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V Force Profiler
By Bill Mills - April 2004

In the late 1990s, Leader entered the paintball goggle market by producing goggles sold under the Brass Eagle brand name.  They changed thoughts about goggle design with the Eagle Vision goggle and its radical “bubble” lens.  When Brass Eagle bought JT USA, they dropped the Leader line.  Leader re-invented their paintball image, creating the V Force brand name, re-labeling a goggle that never drew much attention with the BE nametag into the V Force Shield, and releasing the Morph, which was essentially the same goggle with a flexible bottom half mask. 

V Force’s coming out party was at the 2000 World Cup.  V Force was exclusively distributed by Diablo Direct, and the Diablo crew kicked off the V Force name with a lens changing for cash competition that highlighted just how fast the goggle system could be serviced.  Prior to Diablo Direct carrying the V Force line, Airtech Innovations had been producing the Skull for Diablo Direct, a goggle with a single unit frame/mask that was entirely molded out of flexible material.  The Skul quickly faded into the background of the Diablo Direct line, overshadowed by the V Force systems.

With sponsorships of major teams putting their goggle in the spotlight, the V Force brand caught on quick.  Fast forward to three years later and behind the scenes changes have happened, but the V Force line remained in place with the Morph as its flagship.  Diablo Direct had been merged into National Paintball Supply and Airtech Innovations had acquired the V Force line (and some of the V Force staff) as a result of Leader undergoing a debt settlement corporate restructuring.  While the Morph and Shield were popular, Airtech knew it was time to release a new model.

Paintball mask designers have faced a tough challenge – they have to balance protection of the face, temples and ears with the desire of professional tournament paintball players who are marketing vehicles for their products wanting something that is soft and unlikely to break a paintball.  Most higher end goggle systems address this by using a rigid goggle support structure, and a hard upper-half mask, combined with a flexible lower portion.  The problem with this approach is that if the lower portion is too flexible, it offers less protection, and can swing back impacting the mouth or chin when hit by a paintball.

Richmond Italia, one of the owners of Airtech walked into the office of V Force development team leader Zbid Migos to explain the concept he wanted to see in the company’s new mask.  He cut out sections of a Shield mask, and replaced them with portions of a more flexible Skul mask.  With that starting point Migos was off to work developing the Profiler.  According to Migos, he faced not just technical challenges designing the Profiler, but also image challenges.  “It has a distinctive grill,” he says.  “It has to look aggressive without looking monsterous,” he told WARPIG.com, referring to his goal of reaching a design what would appeal visually to a wide variety of players.

Prototype Profiler goggles were seen on a number of V Force sponsored pro players in the 2003 season, but the goggle system didn’t get its official unveiling until the 2003 PSP World Cup.  The goggle system utilizes the familiar V Force lens and all of its optical characteristics, with a slightly different retention clip, making removal for cleaning or replacement easier than with the previous models.  A flexible tab in the center of the retention clip helps pop the clip out, so the lens can be unlocked from the goggle.

The mask structure consists of a semi-rigid framework for the goggles that also extends down, like a skeleton framework, to cover the chin area.  In the sides, and over most of the face is a flexible rubber like material that is overmolded to the rigid framework below it.  According to Migos, this presented a few technical challenges, that required refinements to the injection molding process.

The result is that the mask retains its shape and has the strength to keep from flexing back to the chin when hit, but the center portion and sides of the mask still have a degree of flexibility to promote bounces.  A variety of bold colors for the flexible portion of the mask have helped make its appearance easy to recognize.  Small metal tabs riveted on the sides show the V Force brand name, but are often removed by tournament players to increase the mask’s bounce factor.

Included with the goggle are two different visors.  The short visor offers protection to the forehead but does not protrude past the lens, while the long visor gives the same protection, but also acts as a sun-shade to reduce glare.  Inside the mask, where the goggle area fits to the face is V Force’s two layer foam – a thick layer attaches to the mask, and acts as a backing, providing a longer service life for the softer foam that fits up against the player’s face.

The V Force Profiler has already gained wide acceptance, with the few units available at World Cup running out fast, and full production levels shipping shortly therafter.  Migos commented that sales in the first three months of 2004 had already exceeded Airtech's projections for the entire year.  He credits much of the success of the goggle to its distinctive look that allows players to easily recognize it when making purchases.

 


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