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I'm thinking of getting one but pricing and opinions are hugely variable.

I'm more than happy with my current F3v2 mask as my daily driver, so to speak, but I'm still concerned about broken bats and other flying objects that could hit me in the side of the head, so I've been contemplating biting the bullet and grabbing a HSM to use in higher-level wood bat leagues.

So far the ones in contention are (in order of preference) the F3v2 Defender HSM, the All-Star MVP4000, and the Wilson MLB Pro Stock.

From my perspective, the F3v2 still has the upper hand because of the springs and the extra bit of steel that extends over the forehead area, à la Gary Cederstrom's custom Wilson cage, not to mention it's over $100 cheaper than the All-Star. I'm not terribly concerned about more weight from the HSM as I didn't find the extra weight much of an issue when I switched from my +POS Zero-G to the F3v2 so I suspect I'll be fine going to the heavier HSM-style anyway.

Anyone have experience with any of these masks? Things I should know that I might have missed or might not have thought about?

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I had an All-Star MVP4000 and absolutely loved it. It was well-balanced, protective, and actually cooler on hot summer days if there was even a hint of a breeze. I tried the v1 version of the F3 Defender HSM and hated it. Poor vision, uncomfortable padding, and just didn't feel right. Don't know about the v2 but if you like the fit, I would strongly consider it. I wouldn't touch the Wilson if it was free - that big ole flat forehead is an invitation to a concussion. Contrast it with the much more angular design of the All-Star. Plus heard enough warranty and support issues with Wilson to shy away from them.

In my case, I ended up selling my All-Star (along with my Diamond ultra-lite with Team Wendy pads) to finance my F3 traditional mask, which I absolutely love. But if you're thinking of going the HSM route, I wouldn't consider anything other than an All-Star or potentially the F3 Defender if you like the fit.

If you can take the cash flow, order both from Ump-Attire or Purchase Officials. Both offer free returns, so no risk to trying them out.

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I have a big head, so the Wilson is automatically out. That thing is WAY too narrow and just generally weirdly shaped. 

I personally use the All-Star HSM while catching for my HS team and can fully endorse it. It's light, has great vision, and I love how close the cage sits to my face. It actually almost creates a low-profile traditional mask effect with respect to vision. 

I have not had the opportunity to try the F3, HOWEVER, a guy in my group bought one and absolutely loves it.

Hope that helps!

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44 minutes ago, BlueRanger said:

I have a big head, so the Wilson is automatically out. That thing is WAY too narrow and just generally weirdly shaped. 

I personally use the All-Star HSM while catching for my HS team and can fully endorse it. It's light, has great vision, and I love how close the cage sits to my face. It actually almost creates a low-profile traditional mask effect with respect to vision. 

I have not had the opportunity to try the F3, HOWEVER, a guy in my group bought one and absolutely loves it.

Hope that helps!

Don't suppose there's any way you could compare the F3 and the All-Star? I don't know if I can justify what amounts to over $400 Canadian for the All-Star, but the ~$250 of the F3 is much more palatable.

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2 hours ago, MikeSafari said:

Don't suppose there's any way you could compare the F3 and the All-Star? I don't know if I can justify what amounts to over $400 Canadian for the All-Star, but the ~$250 of the F3 is much more palatable.

If the price difference is that great, get the F3 (make sure its the F3v2 with the forehead extension). It's likely to be a bit heavier, but I think the trade off is likely worth it. The other noticeable difference will be the chin pad, the F3 is leather and the All-Star is LUC. I can't speak to the F3s ventilation properties, but the shell is very similar to the AllStar, which keeps my sweaty head fairly cool during the summer and late HS season here in TX.

You may want to solicit opinions from people who have directly used the F3 though to get a more complete picture.

-BR

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2 hours ago, BT_Blue said:

@MikeSafari, I was perusing Ebay and found some great deals on the All Star HSMs.

Where? I'm not seeing a whole lot of the MVP4000 and what I am seeing is going for $250 + ~$40 shipping, so I might as well get it from UA for $10 more at that point.

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I bought a F3 Defender v2 HSM from a gent on Facebook for $150USD that was worn once. It's got the extended forehead cage so I know it's the v2 and it's black-on-black, which I like. Unfortunately it's going to be sitting in a warehouse in Niagara Falls, NY til the end of the month and then sitting on top of my gear bag until early May, but this is the life I chose by staying in Canadia :)

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15 minutes ago, MikeSafari said:

I bought a F3 Defender v2 HSM from a gent on Facebook for $150USD that was worn once. It's got the extended forehead cage so I know it's the v2 and it's black-on-black, which I like. Unfortunately it's going to be sitting in a warehouse in Niagara Falls, NY til the end of the month and then sitting on top of my gear bag until early May, but this is the life I chose by staying in Canadia :)

If that's the one I saw, I think that's a super nice mask!

