between an M16 and M17 shell. The term M17 refers only to the liner band. M16 helmets first were produced with leather banded liners and later were produced with M17 steel banded liners. The shell remained the same during this transition. The M18 helmet shell differed from the M16 due to the chinstrap mountings. On the M16 helmet, the chinstrap mounts by means of the same M1891 mount as found on early and pre-war spike helmets. The M18 shell eliminated these M1891 posts and the chinstrap mount was affixed to the metal banded liner. (In the collecting world, there is much confusion regarding this but actually it is quite simple) Therefore, there are only these three shell models; M16, M18 and the rare M18 “ear cut out”.
M16 liner with leather band
M17 liner with steel band
M18 helmet helmet with liner
Note: in the illustrations above, you will notice that two different types of leather were used; Brown “vegetable” tanned leather and white “chrome” tanned leather or goatskin. M16 liners always had brown leather pads (with extremely rare exceptions of them being found with white leather ) Most of the later M17 and M18 liners are found with white leather.
Question: What is the M18 “Cut-out” helmet?
Answer: This rare variant shell was introduced late in the war. The purpose of the cut and flared-out section near the ears is not exactly proven. It is believed that it was simply an expedient measure to allow the wearer of the helmet to be able to hear better as the helmet shell generally covered the ears. There are those who refer to this helmet as a “telephone talker” helmet. ie: that the Germans went so far as to produce a special helmet that would not hinder German soldiers while they are using field phones. This assumption is born of a particular brand of idiocy that I will never fully understand.
NOTE: Beware of fake M18 “cut-out” helmets. Many have been produced by people taking a standard M18 helmet and using machinery to cut out and flare the section near the ear. Most often they use a helmet that is the wrong size and maker. A correct M18 “cut-out” helmet must bear the maker mark ET 64. The Eisenhutten werk plant at Thale was the only company to receive a contract to produce this helmet. They made this helmet only in shell size 64 and less than 100,000 were produced.
Original M18 “cut-out” helmet
Question: What is the purpose of the lugs that protrude from the sides of the M16 helmet?
Answer: These serve two purposes. They are mounting points for the heavy brow plate that was designed to be worn with the M16 helmet. This brow plate was meant to be used by soldiers whose job (observer, machine-gunner etc…) required that they be more exposed to enemy observation. The other purpose is an air-vent. That is why these lugs have holes going through them. Related to this question is the purpose of the rear split-rivet having a thicker head than the two front-side rivets. This was meant to keep the leather brow plate retaining strap from moving upward during use.
Photos of the brow plate in use. Note the “thick-head” rivet at rear retaining the leather strap from moving upwards
Question: How do you determine the size of WW1 German helmet?
Answer: Every WW1 German helmet is marked with a maker and size mark on the inside rim at wearers left. The maker mark will be a 1, 2 or 3 letter code followed by a number 60,62,64,66 or 68. That number is the size of the helmet in centimeters as measured around the inside dome at the level of the three split-pin holes. Typical markings are ET64, Q66, W66, GBN64 etc… For explanation of the maker marks, refer to the maker chart at the bottom of the page
Question: The maker and size markings are obscured on my WW1 German helmet. How can I determine the shell size?
Answer: Look at the air-vent lugs. Since they were designed to support the brow plate (which was made only in one size) the base of each of the opposing lugs must be the same distance from the other. Since helmet shells were made in different sizes, a “step” was added to smaller helmets in order to make the base of the lugs an equal distance apart. The brow plate rested on that “step” when worn with these smaller helmets. The higher that “step”, the smaller the helmet shell. See illustrations below.
Lug for a size 62 shell Lug for a size 64 shell Lug for a size 66 shell
Question: There are some letters/numbers stamped into the inside dome of my WW1 helmet. What do they mean?
Answer: These are accountability numbers which reference specific steel batches from which the planchet came before it was die struck. Intended to aid in quality control at the factory. These numbers have no practical meaning for collectors at this point.
Question: My WW1 German helmet (model 16, or 18) is missing the air vent lugs. Can they be replaced?
Answer: Yes. Please check my “reproduction helmet components” page.
Question: My M16 helmet has a size number 64 stenciled in black colored ink or paint on the inside rear skirt. Why is that?
Answer: Sometimes helmets were refurbished in field repair facilities. They would be repainted (either by spray or with a brush) and in some cases, a new liner installed. In the case of a repaint, often times the stamped maker/size mark was obscured so it was the practice to re- mark the size with a stencil in the rear skirt.
Question: Regarding M16 chinstraps; Why do some have brass hardware and some have steel hardware? And which is more proper for which model helmet?
Answer: The chinstrap was initially produced with brass hardware. But was rather quickly changed to steel because as the war was progressing, brass became a strategic material, much more necessary in Munitions manufacture. Of all the original chinstraps that I have encountered, I would say that only 25% of them are with brass hardware. It is more correct for a brass mounted chinstrap to be found on a helmet with an all-leather lined M16 helmet as these were the first to be issued.
