Chest Pad History: DR BulletProof, Koho 700, Brians Focus, Brown 2400/2200 Russian Spec
Usage: Since January 2016 (6 months when writing this)
I’ve had a few request to get to this review or overview of this chest protector, but since it is hard to take photos of it while on (bad excuse but it is the truth) I have been delaying doing this.
Searching for a Chest: I label this chest as 2400/2200 since it contains elements from both chests and Brown will fully customize it for you. I was search for about 6 years for a new chest protector as I realized my Koho had some weak spots pretty quickly, which I partially addressed with a padded undershirt. I tried out the Focus but it had some REALLY bad spots completely lacking protection right next to the heart guard, after a soft wrist shot left me hunched over in pain I quickly moved on from it. I was looking at the Reebok P1 Pro chest for a while and just never wanted to bite the bullet even after they came out with the updated unit and the CCM version, the main reason was the lack of side rib protection that was also missing on my Kohos. I looked at Simmons as well, but couldn’t get past seeing the 996 for $250 when I started my search and seeing the identical 998 for around $370 on sale, I wasn’t fond of the materials that Simmons used either. Brians Gnetik was an interesting choice and I was about to order a fully custom and crazy coloured version of it (which can be seen below). But when I decided I wanted to drop the money I realized it was at the very end of the Gnetik life cylcle and I would wait for the Gnetik 2 to come out… and when it did it was literally the same chest but with a II next to the logo. So I decided to look elsewhere, which lead me to the Bauer 1S. I saw pictures of it and the use of PoronXD and Curv composite had me intrigued and hyped for it, when I finally saw it in person I was massively disappointed with how little side rib protection there was.
What lead me to Brown: After getting a few very sore spots in the Koho I decided I was going to buy a chest once and for all, and that it would be within the next month. I had narrowed my choices down to Brown and Passau. I really liked how Brown was always straight up with customers when asked “Is your stock unit what the pros wear?”, they never said yes to that answer but instead offered the Russian spec version that is more expensive with thicker foams and more plastics. Passau in the past stated that pros would wear their stock chests and would just get custom colours and sewn down shoulder floaters, but while I was researching these Passau was then offering a pro-pack with reinforcement. For better or for worse this made me uneasy with the original claims and along with seeing the abundance of used chest for sale (and hearing breakdown of protection over a year) I decided to look elsewhere. I emailed Brown about some sizing questions and customization options. While doing research they had some helpful and pretty humorous YouTube videos on sizing and protection capabilities (see below) and things like these really pushed me towards making the purchase.
Buying Experience & Customer Service: Brown is quick to respond to emails and help out with questions that you may have (I had a few). I sized myself up and decided to give them a call to discuss options and make sure I was satisfied. Calling them up I was pleasantly surprised to talk to John Brown himself, and that was very reassuring to be able to talk to someone who was actually making and designing the equipment themselves. He understood everything I was talking about and I outlined what I was looking for and why. I outlined that I was really looking for a beefed up rib padding for VH and RVH (SMS for the people who know who they are!) and a chest that won’t break down in a couple of years. He asked additional details of whether I tuck my chest in the pants or not as that affects how long the chest is to ensure it wont get bunched up inside the pants and start to ride up. He also asked for photos of my previous chest and it’s measurements to ensure this will sit right on me. He also asked what hand I catch with since there is under-forearm protection that is attached in depending on what hand you catch with. We discussed add-ons, and I was/am very happy that there is an option to include a built in and thick neck protector since I was planning on buying a Maltese Combo shortly. My call was around Christmas time and the turn around was a week, which was insanely fast and I am not sure if I got lucky or that is what happens all the time. Needless to say I was impressed.
Initial Impressions: When I got this thing out of the box I was immediately impressed by the build quality. Stitching was well done and the materials feel good. I feel that Brown really cares for the products they make. The second thing I noticed was how heavy it was, significantly more than my Koho and the 1S I tried on. I wasn’t really worried about the weight and more so with the protection, if I can move a millisecond easier but flinch from fear of pain it isn’t going to help at all. I put the chest on and was siting around my house in desperate anticipation to use it. I noticed how stiff the unit is and how I did lose mobility in my arms and this had me a bit worried, I was afraid I’d end up like a statue on the ice.
