Ever since picking up my 1943 Mosin Nagant M91/30 rifle, I have been searching for more gear to round out my "Soviet Block, Cold War Rig". The most recent item that I've added is a 1952, Czechoslovakian M52 / M53 steel helmet.
These Czech steel helmets are nearly identical to the original Soviet Ssh40 steel helmets of the WW2 and Cold War era. In fact, the only real difference is the liner type and the weight of the steel shell. When viewed from the outside, they appear the same. This makes them a perfect stand in for a Soviet helmet or for use in a Czech set-up. Here is a great site that shows the original WW2 Soviet helmets and the post-war style helmets: http://soviet-helmets.com/About_Helmets.html
There seems top be a bit of confusion over the designation of these helmets........... some sites refer to them as Model 52 (M52), and some refer to them as Model 53 (M53). I think this comes from the origins of this Czech helmet. Apparently, in 1952, Czechoslovakia acquired a number of Russian Ssh40 steel helmet shells and installed the Czech designed leather liners. Shortly after this first batch of helmets was assembled, Czechoslovakia started manufacturing their own version. These all-Czech versions were first issued in 1953. This would account for the dual designation of M52 or M53. The Czech version was exported to countries in the Middle East and some of the other Warsaw and Communist Block countries as well. These Czech helmets have shown up on the modern battlefields in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, to name only a few. They were used in Czechoslovakia through the 1980's and into the 1990's, until they were gradually replaced by the modern German made kevlar helmets. The original M52 helmets that were constructed with the use of the Russian shells, can be easily identified by a ring of 6 rivets around the head-band area of the shell and an additional 3 rivets up high near the crown. The all Czech helmets only have the upper 3 rivets. The Russian liners are a 3-pad style and the Czech liners are a German style liner with 8 tongues. My helmet is dated 1952, but only has the 3 upper rivets, making it one of the very first M53 production helmets. As an interesting side note, (pardon the pun), the all Czech helmets ring like a bell when tapped! With the liner attached near the top with 3 small rivets, and the domed shape of the metal shell, they are basically a bell! This is an easy way to "field test" a "Russian Helmet" to tell if it was actually Czech produced.
Without further delay, here is an album of photos of my Czech M53 helmet:
To finish things up, let's take a quick look at a few period Czech photos of soldiers wearing these helmets: