Mask of Horror: The Soviet GP-5

As you head into this spook-tackular and boo-dacious Halloween season, take a moment to reflect on the classic horror and Halloween staple, the legendary GP-5 Gas Mask.

From the end of World War II to the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries manufactured the GP-5. The Mask was cheap, simple and easy to crank out by the millions. In the event of nuclear conflict with the West, entire civilian populations could theoretically be issued this Mask. So many were made that stockpiles continue to be discovered even today, and the continued supply means they are usually the cheapest Gas Mask available. The cost and availability has made this Mask a costumer’s delight.

Soviet GP-5 Gas Mask
Totally terrifying

 

Use in Movies and More

The Soviets were experts at creating psychologically intimidating gas masks. While the GP-5 isn’t the most terrifying, many of the scarier models are harder to find, making the GP-5 the mask of choice for affordable media production. Look up any independent or “fan film” on youtube and the GP-5 will quickly show itself.

The GP-5 was the gas mask adult civilians reached for during the Chernobyl disaster. For children, there was a similar scaled-down version using a longer, elephantine hose. Certified by Soviet testing to allow protection for up to 24 hours against inhalation and contamination from radioactive fallout, these masks were used and then discarded as soon as evacuation proceedings were initiated. Both models are still found scattered throughout the contaminated area of the disaster site.

Among the general population, the GP-5 is the baseline for what a Gas Mask is supposed to look like. Besides horror films, it has been used as the model behind the design of many figures in video games.

To the right, the “Pyro” playable character from the video game Team Fortress 2.
Gas Mask from Call of Duty Modern Warfare
Call of Duty Modern Warfare

 

Real World Applications

For considerations beyond costuming, it’s important to note the GP-5 is ugly and ill-suited for long-term survival. The GP-5 was made to be easy for mass manufacture. Unlike many modern designs with elastic or adjustable straps, the GP-5’s rubberized skin stretches tightly over the entire top of the head. Using this mask with long hair is practically impossible as the rubberized material grips and pulls any stray strands it encounters. A nice buzz cut, or preferably the completely shaved head of a mutant or serial killer, is the preferred hair style around the GP-5.

The lenses are also tiny. This makes it more difficult for them to break, while allowing the use of cheaper materials. It also severely restricts vision, making it difficult to sight a gun or even walk down a hallway. The lenses also fog up quite easily, as they contain no anti-fogging mechanism.

The Masks were manufactured from 1962 to 1990, making the age and effectiveness of the filter questionable and replacement filters are of a non-standard sizing. A broken filter can leak microscopic activated charcoal, creating a breathing hazard all it’s own.

So be sure to call out the GP-5 the next time you see it at your local Halloween social event. And maybe take mercy on the wearer and buy him or her a complimentary beverage, since I can assure you its quite hot and uncomfortable in there.

For more scary gas masks check out this video from youtube user Weaponsandstuff93.

 

 

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