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10 hours ago, wolfe_man said:

If that's the one I saw, I think that's a super nice mask!

It probably was since there aren't that many floating around out there. Hopefully it's as good as it looked in pictures when it arrives.

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The MVP4000 and MVP2500 are essentially the same unit, albeit the 4000 has more “creature comforts” (I think the pads are of a different laminate structure, and are removable?). 

You’ll find nothing new or appealing for umpires from Wilson. The Pro-Stock has one purpose, and one purpose only – to try and recover the lost catcher sales taken by All-Star, Easton, and Mizuno making technically, functionally, and the all-important aesthetically superior HSMs for catchers. They completely ignored that the Shock FX actually was better suited for umpires, and ended production of them in favor of the Pro-Stock. Now, is the Pro-Stock a top-notch catcher’s HSM? Absolutely! It’s night-and-day different than the Shock FX. It’s narrow through the jaw (better for throwing); it’s very minimalist and lightweight, with excellent sightlines, encouraging catchers to leave the unit on instead of dumping it in the ground. The forehead and crown are substantially well-padded and pronounced, so as to better protect and insulate catchers from forehead impacts due to their shorter position and inclination to drop their chin. The chin is nearly non-existent in a Pro-Stock, allowing a catcher to drop their chin with little-to-no hinderance.

But as I’ve said countless times – how does this appeal to or protect an umpire?

Prior to your purchase of a (used, nice find!) Force3 DfV2, I was going to suggest an Easton M10 or M7, both with outstanding construction and sightlines, adequate padding, and very budget-friendly. I had located M7’s for my “junior” and novice umpires for $60-$65. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

So I finally got to pick up the Force3 HSM I bought and I'm quite impressed with it so far. The padding is crazy soft where it actually touches your head, but there's a much more substantial layer beneath that one where it sticks to the outer shell. I've got it adjusted where I like it and I'm overall very happy with it.

The only downside I'm seeing so far is that some of the padding over the side of my head covers my ears almost completely, which makes it more difficult to hear what's going on around me, though that could be a good thing sometimes :lol:

We'll see how it does in game action when the season starts in early May up here in the Frozen White North.

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@MikeSafari, did you get the Defender V2 or V1?

This here Defender V2:
Force3_Defender_v2g1.thumb.jpg.985202bc85763098dc2cec5c84ef1138.jpg

3 hours ago, MikeSafari said:

The padding is crazy soft where it actually touches your head, but there's a much more substantial layer beneath that one where it sticks to the outer shell.

What you're feeling is laminated foam. Companies who know what they're doing will use this. Companies who are making cheap products just to fill a budget or purchase order don't bother with this, and just use open-cell foam.

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1 minute ago, MadMax said:

@MikeSafari, did you get the Defender V2 or V1?

...

What you're feeling is laminated foam. Companies who know what they're doing will use this. Companies who are making cheap products just to fill a budget or purchase order don't bother with this, and just use open-cell foam.

I got the V2. Yeah, I knew there was a word for it but it absolutely wasn't coming to me at the time. (In my defense, I'm recovering from 40-some hours without sleep so my brain isn't quite there yet.)

Looking forward to giving it a workout in game action this year.

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  • 1 month later...

Got to try it out yesterday in some absolutely freezing conditions here. The start of our season was already delayed by a week due to cold and rain but I guess The Powers That Be decided they couldn't delay much further, so I got a plate in both the cold and the rain! About 2C at game time and windy as hell to boot.

I wasn't terribly happy with the fit at first as I'd only sized it briefly before all my equipment was on, so I spent the first couple of half-inning breaks getting it dialed in and I think I've found where I like it. It's still quite large so holding it while checking the lineup cards and other stuff was a bit of a pain but I figure I'll get used to that. Eventually I took to holding it through the loop in the forehead extension of the cage.

Didn't take any shots so I can't comment on how useful it is there--yet--but it did have one major advantage in that it kept my ears pretty toasty compared to my traditional masks. We'll see if I stick with it through the dog days of July and August, but it's certainly my go-to for those chilly games right now.

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