Initial Ice Time Impressions: I definitely had issues (and still do) with getting my helmet on with how stiff the arms are, and the first few times I did feel a bit like a statue that was standing too upright. I had to make some adjustments to my pants as the sides of the chest kept popping up as my pants were sitting too low and too right. The thing I immediately realized was how protective the chest was, I no longer winced when someone wound up for a slap shot in close or when I hugged the post in the RVH. Pucks would hit me, I knew where but not an ounce of pain. I also noticed how much more I was sweating than usual, which made me realize how hot this chest runs.
Fit: Since this unit is completely custom based on your body measurements if you get these right the chest will fit you like one should. The neck doesn’t hang down low like other brands and wearing it fits like a thick sweatshirt that moves along with your body rather than a piece of padding that your body moves behind (which is how my Koho felt). The important thing here is to get the length done to how you like it, my only issue with this chest is that I wish the sides were a little longer to stay in my pants better or if they had a strap that kept that part closer to my body. The strapping on the unit itself is just 2 buckle straps that sit behind in between padded protection on the ribs. Without tying knots in these they are hard to tighten by yourself when you put the best on and tend to become a bit looser when you attempt to buckle them up… but luckily hockey is a team sport and I always have someone able to tighten them if I need it.
The arms are the best length for any chest I have owned, they don’t run too deep into my gloves to feel like they are pushing them off and cover the very top of my arms as well. The elbow pads/protector is a big U-shaped piece of plastic that does an excellent job of keeping your elbow protected and always in place. Arm adjust-ability allows them to sit tighter to your arm if that is what you prefer, I do since I like my equipment to feel like it is not falling off. I was told the looser you strap the arms the more mobile they become but in my testing around the house I didn’t find much difference and preferred them to be relatively tight. 10/10
Performance: Because of the weight I was initially skeptical of how this piece would perform and was worried I scarified performance and mobility for protection and was nervous that the chest would hinder my ability to makes saves… I couldn’t have been more wrong. While the chest is thick and protective I don’t think it is ridiculously huge like other brands chest are out there, you don’t see big square shoulders like other brands on this unit. But because of my confidence in not getting hurt it is easier for me to get squared (as in positioned properly not the shape) up to the puck without worrying an unprotected part of me will get dinged. Before my shoulders and next to my neck was a weakness for protection, and now I can shrug my shoulders to get taller without worrying if a one-timed slap shot will leave me hunched over in pain, and this confidence makes me able to cover the top corners better. The only place that is not ideal is the heart guard, which is extremely protective but lets off huge rebounds that are sometimes hard to control and is wear the Maltese heart guard on Passau would be a great addition. The arms and rest of the units rebound control is pretty great though, I now often catch pucks in my arms or off to the side of my body by simply closing off my body (see pictures for details). The solidness off the arms and rib protection also help with squeakers than sometimes slip through the 6 and 7 hole (between the body and the arms). It is easier now for me to squeeze off pucks between the arms and the body to stop those dribblers from going in. Because of my confidence in protection and the solidness of the rib padding my RVH has improved drastically. In my Koho I’d get bruised almost every time I hit the ice because of a shot catching the ribs or the armpit, which also caused pucks to bank off of me easier. This chest has never really slowed me down or hindered performance besides plays behind the net, which are now harder for me to track because this chest doesn’t hang ridiculously low like the Koho did before. But this was more of an adjustment period and tracking pucks behind the net has been getting better for me the more I use it. I have played some of my best games in this chest and constantly finding me making saves off the top of my shoulders or between the arms that would’ve gone in before, I actually believe this chest has made me a better goalie and improved my game. 10/10
Protection: This is the reason I bought this chest, and I am very happy to say it shines in every way. I haven’t had a bruise since I bought it and haven’t felt a stinger either. The only place where I have had even an ounce of “oh, I could feel that” is on the belly area where the thinner line of blocks are. It didn’t hurt enough for me to be worried and happens so infrequently I am not looking to make any changes, but if I ordered again I’d ensure that line of blocks was thicker like the others. The arms are thick and because of the solid elbow block it never moves out of place or is an issue, I have taken many hard shots right above the gloves and have no worries the Brown will take the impact fine. The upper arm protection is a really smart design where a shoulder floater sits on top of the already thick arm padding. This adds an extra layer and on the non-NHL legal is even wider for more coverage. The shoulders and shoulder