The M17 series of protective mask was a series of field protective respirators designed for the United States Military in the early 1960's and used all the way up through the middle 90's when it was officially phased out by the new M40 series

Beginnings Edit

During a period after the Second World & Korean wars when streamlining the issued equipment and a race for technological dominance over the Soviets had come to a head, the U.S. Military saw it fit to design a new mask. Based on the assumption that the M9 was simply too bulky and aged (Although M9 series masks would be used for special purposes well through the mid 1990's). The new parameters for the mask insisted that it be as lightweight and compact as possible. After about a decade of testing a mask emerged as the ABC-M17 (Atomic, Biological, Chemical) with the same standard of protection as the M9 series, although with a downside of a shorter filter lifespan and filtering capacity.


In the beginning stages of development there were many concepts that were conceived and dropped some of the most notable being different filter intake covers, different eye lens shapes and positions, different voice emitter and exhale valve covers and different symbols molded onto the rubber. Surviving prototypes are rare and only a handful are know to still exist.

Earlier prototype model, possibly first design idea.

ABC-M17 Edit

In 1960, the first US troops were issued with their brand new ABC-M17 protective masks. The mask received generally positive reviews, but did hear some complaints about the difficulty of filter changing. This first version of the M17 did not incorporate a drinking tube or resuscitation system, instead only featuring a voice diaphragm.

Final design ABC-M17 Picture by: Johannes Möller


Only 8 years after the introduction of the ABC-M17 it was time for a revamp. In 1966 the folks at Army research rolled out the the M17A1, officially dropping the ABC prefix from the name of the mask.

With the new mask came new features.

  1. The addition of the Drinking system
  2. The addition of the resuscitation system

The drinking system designed for the M17A1 is at this current time believed to be the first in the world, followed shortly thereafter by British and German designs. The drinking system incorporated is the standard US system that is still standard on US protective masks today, functionally superior to most all other drinking system designs, the US system incorporates a hose pre-attached to the mask, instead of unscrewing and screwing multiple connections together (all the while exposing the water and human body to possible contamination) the M17A1 incorporates a quick couple connector that greatly reduces risk of contamination.

One of the oddest (and most ill thought out) ideas of the M17A1 was the resuscitation tube provided to soldiers with the mask. Designed with intent to allow a masked soldier to provide artificial respiration to an unmasked casualty, the resuscitation tube was a noble idea gone wrong. The problem with it being the exposure of both soldiers to contamination, the soldier giving aid ran the risk of encountering resistance from the airway of the casualty, pushing air back into his mask and breaking the seal on it. The casualty would remain unmasked, and would continue absorbing the contaminated environment. It was for this reason that the resuscitation system was dropped on the M17A2.


M17 Gas Mask

US soldiers wearing M17A2 masks, fitted with the M6A2 protective hood during the Gulf War.

During the early 80's the US government began fielding the latest and what would be one of the final variations of the M17 mask; the M17A2. This version of the M17 mask would not feature the old resuscitation tube of the M17A1 and would be used by US forces deployed around the world. Commonly found with the classic M17 canvas carrying bag, the respirator would also come with a standard water-sealable bag that would protect the mask's filters from water damage during immersion. The M17A2 also has the exterior tilt (rotary) lever for the drinking tube. The purpose of this tilt lever was to allow the user to position the inner drinking tube into one's mouth from the exterior of the mask. Once the user was done drinking, the lever would be manually tilted back and the tube would move up and away from the user's mouth. This feature was discarded on later respirators like the MCU-2/P gas mask and this meant that users with pronounced lips would have the tube contact the edge of their lips even if there was no desire to drink and this became a distraction to some. Like all M17s, the M17A2 uses the internal filter ports which made it difficult to replace filters.

The M17A2 would use common M17 accessories such as Yellow lens (fog lens) and the characteristic brown NBC hood. The filters are standard M17 (porkchop) filters and can be found in white airtight paper bags with labels indicating the filter nomenclature (such as " Filter Element Set, Chemical-Biological Mask, M13A2"). It is noteworthy that filters of this specific type are used for Chemical and Biological only but not for Nuclear or Radioactive applications unlike today's modern NBC filters.

M17A2's were made by MSA although it is possible that other companies did manufacture the M17. Manufacturer stamps on the M17A2 can be found in two locations, one is near the right eyepiece with the manufacturer's name and year of manufacture and the second (almost hidden) mark is on the right side of the inner end of the fog mask facing the internal filter compartment. Other markings include "M17 C2" just on the top of the right side.

Accessories Edit

M4 Winterization Kit: An insulated olive drab canvas cover that goes over the inlet valves. Made to protect the valve disks from freezing in environments below freezing, usually at below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius)

M1 Resuscitation Hose: Made specifically for the M17A1, was to be attached over the exhale valve, allowing a masked soldier to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on an unmasked soldier.[1] The hose was faulty, and often broke the seal on the wearer, exposing them to nerve agents.

M6 NBC Hood: Standard NBC hood for the mask, has a plastic fastener for the neck strap, similar to the M4 hood for the M9A1 mask.

  • M6A2: Updated variant, main difference being that the A2 had different fastener for the neck strap, as well as featuring a zipper. Making it easier to don and remove.

Green Laser Protection Outserts: For use at night or in low light conditions. This type provides protection from Ruby and Neodymium type lasers. Made of polycarbonate, offer ballistic/impact protection.[2]

  • Brown Laser Protection Inserts: For day use. Offers protection against Ruby, Neodymium, and Double Neodymium lasers. Snap into place behind the mask's lenses, because of this, they do not offer ballistic protection.

M13 Individual Decontaminating And Re-Impregnating Kit: Contains a small pad[3][4], powder for decontaminating skin. Large bags, containing powder for decontaminating clothing and equipment, or for re-impregnating clothing. A cutter (packaged with a small pad) for removing coloured (indicating liquid contamination) spots from clothing.[5]

Foreign Copies Edit

it's design was copied in at least four countries. These include:

Czechoslovakia: M10 - Similar to the ABC-M17. Made of a light grey rubber, has a different exhale valve cover and system. Its filters inlet disks thread on, as opposed to snapping on like the original.

Bulgaria: PDE-1 - The same as the M10 mentioned above, but made of a black rubber, as well as a rubber five-point head harness. It has more significance, due to the fact it was the only clone which featured a peripheral seal.

Poland: MP-4 - Another direct clone, they usually varied in different colours. Older models appear to be made of a olive rubber, with olive drab straps. While newer models are made of a grey rubber, with blue straps. The eye lenses are also slightly farther apart compared to the original M17.




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