Buying Your First Mask, A Must Read
Boys and Girls, Lords and Ladies...
I hope you will take the time to read this article, as it is very important to your own safety. A good mask will either make or break your paintball experience; If you can't see it, you can't shoot it.
You cannot buy your mask from a big box store, PERIOD. Besides the fact that most big box stores don't carry the best masks; and even if they do, you usually can't try them on before purchasing.
You really do have to visit a proshop to be able to get the best advice and products. If you can, try and buy from JT or Vforce, as they are the two major suppliers of masks, and have a great track record when it comes to safety and comfort.
there are generally three classes of mask,
The 'Entry Level' or 'Field Grade' mask is generally one that is designed for the player on a budget. Vforce makes the Vantage and the Armor, JT makes the Radar (Radar, Xfire and Headshield), and the 'Spectra' (hard shelled Flex 7, not to be confused with the line of masks using the Spectra lense)
These masks get you out and playing, they generally have more fogging issues, and a slightly more limited field of vision. Expect to pay $20-$40
Any reasonable player will select from this category, they are generally high quality, they have very few issues with fogging and have a better field of vision.
JT makes the Flex 7, Flex 8, Flex 8 FullCoverage(helment) and the FX 10
Vforce makes the Shield and the Morph
There is also another manufacturer (Dye) which makes the Proto FS and EL
Expect to pay $40-$70
The 'Pro' level of mask is a slightly better mask than the last category, the things that set these appart usually are the pricetag and a 'low profile' with 'bounce engineering'
to most players, especially new players, these features me two things, 'Jack and ****, and Jack left town'
new players should generally avoid this level of purchace, as you can be just as happy with the mid level, and still have cash in hand to actually *play*
JT makes the ProFlex
Vforce makes the Profiler
Dye makes the I3
NPS/Empire make Vents and E-vents
Expect to pay $80+++
this is something you really want your mask to have, it is one of the best fog deterents out there, a Thermal lense is like thermal glass, it is two lenses layered with a foam or silicone standoff between the two.
don't let a sales person fool you into buying a 'fog resistant' single lense, they only work for the first bit.
several of the masks have s semi-flexable outter shell, namely the Profiler, Proflex, Flex 7&8 and the I3
most of these are *co-molded* meaning that when they are made, two types of plastic fill the mold cavity at the same time, one hard, one soft (Flex 8, Profiler, Vents, I3)
the Flex 7 and the Proflex are the exact same mask, but the proflex has 'ears' made of neoprene, whereas the Flex 7 has ears made out of a hard plastic. Most players *want* hard ear protection, as getting hit in the ears sucks. but if you reallly want soft ears, buying a Flex-7 and the soft ears from an online supplier will generally save you $5-20
the lower portion on the Flex 7 and Proflex is a soft, silicone-rubber material.
Please note the the Flex-7 and proflex get alot of bounces to the lower face area, but they also tend to slap you in the cheeks/chin when you do get hit. it doesn't hurt, but it can get annoying.
Most players like to have their mask sit close to thier face, the exception for that is people that wear glasses.
in my experience, the Vforce Morph is just about the best mask for people who wear glasses, in a price to function comparassion. depending on the size of your glasses, a Flex series mask will fit nicely, as will the I3 and Proflex.
the mask needs to cover a few vital points, it needs to cover from the point of your chin, to the bottom of you jaw line, on both sides, and should fully cover your ears. it also needs to protect to the top of your eyebrows.
The mask should fit snugly without being too tight,should barely impair your field of vision, and you should be able to breath and talk easily, have a friend say something behind you to make sure you can hear clearly. comfort will make a huge difference, especially in long scenario games!
most masks now adays are being sold with a chin strap. 'pro' and 'tourny' players will tell you to remove it, DO NOT REMOVE THE CHIN STRAP!!!! I cannot stress this enough. The #1 thing refs stress is that masks be worn on the field; the only thing a paintball can injure when you have your mask on is your pride.
The chin strap is there to prevent falls from dislodging your mask and taking it off your face. it should fit ever so slightly loosely, so that when talking, it is not tugging the mask down.
NO Solvents! masks need only be washed with warm water, to prevent scratching on the lense, you generally want to use a small squeegie when cleaning paint off, by spraying the lense with water then squeeging off the water/paint.
for cleaning fingerprints off the lense, use a microfiber cloth, these can generally be found where eyeglasses are sold, or at your proshop.
if paint has worked it's way into vent holes on your mask, or has dried on the mask itself, make sure to remove the lense, and soak the mask in warm water for several minutes, this should soften the paint up to allow for easy removal, the goggle strap should also be removed.
you should clean paint off of your lenses after every day of play, this involves removing the lense and using a squeegie to remove all paint from the lense itself, and removing any from the mounting socket with a paper towel.
Follow any instructions that came with your mask as per lense replacement, if there are any deep scratches, stress marks, or cracks in the lense, do not play with it, replace it immediately.
most decent fields will either let you borrow* or rent a mask for a small fee, so don't play on if your safety is in danger.
*especially if you are going to be buying a new lense from them!
This should be entitled: "How to buy a mask". It is a good guide, not just for a "first mask"! I have been considering a mask purchase to replace a worn Flex 7, and wasn't sure what I wanted to try. This was helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write it up.
By the way I use a vantage as my main mask and it is in know way low end its the best bang for your buck on the mask market its comfortable (coming from me thats a huge compliment as I have a ginormic head) it never fogs and offers great protection I even get the occasional bounce due to how soft the matiriel is.
yes, i have my 'out of class' recommendations too, i just don't want to bias my articles ;)
Man..... I wish I had you when I started buying stuff. That is some great advice.
Great Job on the giude the only think I will offer is do do do try on goggles it is a must especially if you wear glasses like me. I ended up with profilers to fit my Aviator type frames. You get what you pay for in Goggle systems what are your eyes worth? There are great bang for the buck deals out there so shop around and do try them on and I dont mean your buddies modded mask.
One more quick note on the Thermal lenses: Do NOT freely run water on them or submerge them. You might get lucky for a while when they are new, but often the inner and outer lenses will start to separate, and water can get between them. If this happens, you will suffer from major fogging issues that you can't fix.
5 stars for an informative article that has an Army of Darkness quote.:cool:
Best advice I can give is try different ones on buy the most comfortable no matter the cost as eyes are irreplaceable.
Another couple of cents,
1. Don't buy anything with too many holes around the mouth unless you like the taste of paint and don't mind shell cuts once in awhile. Some of the scott masks are far too open in front.
2. Make sure the mask still covers your mouth when you are yelling, on some people masks can expose the chin when the mouth is open.
3. Some fields put out paper towels and windex to clean your mask with. Please do the paintball world a favor, and pass on your knowledge to the field workers and owners who still allow this practice. Often times they just don't know better.
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