REVIEW: HK Army SLR Mask, is this the apex goggle?

 REVIEW: HK Army SLR Mask, is this the apex goggle?

Photo Courtesy of Sam Bennett

The Next Generation of HK Masks

As one of the longest running companies in paintball and constantly innovating, HK Army has released one of their newest products after years of development, the SLR mask. 

The HK SLR has taken the solid foundation that was built by the KLR mask and focused on refining it to best fit the mold of what the modern player demands. The focus HK has taken with creating a more breathable and ergonomic mask has solved the one major flaw of the original KLR mask and this may be the new apex mask on the market. 

The frame of the mask was built to maximize audible clarity of sound around the player and the angular design of the vents allows for maximum breathability without compromising safety. The completely tool-less lens removal combined with the interior frame being lined with high-performance 3D memory foam adds to the simple maintenance and comfort of the SLR as well. 

 

Photo Courtesy of David Quittman

Talking about the SLR with Ryan Greenspan of San Diego Dynasty.

One of the key resources for HK Army product development has been professional paintball players from around the world.  HK Army’s openness in taking feedback from pro players in order to create products that meet even the toughest demands has been one of the driving factors in the popularity of their products. Put simply, they make products that work, and the SLR is at the top of that list.

We worked in unison with Ryan Greenspan of San Diego Dynasty to talk to him about the SLR mask and how he uses the experience he has gained over nearly two decades and 50+ professional wins to provide design feedback for HK products.

 

You have used nearly every major paintball mask over your last 20 years as a top-level pro; What features do you look for in a mask? 

Ryan: "Breathability is the main point of concern for me. Obviously comfort is paramount as well, but honestly, most manufacturers nail that in a high end goggle. If you cannot breath well and your goggles begin to fog up as a result, you are going to have a bad time. I trust that on the higher end equipment, the lenses and the foam are dialed in."

Dynasty has seen a great amount of success as a team and has been closely tied to HK Army for a long time. When HK works on new products, what sort of roll does the team have in testing and feedback?

Ryan: "I personally work very closely with all of the HK guys in terms of giving feedback on every product that they make. When I have the opportunity to go up to the office, they really put me in touch with all of the new designs and product elements so that they can get my input in.

For the most part, any design input I have given, they immediately get into the current or upcoming product lines if it makes sense. I really enjoy helping out whenever I can. That is something I really tried to do for years way way back when we were first sponsored by JT, but they only ever listened to Oliver, who you can thank for those massive skateboarding knee pads JT released in the early 2000s."

We saw a variety of weather conditions at the most recent NXL event. As some players walked into the pits it went from bright and sunny, to dark and rainy. Can you explain the importance of having multiple types of lens for your goggles, and the ease in quickly switching them out on the HK SLR? 

 

Ryan: "If you have the luxury to swap out lenses, it is something that you absolutely need to do. I always tell players, control the variables that you have in your control. Simple things like turning your gun on before you play, filling your air, tying your shoes, etc. These are controllable variables. If it is dark or overcast and you have a chrome lens, your ability to see incoming paint is hindered substantially.

You need to be prepared to swap out your lens quickly and HK has made that super easy on both of their high end goggles. I actually think that their low end entry level goggle has a quick changing mechanism as well. Just like you carry a couple of barrel bore inserts, you should have at least two lenses with you for changing conditions. You cannot afford to give up any edge to the opponents, control the controllable variables!"

Putting the SLR through the paces.

Anytime we look at a Goggle system for a review, there are five categories in which we rate the mask; comfort, breathability, audible focus, lens removal, and overall aesthetic.

1- Comfort:

When it comes to comfort, one of the most important parts of a mask is the foam around the lens, this is the main part of the mask contacting a players face and the SLR nails it with their 3D memory foam. Its really comfortable and doesn’t cause any discomfort when wearing the mask for long periods. (We wore it for 3-4 hours at a time at Skirmish Paintball’s Invasion of Normandy event.) The magnetic chin strap also adds to the comfort, as it solves the issue of the last second rush to buckle your chinstrap. 

Overall Comfort Score: 10/10

2- Breathability:

When looking back at the previous generation HK mask, the KLR, one of the few problems we had with that mask was how close it sat to your face, which led to breathability issues. HK really seemed to focus on fixing that with the SLR,  as it breathes really well and keeps good air flow through the mask in even the hottest weather. (Like when we tested it in 96* heat.)

Overall Breathability score: 8.5/10

3- Audible focus:

Communication on the field is huge for all players, and a mask that allows you to comfortably talk without echo is important. While no mask is perfect in this regard, the more open front frame of the mask, combined with the angled vent ports really helps diminish almost all echo in the mask and really helps players focus in on the sounds around them while communicating with teammates.

Overall Audible Focus Score: 9/10

4- Ease of lens removal

As Ryan Greenspan stated above, its very important for players to be able to quickly select and install the proper lens for the playing conditions. There are some masks on the market which can be a bit difficult to change and give most players sore finger tips when they have to fool around with tight clips. The SLR uses a simply slide lock and easy to press button to remove the lens. Maybe the only downside to their easy to use removal system is that the retaining clips have to come off completely, and could get lost when changing the lens out in the pits.

Overall Len Removal Score: 8/10

5- Overall aesthetic

Naturally, looking good is always an important factor when choosing a mask or any other head wear. To us, the SLR is a very modern looking mask. Its aggressive venting and defined lines really makes you think “next generation mask” at first glance, which we like. The relatively flat top edge of the frames is also appealing because it really leaves a clear sight line to your headband or wrap. The wide range of colors and accent options is great as well and parts can be mixed and matched to create a unique mask.

Overall Aesthetic Score: 9/10

Overall HK SLR Score Average: 8.9/10. 


You can purchase the HK SLR mask here

Quinn Nadu

I've been playing paintball for more than 15 years. I have traveled all over the US to play in tournaments and scenario events. I focus on bringing exclusive interviews, product news, and breaking industry news to the readers. All posts and articles are opinion and rumor and should not be taken as fact.