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Rearguard 2.0 build quality concerns

Introduction

We recently posted a photo of one of our Rearguard 2.0 masks. You can find the post here.
Leigh Corn has posted some concerns here, to which we respond in this post. Here’s the photo he marked up for us, for your reference.
The mask, as marked by Leigh
We’ll quote his words and then reply to them.

 

The concerns, addressed:

 

1. “Ok – on the front of the mask, it looks like there’s a loose edge to the plastic mesh overlap.”

We assume you’re referring to the rubber ring covering the mesh, which you’ve marked at the top right of the photo. Here’s a closeup which should show it isn’t loose.
Closeup of the forehead area

2. “Going down from that, the stitchwork that goes through this finishing plastic looks to have punched holes lower down (look at the pic full size).”

We assume you’re referring to the stitch marks on the rubber ring, which you’ve marked lower down on the rubber ring. Here’s a closeup which should show those are not simply punched holes, they are actually stitches. The stitching goes almost all the way around the rubber ring, to secure it to the mesh.
Closeup of the stitching

3. “Next up, the horizontal tape running under the mesh. Besides a loose thread on this tape, you’ve got rivets directly over the stitching line – two of them. Admittedly this may not be a high stress area, but I see similar issues in some of the harness gear I use for dogs, and it always gives rise to issues.”

Leigh didn’t mark the loose thread on his photo, but we’ve marked up the original photo in white to show what we think he was referring to.
Original markings, with an extra
This was a stray thread which was picked up by the outer fabric. It came off when brushed with a finger. Here’s a closeup of this area.
Closeup to show there are no loose threads
Leigh also expressed his concerns with rivets placed over the stitching, as you can see in the closeup above. This is a legitimate concern, but it’s worth noting that it’s common for fencing masks to have rivets overlapping the stitching in this area. Here are a couple of examples from PBT (large image below is the same as the one at top right, just showing the rivet in context).
Other masks, example 1
Here are a couple of examples from another mask manufacturer.
Other masks, example 2
Does that mean it’s ok? No. But it does mean that it’s so common that if it was a serious structural concern then people probably would have been noticed by now.

4. “Next up, a nit-pick. If I’m going to spend money on a mask, I’d like to think it would have been put together with enough precision to get the rivets LEVEL. It doesn’t give a good impression with regards to the overall construction.”

This is fair comment, and we know how these small issues can make a strong impression on perceptions of quality. We’re not very happy with this either. However, this is again an area in which fencing manufacturers are typically quite casual. Here are examples from PBT and another brand.
Uneven rivets, examples on other masks
As with the previous point, does that mean it’s ok? No. We’d much rather all our rivets be neatly in a row as well. But unless we can apply some kind of serious leverage to the factory, we’re unlikely to get a better result than much larger companies like PBT.

5. “The rear plastic strip running vertically up – it’s held at the low end by two rivets – and has a loose end flapping up. That is just not acceptable.”

If you think it’s unacceptable, imagine how we felt when we received the mask after being told it would look like this.
Rubber ring on the back, as was envisioned by Arming Guild
That’s a product shot we were sent straight from the factory. They told us this is what the rear rubber would look like. However, now the production run is complete and we’ve received the first few masks, we know this isn’t what they did. They’ve explained to us that they were having difficulty pinching the thin rubber over the edge like this, and that it was hard to keep it from slipping off.
Ideally they should have told us this weeks ago, when they were having problems with it. We could have made a few suggestions about how to solve the issue. Alternatively, if they decided they had to go with another solution, at least we could have helped suggest something neater than what they ended up doing. Unfortunately that’s what we ended up with, and unfortunately a company like ours doesn’t have a lot of leverage when it comes to resolving the problem. See the end of this post for some more comments on this particular issue.

6. “The last thing I’d like to mention is that there appear to be a couple of light scratches or paint drop-out on the mesh finish – although that could possibly be a trick of the light.’

Here’s the section Leigh highlighted.
We think that’s just the light. Here are some photos of the mask mesh from various angles, including the side of the mask Leigh highlighted.
Here’s a shot of the side, with direct light. You can see the mesh looks quite shiny, as the light is reflecting off the glossy black paint.
Closeup of the mesh where it appeared scuffed

Conclusion

We thank Leigh again for his comments, and emphasize that we agree with most of them. If we could make a better product right now, we would. However, right now we have to go with what we have. This leads to the next topic.

What do you do?

So imagine this. You’re a startup HEMA company and spent the first six months of the year with no income. You’ve spent 50% of your product expenditure budget on a large mask order. Now the masks start arriving, and there’s a significant difference between what you were promised and what you ended up with. There are cosmetic issues which detract from the mask aesthetically, and there’s a construction issue (the rear rubber ring), which not only raises durability and aesthetic concerns, but which is also completely different from what was promised.
What do you do now?
You’ve had people waiting for months for your product, though you’ve steadfastly refused to take pre-orders, so no one is out of pocket. Still, you have reviewers lined up, retailers interested. You’ve spent a lot of your cash for the year. Most importantly, you have no leverage over the manufacturer. If you want the masks altered it will take more money, and an undeterminable amount of time.
So, what do you do now?
What we’ve decided to do is bite the bullet and go with what we have in hand. We’re confident these masks will sell out reasonably quickly, and we’ll then be able to make a larger order with our factory. A fast turnover and a larger order will give us some leverage, and we’ll be able to press for changes. More importantly, we’ll have the time and money to accommodate them.

Trials & tribulations

Those who have been following us over the last couple of years will know this is not the first time we’ve been let down by a manufacturer. We’ve always been transparent about our product and our production process. We understand these issues are just part of the unfortunate growing pains of any startup, but we also understand that consumers have a different perspective.
And so they should; they’re trusting their health and safety to our products, and they want a guarantee of quality. We want to give it to them. That’s why we’re sending some of our initial masks, including the one critiqued by Leigh, to recognized HEMA practitioners for their unbiased and rigorous review. We encourage you to wait for their assessment, and make your decision then.
In the meantime we welcome any comments, suggestions, and criticisms, especially when made as constructively as Leigh’s.

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