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3 Goggles from VForce
by Bill Mills
It seems you can't swing a dead cat around a major paintball event without hitting someone who's introducing a new paintgun, but when it comes to eye and face protection, the choices are fewer and further between. VForce shook things up at the 2000 World Cup by unleashing 3 new goggles with a great deal of fanfare.
The creation of the VForce brand name follows Brass Eagle's acquisition of JT USA. Brass Eagle had previously had their goggles manufactured by Leader, a Canadian sports optics company well known in other fields such as hockey and football. When Brass Eagle switched goggle suppliers - Leader was released from their exclusive contract. Enter VForce which now has their goggle systems manufactured by Leader, and distributed and promoted by Diablo Direct.
While the three models have their own features and options they all share several traits. The key feature touted by VForce is their lens manufacturing technology.
Diamond-X is the term VForce uses to describe their manufacturing and finishing process for lenses. Some paintball goggle lenses are made from a sheet of polycarbonate material that is cut to shape, then warmed and bent over a former to achieve the proper curve for use in the goggles. VForce lenses are instead injection molded into dies which have been diamond polished to provide an extremely smooth surface. The smooth surface leads to better optical clarity, meaning sharper vision for the wearer.
In addition to the molding, The VForce designs have a generous amount of airspace between the face and lens, as well as an anti fog lens coating. Taking this approach to combating lens fogging has an advantage over thermal paned lenses in that by having a single layered lens it can offer greater optical clarity.
VForce lenses are available in clear, tinted and metallic color mirrored versions.
Lens retention is what really sets the VForce line apart. Most goggles are available with tinted, clear, and other options for lenses. Additionally most goggle designs surround the lens in a channel in the mask, holding them in place. this method makes lens changing time consuming, and can also trap paint from a goggle shot in an area where it won't clearly be seen. Paint ingredients will damage the polycarbonate in a lens if it is not cleaned promptly.
VForce lenses fit over the goggle frame, rather than being held in a channel of the frame. Near the nose bridge they actually hook over the frame, providing security against up and down movement.
On either side of the lens is a tab which slides unto a slot on the side of the goggle. The lens can be installed or removed in seconds. It is locked in place with a plastic lock tab on either side that wedges under the lens tabs. No tools are needed. This makes lens changing and inspection very simple.
To demonstrate how fast the VForce lenses can be changed, VForce held a lens changing competition at the 2000 World Cup. Each day people competed until finalists faced off at the end of the tournament. The fastest time was recorded by Adam White of team Sudden Impact - 4.9 seconds. The contest itself can be seen on the World Cup 2000 Episode of PigTV at www.PigTV.net.
All of the VForce goggles accept visors which not only reduce glare and tend to deflect forehead shots, but also protect the goggle lens if the mask is dropped on the ground. The visors are attached to the goggle by looping small o-rings over tabs that slide through vents above the lens.
Optional for all of the goggles, and included with some models, is a chin strap with quick release buckle. The chin strap has been suggested for very aggressive play in game formats like the USPL where player impact with an inflatable bunker is allowed. The strap greatly decreases the possibility of the mask becoming knocked off during a game. It is also advantageous for field operators who are concerned at the dangers of inexperienced players reflexively removing their masks on the field.
VForce goggles also feature an integrated goggle and mask design. With other goggle/mask combos, players are sometimes tempted to remove the mask, with macho statements about how they can handle a face hit. The Protective Eye wear Council did an interesting test in which they put paintball goggles with the mask removed over a human head form that consisted of a hard skull with latex skin and pig's eyes (which are very close in structure to human eyes). They found that a shot in the upper cheek would press in the skin getting the ball in under the goggle, deflect off the cheekbone, and explode the eye! There is a reason masks are required in paintball! Making the mask non-removable from the goggles is an important step in "idiot proofing" safety equipment.
At the base of VForce's lineup is the Armor goggle. While the Armor is pretty "no frills" in its design, it provides full face, ear and eye protection, with a forehead extension. Probably its most impressive feature is its price tag. It is priced to become very affordable in its rental version.
The hard plastic construction provides it with the durability needed for the rental market.
A low price tag with full protection is becoming increasingly important with the mass merchandising of paintball, where uninformed sales clerks may happily let penny pinching customers walk out the door with a paintgun and no paintball goggles, or with safety goggles that are not suitable for the sport.
Moving up the food chain is the Shield model. Many players will recognize it for the similarities to its predecessor, the Max Vision that Leader manufactured for Brass Eagle.
The shield provides hard protection for the face with firm rubbery ear cover panels. Of the three VForce models it covers the most head surface area.
The Shield has a strap which is upgraded from the basic strap of the Armor by three beads of silicone glue on its interior. The silicone gives the strap a little extra grip to prevent sliding on hair or a hat.
Included with the Shield is the moving throat guard. This flexible guard extends an additional two inches below the chin area of the mask to provide front-on protection for the soft skin under the chin and on the top of the neck. A longer mask could provide the same protection, but would get in the way of a player turning their head to the left or right. The Shield's throat protector pivots up freely, allowing it to swing out of the way if brushed by the player's shoulder. Upon looking forward, gravity draws the throat guard back down.
The Shield comes with the throat guard, chin strap, and visor, as well as a fabric storage bag.
While most goggle lenses are curved left to right, like the wall of a cylinder. The Shield lens is also curved vertically, so it is shaped like the wall of a sphere. When looking through a lens, distortions are increased as the angle of the lens material to the eye increases. Curving a lens left to right, keeps the lens at nearly a right angle to the eye as the player looks left to right. Adding vertical curvature does the same as the player looks up and down.
On the high end, is the Morph - a design that VForce says is "biomorphic." While the literal definition of biomorphic is "life shaped," the WARPIG marketing-speak dictionary lists it as "something designed to look cool."
The Morph is of the same overall shape as the Shield utilizing the same lenses, but the lower half of the mask is made from the same semi-flexible rubber like material used for the ear panels.
The flexible area speaks to all the tournament players who want that extra "bounce zone," hoping for a ball that won't break. The Morph, does not include the throat guard or chin strap, but they are available as optional accessories.
Due to the fact that the mount points for the strap and throat guard are on the flexible lower half of the mask, these accessories do not fit as well on the Morph as the do on the Shield. Players looking for the maximum in protection should consider the Shield over the Morph.
The Shield and Morph are available with a number of cosmetic differences, including the colors in which they are molded, and patterned dip coating that gives the look of woven carbon fiber material.
The VForce lineup is distributed in North America by Diablo Direct. With the marketing muscle of Diablo behind them, they have spread quickly to fields and stores. At the World Cup, where they were launched, many teams, including Image had already switched to VForce.
With the Armor, Shield, and Morph, VForce has arrived solidly in the world of paintball, and players now have more choices in their protective gear.
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