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Force 3 Defender HSM - First Impression

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I was using a Wilson Shock 2.0 HSM and decided to buy a new Force 3 Defender HSM and used it for the first time yesterday. I'm a bit disappointed.

First, the pad that runs front-to-back across the top of my head has a ridge on it that prevents it from sitting nicely, so the helmet teeters. In addition, this ridge wore my head raw after the first couple of innings.

Second, instead of feeling like a helmet is on my head, it feels more like a mask is being pulled onto my face because the chin pad is too tight and it forces my jaw rearward. I played around with the straps a lot, but either the whole thing is too loose, or it jacks my jaw.

Maybe after a little while the pads will break in, but for now, it's a whole lot less comfortable than my Wilson.

Any suggestions? @MadMax?

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I had the opportunity to have[mention=2599]MadMax[/mention] work on my Force3 HSM. I also used and still alternate the Shock 2.0. I don't have any problem with the ridge as you describe it. However, I did have a problem with the strap that attaches the back plate spinning and tightening too much. Max was able to fix that along with loosening the pressure from that monsterous jaw pad. The more I wear it the less it it presses against my face. I believe he just used something like you'd use to break in a glove to pound out that chin pad. It's hot and heavy but if you use it regularly you get use to it and seem to get great protection.

 

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The entire industry and market for HSMs is oriented the wrong "direction" in regards to umpires specifically. The driving force behind HSM production is to satisfy NOCSAE, the NFHS board, and the insurance underwriters for amateur athletics. Secondary to that, acting as the driving influence to HSM development is the set of requirements and traits that constitute a top-notch catching helmet. Last, but not least, there are factors regarding costs that have to be negotiated and woven into the process. Often, imitation is not born out of flattery, but out of necessity – it is less costly to utilize an existing, approved planform than it is to engineer a new, unique one.

So with all that said, the Force3 Defender HSM attempts to address both catcher and umpire roles, and in doing so doesn't stand out in either one. One of the critical problems is its use and dependence upon an existing HSM planform – one that several companies utilize for their "common", stock-standard HSMs. Then, the trademark spring-and-shock assemblies are bolted on it, and further reinforced inside the HSM shell. This adds considerable weight. Because it uses a catcher's HSM planform, there is a heavy dependence on chin contact, and the shell is styled to allow the wearer (catcher) to drop his chin. Furthermore, the cage is projected in a way to deflect an impacting force, but still allow for sightlines when the chin is dropped.

The shell planform is a "universal" one-size-fits-most approach, and since Force3 cannot afford (right now) to make differing-sized molds, it relies on generous space inside for sizing contact pads, and one rather tenacious back plate, which, if you get the elastic straps twisted around, becomes a rather painful experience, like having your head in a vice (ask @KenBAZ). In order to give a firm foundation and allow the springs and shocks to do their job, the forehead pad is really stiff and follows the shape of that common shell... which we've already identified is, again, for catchers. In one fellow umpire's Defender HSM, I've taken that pad out and really worked it by using a technical soap, working and rinsing it, repeatedly, until it's softer and springy-er.

Between the two – the Wilson Shock FX and the current Force3 Defender HSM – the Wilson is actually better suited for umpires. The sole reason Wilson ceased production of the Shock FX is because it is a cost-and-profit liability for them for catchers. It would just take a bit of tweaking and design progression to make it into a market-leader for umpires, but Wilson isn't interested in umpires – they are interested in maximizing corporate profits, and they're losing market share every day they don't have a HSM out on the shelves that catchers are purchasing. By contrast, I would suggest to Force3 to focus on umpire needs for a HSM first and foremost, leave catchers to be covered by existing HSM -producing companies (such as All-Star and Easton), and design and build a full-coverage hel-mask system that is built around, and optimizes, their spring-and-shock mechanicals.

Parallel this thought process to the A-10 Warthog GSA. Instead of trying to fit the largest gun possible onto a hardpoint of an existing airplane, and causing all sorts of problems with flight performance and characteristics of that aircraft, you take the meanest, nastiest, most devastating gatling gun ever produced and design and build an aircraft around it.

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6 minutes ago, MadMax said:

Parallel this thought process to the A-10 Warthog GSA. Instead of trying to fit the largest gun possible onto a hardpoint of an existing airplane, and causing all sorts of problems with flight performance and characteristics of that aircraft, you take the meanest, nastiest, most devastating gatling gun ever produced and design and build an aircraft around it.

Love this perspective on attacking a new design.

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On 8/1/2017 at 2:07 PM, Maineac said:

Love this perspective on attacking a new design.

I completely agree (also... The A10 is one of my favorite all time airplanes... thing just looks cool in an ugly duckling kind of way.)

As for Force3. I would love to see the HSM take off. You see the standard mask all the time. But never the helmet.

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