Question: Why are original chinstraps so rarely encountered?
Answer: Certainly time has a lot to do with this but I think it is mostly because the M91 chinstrap connection post system was a crappy one. The fittings had an in-exact fit and the chinstrap was prone to coming loose on either connection end. When the M16 helmet was being designed, the chinstrap connection/style was almost an after-thought. It was patterned after the chinstrap mounts found on the M1891 enlisted spike helmet. Those chinstrap posts served well with the spike helmets as 99% of the time, the chinstrap was held taught around the front of the spike helmet visor, rather than actually used as a strap beneath the wearers chin. In the case of the steel helmet, the chinstrap needed to be functional in that capacity but the M91 connection post fell short in its ability to do so. By 1918, the Germans designed the much better suited M18 chinstrap which was permanently mounted to the liner band. The M18 helmet is far more rare than the M16 but when examples are found, there is a higher ratio of chinstrap survivability. I would say that M16 chinstrap survivability is less than 5% while M18 chinstrap survivability is about 20%. Compare this with WW2 German helmets (which are only 25 years newer than WW1 helmets) that have a chinstrap survivability of more than 50%. Due to the chinstrap design, fewer have fallen off or gotten removed and lost.
Question: I would like to place the chinstrap over the visor of my helmet so_
Answer: I have to interrupt you here. Why do you want to do that? Look at original photographs. The Germans only rarely did that. It looks sloppy. When worn this way, it negates the purpose for a chinstrap at all. This practice was started by American collectors who believe that stretching the chinstrap over the visor gives an air of “soldierly casualness” (something strictly discouraged by the German army) I realize that I may be taking too rigid a position here. After all, collectors want to enjoy their helmets in their own way; displayed in their own taste. But if you stretch your original chinstrap over the visor and that decades-old leather breaks in the process, you deserve what you get.
Question: I want to use a leather treatment product on the leather of my chinstrap or liner. OR I want to apply something to the painted finish of my helmet. Which do you recommend?
Answer: See the answer to this in the above “WW2 helmet questions”
Question: I need to paint my WW1 German helmet shell. Where can I find the correct paint? Can I buy it from you?
Answer: As far as I know, There is no commercially available paint that comes close to the right color. I explored this issue for years and found no answer. I mix my own helmet color paints. I use oil-based enamel paint and match the colors from mint original examples. There is no formula that I can provide. I mix this paint by eye each time I need to make a new batch. I cannot sell paint through the mail system. It is illegal to ship paint in the mail without a HAZMAT license. The Government considers paint to be a hazardous material. ( But miraculously the paint somehow becomes less “hazardous” if you pay the the Gov’t their fee for the license)
WW1 German helmet Manufacturer codes
The following is a table of Known makers of WW1 German helmets. Several of these makers had only small factories and may have only produced limited numbers of helmets in one or two different sizes. This chart gives the various sizes produced by each maker as well as the shell models that each produced.
|Maker name/City||maker code||Sizes produced||Models produced|
|F.C. Bellinger,Fulda||BF||62,64,66||M16, M18|
|Gebruder GnüchtelLauter/Sachsen||G (Later changed to GL ) GL||62, 6462||M16M16|
|Firma F. W. Quist, Q
|Sachische Emailles u. Stanzwewerke
|Siemens u. Halske,
|SH (intertwined logo)||60||M16|
|C. Thiel & Söhne, –
|Hermann Weissenberger & Co., W 66 68 16
Stuttgart-Cannstadt 66 17
|“Bell-L”Unknown maker or city||The logo is a bell shaped symbol appearing before the letter “L”||6464||M16M18|
|Stahlwerk Röchling, 62 64 16
The following makers are known to have had contracts to produce helmets. It is not known what models or sizes they produced and no code information is available.
Körting & Mathiesen,
Leutzch bei Leipzig
J. & H. Kerkman,
WW1 Austrian Helmet manufacture codes
The following is a table of Manufactures codes of helmets produced by the Austrians. several of these makers did not stamp the code into the shell of the helmet but rather marked them with an inkstamp. Therefore many Austrian shells will be encountered today that seem to have no maker mark as the inkstamp has worn off.
Note; the Berndorfer Metal-Warenfabrik was the maker of the so-called “Berndorfer” helmet which was simply designated as the Model 16. Later, they produced a variation of the German M16 helmet, which they designated the M17. This model is today referred to by collectors as the hungarian model but was in fact issued to troops of the Austro-Hungarian forces irrespective of their nationality.
|Maker, city||code||sizes produced||Models produced|
|A. Westen 66 16
|Brüder Gottlieb u. Brauchbar,
|C. A. Scholtz ,
|Gebruder Bohler & Co.,
|Berndorfer Metal-Warenfabrik A Krupp AG,Berndorf
|The logo is a small size bear stamped at the rear of the helmet just over the size mark||62,64,66,6864
|M16 “Berndorf ModelM17 “Hungarian” model