2018 Easton Z-Core Lock & Load Review – Price $279.95
The new Easton Lock & Load is a one piece aluminum made with their popular HMX (Hyperlite Matrix) Alloy and Z-core technology. The real differentiator is the adjustable swing weight system that will allow hitters to change the swing weight / MOI (moment of inertia) by swapping out different weights in the end cap. The Lock & Load will feature 3 different swing weights: Speed, Balanced and XL. Each bat will come with kit that will include the different weights, a wrench, 2 screws, instructions and a case to secure everything in. The base bat will essentially be a Z-core Speed with a -3 drop. The balanced weight weighs .5oz/14.2 grams = -2.5 drop and the XL weight weighs 1oz/28.3 grams = -2 drop.
If this is the first time you are reading about the Lock & Load, I know a lot of you are thinking that this is a gimmick. In the past Easton has always pushed the envelope in regards to innovation. While we could have a separate debate about Easton’s recent Torq technology (for those of you who don’t know, Torq is Easton’s rotating handle), I can 100% promise you that the concept behind the adjustable swing weight system is absolutely real. I spend a lot of time talking about swing weight and MOI because it can end up making a huge difference in a game of inches, so it’s always worth mentioning.
The Lock & Load uses a half white, half brushed aluminum base color that Easton introduced in the 2017 line. The actual Z-core text lays over a black background and uses a bright green to blue gradient color transition. The Swing Weight Index uses the same fade at the top of the bat near the end cap. If I had to guess, Easton intentionally used the color transition to graphically represent the swing weight changes that can be made within the bat.
The Lock & Load uses Easton’s traditional BBCOR knob. It is smaller than most other knobs in the space, but I personally like the feel of it in my hand.
Last year’s Z-core provided some great ping during our testing and the Lock & Load is no different, which should be expected. If you are a fan of the ping, then you’ll be satisfied with this. The sound was also fairly consistent along the length of the barrel.
Feel / Swing Weight
This is really where the Lock & Load shines. With the adjustable swing weight system, you are essentially getting 3 bats in one: a Z-core Speed with a -3 drop with no weight added, a pro balanced Z-core with a -2.5 drop using a .5oz / 14.2 gram weight and a Z-core XL that has a -2 drop that uses a 1oz / 28.3 gram weight. Adding the balanced weight adds a modest 300 MOI points while the XL adds 600 MOI points, which is pretty substantial.
The Wrench / Screw System – The wrench fits in one hand pretty nicely with good contour. The screws used are double threaded with a space in between the 2 sets. Presumably this is done as some type of safety measure to ensure the screw and weight don’t fly out after a good amount of use. The 3 pronged weight fits nicely into a prebuilt groove in the end cap before inserting the screw. While unscrewing the weight, once the first set of threads is out you have to use the wrench to pull the screw up a little bit to engage the second set. While is sounds a little confusing, after practicing it a few times you get the hang of it. The wrench is meant to stick in the screw while doing this, but sometimes it comes loose and you need to re-insert. While I don’t think it’s practical to switch weights out from one hitter in the lineup to the next, it is absolutely possible to swap weights in and out after an at bat while you’re in the dugout. It’s not perfect and requires a little practice, but overall I think it’s a pretty good solution for it being a first generation idea.
Swing Weight Details – The speed and balanced swing weights will cover the majority of hitters that will be looking at this bat. Like the regular Z-core XL, this one definitely has some head on it and will require a much stronger player to be able to control the barrel. For those of you that can, it is great to have options. When dealing with the MOI points mentioned above, it’s important to know that most players should feel a difference, although a small one, in the 300 point climb from speed to pro balanced. The 600 point increase from speed to XL is huge and will prove to be too much to handle for a lot of hitters.
The Z-core Lock & Load performed pretty well in my testing as I suspected it would. As long as you can handle the additional weight by maintaining your swing speed and barrel control, the extra mass will provide more performance. Even though Z-core technology has been around for a while, Easton has been pretty tight lipped about what it entails. All we know is that it allows them to make some of the longest aluminum barrels in the game.
Here’s the deal, the Lock & Load is BBCOR approved for high school with the use of all weights. For the NCAA, the bat is approved for play WITHOUT any weights, which ultimately = a Z-core Speed. This means that the the NCAA still hasn’t changed their stance on additional adjustable components which have the potential of flying out in the field.
Ideal Use Cases
- Teams looking to buy a “team bat” that will work for every type of hitter. From the line drive guy to the power bro who drops bombs.
- When you’re in the middle of a tournament in the dead of August, you’re baking like a toasted cheeser after your second game of the day and slugging Gatorade in the shade, exhausted and trying to fire it back up for game 3. You could drop down a weight or 2 and give yourself a little extra bat speed when your body really needs it. Woof.
- When you’re facing some dude throwing absolute ched (yeah he signed with a perennial top 25 D1 and is getting ready for the draft) and you need a little more bat speed to catch up to the 94 heater on the black. Again, just drop down a weight or 2 and voila.
- The opposite situation of #3: you’re facing a kid throwing meatballs up there and could use the extra weight to power up your swing and add coveted distance to those deep fly balls. All other things remaining the same, more mass behind the ball = further distance.
- You need to find a bat that you and your brother(s) can use and you all have different swing needs.
Overall, the idea of an adjustable swing weight system is amazing and I’m a big proponent of it. If you fall in line with one of the ideal use cases above, this bat will be a great option for you. If you only want or need one swing weight, then you can save the extra money and go with a regular Z-core Speed / XL or a new 2018 Beast X Speed / Loaded. With only 2 weights to choose from, it somewhat limits the swing customization piece. As for the HMX alloy and Z-core technology, they have produced some really nice aluminum bats with good performance and some of the longest barrels in the category.
The ultimate question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you will actually use the swing weight system for an extra $80 or not.
The Lock & Load retails for $279.99, which is less than I anticipated. If you’re ready to check out more details, you can shop it here: Easton Z-core Lock & Load.
Sizes Available: 31″/28oz+, 32″/29oz+, 33″/30oz+, 34”/31oz+