Today Midwest Ump reviews the Wilson Charcoal Leg Guards (A3417). Special thanks to Jacquie Rooney at Wilson for providing a set of the Wilson Charcoal guards to test. The Wilson Charcoal guards are pro-quality leg guards and endorsed by Major League Baseball. Wilson Sporting Goods is the official umpire gear of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.
The first and most important priority for a leg guard is to protect the wearer. Much like the Wilson Platinum or Gold chest protectors, the Wilson Charcoal Leg Guards protect like a tank. 3mm plates cover from top to bottom. The Charcoal features a double knee design; a contoured shin plate; thick comfortable padding; side ankle plates; and a permanently attached instep plate. Jacquie tells me that professional umpires are split evenly between the Charcoal and the Wilson West Vest Pro Leg Guards with a triple knee design. She says that some prefer the added protection of the WV Pro and others prefer the increased mobility gained from the Charcoal. As for consumer purchases, the Wilson DaviShins are the most popular Wilson leg guard, followed by the Charcoal and WV Pro.
The Wilson Charcoal is available in 18.5” or 17” lengths. The Charcoal is also available in a 15.5” length sold exclusively by Ump-Attire.com. Leg guards are measured from top of foot to middle of knee. My measurement is 16”, and the 17” guards I tested fit fine.
Although the Charcoal guards look very bulky, the measurements were surprising:
20-3/4" circumference at knee
19-1/2" circumference at middle of shin
These measurements were very average when compared with “low profile” leg guards! What was not average was the weight of the Charcoal leg guards. Each guard weighs a heavy 32 ounces.
The padding is thick and comfortable, and is the same nylon/foam construction used in the Wilson Platinum and Wilson Gold chest protectors (Ensolite foam with Coolmax lining to wick away perspiration). The padding wraps around the leg past the metal J hooks, to protect the wearer. The padding is attached to the plates with Velcro, so the padding can be detached and cleaned. Wilson recommends hand washing these pads. The top knee plate is attached with Velcro, however it is not securely fastened.
The floating middle knee keeps the knee cap secure against the guard and provides a great deal of flexibility. Inexplicably, the instep plate is permanently attached with rivets, not screws like the Champro Pro Plus Leg Guards. Since umpires wear plate shoes, nearly all do not need or want the instep protector which protrudes over the shoe. To remove this instep protector requires either cutting the straps or drilling out the rivets.
The Wilson Charcoal Leg Guards are worn using two straps on the shin, one strap at the knee, and one strap on the lower leg. Many manufacturers (including Wilson with its DaviShin leg guards) have changed strap placement to avoid a strap behind the knee for added comfort.
The Wilson Charcoal Leg Guards (A3417) are available from the following retailers:
Fair or Foul?
I can’t help but compare the Wilson Charcoal Leg Guards to a 1970 Cadillac De Ville - you know, the car Boss Hogg drove in The Dukes of Hazzard. The Charcoal, like Boss Hogg’s Caddy, is classic, has great lines, is comfortable, and is built like a tank. So what do you want? A leg guard that you have absolute confidence will protect you, or a lighter leg guard that will “probably” do the job?
The Wilson Charcoal Leg Guards are FAIR because of its unquestioned protection and ease of cleaning. If Wilson would eliminate the strap behind the knee, reduce the weight, and install a removable instep protector, the Charcoal would be a home run.