floaters can anything thrown at them and simply deflect them away without me worrying. Multiple times I have had refs ask me after a play if I am okay or feeling hurt after being drilled with a shot up high right next to the ears and hitting the shoulder pads and each time I simply say I couldn’t feel a thing. The heart guard and rest of the chest are ridiculously good at protecting you from hard shots and the heart guard leaves a satisfying thud when hit with a hard shot. The rib and armpit protection on this chest protector is amazing, since this was the reason I ended up deciding to purchase a chest it was a very import aspect of the new one. I can now get in the RVH without worrying about getting bruised or hurt. The rib protection wraps around significantly and comes up high enough that a puck as yet to find a gap on this chest in that area. 9.5/10
Comfort: The Brown chest protectors don’t have any newer and fancier foams or materials to really be more comfortable. It uses standard nylon throughout its construction. With that said there is no pressure points or places that create any sort of issue. The neck protector itself has a mesh type material on the inside that can rub your neck in an irritating way, especially if you have just shaved. I do wish this was lined with standard blue nylon like the inside of the chest rather than the mesh material. The only negative in terms of comfort of this chest (besides the neck, but that is an option and basically a separate piece) is how hot this chest runs. Airflow is very minimal and basically non-existent because of the nylons used and how heavy it is. You will definitely run hotter and sweat more in this unit than others which may impact your endurance. To me the protection and performance trade off is worth how hot and heavy the chest is. 8/10
Mobility: As I stated earlier mobility was a fear of mine when I put this chest and arm on. I still have issues putting my arms behind my head and putting on and doing up my helmet straps. It can be done but it is awkward and takes a bit of time. This chest doesn’t have super loose arms that allow you to bend them in anyway possible, and if you try to fold your best up by touching your toes you will run into interference. But if you can get past that initial feeling of immobility and start to play you realize it never actually hinders you in moving while playing, unless you make a lot of saves with your hands right next to your ears. When I first used it I had some issues with grabbing rebounds on the ice in close to my pads as I was having some issues with bending over, but now the chest is more broken in and I can cover anything low quickly and with ease. The slightly lower score here isn’t because I feel mobility hinders performance or play-ability but just because it isn’t the most mobile unit I have ever worn. 7.5/10
Weight: This thing is heavy… it doesn’t use fancy lightweight foams and doesn’t skimp on protection or cut corners. It sacrifices being lightweight for ultimate protection. Again the score here isn’t saying the weight causes me issues, because I never notice it when wearing the chest, but rather since there are other lightweight chests on the market this will definitely be one of the heavier ones. I tried to weight the chest…but my scale said it was too heavy (max 5lbs) 6.5/10
Durability: In 5 months of time the only way you can tell this chest has been used is because of the puck marks on it. Threads are not out of place and the straps have not weakened or started to fray. The chest feels as protective as it did the first time I put it on and the foams and plastics are nowhere near breaking down. 10/10
Intangibles: The chest can be ordered in custom colours and Brown makes them based on your body measurements. The ordering process was smooth and extremely quick as well as communicating with John Brown himself. Turn around time was fantastic and I really could not see how the ordering process could be better. The custom features I had added to the chest as well as the built in neck guard really help make this chest a great product. The sizing video was a huge help and I wish other companies did this as well. But it does run hot and doesn’t really have all the new features to make it lighter. 8/10
Conclusion: This chest is expensive and more expensive than anything you can buy off the shelf at a retail or online location, but I decided the investment was worth it if it meant I didn’t have to look for another chest protector in 5+ years time and if I got everything I really wanted out of it. I am ridiculously satisfied with my purchase and really feel it is the best money I have spent on a piece of hockey equipment. It is heavy and hot but it is so unbelievably protective and I truly believe it has improved my playing abilities. I would absolutely recommend this chest to anyone looking for a protective unit and would suggest people spend the extra money to get one that is made correctly and will fit and protect you. Everyone might not need the Russian spec unit and that would help cut costs down, but this was everything I was looking for with the only real improvements being to cut down weight, increase airflow, and make a more comfortable neck guard liner. I won’t list the price I paid since I had custom options and I am not sure if the pricing has changed, but I’ll give a general idea. Price $700+ CAD Overall: 9.5/10
I am sorry for the length of this review, but I feel it is important to go into such depth and give background into why I bought it.
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How far the stomach guard goes under the shoulder floaters.